They are the products of a continuous process of composition that stretched over hundreds of years.
Although the earliest material in this collection (in Psalms and Lamentations) may have been assembled in late monarchic times or soon after the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BCE, most of the Writings were apparently composed much later, from the fifth to the second century BCE in the Persian and Hellenistic periods.
The Torah also known as the Five Books of Moses, or the Pentateuch ("five books" in Greek) includes Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
These narrate the story of the people of Israel from the creation of the world, through the period of the flood and the patriarchs, to the Exodus from Egypt, the wanderings in the desert, and the giving of the Law at Sinai.
Also unlike the histories and royal chronicles of other ancient Near Eastern nations, it does not merely celebrate the power of tradition and ruling dynasties.
It offers a complex yet clear vision of why history has unfolded for the people of Israel and indeed for the entire world in a pattern directly connected with the demands and promises of God.
Archaeology has helped us to reconstruct the history behind the Bible, both on the level of great kings and kingdoms and in the modes of everyday life. When we speak of the Bible we are referring primarily to the collection of ancient writings long known as the Old Testament now commonly referred to by scholars as the Hebrew Bible.
This book examines the main "historical" works of the Bible, primarily the Torah and the Former Prophets, which narrate the saga of the people of Israel from its beginnings to the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem in 586 BCE.
We compare this narrative with the wealth of archaeological data that has been collected over the last few decades.
And yet this land was the birthplace of a literary masterpiece that has exerted an unparalleled impact on world civilization as both sacred scripture and history.
More than two hundred years of detailed study of the Hebrew text of the Bible and ever more wide-ranging exploration in all the lands between the Nile and the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers have enabled us to begin to understand when, why, and how the Bible came to be.