What Did the Biblical Writers Know and When Did They Know It?: What Archaeology Can Tell Us About the Reality of Ancient Israel
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.
trenchant, informative, and remarkably broad in scope
By ploni_almoni - June 20, 2001
Two books in one, this awkwardly titled volume contains (i) the best introduction to the archaeology of Iron Age Palestine (biblical Israel) yet written, and (ii) a devastatingly trenchant critique of the scholarship and methodology of the "biblical minimalist" school.William Dever is perhaps the preeminent American Syro-Palestinian archaeologist of his generation. He has extensive field experience (Shechem, Khirbet el-Qom, Tell el-Hayyat, Beth Shean, and especially Gezer), has served on the editorial board of several major journals, has received several prestigious awards and grants, has a remarkable publication record, and is an accomplished teacher. He also has written many articles for nonspecialists in journals such as "Biblical Archaeology Review". He writes with great force and clarity.In "What did the Biblical Writers know and When did they know it?", Dever skewers biblical minimalists who insist that the Hebrew Bible is essentially a... read more
A philosophy of archaeology
By Atheen M. Wilson "Atheen" - August 17, 2002
This is not a book about religion or one about the authors of the bible specifically. What Did the Biblical Writers Know and When Did They Know It? is a critique of traditional biblical, which he finds biased and slipshod, and "new" archaeology, which he feels is almost nihilist-you can't know anything so everything means whatever you want it to and so nothing about it even matters--with neither of which the author is in accord. It is also the author's attempt to write a philosophical treatise, a mission statement of sorts, for field archaeology. He outlines-he seems very fond of outlines-various issues that can be resolved by research into the material remains of humans living in the Levant and points out the limitations that are inherent to field. The work is so clearly written and well organized that it would make a good text on archaeological theory. His discussion of "meaning (p. 70)" and "proof (p. 71)" in archaeological interpretation are especially good, since I don't... read more
By Stephen A. Haines - August 17, 2004
Dever deserves a blue ribbon for the most cumbersome title in many years. He should also garner an award for his blistering assessment of "postmodern" historians. While he has contested "minimalist" academics elsewhere, this book is an excellent compendium of the issues and evidence regarding the historical validity of the Hebrew Bible. Although the arena of biblical history is small, the issues dealt with are important. His conclusions will have lasting impact not only in biblical history, but archaeology and other disciplines. Although a serious subject, Dever's piercing wit keeps this book a lively and captivating read.
For generations, Dever tells us, the history and archaeology of Palestine have been restrained by biblical texts. Instead of scholars seeking for what is "there", they spent energy trying to verify what the Hebrew Bible related. A shift in attitude brought more detachment in reporting finds. In parallel with new textual analyses, field reseachers... read more
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