The Tabernacle — A Bronze Age Artifact -- By: Kenneth A. Kitchen

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 08:2 (Spring 1995)
Article: The Tabernacle — A Bronze Age Artifact
Author: Kenneth A. Kitchen

The Tabernacle — A Bronze Age Artifact

Kenneth A. Kitchen

Kenneth A. Kitchen is professor of Egyptology at the University of Liverpool, England. He is author of The Bible in its World (Paternoster, 1977), as well as numerous other books and articles.

The ‘Tabernacle’ of Exodus 26/36 holds a midway position in Biblical tradition between the simple family sacrifices of the Patriarchs in Genesis1 and the permanent temple built by Solomon at Jerusalem (1 Kgs 6; 7:13–51). However, a century or so ago, in their eagerness to restructure Biblical history in accord with the philosophic fads and fashions of their time — and without as much as troubling to check for any factual basis — Biblical scholars arbitrarily decided that the Tabernacle was essentially a fiction fabricated by priests in or after the Babylonian Exile; ‘simple’ worship was declared to have been the rule until (at earliest) the shrine at Shiloh or (at latest) David’s tent or Solomon’s temple. Opinion had it that “the tabernacle rests on an historical fiction. .. At the outset its very possibility is doubtful”2 or it is “quite unrealistic.”3 No one can blame last century’s scholars for not using facts not available to them; but they (and even more, their successors) are academically open to criticism for not even having looked for evidence pro or contra.

In 1947, Cross suggested that the Tabernacle’s possible reality should be taken more seriously, and wished to refer the Exodus description to David’s tent.4 In 1960 and since, the present writer was able to point to much fuller extra-Biblical evidence that also pointed to epochs long predating the Exile.5 However, quite typically, much Biblical scholarship has failed to pay heed to either Cross’ arguments or to this writer’s fresh facts, and has continued uncritically to repeat the same old 19th century shibboleths about late priestly fictions.6 Is this situation tenable? Are there no external facts to guide us in evaluating the data of Exodus 26/36 and associated material? In origin, the Biblical books and their contents are ancient West-Semitic texts and come out

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