Jerusalem in Bible and Archaeology: The First Temple Period

By Wright, Paul H. | Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, December 2004 | Go to article overview

Jerusalem in Bible and Archaeology: The First Temple Period


Wright, Paul H., Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society


Jerusalem in Bible and Archaeology: The First Temple Period. Edited by Andrew G. Vaughn and Ann E. Killebrew. SBL Symposia Series 18. Atlanta: SBL, 2003. 510 pp., $49.95 paper.

The city of Jerusalem has always held a special place in the hearts and minds of Bible readers. Partly this is because all manner of biblical themes-from inspiration to creation to redemption to eschatology-find a home here. But partly as well it is because of the allure of the city itself. No other place has been as extensively explored as has Jerusalem, either by the penetrating tools of the archaeologist or by those of the literary critic, and the age-old struggles that have bloodied the city itself sometimes seem no more intense than struggles over theological and academic positions about the city. Jerusalem has developed into a archaeological and historical "hot spot" over the past couple of decades, in a sense representing the much older struggle between the "assured results" of archaeology and the "equally assured results" of biblical studies, and has become an ensign both for those who insist that these disciplines maintain their distance from each other and those who bewail the fact that they do.

As a breath of fresh air, this integrative volume provides a series of twenty essays, most of which originated as papers presented in the "Consultation on Jerusalem in Bible and Archaeology" at the Annual Meetings of the Society of Biblical Literature from 1998 to 2001. It bears witness that it is possible to hold productive conversations on a topic as pivotal and emotional as Jerusalem in spite of a decided lack of scholarly consensus about the place and the ideas it represents. It also offers a great chance for non-specialists to be brought up to date on some of the issues in the current debate.

Vaughn and Killebrew have organized the essays of this volume into three categories. The first includes six essays relating to the tenth century BC, the period of the United Monarchy. Because this is the most contentious section of the collection, it will be good to summarize the salient points made by each contributor.

The lead essay by Jane Cahill, "Jerusalem at the Time of the United Monarchy: The Archaeological Evidence," sets the stage for those that follow. Cahill, who has been assigned the responsibility of publishing the results of the late Yigal Shiloh's excavations in the City of David (1978-1985), not only provides an up-to-date summary of Shiloh's data but also includes previously unpublished pottery plates and photos of his work. In addition, Cahill reviews previous archaeological work in the city, offering a necessary interpretive context for Shiloh's excavations. Cahill concludes that Jerusalem of the United Monarchy was a fortified city serviced by at least two water systems and inhabited by a socially stratified population that built at least two new residential quarters-in short, a city in many ways consistent with the biblical picture of the United Monarchy. Her plea that "theories based on negative evidence should never be preferred to theories based on positive (i.e. archaeological) evidence" (p. 73) should be well-heeded.

Israel Finkelstein's contribution ("The Rise of Jerusalem and Judah: The Missing Link") and that of David Ussishkin ("Solomon's Jerusalem: The Text and the Facts on the Ground") provide a very different interpretation of tenth-century BC Jerusalem. These two scholars, working with a low archaeological chronology and an extremely cautious or even minimalistic understanding of archaeological process and data, argue tenth-century BC Jerusalem was a relatively small, unwalled village and (re)acquired the aspects of an important fortified city only in the ninth and eighth centuries BC. For Finkelstein, this move to a city worthy of statehood began with the rise of the Omride dynasty in the north and was completed with the fall of the northern kingdom and incorporation of Judah under the umbrella of Assyrian domination.

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