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The View from Nebo


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Nebo, the mountain from which Moses gazed at the Promised Land, is the starting point for a cogent review of recent archaeology that illuminates biblical scholarship. Marcus, a journalist who covered the Middle East for the Wall Street Journal from 1991 to 1998, presents the latest research and thinking with clarity, synthesizing what is often published in news bites with little follow-up. Marcus argues that the Bible tells an incomplete and one-sided story of the region, which archaeology can substantiate or supplement. She documents how the discipline is used for political gain as well as for understanding history or exploring the veracity of the Bible. On the other hand, she finds that some archaeologists pay no heed to the Bible in pursuing their research. To support her conclusions, Marcus visited many of the sites and interviewed archaeologists and other scholars. Recommended to readers of archaeology and of Biblical history.DJoyce L. Ogburn, Univ. of Washington, Seattle Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Were the ancient Jews unique in forbidding the eating of pork or was the prohibition more widespread in the region? Did King David really exist, or is he a mythical figure, a composite of several actual ancient leaders? Marcus, a Wall Street Journal contributor formerly reporting from the Middle East, describes the cutting-edge archeological research that is posing such questions. Yet, despite its intriguing subtitle, this book never convincingly demonstrates that archeology is, in fact, "reshaping the Middle East" or rewriting the Bible. Instead, Marcus provides something more modest: an engaging overview of the theories circulating in alternative contemporary biblical scholarship, on subjects such as Abraham, the Ammonites, the Exodus. Disappointingly, she fails to provide an adequate amount of political, historical or historiographical context in which to evaluate these new theories, and she never explains exactly how the new ideas fit into the overall state of contemporary biblical scholarship. Still, drawing from an extensive set of interviews she conducted with archeologists and others on the forefront of biblical scholarship, Marcus provides readers with a lovely window onto a little-known set of ideas. Some of this work may come to contradict, or even counteract, some of the basic political ideas of the modern state of Israel, but it seems clear that politicians, particularly in the Israeli context, will only utilize biblical scholarship if it fits their agenda--so it is unlikely that archeology alone will ever be able to "reshape the Middle East." (Apr.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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