These translations and discussions of 70 major Hebrew texts, dating from 1000 B.C. to 500 A.D. and found in present-day Israel and Jordan, range from the famous—the Gezer Calendar—to the obscure—an ostracon with an appeal by a farm laborer to a governor for the return of his cloak. Tax records, letters and curses are among the accounts written on such varied surfaces as gemstones (seals), papyrus, plaster and clay. This book places the texts it describes in a cultural context to provide insight into the Bible and the history of ancient Israel.
Mesopotamia: Writing, Reasoning and the Gods
Jean Bottéro, trans. Zainab Bahrani and Marc Van De Mieroop
(Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1992), 326 pp., $39.95.
In related essays about Mesopotamia, Bottéro discusses the academic discipline of Assyriology; the origins, influence and deciphering of cuneiform writing; and institutions and attitudes about reasoning and religion. Vast numbers of cuneiform tablets make it possible to examine Mesopotamian ways of thinking, analyzing and organizing the universe. Transmitted through Biblical and classical channels, these concepts have influenced the foundation of our own culture. Extensively reworked from first publication, these essays represent the accumulated wisdom of an eminent French scholar.
Nubia, the area along the Nile from Aswan south to Khartoum, was home to some of the earliest urbanized and culturally advanced societies in Africa. This brief; well-illustrated introduction covers the long-term trade and cultural relationship between Nubia and neighboring Egypt to the north. Dominance fluctuated between the two areas. As Cush or Ethiopia, Nubia is mentioned almost forty times in the Bible, including Jeremiah 13:23 (“Can Ethiopians change their skin, or leopards their spots?”) and Acts 8:27 (“Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury”). Because of the construction of the Aswan Dam, completed in 1970, UNESCO carried out a massive archaeological effort in the area from 1960 to 1980, documenting sites now inundated and rescuing evidence of this diverse and vital culture.
Eretz-Israel Archaeological, Historical and Geographical Studies, vol. 23.
ed. Ephraim Stern and Thomas E. Levy
(Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 1992), 541 pp., $90.00.
Honoring Avraham Biran, one of Israel’s most renowned archaeologists, on his 80th birthday, this volume includes 66 articles in English, French, German and Hebrew (summarized in English). Authored by an impressive roster of scholars, the diverse articles include three essays on the functions of the Government Names Committee, the official body designating the names used on Israel’s maps, chaired by Biran since its inception in 1951. Carol Meyers and Eric Meyers suggest improved methods in the discipline in “Recording and Reporting: New Challenges in Archaeological Research.” New archaeological evidence allows Zvi ‘Uri Ma‘oz to theorize about function and form in “The Synagogue in the Second Temple Period—Architectural and Social Interpretation.” In “A Case Study in Biblical Archaeology: The Earthquake of ca. 700 B.C.E.,” secular historian William G. Dever examines the evidence behind two scripture references. Amos 1:1 and Zechariah 14:5, and gives criteria for dealing with Biblical texts.
Writings from Ancient Israel: A Handbook of Historical and Religious Documents
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