Talk:The Bible Unearthed

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I deleted the phrase "but thoughtful" in the first sentence because while I agree with this characterization of the book, I think its presence in this article violates NPOV.

This article needs to cite its sources.Rec Specz 01:45, 25 November 2006 (UTC)

Biblical Archaeology Review etc.[edit]

The assertions of the book depend upon a "low chronology" which on the basis of the paucity of archaeological finds of the reigns of David and Solomon would shift dates a century. In the July–August 2006 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, Michael Coogan of Stonehill College, editor of The New Oxford Annotated Bible, contends that Finkelstein and Silberman "move from the hypothetical to the improbable to the absurd."[citation needed]

Finkelstein's revised chronology is "not accepted by the majority of archaeologists and biblical scholars," Coogan asserts, citing four scholarly anthologies from the past three years.

However, Professor Baruch Halpern, one of the scholars on whom Coogan relies, praised The Bible Unearthed, as "the boldest and most exhilarating synthesis of Bible and archaeology in fifty years."[citation needed] Professor David Noel Freedman, editor of the authoritative Anchor Bible series, called it "readable and revolutionary."[citation needed]

My re-write of the article[edit]

I've made the following changes to the article:

  • added a precis of the book, chapter by chapter, except for the appendices. Quite possibly the result is too long - anyone who wants to shorten it has my blessing.
  • removed a para from the lead which discussed some reactions to the book: they're in the talk page immediately above. I deleted this because the comments were uninformative - the people quoted weren't saying why they felt the way they did. I'll try to get around to drafting a new section on the reception of the book, dealing with such issues as Finkelstein's dating of Meggido and the context of current developments in biblical archaeology.

PiCo 02:01, 18 July 2007 (UTC)

Michael Coogan didn't say why he felt the way he did because he wasn't describing how he felt. He was criticizing the assumptions that the book made and providing evidence to support his case. I can not see how removing the section on the book's reception improved the overall informativeness of the article. Robin S 01:23, 20 September 2007 (UTC)
The Coogan material is (was) as follows: "In the July–August 2006 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, Michael Coogan of Stonehill College, editor of The New Oxford Annotated Bible, contends that Finkelstein and Silberman "move from the hypothetical to the improbable to the absurd." Finkelstein's revised chronology is "not accepted by the majority of archaeologists and biblical scholars," Coogan asserts, citing four scholarly anthologies from the past three years."So Coogan considers the book "hypothetical" "improbable" and "absurd". But which bit is which? Where does the "hypothetical" begin? Does Coogan think Finkelstein's theory that Genesis 1 is not scientifically acccurate is hypothetical? Or does the hypothertical part only begion with the book's rejection of Abraham and the Patriarchal narrative? Is Finkelstein's rejection of Exodus and the Conquest "hypothetical", or is it "absurd"? Or does the absurd part only begin with the late dating of the Meggido gates? In short, the first part of the quote is too vague to be useful. The second part, relating to the degree of acceptance the late dating has had, is simply wrong: it's controversial among biblical scholars from an evangelical background, lilke Coogan himself, but among archaeologists it would be more accurate to say that it's a theory thought deserving of serious study.
I'd like to get away from quotation-mining, which is what the section I deleted was doing (one rhetorical anti-Finkelstein quote from Coogan, one equally rhetorical pro-Finkelstein quote from Halpern) and have instead a short section headed Reviews, which would give a brief summary of major reviews in the scholarly journals.

PiCo 02:11, 20 September 2007 (UTC)

PiCo, you are well poisoning. It is an objective fact that Finkelstein's new chronology is not accepted by the majority of archaeologists, no matter of what nationality, and no matter if they are religious or secular. Coogan's citation of 'four scholarly anthologies' is enough to demonstrate this, but even without the citation from Coogan (which you clearly haven't read), there's plenty in the current scholarly literature. Mazar, Halpern, Bunimovitz, Ben-Tor, Na'am, Lederman, Dever, none of these are 'biblical scholars from an evangelical background' (they are all respected non-Christian archaeologists), and all of them reject Finkelstein's low chronology. If 'biblical scholars from an evangelical background' were the only ones who objected to Finkelstein's low chronology, you might have an argument against Coogan. They aren't. You don't. Once more I record evidence of your opposition to any scholarship in favour of the historicity of the Biblical record. The list of quotes is growing. --Taiwan boi (talk) 08:09, 2 June 2008 (UTC)

Too much summary[edit]

This article is so much about the book but has become a shortened summary of the book. This should be reverted back to something like the version of June 14, 2007 that actually has some commentary about the book, and is not just a summary of it. Granted that version isn't perfect as there's no references, but as is the current article is rather unacceptable. The two external links from the current version could be maintained (although they might be considered reviews from polar opposite points of view). --Craw-daddy | T | 14:51, 20 April 2008 (UTC)

Surely a book article should have a summary of the book as its core. PiCo (talk) 16:33, 20 April 2008 (UTC)
That's all it is at the moment. Where's the reviews and critical commentary by the secondary sources? There seems to be a lot of uncited quotations from the book. Probably too much for "fair use" but I'm no expert on these matter. --Craw-daddy | T | 16:52, 20 April 2008 (UTC)
I agree with you 100%: an Assessments section is needed. Why don't you do it? (Look at scholarly reviews rather than popular ones - it's a popular book, but about a scholarly subject). PiCo (talk) 04:41, 21 April 2008 (UTC)

I have reverted the article to the short version, and ask that rather than having anyone else revert to the long version, please take a look at these book articles found at the WikiProject Books page. A longer version is fine, it just should not be a chapter by chapter breakdown of the book itself. Hiberniantears (talk) 16:26, 24 April 2008 (UTC)

Summary to Plot[edit]

In the interest of fairness, and in being mindful of the effort that PiCo put into expanding this article last year, I have pasted below his/her chapter summary so that one/many of us may convert this into a plot summary in line with these book articles. Hiberniantears (talk) 19:33, 24 April 2008 (UTC)

Chapter summary
Prologue: In the Days of King Josiah
Recent archaeological insights tell how the biblical history, from the Patriarchs to the fall of Israel and Judah, was first conceived in Jerusalem towards the end of the 7th century BCE, the result of a program of religious reform and expansionary political ambitions launched by King Josiah and the priests of the Temple.
Introduction: Archaeology and the Bible
A revolution in biblical archeology took place in the 1970s, when archaeologists ceased to use excavated finds as illustrations of the biblical narrative, and began instead to examine "how human interaction with the ... natural environment of the land of Israel influenced its unique social system, religion, and spiritual legacy."[1] The bible thereby became part of the story, itself an artifact to be examined, rather than the unquestioned framework within the archeological record was interpreted. The new archaeological insights provide proof that the Torah and Former Prophets "bear unmistakable hallmarks of their initial composition in the 7th century BCE."[2]
Searching for the Patriarchs
The archaeological record establishes a clear relationship between details in Genesis and the world of the 8th-7th centuries BCE, rather than the world of the 2nd millennium. The camel traders "carrying gum, balm, and myrrh" in the story of Joseph reflect the Arabian trade that flourished under Assyrian hegemony in the 8th-7th centuries BCE; other anachronisms include references to the Philistines, who did not arrive in Canaan until after 1200 BCE, and to the city of Gerar, which did not achieve importance until the same period. The nations mentioned in Genesis map the political geography of Israel and Judah in the same period: the Arameans, prominent in Genesis, are absent from texts before c.1100 BCE, but dominated Israel's northern borders after the 9th century BCE, while Genesis's origin-stories for Ammon, Moab, and Edom, reflects the immediate neighboring kingdoms of Israel and Judah in the 8th-7th centuries, while the prominence given in Genesis to Abraham, Jerusalem and Hebron, was intended to emphasize the primacy of Judah. "The patriarchal traditions therefore must be considered as a sort of pious prehistory of Israel" with "the familiar peoples and threatening enemies of the present ... ranged around the encampments and grazing grounds of Abraham and his offspring."[3]
Did the Exodus Happen?
Exodus contains "so many historical and geographical elements from so many periods ... that it is hard to decide on a single unique period" in which it might be set, but "the most evocative and consistent geographical details of the Exodus story come from the 7th century BCE". These details include the name of the land of Goshen, from Geshem, the dynastic name of an Arab people who dominated the Delta in the 6th and 5th centuries, the names of Egyptians mentioned in the story of Joseph, all of which became common only in the 7th and 6th centuries, and Pharaoh’s fear of invasion from the east, a fear would not fit Egypt's strategic situation before the 7th century. Finally, all the major places named during Israel's wanderings were inhabited simultaneously only in the 7th century, some of them only then. "[T]he Exodus narrative reached its final form during the time of the Twenty-Sixth Dynasty, in the second half of the seventh and the first half of the sixth century BCE," although it is clear that the outlines of the story were known at least a century earlier, and perhaps preserve memories of the expulsion of the Hyksos c.1570 BCE. But as revised by the late 7th century court of king Josiah, it became a rallying-call for resistance to Egyptian domination of Judah.
The Conquest of Canaan
The book of Joshua depicts a rapid campaign of conquest and destruction in Canaan, but the archaeological record indicates that the destruction of Canaanite society and cities was a long-drawn-out process. "[T]he overall battle plan of the book of Joshua fits 7th century realities far better than the situation of the Late Bronze Age." The first two battles ascribed to Joshua, at Jericho and Ai, were also the first targets of king Josiah's attempt to expand into the former Assyrian province of Israel, while the story of Joshua's conquest of the Shephelah parallels Josiah's reconquest of this region, taken from Judah by the Assyrians a few decades earlier. The remainder of Joshua's campaigns "express a 7th century vision of future territorial conquest" in the former kingdom of Israel.
Who Were the Israelites?
The book of Judges depicts the Israelites as an alien nation in Canaan, distinguished by their monotheism, and constantly at war with the native Canaanites. Recent surveys of long-term settlement patterns in the Israelite heartlands, however, show no sign of violent invasion or even peaceful infiltration, but rather a sudden demographic transformation about 1200 BCE in which some 250 small villages sprang up in the previously unpopulated highlands. The earliest settlements mimic the oval plan of 19th-20th century CE Bedouin camps, suggesting that the inhabitants were once pastoral nomads, driven to take up farming by the collapse of the Canaanite city-culture in the Late Bronze Age. "[M]ost of the people who formed early Israel ... [were] themselves originally Canaanite."
Memories of a Golden Age?
The book of Samuel and the book of Kings depict Saul, David and Solomon ruling in succession over a united kingdom of Israel with its capital, from the time of David onward, at Jerusalem. Destruction levels at Philistine and Canaanite cities and city gates and palaces uncovered at sites associated with David and Solomon at Megiddo, Hazor and Gezer were once taken as proof of the accuracy of the bible, but digging in Jerusalem has failed to produce evidence that it was more than a village at the time of David and Solomon, and monuments once ascribed to Solomon are now linked to other, later kings. Investigation of settlement patterns suggests instead that 10th century Judah held about twenty small villages and a few thousand inhabitants, with no indication of the wealth which could support large armies in the field, nor of the extensive bureaucracy needed to administer a kingdom, let alone an empire. Demographics also cast doubt on the biblical story: "Out of ... approximately 45,000 people living in the hill country (i.e., Israel and Judah), a full 90% would have inhabited the north," leaving about 5,000 people in all of Judah. While the Tel Dan Stele strongly suggests that David was real, "archaeologically we can say no more about David and Solomon than that they existed - and their legend endured."[4] The history of Israel in Samuel and Kings, rather than being a record of facts, was intended as royal and theological propaganda, illustrating to 7th century BCE Judah how Yahweh had shifted his favor from the northern tribes (Saul) to the Judahite royal line of David, Solomon, and their living successor, king Josiah.
One State, One Nation, One People? (c.930-720 BCE)
The remainder of the book of Kings tells of the division of the united Davidic and Solomonic kingdom. The house of David, God's chosen royal line, continues to reign over Judah, but in the north the people of Israel worship foreign gods, until Yahweh's anger allows their destruction at the hands of the Assyrians. This vision is central to the theology of the bible and to Josiah's projected program of expansion for Judah, but is not an accurate depiction of historical reality. The archaeological record shows that the northern kingdom of Israel emerged around the beginning of the 9th century BCE - at a time when Judah had changed but little from its highland origins - and Judah some two centuries later. The book of Kings can be dated on internal evidence - the reference at 1 Kings 13:1-2 to "one born of the house of David, Josiah by name" - to the reign of that king in the late 7th century BCE, and his religious and territorial ambitions.
Israel's Forgotten First Kingdom (884-842 BCE)
The bible accuses the Omrid kings of Israel of doing "evil in the sight of the Lord", and deliberately obscures the greatness of Israel and the achievements of its kings. Specifically, it fails to mention what archaeology has discovered through finds such as the Tel Dan Stele, the Mesha Stele, the Black Obelisk of the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III, and through excavation of Omrid cities such as Megiddo and Jezreel : Israel under the dynasty of Omri was a rich, powerful, and cosmopolitan empire stretching from the vicinity of Damascus to the southern territories of Moab, the palace of its kings at Samaria "the largest and most beautiful Iron Age building ever excavated in Israel".[5] Against the reality revealed by archaeology the account of the Omrides in the book of Kings is vivid historical fiction written over two centuries after the events it describes, filled with anachronisms and inaccuracies. The Israelite kings "consorted with the nations, married foreign women, and built Canaanite-type shrines and palaces";[6] they were therefore anathema to the 7th century BCE Judahite authors of the book of Kings, who were concerned only to show that the Omrides were sinful and deserving of Yahweh's punishment.
In the Shadow of Empire (842-720 BCE)
Destruction levels at Megiddo and other northern sites, previously dated to the 10th century BCE pharaoh Shishak, should instead be dated to the late 9th century BCE campaign of Hazael of Damascus;[7] these levels mark the beginning of a Syrian occupation of northern Israel not mentioned by the bible. Israel staged a dramatic recovery in the 8th century BCE, so that at its height, under king Jeroboam II, it was the most densely settled region in the Levant, with a population of around 350,000. The bible's description of Solomon's building activities at Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer may in fact be an appropriation of the achievements of Jeroboam.
The Transformation of Judah (c.930-705 BCE)
Until about 720 BCE Judah was an impoverished, underpopulated hill chiefdom living in the shadow of its more powerful and wealthier neighbor, Israel. Its religion was the standard religion of the region, mixing local fertility cults, ancestral shrines, a royal cult in Jerusalem, and a pantheon in which Yahweh shared his worship with other gods. But with the fall of Israel this changed abruptly: Judah was inundated by a wave of refugees from the north, and within a single generation Jerusalem was transformed from a small hill town covering a dozen acres to a city of 150 acres, its population increasing from about one thousand to about 15,000. The Judean hinterland also underwent a dramatic increase in population and in the number and size of urban centres. Judah went through a profound economic and social revolution, social stratification increased, and wealth began to accumulate, at least for the elite. It was at this time (the late 8th century BCE) that the kings of Judah, and the priests of the temple in Jerusalem, began insisting that there must be no god before Yahweh, and that his worship could only take place in Jerusalem.
Between War and Survival (705-639 BCE)
The period between 705-639 BCE, covering the reigns of king Hezekiah and his son Manasseh, was one of turmoil in Judah. Hezekiah rebelled against Assyria, and as a result Judah was devastated by Sennacherib and the grain-growing region of the Shephelah, home to half the population of the kingdom, was given to the Philistines. His son Manasseh returned to the policy of Ahab, his grandfather and Hezekiah's father, remaining loyal to Assyria and concentrating on rebuilding the wealth of his reduced kingdom. All this is attested in the archaeological record and in the inscriptions of the Assyrians, as well as in the bible's 2nd book of Kings. However, the social and religious struggles taking place in Jerusalem during this time receive little mention in the bible. The "Yahweh-only" party found a champion in Hezekiah, who advanced their agenda in preparation for his rebellion against the Assyrians, stopping the worship of gods other than Yahweh and destroying the "high places", the local shrines where the country peopled worshipped their ancestors and the spirits of the natural world; the bible therefore praises him as a righteous king, despite the fact that his policies brought ruin to his country. Meanwhile, Manasseh’s policies once again permitted other gods to be worshipped (Baal, Ashtoreth) and allowed the high places to be rebuilt; the bible therefore damns him as the most wicked king ever seen in Judah, despite the fact that he rebuilt the land after the damage caused by his father.
A Great Reformation (639-586 BCE)
A great reform of Judahite religion took place under king Josiah (639-609 BCE): as recorded in 2 Kings, Josiah's High Priest discovered a "Scroll of the Law" in the Temple in Jerusalem, and as a result Josiah and the priests banned the worship of any gods but Yahweh, destroyed the cult-centres outside Jerusalem, and centralised sacrifice in the Jerusalem Temple under the control of the Aaronid priesthood. Josiah's reforms are presented in Kings as a return to ancient ways, but in fact they were new. And the "Scroll of the Law" on which his reforms were based was also new: it was the book of Deuteronomy, or at least the core of that book. Archaeology supports this conclusion, for Deuteronomy "is strikingly similar to early 7th-century Assyrian vassal-treaties that outline the rights and obligations of a subject people to their sovereign (in this case, Israel and YHWH)".[8] Deuteronomy also shows similarities to Greek literature of the same period. "To sum up, there is little doubt that an original version of Deuteronomy is the book of the Law mentioned in 2 Kings...written in the 7th century BCE, just before or during Josiah's reign."[9]

Josiah's reign saw the unexpected collapse of the Assyrian empire. Josiah and his court seized the opportunity to expand northwards into the old kingdom of Israel, now abandoned by the Assyrians, and embellished and expanded the books we know as the Torah and Former Prophets to serve as justification and explanation, re-writing traditional stories (the Patriarchs, Joshua, Judges, etc) within a 7th century BCE setting. But Josiah's ambitions, and those of the priestly "Yahweh-only" group associated with him, came to a dramatic end, described in 2 Kings 23:29: "Pharaoh Necho went up to the king of Assyria to the river Euphrates. King Josiah went to meet him; and Pharoah Necho slew him at Meggido when he saw him."

The four successors of Josiah are all described in the bible as apostates who undid Josiah's religious reforms. The Neo-Babylonian empire rose as suddenly as the Assyrians had collapsed, and soon controlled the entire Mediterranean coast, either directly or through vassals. Jerusalem was plundered by the Babylonians in 597 BCE and a puppet king placed on the throne; and in 587/86 BCE they returned and burned Jerusalem and carried off the king and much of the population into captivity.
Exile and Return (586-c.440 BCE)
The Babylonian captivity ended c.539 BCE with the conquest of Babylon by the Persians, who allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem. Successive waves of returning exiles reached Judah between then and c.445 BCE. The returnees faced many problems, notably how to integrate themselves with the Judahites who had not gone into captivity (three-quarters of the population, according to the archeological record), how to reconcile the reduced territory of the Persian province of Yehud with the larger territory of the old kingdom of Judah (let alone the combined Israel/Judah of their scriptures), and how to reconcile the scriptural promise of an enduring Davidic line with the disappearance of that line during the Exile. The final editing of the Hebrew bible reflected these realities, stressing, for example, the primacy of Judah or Edom (the Edomites now held the ancient cult centre of Hebron, with the tombs of the Patriarchs), and giving Abraham a connection with "Ur of the Chaldees", a city both renowned for its antiquity and given a new prestige in the mid-6th century by its re-establishment as a centre of religious learning by the Babylonian king Nabonidus. "Once again the Israelites were centered in Jerusalem, ... without controlling most of the land ... Once again a central authority needed to unite the population. And once again they did it by brilliantly reshaping the historical core of the Bible...".[10]
Epilogue: The Future of Biblical Israel
The authors conclude the Hebrew bible was conceived, written, and read as a theological and community text. To dissect the bible in search of accurate, verifiable history is to demand of it something that it is not. The bible is narrative expression of shared community life. It emerged in the late 7th century BCE as the response of a small kingdom to the unique pressures it faced, and was later refined as the response of the even smaller Temple community in Jerusalem to the challenges of the post-Exilic period. It demands to be read, not as history in the modern sense, but as the literary and spiritual creation of its own age.
Appendices A to G discuss current archaeological findings and the authors' theories on the historicity of the Patriarchal Age, Mount Sinai, the conquest of Canaan, the traditional archaeology of the Davidic and Solomonic periods, the era of Manasseh, the reign of Josiah, and the boundaries of the Persian province of Yehud.

  1. ^ "The Bible Unearthed", p.22.
  2. ^ "The Bible Unearthed", p.23.
  3. ^ "The Bible Unearthed", p.45.
  4. ^ "The Bible Unearthed", p.143.
  5. ^ "The Bible Unearthed", p.182.
  6. ^ "The Bible Unearthed", p.194.
  7. ^ The same Hazael who was responsible for the Tel Dan Stele.
  8. ^ The Bible Unearthed, p.281.
  9. ^ "The Bible Unearthed", p.281.
  10. ^ "The Bible Unearthed", p.313.

Wrong on two points[edit]

The first two anachronisms are contradictied by our own articles. Edomite society has recently been found and Arameans are mentioned before the time that this book says. Check the wikipedia pages. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:28, 14 March 2009 (UTC)

We don't use Wikipedia as reference, provide some reliable sources. dougweller (talk) 18:13, 14 March 2009 (UTC)
Even before I edited it, the article on the Edomites only said there was some controversial evidence. I've added a link to the discussion about it. And it doesn't matter, this is an article on the book, not whether it is wrong or right. And this page is to discuss the article, not whether it is wrong or right. If you have some reliable sources that discuss the book, great, otherwise this is basically off-topic. dougweller (talk) 19:39, 14 March 2009 (UTC)

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Emotive words and lazy citations[edit]

I don't know how common this is in the article, but after coming to it fresh, within few minutes I found several OR, emotive phrases and some incorrect page numbers. I have removed "pious fiction", "mere village", "insignificant existence", and "touted". Also, all the supposed references to the book will need to be checked. It does not say anything about Tel Dan on page 143. I've replaced that with stuff from p. 129. Myrvin (talk) 09:46, 27 September 2014 (UTC)

The three largish quotes under methodology are not cited and not in the book. I've found some of them here [1], which I shall use after checking it's OK. Myrvin (talk) 11:40, 27 September 2014 (UTC)

The article cites p. 36 as saying "textual scholarship argues for the majority of the first five biblical books being written between the 8th and 6th centuries". Actually p. 36 says "The critical textual scholars who had identified distinct sources underlying the text of Genesis insisted that the patriarchal narratives were put into writing at a relatively late date, at the time of the monarchy (tenth-eighth centuries BCE) or even later, in exilic and post-exilic days (sixth-fifth centuries BCE)." So, precisely NOT 8-6th. It looks like someone has written down OR and used vague citations in the book to support it. Myrvin (talk) 12:08, 27 September 2014 (UTC)

The article says that on p 45 of the book, they argue that the " pre-eminence of Yahwist text as an attempt to seize the opportunity, afforded by the destruction of Israel in 720 BCE, to portray the Israelites as a single people, with Judah having (always) had primacy". I can't see this there. The Yahwist text isn't mentioned. More OR? Myrvin (talk) 12:24, 27 September 2014 (UTC)

The article says "modern archaeological examination of these cities shows that their destruction spanned a period of many centuries, with Hazor being destroyed 100 to 300 years after Jericho", and cites pp. 81-82. Hazor IS mentioned on p 81, but from old excavations. It is not mentioned on p 82. There is no comparison of the dates of Jericho and Hazor. Myrvin (talk) 12:48, 27 September 2014 (UTC)

The Phylis Trible quote does not, as the article states, laud "the importance of understanding the truth about the biblical past." Rather, Trible's point is the opposite: that history and legend cannot be separated, nor should they be, for they were formed together. Trible is a post-modernist; the article and book share the earlier modernist perspective. Jakob3 (talk) 19:50, 22 December 2015 (UTC)

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