Prologue: In the Days of King Josiah
Introduction: Archaeology and the Bible
The Bible as History?
ISRAEL FINKELSTEIN is the chairman of the Department of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University. He is currently director of the university's excavations in Tel Megiddo, the ancient Armageddon and Israel's most important biblical-archaeological site. NEIL ASHER SILBERMAN is a former Guggenheim Fellow, a contributing editor to ARCHAELOGY magazine, and was the coordinator of the Dorot Foundation Dead Sea Scrolls Conference in 1998.
In a contentious study that will dismay advocates of a literal interpretation of the Bible, two highly qualified experts examine the question of whether recent excavations prove or disprove the Bible's historical accuracy. According to Finkelstein, who is arguably Israel's leading contemporary biblical archeologist, and Silberman, a contributing editor for Archaeology magazine, there is no hard evidence to prove the Exodus, which they conclude never happened. The authors go on to say that the evidence is "weak" for the subsequent conquest of Canaan by the Israelites, dismissing the story of Joshua and the walls of Jericho as "a romantic mirage." They further question the narratives about David and Solomon, asserting that there is no archeological support for the claim that Solomon built a Temple and a palace in Jerusalem, or for the "legend" that David was anything more than a tribal chief. Such biblical assertions are relegated to "wishful thinking," and the Bible itself characterized as "folklore" that is not "an accurate historical chronicle." While these conclusions are highly controversial even among biblical scholars and archeologists, there can be little dispute about the authors' failure to produce a book for the general reader, as was their avowed intent. Considerable knowledge about the Bible and biblical archaeology is required to make an informed judgment about the stance of these erudite authorities. (Jan.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Baruch Halpern author of The First Historians: The Hebrew Bible
and History The boldest and most exhilarating synthesis of the
Bible and archaeology in fifty years.
John Shelby Spong author of Here I Stand: My Struggle for a Christianity of Integrity, Love, and Equality A bold and provocative book, well researched, well written, and powerfully argued. It challenges many of the assumptions developed by the literal religious minds of the ages, opening traditional possibilities to new conclusions.
Jonathan Kirsch Los Angeles Times A brutally honest assessment of what archaeology can and cannot tell us about the historical accuracy of the Bible...presented with both authority and panache.
Assessing archaeological research, Finkelstein (archaeology, Tel Aviv Univ.) and Silberman (Ename Ctr. for Public Archaeology and Heritage Presentation) attempt to sort out what archaeology tells us about who wrote the Bible. They argue that religious revivals under King Josiah (639-609) and the resulting culture fundamentally shaped the Hebrew Bible. The authors argue that Josiah's reign is critically important to understanding both the textual and archaeological evidence regarding the patriarchs, exodus, conquest of Canaan, and Israelite kingdoms. More specifically, influential scribes from this period edited and arranged the text, also committing old oral traditions to literary form. The authors vividly portray the Israelite kingdoms, filling out the political and cultural background with archaeological findings. In contrast, owing to the lack of evidence, they treat the stories about earlier times as symbolic expressions of the values of Josiah's revivals. General readers will benefit from the summaries of Bible stories as well as numerous tables and maps, but they may find further inquiry a bit hampered by the topical organization of the bibliography and chapter notes and the absence of a master list to the tables and maps. This complements Thomas Thompson's The Mythic Past: Biblical Archaeology and the Myth of Israel (LJ 4/15/99) and Jeffrey Sheler's Is the Bible True? How Modern Debates and Discoveries Affirm the Essence of the Scriptures (LJ 11/15/99). Recommended for academic and large public libraries.DMarianne Orme, West Lafayette, IN Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.