“The Historical David” by Joel Baden – Initial Thoughts

I just started reading The Historical David by Joel Baden. It’s a very well written book even if I suspect I won’t agree with everything he writes. As we finish the first chapter we find the following summary:

“David did not write the psalms. David did not kill Goliath. The defining features of David in the modern imagination are merely that: imaginary. They are what the biblical authors, and we too, want David to be, not what he was. These, then, are the questions we have to reckon with: if David did not do what we imagine him to have done, what did he really do? If David was not who we think he was, then who was he?” (42)

Baden asserts early on that while “the Bible is a necessary source of information . . . it is not sufficient, nor particularly trustworthy.” (9) I found it interesting that Baden did believe we have sufficient information to think there is a “strong possibility that David may in fact have been running a protection racket” given the episode with Nabal (1 Sam. 25). (10) The biblical narrative is seen as the “equivalent of political spin” in order to put David in “a positive light.” (10) There is much here to think about and quite a bit of it will stir theological feathers. Let the dialogue begin.

The Historical David is from HarperOne. It is a hardcover with 320 pages and sells for $26.99.

Joel S. Baden is Associate Professor of Old Testament at Yale Divinity School and the author of several works on the Hebrew Bible, including J, E, and the Redaction of the Pentateuch; The Composition of the Pentateuch: Renewing the Documentary Hypothesis; and The Promise to the Patriarchs. He lives in New Haven, Connecticut.

Historical David



About Louis

I am a 1997 graduate of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
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One Response to “The Historical David” by Joel Baden – Initial Thoughts

  1. Rev. Bryant J. Williams III says:

    Dear Louis,

    You quoted Baden, ” ‘The defining features of David in the modern imagination are merely that: imaginary.’ ” If words mean anything then clearly Baden should have heeded is own words. “Modern imagination” would include his own book. Baden dismisses the “modern imagination,” then forgets that the “ancient imagination,” Jewish and Christian, were unified in the story of David. It appears that Baden has written nothing new. He is still passing on the heresy of Marcion. If David is not who it is found in the Scriptures, that he was a shepherd boy, warrior, king, prophet, author/composer of many psalms, etc., then there is no small problem with his descendant, Jesus.

    I also notice that the secular publishing house, HarperOne, is behind this venture. The other books he has written are of the same quality. Yet, even a broken clock is right twice a day; for one may find some nugget, but this seems to be the trend for the last two hundred years.


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