Bible Review 17:2, April 2001

Searching For Saul

What we really know about Israel’s first king

By Marsha White

A handful of Hebrew Bible scholars, in recent years, have attacked the historicity of the biblical account of King David’s reign (1 Samuel 16 through 1 Kings 2). There is no evidence outside the Bible, these scholars claim, for the existence of David.1 They note that these stories are part of the Deuteronomistic History,2 which was written no earlier than the seventh century B.C.E., and therefore are of little or no value for the reconstruction of earlier historical periods, such as the rise of the Davidic monarchy in the tenth century B.C.E. Some of these so-called minimalists date portions of the Deuteronomistic History to the Hellenistic period (third to second century B.C.E.), which would make it even more remote from the history it purports to convey.

Other scholars have made a convincing case for the Deuteronomistic History’s incorporation of earlier sources that date to the tenth century B.C.E.,3 virtually contemporaneous with the events they describe.4

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