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The Social World of Biblical Antiquity, First Series
The Social World of Biblical Antiquity, Second Series
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xviii + 249 pp.

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The Politics of Israel’s Past
The Bible, Archaeology and Nation-Building
Edited by Emanuel Pfoh, Keith W. Whitelam

It is not uncommon that historical images—presented as simply given, self-evident and even indisputable—are employed in political readings of the past and used as a legitimizing tool. For that reason, the authors of this volume, biblical scholars, archaeologists, anthropologists and historians, undertake a deconstruction of modern biblical discourses on the Bible’s production and the history of ancient Israel, enabling the exploration of critical approaches to ancient Palestine’s past, to the history of the peoples of the region, to the history of the biblical text(s) and, last but not least, to the modern political uses of biblical narratives as legitimizing land ownership and nationalisms.

Among the topics treated are the appearance of Judaism and its connection to the production of biblical literature, the politics of archaeological practice in Israel, the role of archaeology in the production of nationalist narratives of the past, the relationship between genetic studies and Jewish nationalism, and the prospects for writing critical histories of ancient Palestine beyond biblical images and religious and political aspirations.

Each article illustrates the close relationship between the Bible, archaeology and processes of nation-building in the State of Israel. The Politics of Israel’s Past concerns itself both with the ways in which contemporary politics affects the knowledge of the past and with the processes by which constructions of an ancient past legitimate modern political situations.

Emanuel Pfoh teaches in the Department of History, National University of La Plata, Argentina.
Keith W. Whitelam is Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies in the University of Sheffield.

Series: The Social World of Biblical Antiquity, Second Series, 8
978-1-907534-82-9 hardback
Publication July 2013

Emanuel Pfoh and Keith W. Whitelam

Some Reflections on the Politics of Ancient History, Archaeological Practice and Nation-Building in Israel/Palestine
Emanuel Pfoh

Tribes, Genealogies and the Composition of the Hebrew Bible
Ingrid Hjelm

In Search of Platonic Israel
Philippe Wajdenbaum

What We Do and Do Not Know about Pre-Hellenistic al-Quds
Thomas L. Thompson

The Faithful Remnant and the Invention of Religio-Ethnic Identity
Firas Sawah

The Faithful Remnant and Religious Identity. The Literary Trope of Return: A Reply to Firas Sawah
Thomas L. Thompson

Christian Origins, ‘the Land’ and the Ideological Scholarly Apparatuses
James G. Crossley

History as an Argument for Land Possession
Niels Peter Lemche

Israeli Archaeology in the Old City of Jerusalem
Gideon Sulimany

Archaeology in Israel, 1948-1973: Selected Documents
Raz Kletter

Israel and Palestine: A Criticism of How to Create and Anchor a Nation-State Archaeologically
Terje Oestigaardv

Biology as History
Nadia Abu El-Haj

Shaping the History of Palestine: Nationalism and Exclusivity
Keith W. Whitelam

In terms of biblical studies and its current party politics, maximalists and mainstream scholars could, and in my view should, adopt this part of the minimalist party manifesto in their programs even if they are not willing to follow other aspects of that manifesto, such as a minimal reinterpretation of ancient Israelite history. As part of such appropriation, I for my part would heartily and warmly recommend that this volume be read widely in terms of achieving sensitization and consideration of issues that are important in relation to working toward justice and fairness in that part of the world and beyond. Pekka Pitkänen, Review of Biblical Literature.

This is a thought-provoking volume that constitutes an important contribution to contemporary scholarship and, more significantly, an understanding of the role of contemporary scholarship in contemporary politics. Most of the essays shed light on serious matters regarding the use of biblical scholarship and archaeology in conversations about Israel and Zionist thought and draw attention to methods and models that should be reconsidered. The Politics of Israel’s Past is an extremely important volume for what it reveals about the topic it critiques, but also for what it reveals about the nuance required for that critique to be durable.
Mark Leuchter, Review of Biblical Literature.