Starting Sparks’ Ethnicity and Identity in Ancient Israel

I started Kenton Sparks’ Ethnicity and Identity in Ancient Israel.  Here are two points:

1.  Sparks defines ethnicity as “group identity wherein groups of individuals view themselves as being alike by virtue of their common ancestry” (page 1). The Hebrew Bible has this notion, as we can see from the genealogies.  So did the ancient Greeks—and Sparks, a student of John Van Seters (who argues that the Hebrew Bible’s historiography reflects that of the Greeks), deems that to be an important point.  But the Egyptians and the Assyrians focused largely on the king.  They still had pretty low opinions about outsiders, however.  The Egyptian tale of Sinuhe, for example, is about the Egyptian Sinuhe fleeing to the land of Canaan and living with Asiatics, ruling over them and fighting their battles with other Asiatics.  The point of that story is that Egyptians are better than Asiatics.  This is negative, but not overly negative.  But the Egyptian attitude towards Asiatics became very negative after the expulsion of the Asiatic Hyksos in the second millennium B.C.E.

2.  I want to share some cool points.  On page 70, Sparks states that “This divine preference for the younger son over the older ones is a motif found elsewhere in Herototus (cf. 4.10, 8.137) and reminds us of the Jacob/Esau story and of other traditions in the Hebrew Bible.”  Why do I like that point?  Because I’ve gotten sick of evangelicals who talk as if the Bible is so unique and divinely-inspired because it presents God exalting the least.  Other books do that too!

On page 92, Sparks refers to an Egyptian “Satirical Instruction Letter”, which “depicted the Asiatic region as a dangerous territory inhabited by giant bedouin, a tradition that should be compared with similar traditions in the Greek materials and also in the Hebrew Bible.”  It is interesting that the Hebrew Bible also depicts the Asiatic Promised Land as occupied by giants (Numbers 13:33).

But I admire Sparks’ faith, for he dedicates his book to C.S. Lewis: “Though he died in the year of my birth, the fruit of his work freed me from a wearisome agnosticism.”

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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