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Provan, Long, and Longman: The Cuttlefish of Old Testament studies

Provan, Long, and Longman: The Cuttlefish of Old Testament studies

Recently, Christopher Heard provided a short review of A Biblical History of Israel by Iain Provan, V. Philips Long, and Tremper Longman. He astutely observes that the longest sections in the book coincide with topics for which there is either little or no historical evidence. Or, as Christopher nicely puts it:

What is bizarre about the book is that the amount of attention given to the value of any text for historical reconstruction tends to run inversely proportional to the amount of external data available that could be used to verify or falsify the historicity of the biblical storyline. That is, Provan, Long, and Longman spend almost 100 pages on the “historicity” of the patriarchs, exodus, conquest, and “period of the judges,” even going so far as to try to reconstruct a chronology from the books of Joshua and Judges that would comport with the figure of 480 years from the exodus to the temple building per 1 Kings 6:1. Saul, David, and Solomon get another 70 pages or so, combined. The Omrides—the first group of Israelite kings for whom we have direct epigraphic attestation—get just under four pages.

– Christopher Heard, A Biblical History of Israel: Half a book”, 23 March 2006

In other words, Provan, Long, and Longman are the cuttlefish of Old Testament studies. For when biblical apologists such as these are confronted with a text which has little or no historicity, their response is, much like a frightened cuttlefish, to squirt as much ink as possible in order to cloud the waters.

Sort of like normal operating procedures in theology, I guess.