Here is an interview with author Kurt Noll, about his textbook on Canaan and Israel, of which Bob Becking says:
“This book delivers what it promises. In clear prose, Dr Noll offers an introduction in the art of history-writing and applies his theoretical insights to the evidence on past events in Canaan and Israel in Antiquity. His non-prejudiced position functions as an oasis amidst the heated and at times over-ideological debate on the (re)construction of Israel's past. This second edition is not just a reprint of his earlier book. Noll has included new insights as well as recently discovered archaeological and epigraphic evidence in his inquiry of the past.” – Bob Becking, Utrecht University, The Netherlands
1. What particular areas or themes of Biblical Studies interest you and why?
Every time I read a biblical text, I cannot avoid asking about the people who wrote or handled the text. Who were these people and what were their lives like? In my view, one should ask why does this text exist? Why did an ancient scribe, or a group of scribes, or a series of generations of scribes, produce the words that I now see on this page? What was the point? In my view, the Bible’s status as sacred literature has undermined the Bible. I am not convinced it was designed to be sacred literature. It is an anthology, and the anthology includes incredible diversity. Who produced this anthology and why? What was the Bible before it got saddled with the unenviable status of sacred writ? That question is the drive train of my research and teaching.
2. How would you describe your book in one sentence?
Canaan and Israel in Antiquity is a one-volume introduction to ancient Israel’s history, which stresses both the evidence and the necessary methods for evaluating that evidence.
3. What do you think makes the Second Edition particularly useful for teachers/on courses?
The second edition is a vast improvement over the first, because it includes a chapter that explains what an ancient Near Eastern patron god was, and how the ideology of divine patronage shaped biblical literature. In the classroom, I have found that students need a specific focus on that topic so that they can begin to understand the strange divine personality they encounter in the pages of the Bible. Also, the first edition had made its mark by being the only English-language textbook that helped a student understand basic research method, but the second edition has improved on the first by devoting even more careful attention to matters of method. Even if my reader has no background in this field of study, the reader will achieve a strong competence because this volume enables the reader to understand how we draw conclusions about people who lived their lives and died more than two thousand years ago. It walks through the steps of gathering the data, evaluating the data, and constructing a portrait of the past.
4. Which part of the book did you enjoy writing the most?
I guess what excites me most is giving my student the tools for deconstructing the simplistic assertions that one so often encounters about the Bible and the people who produced the Bible. Much of the conventional wisdom about biblical literature and biblical history is incorrect. Even many biblical scholars who should know better pay lip service to the tedious notion that biblical texts were designed to proclaim a religious message among a vast, illiterate agrarian people, and that most ancient Israelites were familiar with the texts contained in the Bible, such as the tale of Moses and the exodus. If genuine understanding of these ancient people and their literature is to be achieved, those conventional truisms must be dismantled. Reality is so much more interesting than the modern folktale that emerges when people try to squeeze the many and varied narratives and poetry of the Bible into an awkward harmonization with ancient evidence. By doing that, they do violence to the ancient evidence and they insult the ancient scribes who produced the biblical literature.
5. Any tips for people reading the book or using it in their studies?
This book is written in a particular order, so that a student who has little or no background can advance step-by-step to a clear understanding of the ancient evidence and proper research methods. So my advice for a reader is to start with chapter 1 and do not skip around in the book, at least not during the first reading. Chapter 2 builds on chapter 1, and chapter 3 builds on chapter 2, and so forth. With this book, steady attentiveness is rewarded.
6. What is next in your research projects?
Currently, I am trying to bring together more than a dozen years of peer-reviewed essays and articles, add some additional insights, and produce a book that will, I hope, define some positive advances that can be made in our field if researchers will just let go of some tired truisms that linger in our field in spite of the overwhelming evidence against those truisms. For example, the hypothesis that portions of the Former Prophets once constituted a Deuteronomistic History retards any genuine advance in the study of the Former Prophets. I hope my next publication will enable scholarship to get past that roadblock in their thinking. But, as always, my greatest joy is the classroom. I am passionate about the people of the ancient past, and I want to find ever-new ways to bring that passion into the lives of my students.
Follow this link to request an exam copy