The Evangelical Contribution to Understanding the (Early) History of Ancient Israel in Recent Scholarship -- By: James K. Hoffmeier

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 07:1 (NA 1997)
Article: The Evangelical Contribution to Understanding the (Early) History of Ancient Israel in Recent Scholarship
Author: James K. Hoffmeier


The Evangelical Contribution to
Understanding the (Early) History of
Ancient Israel in Recent Scholarship*

James K. Hoffmeier

Wheaton College

Although some evangelical scholars have responded to the recent movement toward historical minimalism, not enough is being done. If responsible, evangelical, historical perspectives are to bring some balance to the scholarly debate, evangelical scholars must publish more of their work in academic presses and in trade journals where they cannot be ignored. For the present writer Egyptology and sojourn-exodus narratives are of special interest. It is concluded that the principal components of the biblical story of Israel’s presence in Egypt, their enslavement, their departure, and their sojourn in the Sinai wilderness are consistent with archaeological evidence. There is little justification in the conclusion that the biblical narratives lack any historical basis, but are late fictions. The theological implications of this issue are not insignificant.

Key words: Archaeology, Egypt, the exodus, history of ancient Israel

I. Introduction: Recent Developments

The quest for early Israel in history, also known as the “origins of Israel” within the guild, has been the most provocative issue to face OT scholarship since the early 1980s. The “origins of Israel” debate has created as much of a furor in OT studies as the “Third Quest for the Historical Jesus” has for NT scholarship. I am delighted that the leadership of IBR has recognized the importance of these controversial issues and has provided a forum for their discussion at the 1996 Annual Meeting.

* This paper was presented at the 1996 annual meeting of the Institute of Biblical Research in New Orleans. Because much of the material presented below is extracted from my forthcoming book, Israel in Egypt (New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), I will not fully document this essay, but will instead cite chapter and section numbers from the book.

Many here recall the papers and panels that have been aired at the SBL meetings over the past decade by scholars like the late Gösta Ahlström, Thomas Thompson, Neils Peter Lemche, Diana Edelman, Robert Coote, Keith Whitelam and others. These scholars have penned a massive array of monographs and articles questioning the historicity of such central events to OT history as the Israelite sojourn in Egypt, the exodus story, the Sinai wanderings and Joshua’s conquest of Canaan. The attempt to rediscover Israel’s origins in Canaan without the Bible playing a central role initially met with surprisingly little emotion or thoughtful critique by the scholarly community in gener...

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