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history-not to-the

human history-it ofhistory

Biblical scholarship is preoccupied with history-not the same history that the Bible constructs, but a history that the Bible is expected to offer clues to-the political and religious history of the ancient Near East. I think it is crucial to make distinctions between those projects, that is, to make distinctions between the writing ofhistory in the Bible and the writing of history in biblical scholarship, especially because they are so often, and so dangerously blurred. Dangerously, because the equation of the ideologies of biblical narratives with a positivist historian's understanding of "real events" turns what could be founding fictions of Western culture that are demanding critique, into "facts" that seem formidably unassailable. Dangerously, because the German historicism that gave birth to biblical scholarship is no "mere" positivism (as if there were such a thing); rather, every archeologist's spade and every linguist's verb ending is deeply inscribed with politics. Dangerously, because that very politics, once read into the Bible through the back door of something as seemingly innocent as "higher criticism," can even offer "evidence" for justifying the oppression ofpeople. It is too late in the day, and our understanding of narrative is too advanced, to allow any pernicious notions of "biblical truth"-including those of "higher criticism"-to continue to stick. Here, I would like to separate the complex constructions of the nation in the David narratives from the nationalism read into these narratives by biblical scholarship. I may as well confess at the outset that my own lenses have been tinted epistemologically by postmodern approaches to history rather than by the historicism that forged "higher criticism," and that they are tinted politically by a deep suspicion of exclusive national identities.