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Back to Reason

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Twenty years ago some biblical scholars at the University of Copenhagen were denounced as being nihilists and a threat to western civilization. What was their crime? They had exposed the fallacies of traditional historical-critical biblical scholarship, which was neither historical nor critical. Although the historical-critical interpretation of the Bible had developed over a period of more than a hundred years, it had ended up, with the help of a rationalistic paraphrase of the stories of the Old Testament, creating a society out of this world called biblical Israel. Israel was like no other society in the ancient world, and scarcely a real historic society at all. It was structured like a house of cards. Therefore, when some scholars began to question the historical content of the construction of ancient Israel, as it was usually called, the edifice broke down, first in bits and then totally.

This study addresses the development of ‘Minimalism’ from its roots in the historical-critical paradigm and outlines an alternative theory which exposes and explains the intention behind the fallacy of using a story found in the Old Testament to simply invent the biblical concept of Israel.

Published: Jun 22, 2022

Book Contributors


Section Chapter Authors
Preface Niels Peter Lemche
Introduction Niels Peter Lemche
Chapter 1
The Minimalist–Maximalist Controversy Niels Peter Lemche
Chapter 2
The Road to Minimalism Niels Peter Lemche
Chapter 3
Back to Reason Niels Peter Lemche
End Matter
Bibliography Niels Peter Lemche
Index of Scripture References Niels Peter Lemche
Index of Modern Authors Niels Peter Lemche
Index of Subjects Niels Peter Lemche


Lemche’s newest book offers a lucid, informative, and accessible overview on some of the problematics involved from the mid-twentieth century until the early 2000s, when Bible scholars of various religious and geopolitical backgrounds and exegetical commitments debated each other over biblical historiography. Lemche’s so-called minimalist stance offers important contextual considerations to understand the dynamics at work in the many contested debates. He is never shy to articulate the reasons for his well-known, and even renowned, stance.
Every graduate student and most scholars of Hebrew Bible studies should read this book to understand the “obsession” (133, 141) of our recent exegetical forefathers for historiographical issues related to the Hebrew Bible.
Review of Biblical Literature