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  • Print publication year: 1998
  • Online publication date: May 2006

3 - The social world of the Bible

from Part 1 - Lines of approach


The quest for the social world of the Bible has been one of the major goals of biblical scholarship since the early nineteenth century. Travellers' reports from the Middle East of a culture radically different from that of the West; along with the increasing excitement of reports in the national press of archaeological discoveries in Palestine; captivated audiences across Europe and the USA. Such developments offered the prospect of revealing the world from which the Bible had emerged in the ancient past. Monumental works such as George Adam Smith's historical geography of Palestine brought alive an ancient landscape on which the biblical events were played out. At the same time; biblical scholars were trying to reconstruct the history and social contexts out of which the Bible arose in order to understand a foundational text for Western culture. The critical methods which emerged were designed to date and locate the biblical texts, or their constituent parts; in specific historical contexts in order to reveal their meaning.