historical method

Xerxes’ Wife

I’ve been particularly interested recently in Ancient Near Eastern history, and in particular how the Old Testament interacts with its context.  I have been repeatedly told by academics and intellectuals – including some Christians! – that the Old Testament is just a collection of myths and fictions with no connection to what really happened.  This seemed fishy to me.  So I’ve been digging over the past few months, and found many more connections even than I expected to find.  One, which illustrates the challenges and the possibilities, is the question of the wife of the Achaemenid Persian shah Xerxes I (r. 486-465). (more…)

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The Old Testament and the Ancient Near East: A Christian Historian’s View

As a historian, I am struck by how much of the Old Testament consists of historical narrative, over a third of the total (and it’s a big volume!).  On the other hand, I am also surprised at the lack of historical method (as distinct from the methods of textual scholarship or archaeology) applied to these biblical narratives.  It seems that most Old Testament scholars have concluded that there is nothing historical in the text to which historical methods might be applied.  Yet I wonder whether the experts have not too quickly pre-judged the matter (always a dangerous conclusion for a non-expert such as myself to come to).  Indeed, I find myself in the rather unenviable position of distrusting the experts, and this post is an attempt to explain one portion of why I think that is, and to suggest an alternate approach to the issue. (more…)