Biblical Ideas of Nationality: Ancient and Modern
In this collection of essays, drawn from more than a decade of study and publication, Steven Grosby investigates ancient texts (biblical and other) from within a methodology that is founded on philosophical anthropology. His goal is to examine the ways in which the ancients defined themselves, particularly in terms of kinship, territoriality, and boundaries, and how these relate to concepts of nationality. Grosby denies that modern historicists have it right when they claim that only imprecise frontiers existed in antiquity, or that nationality is a primarily modern concept. Instead, despite differences between our times and ancient times, he believes that significant similarities permit the application of anthropological theory to the study of the self-perception of ancient peoples. In this respect, his researches break new ground. But Grosby is not content with an analysis of the past. He goes on to draw implications from it with regard to modern issues related to nationalism. Thus, he writes,
"Moreover, if we learn anything from the experience of the bellicose twentieth century, it is that we, in fact, live primarily in monolatrous societies; that modern man attributes a common kinship to those who, like himself, are born in the territory in which he was born and inhabits--to those who are "native in the land" . . . and that the god of the land and lineage, and its representatives in the "center," continue to receive our deference, albeit in an age of monotheism, reformulated as patriotism or, when taken to ideological extremes, nationalism.'" (from the introduction)
Grosby's forays into the application of anthropology and sociology to this area of study will be recognized as pioneering and provocative, and as pointing the way to further research on the idea of nationality in ancient times.