Ethnicity, Assimilation and the Israelite Settlement -- By: Pekka Pitkänen

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 55:2 (NA 2004)
Article: Ethnicity, Assimilation and the Israelite Settlement
Author: Pekka Pitkänen

Ethnicity, Assimilation and the Israelite Settlement

Pekka Pitkänen


In this article, we look into the possibility of assimilation of Canaanites1 into a group of Israelites whose origins lie in Egypt. We examine the topic from a comparative perspective of studies of ethnicity. First, we make a review of the current status of the scholarship about the origins of Israel. We then review how studies of ethnicity have been applied to Old Testament studies. After this, we look at definitions and basic features of ethnicity from the standpoint of ethnic studies. We then apply these insights to determine basic features of ethnicity and ethnic boundaries in early Israel. Subsequently, we look into evidence which suggests that assimilation from local peoples to an Exodus group may well have taken place in early Israel.2

1. The Origins of Israel in Past Scholarship

The origins of Israel have presented a problem for Old Testament scholarship. Besides criticisms laid on the biblical text since the 19th century, ever since archaeological results from the ancient Levant started to accumulate in the 20th century, the results from archaeological excavations were compared with the biblical data. In broad sweep, three different models to account for the origins of Israel emerged.

First, there were those who wished to affirm the basic historicity of the biblical text, even if the date of the conquest was to be lowered to the 13th century and the time of the Late Bronze–Early Iron Age transition instead of the 15th century as suggested by the biblical chronology. The most illustrious proponent of this view was William

Albright, and his work was continued by his disciples, the most notable of whom was John Bright.3 However, there were, and still are, a number of problems with this model.4 First of all, besides problems with identifying any external corroboration for the Israelite stay in Egypt and for the Exodus and the wilderness wanderings,5 there are problems with fitting the biblical evidence with archaeological evidence from Transjordania.6 However, there are also major problems with the Cisjordan. Perhaps the biggest problems relate to the stories about Jericho and Ai (Josh. 6; You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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