In the August 1992 BR we published the first part of a three-part interview with the world-renowned scholar Frank Moore Cross (see Frank Moore Cross—An Interview, BR 08:04). The interview, conducted in Cross’s home in Lexington, Massachusetts, occurred on the occasion of his retirement as Hancock Professor of Hebrew and Other Oriental Languages at Harvard University.
In the first installment, Cross and BR editor Hershel Shanks discussed the origins of the ancient Israelites, especially Cross’s view that an important component of the Israelites came from Midian (in what is today northwest Saudi Arabia and the southern Jordan) Pointing to a dearth of archaeological evidence for the Exodus in the Sinai, Cross outlined his belief that whatever Exodus from Egypt actually occurred likely went through Midian. Cross also elaborated on the theory regarding the various strands that make up the Bible and on his attempts to study the oldest sections of the Bible to recover the religious thought of the earliest Israelites. It is at that point that we rejoin the conversation.
HS: You spoke of utilizing archaic poetry in the Bible to ferret out the history of Israelite religion and society. How do you tell what is archaic and old, and what isn’t?