Some Choreographic Notes on the Dance of Theory with Data

A Response to Roland Boer, The Sacred Economy of Ancient Israel (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2015)

In: Horizons in Biblical Theology
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  • 1 San Francisco Theological Seminary and the Graduate Theological Union, San Anselmo and Berkeley, ca, USA

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This volume is a tour de force that exceeds any predecessor in its theoretical scope. Even more important than its intriguing syntheses are its probing questions, its analytical categories and tools, and its challenges to easy assumptions. Boer’s pursuit of theoretical integration, however, sometimes leads him to overgeneralize. He staunchly maintains, for example, that arable land was plentiful in all times and places in ancient Southwest Asia. Comprehensive archaeological surveys of the southern Levant tell a different story. The Iron ii population was more than double that of the Bronze Age or of Iron i. The highlands particularly witnessed the occupation of marginal niches. Population pressure on arable land was a reality in Iron ii Palestine. Similarly, the many standardized wine amphorae recovered from two eighth-century bce. Phoenician ships sunk off the Philistine coast contradict Boer’s repeated insistence that there is no evidence for long-distance trade in bulk goods.

  • 1

    Roland Boer, The Sacred Economy of Ancient Israel (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2015) 4.

  • 3

    Boer, Sacred Economy, 217-22.

  • 4

    Boer, Sacred Economy, 70.

  • 5

    Boer, Sacred Economy, 91-94.

  • 6

    Boer, Sacred Economy, 105.

  • 7

    Boer, Sacred Economy, 87.

  • 8

    Magen Broshi and Israel Finkelstein, “The Population of Palestine in Iron Age II,” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 287 (1992), 47-60, as corrected by Larry G. Herr, “The Iron Age II Period,” Biblical Archaeologist 60 (1997) 137.

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  • 9

    K. L. Noll, Canaan and Israel in Antiquity: A Textbook on History and Religion (2nd ed.; London: Bloomsbury T & T Clark, 2013), 262.

  • 10

    Marvin L. Chaney, “The Political Economy of Peasant Poverty: What the Eighth-Century Prophets Presumed but Did Not State,” in The Bible, the Economy, and the Poor (ed. Ronald A. Simkins and Thomas M. Kelly; Journal of Religion and Society, Supplement Series, 10;, 2014), 38, and the literature there cited.

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  • 12

    Philippe Guillaume, Land, Credit and Crisis: Agrarian Finance in the Hebrew Bible (Sheffield: Eqinox, 2012), who agrees with Boer about the ready availability of arable land, almost certainly falls victim to this temptation.

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  • 14

    Boer, Sacred Economy, 185.

  • 20

    See Lenski, Power and Privilege, 91-93, 191-192, 203, 436, 445; and Patrick Nolan, and Gerhard Lenski, Human Societies: An Introduction to Macrosociology (11th ed.; Boulder: Paradigm, 2009), 181-183.

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