The Historicity of the Patriarchal Narratives

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
The Historicity of the Patriarchal Narratives: The Quest for the Historical Abraham
AuthorThomas L. Thompson
CountryUnited States
PublisherWalter de Gruyter
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardcover)
This article presents information about the book; for general information about the topic, see Abraham: Historicity and origins and The Bible and history.

The Historicity of the Patriarchal Narratives: The Quest for the Historical Abraham is a book by biblical scholar Thomas L. Thompson, Professor of Old Testament Studies at the University of Copenhagen.

Together with John Van Seters's Abraham in History and Tradition (1975), this book marked the culmination of a growing current of dissatisfaction in scholarly circles with the then-current consensus (or near-consensus) on the Patriarchal narratives. The consensus can be summarized as the proposal that, even if archaeology could not directly confirm the existence of the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob), these Patriarchal narratives had originated in a second millennium BC setting because many personal names, place names, and customs referenced in the Genesis narratives were unique to that era. This view was expressed by John Bright in his influential History of Israel (1959, 2nd edition 1960) in these words; "one is forced to the conclusion that the patriarchal narratives authentically reflect social customs at home in the second millennium rather than those of later Israel".[1] Thompson and Van Seters pointed out that, in fact, none of the archaeological evidence cited by the dominant scholars of the time (notably William F. Albright, E. A. Speiser, Cyrus Gordon, and Bright himself) actually provided irrefutable proof for the historicity of the Patriarchal narratives. "Not only has archaeology not proven a single event of the patriarchal traditions to be historical, it has not shown any of the traditions to be likely."[2] Albright's reputation never quite recovered from the publication of Thompson's book.[3]

See also[edit]

The Copenhagen School (theology)


  1. ^ John Bright, "History of Israel", quoted in Martin J. Selman, "Comparative Customs and the Patriarchal Age"
  2. ^ "The Historicity of the Patriarchal Narratives", p.328, quoted in review by Dennis Pardee in Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Vol. 36, No.3 (July 1977)
  3. ^ P.R.F. Moorey, "A Century of Biblical Archaeology", p.114 Moorey's book is a standard text on the history of "Biblical archaeology.