The Lives of Ordinary People in Ancient Israel: Where Archaeology and the Bible Intersect

By Coyle, S. Cameron | Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, June 2013 | Go to article overview

The Lives of Ordinary People in Ancient Israel: Where Archaeology and the Bible Intersect


Coyle, S. Cameron, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society


The Lives of Ordinary People in Ancient Israel: Where Archaeology and the Bible Intersect. By William G. Dever. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012, x + 436 pp., $25.00.

What was life really like for the ordinary people of ancient Israel and Judah? That is the question that longtime archaeologist William Dever seeks to answer in his newest volume, which he considers to be the culmination of his life's work (p. x). In pursuit of his answer, Dever puts together a "secular history" (p. vi) of Israel in which archaeological data, rather than textual data, serve as the primary source, in order to produce a handbook that augments the picture of Israel's history found within the biblical texts.

Dever's work attempts to present the reader with a history of Israel during the eighth century BCE, written without recourse to the biblical text, and with no pretensions of total objectivity. Among his credentials for undertaking such a task, Dever notes that he is a secular humanist with "no theological or other axe to grind" (p. vii). He does not seek to prove anything from Israel's history, but only to summarize that which we can "actually know" (p. 372). Archaeology, by its nature, is best suited to produce what Dever refers to as "histories of things" (p. 377), rather than ideological histories-such as political, intellectual, or religious histories- and as such, Dever views archaeological inquiry into Israel's past as distinct from biblical inquiry into that past. The Hebrew Bible is "not history, but a testament to faith"; it is a "theocratic history" concerned not with what happened in the past, but with what past events mean within a larger, religious perspective (pp. 377-78). Dever's work, on the other hand, concerns itself with the question of what everyday life was really like for the ordinary men and women of ancient Israel.

Dever begins his work with a methodological discussion on writing history. The book is intended for students and non-specialists (p. vi), and the opening chapter serves as a good, if basic, introduction to the topic for these readers. In his chapter entitled "The Challenges of Writing a History of Ancient Israel," Dever surveys a selection of trends within the scholarship of the last twenty years that have influenced the discussion of Israel's history. Readers familiar with Dever's own work over that period of time will not be surprised to find that much of this discussion is dedicated to exposing the so-called revisionist scholars with whom Dever has previously dueled over their attempts to deny the historicity of an Iron Age reality for the Israel depicted in the biblical narratives. At times this chapter reads as a sort of personal mini-history, chronicling Dever's own debate with his revisionist adversaries, though the work of scholars outside of this limited group is occasionally reviewed (including a section on evangelical responses to revisionism).

Chapter 3, "The Natural Setting," begins Dever's discussion of the archaeological data on life in ancient Israel by placing that data in its geographical context. From this point on, the majority of chapters follow a tripartite arrangement, with sections dedicated to the archaeological data, the biblical data, and a more subjective discussion of what life was really like. In this final division of each chapter, Dever is admittedly more speculative in his writing (p. 373). He attempts in these concluding remarks to pull together what is known from the archaeological and biblical data, together with his own insights from living in pre-industrial communities in the Middle East, to provide a picture of what the common Israelite's experience may have been like.

Chapter 4, "Sites and Hierarchies," is an important foundation for the remainder of the book's discussion. Here Dever reviews the sites from which archaeological data for the eight century BC have been retrieved, and organizes them into a multi-tiered hierarchy based on size, location, and material finds.

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 ...
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 Lives of Ordinary People in Ancient Israel: Where Archaeology and the Bible Intersect
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
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.