The third volume of Eisenbraun’s Colllected Essays of Nadav Na’aman is now available: Ancient Israel’s History and Historiography – The First Temple Period. Cool-o-rama!
Professor Na’aman, for those who may not know, comes at biblical studies from the direction of Assyriology, like Tadmor, Malamat, Hallo, and a number of others. Their work in biblical studies, like their Assyriological work, is meticulous, detailed, and full of important comparative studies which are far more illustrative of what we should and should not expect of ancient writing than are those studies based solely upon biblical literature and theorizing therefrom. Hallo, indeed, is a major proponent of what has been alternately called the Contextual or Comparative Method or Approach, in which both similarities and dissimilarities are noted as important. See his detailed definition and explanation of this method, either in his essay included in Scripture in Context III (Edwin Mellen Press, 1990), or his slightly reworked version of this article as a chapter in his slim volume Book of the People (Scholars Press, 1991); the introduction to Context of Scripture I: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World (Brill, 1997) also includes a short description of the method, but mentions the Scripture in Context III article as the definitive statement. I personally find the work of Assyriologists, specifically the aforementioned, in biblical studies to be consistently of the highest caliber methodologically. Their comparative work with the biblical and the cuneiform materials, the largest body of surviving ancient written material, is extremely important for biblical studies in showing us what was possible, what was likely, and what was done, and also what was not done, what was unlikely, and perhaps even some of what was impossible, in ancient writings. The importance, similarly, of the bibical materials for an understanding of the cuneiform materials is also coming to be better recognized, perhaps finally laying to rest the estimable Benno Landsberger’s misbegotten, if well-intentioned Eigenbegrifflichkeit (Islamica 2 : 355-72; trans. “The Conceptual Autonomy of the Babylonian World.” Undena, 1976), yet still avoiding the excesses of the old parallelomania, so delightfully monickered and pinned to the mat by Samuel Sandmel (JBL 81 : 1-13). And with a collection of Na’aman’s articles specifically relating to Israelite history and historiography in the First Temple, pre-exilic period, I’m sure we’ll find some really great stuff in the midst of the collection. I’m certain I’ll find it as hard to put down as the first two volumes, and will undoubtedly learn much from it. In this case, I think the whole-hearted recommendation of a book I haven’t even read yet isn’t even remotely preposterous.