I started reading Mark S. Smith’s
Memoirs of God this past week. Smith states in the introduction to the book that his audience is those outside of “fellow scholars” and “graduate students,” i.e. “the general public.” For the whole of the book, I’m not so sure he hits that target. I work with a more general audience, and I feel fairly certain the general audience I work with would have some difficulty in the shift that takes place between the end of chapter 2 and the beginning of chapter 3. Chapters 3 and 4 are not, in my opinion, nearly as accessible as the first two chapters, but I suppose sometimes there is only so much that one can simplify a topic.
However, I would draw attention to chapters 1 and 2. I have had a very hard time finding a good succinct written history of Israel that I would recommend to a lay person. As Smith duly notes, most histories of Israel (e.g.
Bright) start with the patriarchs and move through the stories of the Old Testament in the order of their presentation in the Biblical text trying to match up stories with archaeological findings. Anyone who has engaged in a critical study of the History of Israel recognizes many of the inherent problems in this approach. Yet how does one avoid this traditional approach without muddying the waters too much? I think Smith accomplishes this in chapter 1 of the book, though this is certainly a matter of personal opinion. In addition, the discussion in chapter 2 of the difficulties faced by the nation of Israel throughout its history would also be beneficial to all readers.
$10 for the paperback, I think the text would be well worth the purchase even if only for the first two chapters.