Synopses & Reviews
Joel Baden, a leading expert on the Old Testament, offers a controversial look at the history of King David, the founder of the nation of Israel whose bloodline leads to Jesus, challenging prevailing popular beliefs about his legend in The Historical David.
Baden makes clear that the biblical account of David is an attempt to shape the events of his life politically and theologically. Going beyond the biblical bias, he explores the events that lie behind the David story, events that are grounded in the context of the ancient Near East and continue to inform modern Israel.
The Historical David exposes an ambitious, ruthless, flesh-and-blood man who achieved power by any means necessary, including murder, theft, bribery, sex, deceit, and treason. As Baden makes clear, the historical David stands in opposition not only to the virtuous and heroic legends, but to our very own self-definition as Davids national and religious descendants.
Provocative and enlightening, The Historical David provides the lost truth about David and poses a challenge to us: how do we come to terms with the reality of a celebrated hero who was, in fact, similar to the ambitious power-players of his day?
“An invigoratingly grown-up reading of the Bible, taking it seriously but not literally.... David emerges no longer as the author of the Psalms or the slayer of Goliath, yet Badens scholarly analysis leaves the usurper-King as one of the most crucial shapers of world history.” < b=""> Diarmaid MacCulloch <> , Professor of the History of the Church, University of Oxford, author of < i=""> Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years <>
“Reading between and behind the lines of the biblical text and its silences, Baden gives an engaging reconstruction of who the true David may have been. This is a brilliant synthesis, with some unexpected and even daring twists of interpretation. A tour de force!” < b=""> Michael Coogan <> , Harvard Divinity School lecturer, Director of Publications for the Harvard Semitic Museum and editor of < i=""> The New Oxford Annotated Bible <>
“[Baden] succeeds positively, powerfully, and persuasively in locating Israels once and future king as an actual historical figure. The multiple layers of fact and fiction, history and theology are cleanly and clearly distinguished but without either modern apologetics or contemporary polemics.” < b=""> John Dominic Crossan <> , author of < i=""> The Historical Jesus <>
“This revisionist take on King Davidas brilliant politician but despicable human beingcombines the best of historical study and literary imagination. Badens challenge to traditional understandings of Israels king is always provocative, often compelling, and completely fascinating.” < b=""> Amy-Jill Levine <> , Professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt University and author of < i=""> The Misunderstood Jew <>
“Lively.…This is a provocative book that raises questions about the nature of biblical narrative and also about the historical continuity of the Davidic line.” < b=""> John J. Collins <> , Holmes Professor of Old Testament, Yale University
“All praise beagainto those biblical studies scholars who can make ancient history matter and can shed light on longheld beliefs. In clear prose and with a documented command of what others have said before him, Baden offers a provocative reinterpretation of one of Western cultures heroes.” Publishers Weekly
“For readers open to debating this beloved biblical figure, The Historical David will make compelling reading.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Utterly fascinating and written with sublime lucidity. Booklist, starred review
David is one of the most celebrated characters in the Bible. We know him as the brave young man who defeated Goliath, the first king of a united Israel, the composer of the beloved Psalms, and, for Christians, the messianic forerunner to Jesus. And yet for all the glory we attribute to David's legend, the historical reality is both fascinating and disturbing.
In The Historical David, Joel Baden reveals that, in David's case, the Bible is political spin, "the goal of which is to absolve David of any potential guilt and to show him in a positive light." Through deep textual analysis, Baden reveals how the historical David has been painstakingly and successfully diminished, replaced by the portrait of a glorious king we are now familiar with.
To question David's legend opens up a debate about what it means to be a descendant of David—be it nationally, ethnically, or religiously. In The Historical David, Baden confronts this challenge, bringing the historical David vibrantly to life, and ultimately revealing that the flesh-and-blood man was far more complex and interesting than the mythical king.
About the Author
Joel S. Baden is Professor of Old Testament at Yale Divinity School and the author of several works on the Hebrew Bible, including The Composition of the Pentateuch and The Promise to the Patriarchs. Baden's articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The Daily Beast, CNN's Belief Blog, and The Huffington Post. He lives in New Haven, Connecticut.