Review of The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of It’s Sacred Text, by Israel Finkelstein and Neil Silberman -- By: Richard S. Hess
Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 15:4 (Fall 2002)
Article: Review of The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of It’s Sacred Text, by Israel Finkelstein and Neil Silberman
Author: Richard S. Hess
BSpade 15:4 (Fall 2002) p. 123
Review of The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of It’s Sacred Text, by Israel Finkelstein and Neil Silberman
New York: The Free Press, 2001, hardback. x + 385 pp. ISBN 0–684-86912–8.
This book is written by a member of the “new generation’’ of Israeli archaeologists who holds a professorship at the University of Tel Aviv, and by a journalist who has published critical analyses of the history of archaeology of the Holy Land. Together, their stated purpose is to present how the new discoveries of the discipline of archaeology have overturned long held assumptions about the essential reliability of the Old Testament as a historical record. The book is arranged so as to move chronologically from what is traditionally regarded as earliest (the patriarchs) to what is the latest testimony of the Biblical historical record (the post-exilic period).
For each chapter, the authors present a summary of the Biblical account and then discuss the ways in which archaeology has controverted this traditional understanding. The authors always present their interpretation of the archaeological data but do not mention or interact with contemporary alternative approaches. Thus the book is ideologically driven and controlled.
The following represents a selection of the arguments presented and some possible responses to various claims.
Of all periods of Biblical history, that of the patriarchs is the most controversial. The authors use a variety of specific examples of items mentioned in the Genesis account that are not attested outside the Biblical record until much later, centuries after any dating of the patriarchs that would do justice to the Bible’s claims of their living in the early second millennium BC. These include the presence of camels, Arabian goods and South Arab tribes, and Philistines. Domesticated camels are not clearly attested before the first millennium BC, although camels are. However, their association with desert groups and the fact that Arabia has no written records prior to the first millennium BC make proof regarding historicity (or lack thereof) difficult. As for the Philistines, it may be that this name (like the Aramaeans) was applied to people living in the regions where the Philistines would later settle. Thus it is an updating of the account to make it understandable to readers of a later period.
According to the authors, the account of Ahmose’s expulsion of the Hyksos provides a parallel for the Biblical account of the Exodus. This took place ca. 1570 BC and that conflicts with, a ca. 1440 BC Exodus date based on 1 Kings 6:1. However, ...
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