Why the Bible Began
An Alternative History of Scripture and its Origins
by Jacob L. Wright
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Pub Date 19 Oct 2023 | Archive Date 15 Oct 2023
Why did no other ancient society produce a text remotely like the Bible? That a tiny, out of the way community, could have produced a text so determinative for peoples across the globe seems improbable.For Jacob Wright, the Bible is not only a testimony of survival, but also an unparalleled achievement in human history. Forged during Babylonian exile after the shattering destruction of Jerusalem, it makes not victory but total humiliation the foundation of a new idea of belonging. Lamenting the destruction of their homeland, scribes who composed the Bible turned to the golden ages of the past, reflecting deeply on abject failure. More than just religious scripture, the Bible is a resonant blueprint for the inspiring creation of a nation. As a response to catastrophe, it offers a powerful, message of hope and restoration that is unique in the Ancient Near Eastern and Greco-Roman worlds. Wright's Bible is thus a social, political, and even economic roadmap – one that enabled a small and obscure community located on the periphery of leading civilizations and empires, not just to come back from the brink, but ultimately to shape the world's destiny. The Bible speaks ultimately of being a united, yet diverse people, and its pages present a manual of pragmatic survival strategies in response to societal collapse.
"In this profoundly insightful book Wright demonstrates how ancient Israel and Judah developed the resources to construct a resilient nationhood not in spite of but, paradoxically, because of the experience of military defeat, economic devastation, and diaspora. No other kingdom of the ancient Near East was able to do so. Today, as so many communities, peoples and nations face similar critical threats to their existence, Wright’s book provides a fascinating and incisively argued case study of how one people drew upon its cultural resources not simply to survive but to generate a vibrantly creative intellectual and spiritual tradition."
Carol A. Newsom, C. H. Candler Professor Emerita of Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, Emory University