Ian Wilson, author of books on the Turin Shroud, turns his attention with this bold title to the bible as a whole in this book of under 300 pages. As he observes, the last 'seriously successful' attempt at a popular work which surveys the whole bible and links it to what we know from historical and archaeological research was Werner Keller's ten million best seller, 'The Bible As History' (1st ed.1955, 2nd ed.1980), which has been translated into 24 languages and is still selling today.
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Although Wilson does declare himself and nail his Christian colours to the mast in this book, he has a generally neutral approach to the evidence. This is for the sake of not jumping to conclusions, but to my mind it leads to some inconsistency of perspective. Where possible 'miracles' are politely ignored, or de-emphasized, and the word itself avoided. Earthquakes are the explanation for many mystery events. (However, having said that, I do feel his overall handling of the relationship between the physical evidence for the battle for Jericho and the bible text is excellent, and even inspired.) He supplies many fine summaries of recent discoveries and relates them to appropriate bible passages. The excellent photographs, diagrams, maps, and line drawings are well chosen. Topics include the usual expected items, such as the Egyptian Merneptah stone (first mention of the people 'Israel' outside the bible), to the 1993 discovery of the Tel Dan stone (first mention of the 'House of David' outside the bible). He is also forthright with the most grisly of ancient Near Eastern habits - human sacrifice. He includes the astonishing 'caught in the act' discovery in 1979 from Minoan Crete, where an earthquake c.1700BC collapsed the temple roof, preserving a 'snapshot' of the killers, the victim, and the knife, all in position.
In keeping with the time span and material available, he allocates seventeen chapters to the Old Testament and three to the New Testament. This is a pity as there is so much in the NT left out by allocation of space as opposed to importance. Some weaknesses are worth noting. He substitutes for 'prophet' with the Hebrew word 'nabi'. This is to avoid confusion, but actually tends to create it. He uses 'nabi' consistently, but his explanation of the prophet/nabi is poor, not contrasted with other potentially confusing roles, and not really needed as we all have some grasp of what a prophet is already. Also, too much reliance is placed on quoting other writers' secondary analyses of the bible/apocrypha, as opposed to reading the text itself and using its plain sense. For example, he supposedly proves that the book of Daniel was written after the book of Ecclesiasticus (mid-second century BC) because it is not quoted therein, whereas ALL the other OT books are, or so he has read. But in reality the book of Job is not quoted either, nor the prophet Ezra, and no one supposes that these two were written after Ecclesiasticus. Lastly, and not least, he cites the JEDP documentary hypothesis very vaguely and uncritically, apparently unaware of its appalling implications for the integrity of the OT writers, for which he has a generally high regard (cf Auerbach, 'Mimesis', ch. 1). In fact the physical evidence for the great Doc Hype is nil - none at all - not a scrap. I like to think of it as the 'No Scrolls Hypothesis'.
The review of this Book prepared by Michael JR Jose