By Fr. S. G. A. LUFF
The Land of the Bible by Yohanan Aharoni (Burns Oates, 63s.).
THE AUTHOR is a German-born Jew in his middle forties who went to live in a Palestine kibbutz and subsequently became a leading scholar of ancient Jewish history, Scripture, and historical geography. This book was first published in Hebrew in 1962 under the more exact title: "The Land of Israel in Biblical Times" — for it covers Old Testament history only.
With the most meticulous apparatus of maps, tables, parallel lists of names, and appendices Professor Aharoni describes the Land of Promise throughout the history of God's Chosen People with scholarly appraisal of all sources, assessing Scripture as history parallel to the records of neighbouring races. His close knowledge of ancient sites — the innumerable "tells" that indicate the remains of settlements in
Palestine — gives this book a quality few could approach.
He does well to quote Jerome: "One will comprehend Holy Scripture with a clearer understanding who has seen the land of Judah with his own eyes and has come to know the references to ancient towns and places and their names." The pilgrim who is not too much yoked to his courier or priest-director, and who briefs himself with something like that excellent periodical Bible et Terre Sainte (which we should have in English) can see the point of that.
This, however, is no book for armchair travellers—a work of reference rather for every library Scripture section. The more leisured reader can use it, too, in conjunction with his Bible and further background reading.
He may learn some odd facts-for instance, that the Baptist's honey was probably made from dates, why Abraham served his mysterious guests milk instead of wine, that there's a good natural explanation for the drying of Jordan so that the Israelites could cross over, and some speculations, new to me, for possible sites of the 'Reed Sea' that drowned Pharaoh chasing after Moses.