Historical Approaches to the Bible and the Biblical World


This research unit provides a forum on historical method when dealing with the history of Palestine/Israel ("Geschichte Israels") and the relevant media mainly in the second and first Millennium BCE. We seek to foster scholarly and open-minded discussions integrating archaeology, history of media (incl. literary theory) and cultural studies. Beside a core-panel with frequent presence, invited papers are scheduled as well as open sessions. 


History of Ancient Israel, Bible, Archaeology, Iconography, Epigraphy, Numismatics, Methodology


Florian Lippke
University of Fribourg 

Lukasz Niesiolowski-Spano
University of Warsaw

Katharina Pyschny
Humboldt-University of Berlin

Member Area

Wuppertal 2021 Call for Papers 

At the EABS Annual Conference 2021 in Wuppertal, the HABBW Research Unit will conduct a session entitled “The History of the Levites and the Levitical Priesthood: A Methodological Re-Evaluation”. Even though the history of the Levites, their origin(s) in particular, is a highly debated issue in recent research, many positions still rely on or operate with rather traditional (and problematic) presuppositions (e.g., a Wellhausenian framework). Thus, the session aims at re-evaluating the methodology for reconstructing the history of the Levites and the Levitical Priesthood. It is based on the the following issues raised by recent scholarship:

  1. The reconstruction of the history of the Levites is highly influenced by everyone’s starting point within the biblical evidence (Deuteronomy, Numbers, Chronicles etc.). The different pictures of the Levites represented in the biblical record are still treated isolated rather than in correlation to one another. 

  2. Almost every historical reconstruction of the history of the Levites depends to a certain degree on cult centralization or even the Josianic reform as a more or less historical event. In order to make some progress in the scholarly discussion, it is necessary to take into account the newer debates on processes of centralization in the Neo-Assyrian and Persian periods.

  3. Even though recent scholarship clearly reflects the tendency to the late dating of texts mentioning Levites, too little attention was given to the variety of consequences in regard to the history of the Levites. Does the “popularity” of the Levites in late biblical texts attest to an upward movement of (previously degraded) priestly/cultic personnel? Or is it rather to be interpreted as the establishment of a new group of priestly/cultic personnel that reacts to the new complexity and requirements of the Second Temple cult?    

Against this background, the session will bring together experts from biblical studies and the history of ancient Israel in order to reflect on the methodology, when reconstructing the history of the Levites and the Levitical Priesthood by 

   a. mapping and critically assessing the (biblical) evidence in light of current literary and redactional criticism,

   b. (re-)evaluating its interpretation and (historical) value or impact,

   c. questioning long standing biblical and historical paradigms or presuppositions linked to the topic in question and

   d. discussing various options for understanding the Levites’ “popularity” and role(s) during the Second Temple period.