I'm very busy trying to finish 3,500 words on Abraham which will make four double page spreads in a coffee table book on the Bible. The job has a tight deadline, which coincides with the start of teaching for the year, and the deadline for SBL paper submissions.
Writing on Abraham for such a work raises all sorts of questions. Not least: How does one deal with the issues of history/historicity?
It's not just that minimalism and maximalism (or whatever we call those tendencies) are busy fighting over the ground, but even "simple" things like Ur. It is true that the majority of scholars who seek to identify "Ur of the (anachronistic) Chaldeans" identify it as Ur (home of the famous royal tombs and ziggurat) in southern Mesopotamia (as Claude Mariottini did recently in his blog
). But, does that ring true? Would a later scribe, redactor, writer of historical fiction or whomever have called that Ur
"of the Chaldeans"?
Now the theologian and literary reader in me wants to claim that the location does not really matter. If so why discuss it in the 950 words I have for "AbrahamÂs birth and early life"? (Problematic title, since the Bible hardly mentions either much ;) But then I know that readers will want to know, people like to connect stories with places. And I suspect that the publisher may well want to get permission for a nice photo of something like the Royal Standard of Ur to enrich the page...
So, follow my theological and literary nose? Give the readers what they want (even though I cannot in all conscience give them what they really want - a neat tidy andexcitingg identification)? Or bow to the needs of my employer?
So, that's why there is a near scholarlyconsensuss on identifying Abram's Ur as the famous one!