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History and Archeology

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Ben-Sasson, Haim H. (ed.). A History of the Jewish People. Harvard University Press. 1985. AISN/ISBN: 0674397312.

This work is strongest on the period of the Second Temple (Rabbinic Period) and the period of modern Zionist era through the early 1970s.

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Black, Jeremy and Anthony Green. Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia, An Illustrated Dictionary. University of Texas Press. 1992. AISN/ISBN: 0292707940.

Ancient Mesopotamia was a rich, varied and highly complex culture whose achievements included the invention of writing and the development of sophisticated urban society. This book offers an introductory guide to the beliefs and customs of the ancient Mesopotamians, as revealed in their art and their writings between about 3000 BCE and the advent of the Christian era. Gods, goddesses, demons, monsters, magic, myths, religious symbolism, ritual, and the spiritual world are all discussed in alphabetical entries ranging from short accounts to extended essays. Names are given in both their Sumerian and Akkadian forms, and all entries are fully cross-referenced. A useful introduction provides historical and geographical background and describes the sources of our knowledge about the religion, mythology and magic of "the cradle of civilization."

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Bratton, Fred Gladstone. Myths and Legends of the Ancient Near East. Barnes and Noble. 1993. AISN/ISBN: 1566194393.

This account of the mythological literature of the ancient Near East includes the Egyptian myth of "The Feud Between Horus & Seth," the Hittite myth of "The Conquest of Baal," the Sumerian myth of "The Odyssey of Gilgamesh," others.

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Cohen, Shaye J. D.. From the Maccabees to the Mishnah. Westminster John Knox Press Library of Early Christianity. 1988. AISN/ISBN: 0664250173.

Early in his book, Cohen points out that Christianity is responsible for the use of the term "late Judaism." The term was disparaging and meant to suggest that Second Temple Judaism was in dire need of an infusion, i.e., Christianity. Moreover after Christianity came along, "late Judaism" suggested that Judaism could be altogether ignored despite the fact that Judaism has continued to flourish for the last couple of millenia. Cohen's book wraps around early Christianity in terms of time and thought. There are no set time parameters. Second Temple Judaism was a religion "of the book." No longer did Israel have political independence. Why did God let this happen? Part of the answer may be found in Jeremiah 25; Babylon acts as God's agent. Cohen says that basically Second Temple Judaism accepted its civil rulers. Second Temple Judaism opened its understanding of who could be a Jew. Pre-exilic Judaism recognized only the immutable condition of birth. The author has done an admirable job of introducing much to an audience which does not read this subject matter on a frequent basis

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Comfort, Philip Wesley (ed.). The Origin of the Bible. Tyndale House Publishers. 1992. AISN/ISBN: 0842347356.

This collection of articles from scholarly publications of a dozen scholars in the field is a well balanced, concise introduction to the subject: definition, history, theology, and translation of the Bible. Using scholarly essays in plain English, the book is organized into five sections: Authority, Canon, Literature, Manuscripts, and Translation. In almost all the articles, a great deal of attention is given to definitions of Bible study terminology.

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Currid, John D.. Ancient Egypt and the Old Testament. Baker Academic. 1997. AISN/ISBN: 0801021375.

Currid divides his thirteen chapters between an introduction and various portions of the Old Testament. There are six chapters on the relationships between the Pentateuch and Egypt, two on the historical books, one on wisdom literature, and two on prophecy. Currid is widely read on Egyptology and this comes across in his writing. In his chapter called "The Egyptian Setting of the Serpent Confrontation," Currid shows the breadth and depth of his studies in Egyptology. Numerous Egyptian sources are cited showing the meaning of the serpent in ancient Egypt. Then Currid adds the battle of the biblical writers. Aaron's throwing the rod-snake before Pharaoh was an assault on the latter's authority since the serpent was a symbol of Pharaoh's. The reader might want to have a look at the story in Exodus again for the full impact of this. Currid's book is thought-provoking reading from cover to cover

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Dalley, Stephanie. Myths from Mesopotamia, Creation, The Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others. Oxford University Press. 1991. AISN/ISBN: 0192817892.

These tales from the ancient civilizations of the "fertile crescent" stand alongside the Odyssey and the Arabian Nights in being popular with an international audience at the dawn of recorded history. Here are myths of the Creation and of the Flood, as well as the fascinating Epic of Gilgamesh, a story of heroic failure in a moment of human weakness.

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Dimont, Max. Jews, God and History. NAL/Dutton. 1976. AISN/ISBN: 0451207017.

Jewish history and Jewish contributions to civilization, past and present, are presented in this comprehensive book.

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Foster, Benjamin R.. From Distant Days, Myths, Tales and Poetry of Ancient Mesopotamia. CDL Press. 1995. AISN/ISBN: 1883053099.

Benjamin Foster's book contains many original compositions from the major literary genres of Sumero-Akkadian culture: myths, king epics, omen literature, prayers, lamentations, love lyrics, wisdom literature, magic spells, and even humor. Indeed, although the Epic of Gilgamesh is noticeably absent, "From Distant Days" is one of the most comprehensive Mesopotamian anthologies available for the general reader. Foster's introduction lays down the organization of the book and describes many of the structural markers used in Sumero-Akkadian literature. Each presented composition is also accompanied by an appropriate description that gives context for the modern reader. The translations in this book are very readable, with lacunae and omissions clearly marked. Also, the translations are current as of 1995, and include versions that are considerably more complete in some cases than ones available in other widely available anthologies.

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Gerber, Jane. The Jews of Spain: A History of the Sephardic Experience. Free Press. 1992. AISN/ISBN: 0029115744.

Presents the history of the Sephardic Jews from their origins in Spain up to the present.

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Gilbert, Martin. Israel: A History. Wm. Morrow. 1998. AISN/ISBN: 0688123627.

Using contemporary documents and eyewitness accounts and drawing on his own intimate knowledge of the country and its people, the author weaves together all these dramatic events into a seamless narrative.

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Graves, Robert and Raphael Patai. Hebrew Myths, The Book of Genesis. Greenwich House. 1983. AISN/ISBN: 0517413663.

This exhaustive exploration of the Hebrew myths and the book of Genesis resulted from a remarkable collaboration between one scholar raised as a strict Protestant and one raised as a strict Jew. It goes beyond Christian biblical and Judaic myth and incorporates midrashes, folk tales, apocryphal texts, and other obscure sources to extend and complete the stories. An intriguing view of the suppressed and censored pre-biblical accounts is the result, along with a rich sense of a culture consisting of oral and literary traditions, where the spiritual is deeply rooted in landscape and history.

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Heidel, Alexander. The Babylonian Genesis. University of Chicago Press. 1994. AISN/ISBN: 0226323994.

The book is not intended for students of Akkadian as there is no cuneiform or transcripted Akkadian. Everything is in translation. The book centers around the Enuma Elish (the major creation account), but has many other smaller creation legends. There is a synopsis of the Elish as well as various theories about its dating, composition, etc. There is also a lengthy (58 page) article showing parallels to the Old Testament creation account. The author does a good job of being objective, but leans toward showing the uniqueness of the Genesis account and contrasts it quite a bit against the remaining semitic literature.

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Heidel, Alexander. The Gilgamesh Epic and Old Testament Parallels. University of Chicago Press. 1993. AISN/ISBN: 0226323986.

There are some very good things about this book which make it worthwhile. Heidel does an excellent job of informing the reader of what the source is for each part of the translation, as well as for the related material that he presents. His sections on "Death and the Afterlife" and "The Story Of The Flood" where he compares the Mesopotamian works with those of the Bible are much better than the discussion given with another contemporary translation. In addition, Rivkah Scharf Kluger uses Heidel's translation for most of her work presented in "The Archetypal Significance of Gilgamesh," which give those interested in a large amount of discussion all based on the same translation.

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Herzog, Chaim and Mordechai Gichon. Battles of the Bible. Greenhill Books. 2002. AISN/ISBN: 185367477X.

This work presents a comprehensive survey of the wars of ancient Israel. The Bible's military accounts, told in vivid detail, cover the period from the invasion of Canaan by the Israelites under Joshua's command, through the conquest of the kingdom by David and Solomon and the split of the kingdom into Judah and Israel, to the Maccabees' successful rebellion against Seleucid domination. The reliability of these accounts is supported by their technical accuracy and by descriptions of topographic conditions peculiar to specific battlefields. The authors make comparisons between the tactics and strategy of the biblical battles with military campaigns well after the biblical era, and provide strategic and tactical lessons of value even today. The book is a fascinating and valuable work, not only for its exacting scrutiny of biblical accounts, but also for its insight into their wider and continuing relevance. This work is an important contribution to biblical studies, biblical archaeology, and military history.

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Hess, Richard S. and David T. Tsumura (eds.). I Studied Inscriptions From Before the Flood. Eisenbrauns. 1994. AISN/ISBN: 0931464889.

An anthology of collected scholarly articles from scattered journals bearing on Genesis' backgrounds.

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Howe, Irving. The World of Our Fathers: The Journey of Eastern European Jews to America and the Life They Found an. Simon & Schuster. 1994. AISN/ISBN: 0883658828.

Using newspaper reports, memoirs and photos, the author recreates the life of the Jews on New York's Lower East Side at the turn of the century.

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Jacobsen, Thorkild. The Treasures of Darkness, A History of Mesopotamian Religion. Yale University Press. 1976. AISN/ISBN: 0300018444.

This is a text of history of Mesopotamia in its own right. By the time history gets back this far, the lines become very blurred, rather like parallel lines intersecting on the horizon. Literature, religion, archaeology, sociology, psychology -- all of these disciplines become intertwined in Jacobsen's text as he looks at Sumerian society. The book is organized with an introduction, then according to time divisions of fourth, third, and second millennia, then concludes with an epilogue into the first millennium, during which the Bible as we know it (and most ancient history such as is commonly known occurred) came to be.

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Johnson, Paul. A History of the Jews. HarperCollins. 1988. AISN/ISBN: 0060915331.

Emphasizing the interaction between Jewish history and the impact of surrounding communities in the diaspora, this volume covers the 4,000 years of Jewish history.

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Karp, Abraham J. (ed.). The Jews in America. Hugh Lauter Levin Assoc. 1994. AISN/ISBN: 1568219598.

This large-format book spans more than three centuries of Jewish art and literary contributions to America.

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Kirsch, Jonathan. King David: The Real Life of the Man Who Ruled Israel. Ballantine Books. 2000. AISN/ISBN: 0345432754.

The difficulty of bringing into perspective figures that are larger than life is well known to Jonathan Kirsch, the author of Moses: A Life and of the provocative biblical study The Harlot by the Side of the Road. In this well researched narrative he attempts the same for King David, arguably the most important figure in the entire Jewish Bible and covers Israel's first monarchic period, from 1025 to 925 BCE. Arguing that the Bible may have originated as David's royal biography, Kirsch cites dozens of Bible scholars in his attempt to separate history from myth. The two myths he examines most closely are those cultivated by a "Court Historian" who embellished David's exploits to make him seem more kingly than he was, and those written by the "Deuteronomistic Historian," who revised the ancient texts about David to downplay his bad behavior and emphasize the sovereignty of Yahweh. In pursuing this portrait of David, Kirsch eschews many complicated questions the text poses in the service of accessibility, and for that he can be forgiven, since secular books about the Bible are often inaccessible to all but a handful of scholars. This book, on the other hand, welcomes a wide audience to a scandalous, violent and surprisingly familiar ancient Israel, and both educates and entertains. In all, Hirsch wants to remind his readers that David is not myth but flesh and blood, a very real man, a charismatic leader who, as one historian puts it, "played exquisitely, fought heroically, and loved titanically," and is, astonishingly, presented this way in the biblical texts themselves. He is real, human, both heroic and flawed.

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Leick, Gwendolyn. A Dictionary of Ancient Near Eastern Mythology. Routledge Ltd. 1998. AISN/ISBN: 0415198119.

Covers sources from Mesopotamia, Syro-Palestine and Anatolia, from around 2800 to 300 BCE. Contains entries on gods and goddesses, giving evidence of their worship in temples, describing their "character" as documented by the texts, and defining their roles within the body of mythological narratives; synoptic entries on myths, giving the place of origin of main texts and a brief history of their transmission through the ages; and entries explaining the use of specialist terminology.

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Sachar, Howard. The Course of Modern Jewish History. Vintage Press. 1990. AISN/ISBN: 0679727469.

In this classic work, the author illuminates the milestones of the Jewish saga from the 18th century to the close of the 20th.

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Shanks, Hershel (ed.). Ancient Israel: From Abraham to the Roman Destruction of the Temple. Prentice Hall. 1999. AISN/ISBN: 0130853631.

A collection of eight essays by recognized scholars in the field, this book provides an overview and interpretation of relevant archaeological work for the non-technical reader. Its popular style makes it well suited for undergraduate classes as well as lay readers unfamiliar with the history of Israel. All of the essays have been revised for this second edition, and most have been significantly expanded. Much has changed since the first edition appeared in 1988, and the revised edition reflects those changes well. The archaeological data and literary evidence available for some periods of Israel's history is far more abundant and diverse than for others. The essays reflect this variation in the available data, and the authors do a competent job of stating the evidence upon which their claims are based.

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