Shifting Sands: The Rise and Fall of Biblical Archaeology

Shifting Sands: The Rise and Fall of Biblical Archaeology

Shifting Sands: The Rise and Fall of Biblical Archaeology

Shifting Sands: The Rise and Fall of Biblical Archaeology

Synopsis

Before the 1970s, "biblical archaeology" was the dominant research paradigm for those excavating the history of Palestine. Today this model has been "weighed in the balance and found wanting." Most now prefer to speak of "Syro/Palestinian archaeology." This is not just a nominal shift but reflects a major theoretical and methodological change. It has even been labeled a revolution. In the popular mind, however, biblical archaeology is still alive and well. In Shifting Sands, Thomas W. Davis charts the evolution and the demise of the discipline. Biblical archaeology, he writes, was an attempt to ground the historical witness of the Bible in demonstrable historical reality. Its theoretical base lay in the field of theology. American mainstream Protestantism strongly resisted the inroads of continental biblical criticism, and sought support for their conservative views in archaeological research on the ancient Near East. The Bible was the source of the agenda for biblical archaeology, an agenda that was ultimately apologetical. Davis traces the fascinating story of the interaction of biblical studies, theology, and archaeology in Palestine, and the remarkable individuals who pioneered the discipline. He highlights the achievements of biblical archaeologists in the field, who gathered an immense body of data. By clarifying the theoretical and methodological framework of the original excavators, he believes, these data can be made more useful for current research, allowing a more sober, reasoned judgment of both the accomplishments and the failures of biblical archaeology.

Excerpt

The current generation has witnessed great changes in the archaeology of Palestine. Before the 1970s, biblical archaeology was the dominant research paradigm. Today, biblical archaeology has been “weighed in the balance and found wanting.” Although not all American archaeologists in Syria/Palestine rejected the earlier terminology (Lance 1982), most now prefer “Syro-Palestinian archaeology,” or a similar, specific political/geographic term (Dever 2003). This is not just a nominal shift, but reflects a major theoretical and methodological change that has been labeled a revolution (Dever 1981). A new consensus has formed around principles articulated by the anthropological archaeologists working in the United States. The clearest sign of the change in Palestine is in the current research designs, field projects, and preliminary publications of American archaeologists in Palestine. A thorough evaluation of the new theory and method will occur when all the new projects are published.

Why, then, look at the old? No revolution is ever complete, particularly a scholarly one. The new paradigm of Syro-Palestinian archaeology carries the stamp of its parent, biblical archaeology. The senior figures in the field, those who brought about the change in paradigm, are all products of biblical archaeological training. In the popular mind, the biblical archaeology paradigm is still alive and well, as witnessed by the success of the Biblical Archaeology Review.I believe the reason for this dichotomy is a failure to recognize the . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.