Book and film reviews

Origins of ancient Israel

From Walter Schilling

UT-Verlag, Berlin, 2012, ISBN 978-3-11782-3

(Published in GralsWelt 75/2013)

The Old Testament of the Bible, the "Hebrew Bible", is important for three monotheistic world religions. Namely for the "Abrahamic religions" Judaism, Christianity, Islam, which refer to Abraham as the first person who, according to tradition, recognized the only God.

The core of the Jewish religion are the five books of Moses (Greek "Pentateuch"), which are kept in the form of the handwritten Torah scroll in every synagogue for the use of worship.

Since that Christianity originated from Judaism, the early Christians read the Old Testament long before the New Testament was in its final form. Jesus also referred to the Old Testament. The Ten Commandments, the creation story, the fall of man and many other traditions from the Hebrew Bible have entered into the Christian understanding of religion.

Even in Koran there are traditions from the Old Testament. For example, Abraham is praised and told of the plagues of Egypt.

Anyone who seriously deals with the Old Testament traditions from a modern point of view will ask: Are there verifiable traces of actual events that substantiate the biblical descriptions of the early history of the Israeli people? Or are they just vague legends or even fantasies and fictions?

In his book "Origins of Ancient Israel", Walter Schilling gives both convincing and interesting answers. The results of archaeological and historical research serve as the basis for his work.

Schilling's work begins with the origins of the Israelite tribes from Mesopotamia and ends with David and Solomon. It is very well researched, with detailed references, and despite all the scientific correctness it is easy to read.

The conclusion of the book is a surprise: The most frequently questioned reports in the Old Testament, such as the exodus from Egypt, the Egyptian plagues (cf. “Brief, succinct, curious” page 245 “The Egyptian plagues”), the crossing of the The Reed Lake, etc., can certainly be memories of real historical events. Although the number of fugitives given is greatly exaggerated, many of the details of the biblical account are so precisely described that they can hardly be made up. Using the biblical data, Walter Schilling also succeeds in convincingly reconstructing the course of the escape routes!

It almost seems natural that this exodus was only possible with a charismatic leader at the head, who - according to the Bible - was called Moses. (See. "The Moses Riddle", under "Book Reviews").

The "Origins of Ancient Israel" is required reading for anyone interested in the Old Testament and the history of the Old Jews.