Did David Exist? And When Did I Know I Lost My Faith? Mailbag April 15, 2017

I will be dealing with two questions in this weekly Readers’ Mailbag.  The first has to do with the historical evidence, if any, for the Israelite kings Saul, David, and Solomon – did they exist, or are the stories about them entirely legendary?   The second, coming to us from a different universe, is about me personally, and my faith, whether there was a proverbial straw that broke my faith-camel’s back.

 

QUESTION:

According to Finkelstein and Silberman’s book, The Bible Unearthed, which I ...

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What About the Apocrypha?

What about the Apocrypha?  I have been talking about how we got the books of the Bible – both Old Testament and New Testament – and how other books came to be left out.  But what are the books of the Apocrypha, where did they come from, and why do some communities of faith (but not others) accept them as authoritative?

When someone refers to “The” Apocrypha they are speaking of the “Old Testament Apocrypha,” a set collection of books written ...

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What is the Hebrew Bible?

In response to my previous two posts about how the Hebrew Bible came to be copied over the years, several readers have asked me a related (though also very different) question about how the books of the Hebrew Bible were chosen – why do we have these books and not some others?  Who decided what the canon of the Hebrew Bible would be?  When did they decide?  And what were their criteria? These are important questions, and even though not ...

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Manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible

Just now I started to write a post dealing with what it is exactly that translators (such as those of the New Revised Standard Version) translated when they translated their texts.  I realized that to explain that I have to say something about the surviving Hebrew manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible – something I have not talked a *great* deal about on the blog in the past, and about the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament – about which ...
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My Work for the New Revised Standard Version Committee

QUESTION:

If my memory serves me, you (as a graduate student?) were involved in the development of the NRSV Bible version in 1989. Could you describe your work please?

RESPONSE:

Yes, that’s right.  The New Revised Standard Version Committee was appointed by the U.S. National Council of Churches to produce a revision of the famous Revised Standard Version (RSV) of the Bible, which had come out in 1952.  Since the time when the RSV had been produced (mainly in the 1940s), many important ...

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Are the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Manuscripts Reliable? A Blast From the Past

A reader has perspicaciously pointed out to me that a particularly relevant post from three years ago (June 7, 2013) makes an important contribution to the topic I’ve been discussing about the Pentateuch.  This post is not about whether the events described in the Hebrew Bible are accurate, but whether we have accurate manuscripts of these accounts.  I talk a lot on the blog about manuscripts of the New Testament.  What about manuscripts of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible?  My post ...

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What Is Repentance in the Bible? Is there Repentance in the Bible?

Many of you responded to my colleague David Lambert’s provocative post a couple of days ago on whether the idea of “repentance” could be found in the Bible. He has replied to your comments, but has wanted to provide a follow up post. It keeps getting more interesting. This is an intriguing reflection on “repentance” in the Bible, one that totally turns on its head what many of us have always thought. See what you think.

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“The ...

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Historical Problems with the Hebrew Bible: The Exodus Narrative

In response to a question about the problems posed to critical scholars by the Hebrew Bible I have so far provided two posts, one involving the surviving manuscripts (do we know what the authors originally said?) and the other with apparent discrepancies (where accounts appear to be at odds with one another).   I will now provide a couple of posts dealing with the equally big problem that the Hebrew Bible narrates events that probably did not take place, at ...

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Problems with the Hebrew Bible Manuscripts

QUESTION:

Bart, these issues you’ve found in the New Testament, have you studied and found similar issues in the Old Testament?”

RESPONSE:

Yes indeed!   Hebrew Bible (the Christian Old Testament) was my secondary field in my PhD program, and I taught Introduction to Hebrew Bible at both Rutgers and UNC.   A few years ago when I decided to write my Introduction to the Bible I decided that to do it right I had to re-tool in Hebrew Bible.  I’m ...

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