Here’s five great quotes from the late Professor Emeritus Philip R. Davies, who died this week:

On redaction criticism and tradition-historical criticism:

Each of these methods [redaction criticism and tradition-historical criticism], it seems to me, relies on the same circular reasoning. The term “redaction” emphasizes the existence of earlier rewritten materials, while “tradition” assumes a process of retelling, and thus the pre-existence of material before its final writing down. In each case the recognition of an original creative process preceding by several stages and by a long span of time the actual creation of the literary work (however identified) is generated by assumption rather than argument. In assigning contexts for the composition of biblical literature that are furnished by the literature itself, biblical scholarship is, methodologically speaking, chasing its own tail.”
(In Search of Ancient Israel: A Study in Biblical Origins [Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1992], p. 28.)

On the historicity of King David:

I am not the only scholar who suspects that the figure of King David is about as historical as King Arthur.
(“House of David” Built on Sand: The Sins of the Biblical Maximizers”, Biblical Archaeological Review 20 no.  4 (1994), p. 55.)

On the historicity of Rehoboam and Jeroboam:

“Are Rehoboam and Jeroboam more like Tweedledum and Tweedledee?”
(‘Biblical Israel in the Ninth Century?” Proceedings of the British Academy 143 (2007), p. 54.)

On critical biblical studies versus theology:

While both ‘confessional’ and ‘nonconfessional’ approaches to the academic study of the biblical literature may be deemed, in their own way, ‘critical’, they are nevertheless fundamentally quite different types of behaviour, and they ought not to be confused either in theory or practice. Indeed, the two approaches imply different definitions of the subject matter, and create two different kinds of discourses on biblical matters, and these discourses are so fundamentally divergent as to require and to imply separate disciplines.
(in Whose Bible Is It Anyway? [Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1995], p. 13.)

On ‘Biblical Israel’:

Our ‘ancient Israel’ is not the biblical literary entity, nor an historical one. It is a scholarly creation deemed essential to the pursuit of biblical studies, and it has come about by the simple but erroneous step of lifting one kind of thing out of a text and setting it down somewhere else. It owes nearly everything to Bible reading, nothing to critical reflection, and very little indeed to historical research.
(in In Search of Ancient Israel [Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1992], p. 31.)

 

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