- The Hebrew Bible and Great Canaan
Bernardo Gandulla presents in this book the result of a life dedicated to the study and research of Ancient Near East history, focusing here on what he accurately calls 'Great Canaan' (coast of the Levant, South of Anatolia, North of Iraq, Syria-Palestine and Jordan), highlighting in this region the peculiarities of Syria-Palestine or, directly, Palestine which he defines as the 'nuclear Canaan'. His goal is to 're-interpret' (he speaks of an alternative interpretation) the cultural Hebrew phenomenon as a final expression of a complex process of cultural interactions inside of an environmental continuum.
In the Introduction, Gandulla shows clearly the problems and foundations of the research, as well as his hypothesis related to the 'interaction spheres', showing both an original approach and an exhaustive knowledge and analysis of the 'state of the art'. [End Page 231]
The first part, Geographical and Historical Frame, is useful because the author follows the path that was announced in the Introduction: the ecosystemic elements of regionalisation – always on the double consideration of the macro and nuclear region –; geomorphology; hydrography; climatic factors; flora and fauna; everything presented in a pleasant way and illustrated with accurate maps, tables and graphics, precisely illustrating his work's requirements and his main hypothesis of the significant legacy of Ancient Israel. As a consequence, important data is given arising from recent studies about land, weather, rivers, flora, fauna, regions and ecological niches which make up the necessary physical base, that will allow us to think in term of an ethno-cultural common substratum apt to produce diversities at the same time. Also is important to highlight the author's clear rejection of pure determinism. In similar way the Historical Frame, from the third up to the first millennium B.C. in the macro region and the nuclear Canaan, is very well preceded by theoretical and methodological considerations linked coherently to his work's hypothesis about the interaction spheres.
The second part, the material culture of the Great Canaan, covers the period from the Early Bronze Age until the Late Bronze Age B.C. The author continues to address, with coherence and originality, the interpretation of the archaeological data of material culture. However it is important to point out that the originality of his approach not absolves him from the scientific rigour on which he supports his interpretations. In this way Gandulla deal with the problems of plant and animal domestication, urbanisation, patterns of settlements and demography, economy, architecture, pottery. It is very interesting to emphasise the treatment of the Khirbet Kerak Ware (Beth Yerah), its associations with an Hurrian culture more ancient than was recently accepted, and the hypothesis of the predominant factor in the common background on which the Hebrew ethno-culture, as Canaanite, would be set-; burial customs, metallurgy, technological and artistic developments and warfare technology. The information is plentiful and up to date. It is also specifically includes the use of recent publications of excavations in the Emek Efraim of I. Milevski, G.Edelstein & S. Aurant (1998), and the sketches, pictures and diagrams that clarify his work.
In part three (Multicultural Background in Patriarchical Traditions), Gandulla interprets and collates, according to his hypothesis, Old Testament data and extra-biblical sources from Mesopotamia and the Great Canaan. His treatment underlines the thesis that he has been building since the beginning of his work: an historiography with a different point of view about Israel and the Hebrews of the biblical traditions, polemical but plausible and provable, with an excellent argumentation supported by a very careful corpus of texts. In this way he deals with the problem of the 'historical' authenticity of the Old Testament, the true value of the patriarchal traditions, the genealogies and the Hurrian question, the habiru/<ibri problem, and the legal institutions. In his conclusions the author gives us the balance of all that has been proposed in his work and closes coherently, although not definitively, as he emphasises.
It seems very appropriate that he has not...