Fallacies In The Study Of Early Israel: An Onomastic Perspective -- By: Richard S. Hess

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 45:2 (NA 1994)
Article: Fallacies In The Study Of Early Israel: An Onomastic Perspective
Author: Richard S. Hess

Fallacies In The Study Of Early Israel: An Onomastic Perspective

Richard S. Hess


This study considers the question of the origin of Israel and the interpretation of archaeological evidence for Palestinian hill country culture during the transition from the Late Bronze Age to the Early Iron Age. While new research has enhanced our understanding of the period, it is important to maintain methodological controls in certain areas. This includes the careful evaluation of archaeological and textual evidence without a preconceived bias which automatically assigns a priority to the material culture. There is also evidence for non-indigenous peoples in Palestine at this time. This balances assumptions that Israelites must have been ‘Canaanites’ with their origins entirely within Palestine. Evidence relating to these issues is discussed.

I. Introduction

The purpose of this paper is to examine some assumptions about the study of early Israel and to consider whether or not fallacies might be found in them. For a fallacy to exist in historical study there must be both empirical data and interpretation of that data. A fallacy can exist at the level of the data, where it is overlooked or interpreted in a way inconsistent with other data. It might also exist at the level of the interpretation in which the conclusions drawn are illogical or inadequate in the light of the data. This paper will be concerned to examine fallacies in the identification and interpretation of data.

The term ‘early Israel’ refers to the period described in the Bible as occurring before the time of the United Monarchy, i.e., that of the Judges and especially that of Joshua when Israel first entered

into the land which it was to occupy. In archaeological terms, I choose to date the time described here to two periods. The first is the Late Bronze Age, between 1550 and 1200 B.C. The second includes the Early Iron Age, the 12th and 11th centuries B.C.

This essay examines the study of ancient Israel from the perspective of recent research. It is concerned with the relevant archaeological work, where archaeology is defined as the study of the material culture. The essay is also concerned with the biblical and especially with the epigraphic sources.

Fallacies appear when interpretations multiply. The number of studies on the subject of early Israel has increased in recent years. This increase has been stimulated by three factors, the appearance of new archaeological evidence, new ecological evidence, and new theories and models of explanation. Of all the recent archaeological evidence, that of the surveys is the most important. West of the Jordan Vall...

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