Between Text and Artifact: Integrating Archaeology in Biblical Studies Teaching

Between Text and Artifact: Integrating Archaeology in Biblical Studies Teaching

Between Text and Artifact: Integrating Archaeology in Biblical Studies Teaching

Between Text and Artifact: Integrating Archaeology in Biblical Studies Teaching

Synopsis

Between Text and Artifact provides teachers of biblical studies all the tools needed to integrate the most recent archaeological information into their teaching and scholarship. Thirteen essays were commissioned for this project from archaeologists and biblical scholars who teach in undergraduate, graduate, and seminary settings. The essays give practical advice about the best available literature and audio-visual material in the field of archaeology related to the Hebrew Bible, New Testament, early Judaism, women in the ancient world, and the Dead Sea Scrolls. When viewed alongside biblical literature, the archaeological record can help create new knowledge of the items, environments, and landscapes in the Bible and of the political and social motivations for events described in the text.Paperback edition available from the Society of Biblical Literature (www.sbl-site.org).

Excerpt

Milton C. Moreland, Shannon Burkes, and Melissa Aubin

For those who study the world of the Bible, the primary corpus of data is comprised by the biblical texts themselves. From these writings, we first acquaint ourselves with the social and literary surroundings presumed in biblical texts and the traditions they record. We relate the biblical materials to other ancient documents that, through comparison, might illuminate philological, historical, or theological problems. We trace motifs, explicate poetry, and observe characterization so that we might deepen our appreciation of how literary traditions were crafted. Depending on a scholar’s expertise, he or she might look for seams within the text to understand why and how redactors conducted their work. Alternatively, a scholar might examine distinctions among manuscripts themselves in order to determine which texts carry the greatest probability of providing earliest available readings. We perform these types of tasks because historical and literary-critical methods occupy the bulk of our training. Understanding the context of biblical literature with these tools provides some sense of the great cultural gap that separates contemporary readers from the texts’ initial producers and readers. Nevertheless, academic study of the Bible, largely achieved through historical-critical methods, omits a corpus of evidence that is germane to the task of contextualizing the generation and use of the texts and traditions that comprise the Bible.

Given the strong motivation in much of our training to understand the social-historical context of biblical literature, to grasp something of the world in which it was created, and to reconstruct the historical scenarios that these texts presume, it is strange that we habitually exclude the immense corpus of archaeological data from our course of inquiry. After all, more than a free-floating network of documents and ideas, the cultures of the biblical world were ensconced in a rich mixture of objects. Some of these objects of material culture have been recovered and interpreted in the archaeological process.

Archaeological data contemporaneous to the texts that we study can allow us to visualize the items, environments, and landscapes taken for granted in the texts. Visual and material data can help us to unfold political . . .

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