Gottwald, Norman K(arol) 1926-

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GOTTWALD, Norman K(arol) 1926-

PERSONAL: Born October 27, 1926, in Chicago, IL; son of Norman Karl (in automotive sales) and Carol (Copeland) Gottwald; divorced; children: Lise, Sharon. Education: Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary, A.B. and Th.B., both 1949; Union Theological Seminary, M.Div., 1951; Columbia University, Ph.D., 1953.

ADDRESSES: Home—99 Claremont Ave., New York, NY 10027.

CAREER: Ordained minister of American Baptist Convention, 1949; Columbia University, New York, NY, lecturer, 1953-54, assistant professor of religion, 1954-55; Andover Newton Theological School, Newton Centre, MA, professor of Old Testament, 1955-62, Lowry Professor, 1962-65; Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, CA, professor of Old Testament, 1965-82; New York Theological Seminary, New York, NY, professor of biblical studies, beginning 1980. Visiting assistant professor at Princeton University, 1955; visiting lecturer at Brown University, 1962-63, and Brandeis University, 1963-65; professor at American Baptist Seminary of the West, 1965-73; visiting professor at University of California, Santa Cruz, 1967, University of California, Berkeley, 1974-75, University of the Pacific, 1975-76, and Bryn Mawr College, 1977-78; lecturer at Ecumenical Institute for Advanced Theological Studies, Jerusalem, Israel, 1973-74. Research fellow at Hebrew Union College, Jerusalem, 1968-69.

MEMBER: American Academy of Religion, Society of Biblical Literature.

AWARDS, HONORS: Fulbright scholar in Jerusalem, Israel, 1960-61.


Studies in the Book of Lamentations, A. R. Allenson (Chicago, IL), 1954, revised edition, 1962.

A Light to the Nations: An Introduction to the Old Testament, Harper (New York, NY), 1959, revised edition published as A Light to the Nations: A Socio-Literary Introduction to the Hebrew Bible, Fortress (Philadelphia, PA), 1983.

All the Kingdoms of the Earth: Israelite Prophecy and International Relations in the Ancient Near East, Harper (New York, NY), 1964.

The Church Unbound: A Human Church in a HumanWorld, Lippincott (Philadelphia, PA), 1967.

The Tribes of Yahweh: A Sociology of the Religion ofLiberated Israel, 1250-1050 B.C.E., Orbis (Maryknoll, NY), 1979.

The Bible and Liberation: Political and Social Hermeneutics, Orbis (Maryknoll, NY), 1983.

(Editor) Social Scientific Criticism of the Hebrew Bible and Its Social World: The Israelite Monarchy, Scholars Press (Atlanta, GA), 1986.

(With Daniel L. Smith) The Religion of the Landless, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1989.

God and Capitalism: A Prophetic Critique of MarketEconomy, edited by J. Mark Thomas and Vernon Visick, A-R Editions (Madison, WI), 1991.

The Hebrew Bible in Its Social World and in Ours, Scholars Press (Atlanta, GA), 1993.

Proclamation 4: Aids for Interpreting the Lessons ofChurch Year, Fortress Press (Philadelphia, PA), 1999.

The Politics of Ancient Israel, Westminster John Knox Press (Louisville, KY), 2001.

Contributor to Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible.

Contributor to theology journals.

SIDELIGHTS: As John Barton noted in the Times Literary Supplement, Norman K. Gottwald "made his name with The Tribes of Yahweh: A Sociology of the Religion of Liberated Israel, 1250-1050 B.C.E." Gottwald, an Old Testament scholar who for many years taught at the New York Theological Seminary as well as at numerous other colleges and universities around the country, is a "pioneer in the social-scientific study of the Hebrew Bible," as Barton further pointed out. In The Tribes of Yahweh he puts forth the argument that, contrary to the Old Testament claims that Israel came into Palestine from Egypt, it was instead created out of the groups of lower-class refugees who fled the oppression of the city states of Canaan. Coalescing into the polity of Israel, these tribes then created a national tale of liberation from Egypt. That 1979 publication caused a stir in biblical studies. J. Andrew Dearman, writing in Interpretation, called the book a "massive, ground-breaking work, combining sociological analysis and Marxist theory in an investigation of Israel's origins."

Gottwald continued to ask and investigate new questions in biblical studies in other works. With The Hebrew Bible in Its Social World and in Ours, he collects twenty-nine essays, reviews, lectures, and other previously published and unpublished material with the shared theme of "the social history of ancient Israel as articulated in the Hebrew Bible, and as relevant to contemporary Christian theology and ethics," as Chris Seeman described the work in the Catholic Biblical Quarterly. These essays are organized by subject matter, including topics such as the origins of Israel, an examination of canon and more contemporary theology, and political and social ethics, among others. The contents are further organized chronologically, thus providing a look at the development of Gottwald's thoughts. "Taken together," wrote Seeman, "these essays are particularly valuable for clarifying the key features of [Gottwald's] 'Marxist' perspective." Dearman came up with a different interpretation of the same work, finding in the gathered essays the reason "why some scholars did not previously, and do not now, assess the relevant evidence the way Gottwald does; in large part, they believe his methodological presuppositions drive his historical analysis and dictate many of his conclusions."

In his 2001 work, The Politics of Ancient Israel, Gottwald "ventures beyond the authoritative perspective of the Bible's final editors to catch a glimpse of the diverse players constituting that society," wrote Paul D. Hanson in Interpretation. Employing an "interdisciplinary approach," as Hanson typified it, Gottwald views biblical text through the lens of modern critical disciplines such as historiography, literary analysis, and social theory. In so doing, he places "Israel within the matrix of ancient Near Eastern politics," according to Hanson. That same critic went on to call the book a "pioneering work that promises to contribute to a fresh approach to the politics of ancient Israel." For John Van Seters, however, writing in Shofar, "Gottwald's method of 'critically imagining' Israel's politics is a case of too little criticism and too much imagination." More positive was James M. Kennedy's assessment of the work in his Catholic Biblical Quarterly review. Kennedy found The Politics of Ancient Israel to be a "prime example of creative scholarship." According to Kennedy, Gottwald "assumes that a critical questioning of the biblical writers' own ideological assumptions is procedurally valid. The result is a depiction of Israel's politics that blends critical reconstructions with the Bible's own reporting of events." Kennedy went on to conclude that "this book is a major contribution and offers a component of the scholarly dialogue concerning ancient Israel that is worthy of an equally serious response."



Catholic Biblical Quarterly, April, 1995, Chris Seeman, review of The Hebrew Bible in Its Social World and in Ours, pp. 427-428; July, 2003, James M. Kennedy, review of The Politics of Ancient Israel, pp. 428-429.

Interpretation, July, 1995, J. Andrew Dearman, review of The Hebrew Bible in Its Social World and in Ours, pp. 302-304; July, 2003, Paul D. Hanson, review of The Politics of Ancient Israel, pp. 306-308.

Shofar, summer, 2003, John Van Seters, review of ThePolitics of Ancient Israel, pp. 130-132.

Times Literary Supplement, May 3, 2002, John Barton, review of The Politics of Ancient Israel, p. 32.


Pacific School of Religion Web site, (February 9, 2004).
Westminster John Knox Press Web site, (February 9, 2004).*

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Gottwald, Norman K(arol) 1926-

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