The Quest for the Historical Israel: Debating Archaeology and the History of Early Israel

By Bolen, Todd | Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, December 2008 | Go to article overview

The Quest for the Historical Israel: Debating Archaeology and the History of Early Israel


Bolen, Todd, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society


The Quest for the Historical Israel: Debating Archaeology and the History of Early Israel. By Israel Finkelstein and Amihai Mazar. Edited by Brian B. Schmidt. Archaeology and Biblical Studies 17. Atlanta: SBL, 2007, x + 220 pp., $24.95 paper.

This book originates from invited lectures delivered in October 2005 at the Sixth Biennial Colloquium of the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism in Detroit, Michigan. Despite the title, the book is not really a debate per se, but is more like a "four views" book, but without the two "extreme" views or the responses. According to the writers, the two views presented are "centrist," falling in between the conservative extreme of Kitchen and the revisionist extreme of Thompson and Lemche. The two authors are leading Israeli archaeologists, and their well-articulated views are widely influential and must be rightly understood by evangelical teachers of the OT today.

The book is divided into six parts, with the first and last serving to introduce and conclude the discussion, and the middle four surveying Israel's history from the Patriarchs to the divided monarchy. Each part begins with a "summary assessment" by the editor, Brian B. Schmidt, followed by essays from Israel Finkelstein and Amihai Mazar, respectively. The "summary assessments" are quite good in capturing the main points of each author, though Schmidt provides little in the way of evaluation.

Of the four periods treated, the two authors share the most in common at the ends of the historical timeline-the time of the patriarchs and the divided monarchy. Greater disagreement exists over the nature of Israel's origins and settlement, and the debate is most pointed concerning the tenth century BC, the time of Israel's united monarchy. For the most part, the disagreement merely concerns how large the "kernel of truth" behind the biblical account is.

According to Finkelstein, anachronisms in the patriarchal stories betray a seventh century BC date of composition. He notes as well what "we should have heard about" it if the stories actually took place in the second millennium (p. 45). He argues the patriarchal stories were written in the time of Josiah to demonstrate Judah's superiority over the northern tribes. Mazar finds some support for historical memory in the early biblical accounts in analogous Egyptian records from the same time period.

Finkelstein consistently identifies the motives of the seventh century bc biblical writers, but he fails to note glaring problems with his proposals. For instance, he describes the stories of Jacob and Esau as giving divine legitimacy to the political relationship of Judah and Edom, without explaining what motivated the writers to invent the flaws of Jacob or how the reconciliation of the two brothers should be understood. Many biblical stories simply cannot be explained as originating from a "powerful expression of seventh-century Judahite dreams" (p. 50). At times Finkelstein makes farreaching conclusions on literary matters, though the archaeological support is lacking.

Concerning the origins of Israel, Finkelstein rejects the three major models of the twentieth century, instead arguing that the twelfth-century bc settlement of nomadic peoples in the highlands was simply another recurrence in an age-old cycle of sedentarization and nomadization. What was unique was not the settlement of Canaanites in the twelfth century bc but the formation of a state in the ninth century BC. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Quest for the Historical Israel: Debating Archaeology and the History of Early Israel
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.