cover image The Historical David: 
The Real Life of an Invented Hero

The Historical David: The Real Life of an Invented Hero

Joel S. Baden. HarperOne, $26.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-218831-1

With a Jewish sensibility and a critical scholar’s eye, Yale Divinity School Professor Baden sifts out the myth and political spin from the biblical evidence that shows that King David was a subjugating usurper who unseated the popular and able King Saul. After explaining the traditions underlying David’s idealized character (e.g., the attribution of Psalms to David’s hand, the tendency of later works to tidy his record), Baden opens up the text to the lay reader. He presents the plausible historical events leading to David’s claiming of the throne, the nature of his reign, and, somewhat speculatively, the significance of Solomon’s succession. That the biblical account of David’s rise to power is a political apology—an answer to the contemporary charges against him, which included implication in murders and regicide—is not news to those familiar with critical Bible scholarship. Baden’s offering, however, is notable as part of a recent trend, even in traditional circles, to view critical scholarship as essential to general Jewish religious self-understanding, rather than as an academic or potentially subversive exercise. (Oct.)