What Did the Biblical Writers Know and When Did They Know It? What Archaeology Can Tell Us about the Reality of Ancient Israel

What Did the Biblical Writers Know and When Did They Know It? What Archaeology Can Tell Us about the Reality of Ancient Israel

What Did the Biblical Writers Know and When Did They Know It? What Archaeology Can Tell Us about the Reality of Ancient Israel

What Did the Biblical Writers Know and When Did They Know It? What Archaeology Can Tell Us about the Reality of Ancient Israel

Synopsis

For centuries the Hebrew Bible has been the fountainhead of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Today, however, the entire biblical tradition, including its historical veracity, is being challenged. Leading this assault is a group of scholars described as the "minimalist" or "revisionist" school of biblical studies, which charges that the Hebrew Bible is largely pious fiction, that its writers and editors invented "ancient Israel" as a piece of late Jewish propaganda in the Hellenistic era.

In this fascinating book noted Syro-Palestinian archaeologist William G. Dever attacks the minimalist position head-on, showing how modern archaeology brilliantly illuminates both life in ancient Palestine and the sacred scriptures as we have them today. Assembling a wealth of archaeological evidence, Dever builds the clearest, most complete picture yet of the real Israel that existed during the Iron Age of ancient Palestine (1200-600 B.C.).

Dever's exceptional reconstruction of this key period points up the minimalists' abuse of archaeology and reveals the weakness of their revisionist histories. Dever shows that ancient Israel, far from being an "invention," is a reality to be discovered. Equally important, his recovery of a reliable core history of ancient Israel provides a firm foundation from which to appreciate the aesthetic value and lofty moral aspirations of the Hebrew Bible.

Excerpt

The Bible, including the Old Testament, or as we prefer here, the Hebrew Bible, is so familiar to those of us still steeped in the Western cultural tradition that it would seem to need little explanation, much less defense. For centuries the Bible has been the Classic — although that really means (1) that we take it for granted; and (2) that we revere it, but don’t bother to read it any more.

Yet for all the lip service still paid to the Bible in our society, it remains largely a mystery to lay people. A recent, long-running television series in which I became involved was entitled “Mysteries of the Bible.” Obviously it capitalized (so to speak) on the public’s continuing fascination with the unresolved riddles of the Bible: Where was the Garden of Eden? Did Jericho’s walls really come tumbling down? Why did the biblical writers think Jezebel such a wicked woman? Such examples could go on and on.

Even though I was somewhat surprised, and indeed gratified, to see the public’s enthusiasm for the series (I now am recognized when I go to the local barber shop), I became skeptical in the end. The commercial and somewhat cynical exploitation of biblical topics is clearly designed to titillate more than to educate the public. Any gratuitous educational benefits aside, the Bible remains a mysterious book to most people.

The Nature of the Hebrew Bible

The above is true partly because we forget that the Bible is not a book at all, but a whole shelf of books. That means that you cannot simply pick up the Bible . . .

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