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Gary Greenberg

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101 Myths of the Bible

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Manetho's Chronology
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King David Versus Israel: How a Hebrew Tyrant Hated by the Israelites Became a Biblical Hero




Library Journal
Green Bay Press-Gazette

Library Journal: Attorney, author, and president of the Biblical Archeology Society of New York, Greenberg (101 Myths of the Bible) offers an alternative portrait of King David by analyzing Bible stories and drawing on historical research. Comparing various significant episodes in the biblical account of David's life, Greenberg lays out the evidence, showing how these contradictory, altered, invented, redacted, and rearranged accounts were responsible for falsely casting David into the part of a religious reformer and thinker who developed the basic principles of Jewish worship.  Placing these texts into their historical, political, and geographical setting, Greenberg is able to separate much historical fact from biblical fiction, showing, for instance, that Goliath of the popular David and Goliath story was actually killed by a Philistine [this should read Israelite] warrior Elhanan.  Greenberg shows David to be an ambitious mercenary, ruthless politician, unjust tyrant, and military imperialist. The work contains maps, timelines, glossaries, and comparison text, making it a comprehensive account of King David.  Greenberg's comparative analyses of the Bible stories are supplemented by archaeological and historical writings, but the lack of bibliography suggests that some of it was also based on personal belief.  Like his earlier book, this one may anger some more conservative readers.  Recommended for larger religious collections.

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► Green Bay Press-Gazette
Jean Peerenboom Column: Writer shows a different side of Bible's King David
Gary Greenberg will make you think. He might even make you angry.

     In his latest book, “The Sins of King David” (Sourcebooks, $24.95), he paints a portrait of a ruthless, deceitful, corrupt leader who was a traitor to Israel. David was a tyrant and a murderer, he says.
     Throughout the Old Testament, David is seen as a beloved figure, an icon. He’s been portrayed as a pious and humble man, a goodly king whose heart was with the Lord, a monarch who composed lyrical poetry, divine music, defeated a giant and warded off the enemies of the ancient Israelites.
     Greenberg argues that much of that is myth. He says that enough of the original story remains buried in the text to show David’s true colors. For example, he said, “David was a horrible leader. Although he was apparently quite charismatic, people appear to love him on a personal level much like they do Bill Clinton. But David was obsessed with power and the trappings of power. He wanted to be the boss and didn’t like anything that didn’t go his way. He was anti-democratic. He tried to impose his view on everybody.
     “There was a rebellion against David while he was on the throne. One of the many charges against him was that he wasn’t providing for justice. That wasn’t his concern. He wanted to be in charge. He centralized power, where Israel had been decentralized with individual rights and private property,” Greenberg said.
     David needed “lots of money to build buildings and wage war. He established procedures for confiscating wealth and property for the king’s use to subsidize his activities. There were religious clashes between the majority views of the religious priesthood in Israel and the centralized priesthood in Jerusalem.”
     Using the second book of Samuel, Greenberg also finds a different story about the killing of the giant Goliath. “It describes the killing by someone else,” he said. “One of David’s military heroes kills Goliath.” He quotes 2 Samuel 21:19: “Elhanan, son of Jaare-oregim, the Bethlehemite, killed Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam.”
     Greenberg believes the story was changed when it was translated into Greek to make the story more consistent with earlier versions in the Bible. “The evidence is that the story was cobbled together and inserted into the David story,” he said.
     He became interested in the David story while doing work on biblical history and topics for earlier books. “As I was doing that research, I became more engaged in the David story,” he said.
     “Second, I thought there was something really important in the David story. There was political conflict between the north and south of David’s group and Israel. Based on the fact that David won out and became the dominant group, it had a major effect on the politics of Western civilization and the appearance of Christianity. If the other group had won, it would have been politics based on more decentralization and individualism,” he said.
     Greenberg is a lawyer by profession, though he has had a longtime interest in biblical history and the question of when history and myth intersect. “As a kid, I was interested in Norse, Greek and other myths. Sometimes myths are about real events and sometimes history is about mythological events.”
     The author is a New York City attorney and president of the Biblical Archaeology Society of New York. He is the author of several books about ancient Egypt and “The Moses Mystery: The African Origins of the Jewish People.” His next project is a book on Egyptian chronology.

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BOOKLOONS: In The Sins of King David (Sourcebooks, hardcover), Greenberg examines the Bible's conflicting stories about David -- one told by his allies, the other by his enemies -- and offers a new version of events. A blending of both Biblical accounts, the book questions the common image of David (as a pious and courageous man, "history's first renaissance man," a diplomat and a military strategist of uncommon gifts), offers compelling new evidence that changes our perceptions -- turns David, in essence, from a mythological figure into a living, breathing human being. Greenberg's not out to offend anyone; he just wants us to understand that the Biblical record of history is deeply contradictory, and heavily laced with myth and feats of great impossibility. – David Pitt,

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