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Steven L. McKenzie. King David: A Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. viii, 232 pp.; Marti J. Steussy. David: Biblical Portraits of Power. Studies on the Personalities of the Old Testament. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1999. viii, 251 pp.; Baruch Halpern. David's Secret Demons: Messiah, Murderer, Traitor, King. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001. xx, 492 pp.

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 September 2002

Berlin
Affiliation:
University of Maryland College Park, Maryland
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Biography is not a genre usually associated with the academic study of the Bible, but it has found a small niche therein. The University of South Carolina publishes the series called “Personalities of the Old Testament,” in which Steussy's volume is the eighth, and Oxford University Press will soon release what may be considered a companion to McKenzie's book, King Josiah of Judah by Marvin A. Sweeney. The advantage of biography is that it can encompass literary, historical, and archeological information, uniting them holistically around the focal point of a biblical figure, or as holistically as the author chooses. As a heuristic device, biblical biography may serve well even if the subject of the biography is fictional, or suspected of being so. (The “Personalities” series has volumes on Noah, Jonah, Esther and Daniel, hardly the most “historical” of characters.) When it comes to David, suspicions about his fictionality are at an all-time high. While the historicity of Abraham has been in doubt for some time, it was, until recently, axiomatic that one could speak with confidence about the early history of the Israelite monarchy and could draw on the books of Samuel and Kings as primary sources, or at least as containing remnants of primary sources for the period of the united monarchy. Now that confidence has been shaken; the very existence of a united monarchy is being questioned by some scholars, especially the “minimalists,” who see its “primary sources” (the Deuteronomistic History) as a fabrication from the Persian or Hellenistic period.1. See G. N. Knoppers, “The Vanishing Solomon: The Disappearance of the United Monarchy from Recent Histories of Ancient Israel,” Journal of Biblical Literature 116 (1997): 19–44. For a representative of the minimalist view see K. W. Whitelam, “The History of Israel: Foundations of Israel” in Text in Context, edited by A. D. H. Mayes (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 376–402. A battle currently rages among historians of ancient Israel between the minimalists and their opponents (not all of whom are “maximalists”) about the antiquity and the reliability of the Deuteronomistic History as a historical source.2. The names prominent among the minimalists are Philip Davies, Niels Lemche, Thomas Thompson, and Keith Whitelam. The bibliography on this debate is large and growing. For an overview see Amy Dockser Marcus, The View from Nebo (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 2000), 105–128, 256–257.

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BOOK REVIEWS
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© 2002 by the Association for Jewish Studies

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Steven L. McKenzie. King David: A Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. viii, 232 pp.; Marti J. Steussy. David: Biblical Portraits of Power. Studies on the Personalities of the Old Testament. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1999. viii, 251 pp.; Baruch Halpern. David's Secret Demons: Messiah, Murderer, Traitor, King. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001. xx, 492 pp.
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Steven L. McKenzie. King David: A Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. viii, 232 pp.; Marti J. Steussy. David: Biblical Portraits of Power. Studies on the Personalities of the Old Testament. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1999. viii, 251 pp.; Baruch Halpern. David's Secret Demons: Messiah, Murderer, Traitor, King. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001. xx, 492 pp.
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Steven L. McKenzie. King David: A Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. viii, 232 pp.; Marti J. Steussy. David: Biblical Portraits of Power. Studies on the Personalities of the Old Testament. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1999. viii, 251 pp.; Baruch Halpern. David's Secret Demons: Messiah, Murderer, Traitor, King. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001. xx, 492 pp.
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