David: Man Or Myth -- By: Michael J. Caba

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 24:3 (Summer 2011)
Article: David: Man Or Myth
Author: Michael J. Caba

David: Man Or Myth

Michael J. Caba

Heated Debate

In recent years, one of the more heated brushfires related to biblical archaeology has swirled around the early period of the house of David, particularly during the reigns of David himself and his son Solomon. Indeed, the symphony of voices has reached such a crescendo that the December 2010 edition of National Geographic featured the controversy as its cover article. Given this level of interest, an assessment of the relevant archaeological evidence and the various viewpoints involved is in order, an assessment that is as objective as possible given the passion that often surrounds these discussions. With this goal in mind, we commence with an examination of the text, the factions, and the artifacts.

The Text

To begin with, a review of the pertinent portions of the Bible makes it clear that the realms overseen by David and Solomon are depicted in a fairly glorious manner, particularly during the reign of Solomon. For instance, Solomon is described as being “greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth” (1 Kgs 10:23). Even with due consideration given to normal hyperbole, this type of portrayal leads one to believe that a sizable kingdom existed. Yet, until recently, there have been no direct references to either David or Solomon in the archaeological record. As a result, a significant debate developed regarding the veracity of the biblical descriptions. This debate has generally involved different opinions related to: 1, the very existence of David and Solomon; 2, the size and influence of the kingdoms of these two monarchs (assuming they did indeed exist); and 3, the dating of certain related archaeological finds. As the discussion continued, different schools of thought began to coalesce around various points of view regarding these matters.

The Factions

These schools of thought are often described with the polar opposite terms “minimalists” and “maximalists”; yet, a more nuanced range of opinions is detectible in the pertinent literature. For purposes of this article, the viewpoints are separated into three general categories based upon significant similarities that are seen in the opinions of the various scholars involved, though it should be recognized that variations can and do exist within each of these groups. Further, an epithet for each faction has been assigned that generally describes the group’s opinion regarding the reigns of David and Solomon as they are portrayed in the Bible.1 The three groups are as follows:

1. Fictitious—Individuals in this group can generally be described as believing that the ...

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