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Deconstructing the Walls of Jerico
Reprinted in Biblical Archeology Review from Ha'aretz Magazine ^ | Original date: Oct. 1999 | Ze'ev Herzog

Posted on 06/22/2002 5:13:53 AM PDT by Seti 1

Following 70 years of intensive excavations in the Land of Israel, archaeologists have found out: The patriarchs' acts are legendary stories, we did not sojourn in Egypt or make an exodus, we did not conquer the land. Neither is there any mention of the empire of David and Solomon. Those who take an interest have known these facts for years, but Israel is a stubborn people and doesn't want to hear about it.

This is what archaeologists have learned from their excavations in the Land of Israel: the Israelites were never in Egypt, did not wander in the desert, did not conquer the land in a military campaign and did not pass it on to the 12 tribes of Israel. Perhaps even harder to swallow is that the united monarchy of David and Solomon, which is described by the Bible as a regional power, was at most a small tribal kingdom. And it will come as an unpleasant shock to many that the God of Israel, YHWH, had a female consort and that the early Israelite religion adopted monotheism only in the waning period of the monarchy and not at Mount Sinai.

Most of those who are engaged in scientific work in the interlocking spheres of the Bible, archaeology and the history of the Jewish people—and who once went into the field looking for proof to corroborate the Bible story—now agree that the historic events relating to the stages of the Jewish people's emergence are radically different from what that story tells.

What follows is a short account of the brief history of archaeology, with the emphasis on the crises and the big bang, so to speak, of the past decade. The critical question of this archaeological revolution has not yet trickled down into public consciousness, but it cannot be ignored.

Inventing the Bible Stories
The archaeology of Palestine developed as a science at a relatively late date, in the late 19th and early 20th century, in tandem with the archaeology of the imperial cultures of Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece and Rome. Those resource-intensive powers were the first target of the researchers, who were looking for impressive evidence from the past, usually in the service of the big museums in London, Paris and Berlin. That stage effectively passed over Palestine, with its fragmented geographical diversity. The conditions in ancient Palestine were inhospitable for the development of an extensive kingdom, and certainly no showcase projects such as the Egyptian shrines or the Mesopotamian palaces could have been established there. In fact, the archaeology of Palestine was not engendered at the initiative of museums but arose from religious motives.

The main push behind archaeological research in Palestine was the country's relationship with the Holy Scriptures. The first excavators in Jericho and Shechem (Nablus) were biblical researchers who were looking for the remains of the cities cited in the Bible. Archaeology assumed momentum with the activity of William Foxwell Albright, who mastered the archaeology, history and languagess of the Land of Israel and the ancient Near East. Albright, an American whose father was a priest of Chilean descent, began excavating in Palestine in the 1920's. His stated approach was that archaeology was the principal scientific means to refute the critical claims against the historical veracity of the Bible stories, particularly those of the Wellhausen school in Germany.

The school of biblical criticism that developed in Germany beginning in the second half of the 19th century, of which Julius Wellhausen was a leading figure, challenged the historicity of the Bible stories and claimed that biblical historiography was formulated, and in large measure actually 'invented', during the Babylonian exile. Bible scholars, the Germans in particular, claimed that the history of the Hebrews, as a consecutive series of events beginning with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and proceeding through the passage to Egypt, the enslavement and the exodus, and ending with the conquest of the land and the settlement of the tribes of Israel, was no more than a later reconstruction of events with a theological purpose.

Albright believed that the Bible is a historical document, which, although it had gone through several editing stages, nevertheless basically reflected the ancient reality. He was convinced that if the ancient remains of Palestine were uncovered, they would furnish unequivocal proof of the historical truth of the events relating to the Jewish people in its land.

The biblical archaeology that developed following Albright and his pupils brought about a series of extensive digs at the important biblical tells: Megiddo, Lachish, Gezer, Shechem (Nablus), Jericho, Jerusalem, Ai, Giveon, Beit She'an, Beit Shemesh, Hazor, Ta'anach and others. The way was straight and clear: every new finding contributed to the building of a harmonious picture of the past. The archaeologists, who enthusiastically adopted the biblical approach, set out on a quest to unearth the 'biblical period': the period of the patriarchs, the Canaanite cities that were destroyed by the Israelites as they conquered the land, the boundaries of the 12 tribes, the sites of the settlement period, characterized by 'settlement pottery', the 'gates of Solomon' at Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer, 'Solomon's stables' (or Ahab's), 'King Solomon's mines' at Timna—and there are some who are still hard at work and have found Mount Sinai (at Mount Karkoum in the Negev) or Joshua's altar at Mount Ebal.

The Crisis
Slowly, cracks began to appear in the picture. Paradoxically, a situation was created in which the glut of findings began to undermine the historical credibility of the biblical descriptions instead of reinforcing them. A crisis stage is reached when the theories within the framework of the general thesis are unable to solve an increasingly large number of anomalies.

The explanations become ponderous and inelegant, and the pieces do not fit together smoothly. Here are a few examples of how the harmonious picture collapsed.

• Patriarchal Age: The researchers found it difficult to reach agreement on which archaeological period matched the Patriarchal Age. When did Abraham, Isaac and Jacob live? When was the Cave of Machpelah (Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron) bought in order to serve as the burial place for the patriarchs and the matriarchs? According to the biblical chronology, Solomon built the Temple 480 years after the exodus from Egypt (1 Kings 6:1). To that we have to add 430 years of the stay in Egypt (Exodus 12:40) and the vast lifetimes of the patriarchs, producing a date in the 21st century BCE for Abraham's move to Canaan. However, no evidence has been unearthed that can sustain this chronology. Albright argued in the early 1960s in favor of assigning the wanderings of Abraham to the Middle Bronze Age (22nd -20th centuries BCE). However, Benjamin Mazar, the father of the Israeli branch of biblical archaeology, proposed identifying the historic background of the Patriarchal Age a thousand years later, in the 11th century BCE—which would place it in the 'settlement period'. Others rejected the historicity of the stories and viewed them as ancestral legends that were told in the period of the Kingdom of Judea. In any event, the consensus began to break down.

• The Exodus from Egypt, the wanderings in the desert and Mount Sinai: The many Egyptian documents that we have make no mention of the Israelites' presence in Egypt and are also silent about the events of the Exodus. Many documents do mention the custom of nomadic shepherds to enter Egypt during periods of drought and hunger and to camp at the edges of the Nile Delta. However, this was not a solitary phenomenon: such events occurred frequently over thousands of years and were hardly exceptional. Generations of researchers tried to locate Mount Sinai and the encampments of the tribes in the desert. Despite these intensive efforts, not even one site has been found that can match the biblical account.

The power of tradition has now led some researchers to 'discover' Mount Sinai in the northern Hijaz or, as already mentioned, at Mount Karkoum in the Negev. The central events in the history of the Israelites are not corroborated in documents external to the Bible or in archaeological findings. Most historians today agree that at best, the stay in Egypt and the exodus events occurred among a few families and that their private story was expanded and 'nationalized' to fit the needs of theological ideology.

• The conquest: One of the formative events of the people of Israel in biblical historiography is the story of how the land was conquered from the Canaanites. Yet extremely serious difficulties have cropped up precisely in the attempts to locate the archaeological evidence for this story. Repeated excavations by various expeditions at Jericho and Ai, the two cities whose conquest is described in the greatest detail in the Book of Joshua, have proved very disappointing. Despite the excavators' efforts, it emerged that in the late part of the 13th century BCE, at the end of the Late Bronze Age, which is the agreed period for the conquest, there were no cities in either tell, and of course no walls that could have been toppled. Naturally, explanations were offered for these anomalies. Some claimed that the walls around Jericho were washed away by rain, while others suggested that earlier walls had been used; and, as for Ai, it was claimed that the original story actually referred to the conquest of nearby Beit El and was transferred to Ai by later redactors.

Biblical scholars suggested a quarter of a century ago that the conquest stories be viewed as etiological legends and no more. But as more and more sites were uncovered and it emerged that the places in question died out or were simply abandoned at different times, the conclusion that there is no factual basis for the biblical story about the conquest by Israelite tribes in a military campaign led by Joshua was bolstered.

• The Canaanite cities: The Bible magnifies the strength and the fortifications of the Canaanite cities that were conquered by the Israelites: 'great cities with walls sky-high' (Deuteronomy 9:1). In practice, all the sites that have been uncovered turned up remains of unfortified settlements, which in most cases consisted of a few structures or the ruler's palace rather than a genuine city. The urban culture of Palestine in the Late Bronze Age disintegrated in a process that lasted hundreds of years and did not stem from military conquest.

Moreover, the biblical description is unfamiliar with the geopolitical reality in Palestine. Palestine was under Egyptian rule until the middle of the 12th century BCE. The Egyptians' administrative centers were located in Gaza, Yaffo and Beit She'an. Egyptian presence has also been discovered in many locations on both sides of the Jordan River. This striking presence is not mentioned in the biblical account, and it is clear that it was unknown to the author and his editors. The archaeological findings blatantly contradict the biblical picture: the Canaanite cities were not 'great,' were not fortified and did not have 'sky-high walls.' The heroism of the conquerors, the few versus the many and the assistance of the God who fought for his people are a theological reconstruction lacking any factual basis.

• Origin of the Israelites: The conclusions drawn from episodes in the emergence of the people of Israel in stages, taken together, gave rise to a discussion of the bedrock question: the identity of the Israelites. If there is no evidence for the exodus from Egypt and the desert journey, and if the story of the military conquest of fortified cities has been refuted by archaeology, who, then, were these Israelites? The archaeological findings did corroborate one important fact: in the early Iron Age (beginning some time after 1200 BCE), the stage that is identified with the 'settlement period', hundreds of small settlements were established in the area of the central hill region of the Land of Israel, inhabited by farmers who worked the land or raised sheep. If they did not come from Egypt, what is the origin of these settlers? Israel Finkelstein, professor of archaeology at Tel Aviv University, has proposed that these settlers were the pastoral shepherds who wandered in this hill area throughout the Late Bronze Age (graves of these people have been found, without settlements). According to his reconstruction, in the Late Bronze Age (which preceded the Iron Age) the shepherds maintained a barter economy of meat in exchange for grains with the inhabitants of the valleys. With the disintegration of the urban and agricultural system in the lowlands, the nomads were forced to produce their own grains, and hence the incentive for stable settlements.

The name 'Israel' is mentioned in a single Egyptian document from the period of Merneptah, king of Egypt, dating from 1208 BCE: 'Plundered is Canaan with every evil, Ascalon is taken, Gezer is seized, Yenoam has become as though it never was, Israel is desolated, its seed is not.' Merneptah refers to the country by its Canaanite name and mentions several cities of the kingdom, along with a non-urban ethnic group. According to this evidence, the term 'Israel' was given to one of the population groups that resided in Canaan toward the end of the Late Bronze Age, apparently in the central hill region, in the area where the Kingdom of Israel would later be established.

A Kingdom With No Name
• The united monarchy: Archaeology was also the source that brought about a shift regarding the reconstruction of the reality in the period known as the 'united monarchy' of David and Solomon. The Bible describes this period as the zenith of the political, military and economic power of the people of Israel in ancient times. In the wake of David's conquests, the empire of David and Solomon stretched from the Euphrates River to Gaza ('For he controlled the whole region west of the Euphrates, from Tiphsah to Gaza, all the kings west of the Euphrates,' 1 Kings 5:4). The archaeological findings at many sites show that the construction projects attributed to this period were meager in scope and power.

The three cities of Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer, which are mentioned among Solomon's construction enterprises, have been excavated extensively at the appropriate layers. Only about half of Hazor's upper city was fortified, covering an area of only 30 dunams (7.5 acres), out of a total area of 700 dunams which was settled in the Bronze Age. At Gezer there was apparently only a citadel surrounded by a casemate wall covering a small area, while Megiddo was not fortified with a wall. The picture becomes even more complicated in the light of the excavations conducted in Jerusalem, the capital of the united monarchy. Large sections of the city have been excavated over the past 150 years. The digs have turned up impressive remnants of the cities from the Middle Bronze Age and from Iron Age II ( the period of the Kingdom of Judea). No remains of buildings have been found from the period of the united monarchy (even according to the agreed chronology), only a few pottery shards. Given the preservation of the remains from earlier and later periods, it is clear that Jerusalem in the time of David and Solomon was a small city, perhaps with a small citadel for the king, but in any event it was not the capital of an empire as described in the Bible. This small chiefdom is the source of the title 'Beth David' mentioned in later Aramean and Moabite inscriptions. The authors of the biblical account knew Jerusalem in the 8th century BCE, with its wall and the rich culture of which remains have been found in various parts of the city, and projected this picture back to the age of the united monarchy. Presumably, Jerusalem acquired its central status after the destruction of Samaria, its northern rival, in 722 BCE.

The archaeological findings dovetail well with the conclusions of the critical school of biblical scholarship. David and Solomon were the rulers of tribal kingdoms that controlled small areas: the former in Hebron and the latter in Jerusalem. Concurrently, a separate kingdom began to form in the Samaria hills, which finds expression in the stories about Saul's kingdom. Israel and Judea were from the outset two separate, independent kingdoms, and at times were in an adversarial relationship. Thus, the great united monarchy is an imaginary historiosophic creation, which was composed during the period of the Kingdom of Judea at the earliest. Perhaps the most decisive proof of this is that we do not know the name of this kingdom.

YHWH and his Consort
How many gods, exactly, did Israel have? Together with the historical and political aspects, there are also doubts as to the credibility of the information about belief and worship. The question about the date at which monotheism was adopted by the kingdoms of Israel and Judea arose with the discovery of inscriptions in ancient Hebrew that mention a pair of gods: YHWH and his Asherath. At two sites, Kuntilet Ajrud in the southwestern part of the Negev hill region, and Khirbet el-Kom in the Judea piedmont, Hebrew inscriptions have been found that mention 'YHWH and his Asherah', 'YHWH Shomron and his Asherah', 'YHWH Teman and his Asherah'. The authors were familiar with a pair of gods, YHWH and his consort Asherah, and send blessings in the couple's name. These inscriptions, from the 8th century BCE, raise the possibility that monotheism, as a state religion, is actually an innovation of the period of the Kingdom of Judea, following the destruction of the Kingdom of Israel.

The archaeology of the Land of Israel is completing a process that amounts to a scientific revolution in its field. It is ready to confront the findings of biblical scholarship and of ancient history as an equal discipline. But at the same time, we are witnessing a fascinating phenomenon in that all this is simply ignored by the Israeli public. Many of the findings mentioned here have been known for decades. The professional literature in the spheres of archaeology, Bible and the history of the Jewish people has addressed them in dozens of books and hundreds of articles. Even if not all the scholars accept the individual arguments that inform the examples I have cited, the majority have adopted their main points. Nevertheless, these revolutionary views are not penetrating the public consciousness. About a year ago, my colleague, the historian Prof. Nadav Ne'eman, published an article in the Culture and Literature section of Ha'aretz entitled 'To Remove the Bible from the Jewish Bookshelf', but there was no public outcry. Any attempt to question the reliability of the biblical descriptions is perceived as an attempt to undermine 'our historic right to the land' and as a shattering of the myth of the nation that is renewing the ancient Kingdom of Israel. These symbolic elements constitute such a critical component of the construction of the Israeli identity that any attempt to call their veracity into question encounters hostility or silence. It is of some interest that such tendencies within the Israeli secular society go hand-in-hand with the outlook among educated Christian groups. I have found a similar hostility in reaction to lectures I have delivered abroad to groups of Christian Bible lovers, though what upset them was the challenge to the foundations of their fundamentalist religious belief. It turns out that part of Israeli society is ready to recognize the injustice that was done to the Arab inhabitants of the country and is willing to accept the principle of equal rights for women - but is not up to adopting the archaeological facts that shatter the biblical myth. The blow to the mythical foundations of the Israeli identity is apparently too threatening, and it is more convenient to turn a blind eye.•

Prof. Ze'ev Herzog teaches in the Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies at Tel Aviv University. He took part in the excavations of Hazor and Megiddo with Yigael Yadin and in the digs at Tel Arad and Tel Be'er Sheva with Yohanan Aharoni. He has conducted digs at Tel Michal and Tel Gerisa and has recently begun digging at Tel Yaffo. He is the author of books on the city gate in Palestine and its neighbors and on two excavations, and has written a book summing up the archaeology of the ancient city.

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1 posted on 06/22/2002 5:13:53 AM PDT by Seti 1
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To: Seti 1
Herzog's Attack on the Bible Unjustified
Hershel Shanks

(full text as sent to editor; final edit appeared in Ha'aretz Magazine, November 5, 1999)

"The Israelites were never in Egypt, did not wander in the desert," proclaims my archaeologist friend Ze'ev Herzog of Tel Aviv University ("It ain't necessarily so," Oct. 29). He thus aligns himself with a small group of scholars widely known as the "Biblical Minimalists," although one of their number, Philip Davies of the University of Sheffield in England, has called this "a sneering epithet." According to the minimalists, the Bible is worthless as a source of history for the periods it describes; the texts were written hundreds and hundreds of years after the events they describe and thus can tell us, at most, about the period when they were composed, but nothing about the events they describe.

The minimalists are sometimes called the Copenhagen School because several of their most prominent members are affiliated with the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. Others are in Scotland, England and the United States. Among Israeli scholars, the minimalists are perceived as including Herzog's distinguished colleague (and another friend) Israel Finkelstein, whom Herzog cites approvingly in his article. While the minimalists have no formal organization and they do differ in details, they share the basic view that the Bible is essentially a fictional account that served other functions for the biblical authors, creating a glorious, but false national history at a much later time.

That the minimalists are motivated by interests other than pure scholarship is widely acknowledged. Again, they differ somewhat from one another. Almost all, like Herzog and Finkelstein, are serious scholars. But most of them also have a political agenda. Professor Avraham Malamat of Hebrew University publicly described one of them as both "anti-Israel and anti-Bible." At the extreme, they can even be viewed as anti-Semitic. One of their number has written a book entitled, The Invention of Ancient Israel: The Silencing of Palestinian History. That about says it all.

In short, just as Herzog accurately tells us that "the archaeology of Palestine ... sprang from religious motives," so the position of the minimalists often takes on a conscious anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian cast.

In this, it resonates with some of the recent revisionist histories of modern Israel. It also connects with a certain current faddish lack of pride in Israel's history, both modern and ancient, as well as a certain embarrassment at placing any great value, for whatever purposes, in the Bible. In Israel as well as elsewhere in the world, the Bible has somehow become associated with the literalists, the fundamentalists and evangelical Christians, not with sophisticated academic scholars.

Hence, it is not surprising that Herzog alludes to the Israeli-Arab conflict in an article otherwise about the Bible and archaeology: Although "part of Israeli society is ready to recognize the injustice that was done to the Arab inhabitants of the country," he tell us, it is not ready to recognize that "the archaeological facts ... shatter the biblical myth."

On the merits, Herzog's argument is simplistic and flawed. But it is also very clever and, as one might expect from such a distinguished archaeologist, based on an intimate knowledge of the facts on the ground. But the arguments are much more subtle than Herzog's quick-and-easy analysis recognizes.

A human composition

All modern critical scholars recognize that the Bible is a human composition (although this does not exclude the possibility that it is also inspired). Its purpose is primarily theological, not historical. (History cannot deal with miracles, for example.) And it is tendentious; it exaggerates to make a point. It often speaks metaphorically when it appears to a modern mind to be speaking factually. And, of course, given the fact that it is a human document, it can also be inaccurate.

But it also preserves its own dissent. We often get two (or more) sides of a story or event. Even its greatest heroes, whose history it is supposed to serve, are human and therefore flawed.

It is in this context that we must ask whether there is any history to be found in it. The view that simply says No is unwilling to do the hard work that the task requires—or, for other reasons, prefers to deny the possibility that there is history embedded in the text.

Take, for example, the Exodus. We don't need Professor Herzog to tell us that 2 million Israelites did not cross the Sinai on their way out of Egypt, despite the biblical implication as to this number (Exodus 12:37). And neither an archaeologist nor a historian can speak to the question as to whether God parted the Red Sea. It is also true that, as Professor Herzog tells us, no Egyptian document mentions the Israelites' presence in Egypt, nor the events of the Exodus. That is really all he says to support his grandiose lead: "The Israelites were never in Egypt, did not wander in the desert." Given this lead, I am surprised that he did not add the usual canard that there is no archaeological evidence of the Israelites' wandering in the desert.

Instead, Herzog begins to contradict himself. He admits that "many [Egyptian] documents do mention the custom of nomadic shepherds to enter Egypt during periods of drought and hunger and to camp at the edges of the Nile Delta." This suggests that it is at least plausible that the Israelites (or the Israelites in formation) were among these groups. And Herzog fails to mention that the Egyptians tell us that these shepherds (and others) came from Asia and that they settled in precisely the area where the Bible tells us the Israelites settled.

Herzog counters, however, that "this was not a solitary phenomenon: such events occurred frequently across thousands of years and were hardly exceptional." Does this prove that the Israelites were not one of these groups? Hardly. Herzog's point is perhaps that the story could have been invented years later. Of course that it is possible. But the reverse is equally possible. He has surely not proved that Israel was not there. Yet that is all he says to prove his major point.

In fact, much more could be said that indicates the plausibility of an Israelite sojourn in Egypt. An Austrian archaeologist has identified a so-called four-room house usually identified with Israelites that he discovered in Goshen, the part of the Nile Delta where the Israelites settled. A prominent English Egyptologist has noted that the price for which Joseph was sold into slavery was the price at the time of the supposed event, rather than the much higher price that prevailed when the story was composed. All scholars agree that in the mid-second millennium B.C. Egypt was ruled by some Asiatic interlopers known as the Hyksos. All this—and much more—plausibly suggests a real, historical prehistory of the Israelites in Egypt.

Slaves, not kings

When people invent histories for themselves, their ancestors are secret kings or princes or descendants of gods. Who would invent a history of their people as slaves, if there were not some truth in it?

If you read Herzog carefully, he grudgingly admits that there probably was an Egyptian sojourn and an Exodus: "At best, the stay in Egypt and the exodus occurred in a few families," he concedes. That poses a different question. Now we are really talking about how big the group was, not whether there was such a group. Perhaps it was only a few hundred, or a few thousand. But that is a far cry from trumpeting as fact that "the Israelites were never in Egypt, did not wander in the desert."

Herzog admits that during the period identified with the Israelite settlement (Iron Age I, 1200-1000 B.C.), "hundreds of small settlements were established in the area of the central hill region of the Land of Israel." He cannot bring himself to call people who lived in these settlements the emerging Israelites, although that is precisely the area where, according to the Bible, the Israelites settled. Citing his colleague Israel Finkelstein, Herzog identifies these settlers as Canaanite shepherds settling down. The implication is that Israel emerged out of Canaanite society.

But if you read the Bible carefully, this suggestion is not at all surprising: Ancient Israel emerged out of many groups. Some tribes, like Asher and Dan, were associated with ships (Judges 5:17). The polyglot nature of early Israel is reflected in Ezekiel's proclamation: "By origin and birth you are from the land of the Canaanites—your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite" (Ezekiel 16:3). The Shechemites were circumcised to become part of Israel (Genesis 34). In short, the Bible is a lot more subtle than Herzog gives it credit for. The fact that many groups accreted and became part of Israel does not detract from the fact that some, whose story became the national story, came from Egypt where they had been enslaved.

Certainty eludes us when we are talking about the history of ancient Israel. We must talk about possibilities, likelihoods, plausibility and, at most, probability. I have not proved that there was an Egyptian sojourn and exodus. But neither has Herzog disproved it. And I believe my case is better than his, that is, that an element of ancient Israel came out of Egypt. For all that, however, we must learn to live with uncertainty. When we trumpet the negative, we only play into the hands of the worst elements among the biblical minimalists.

The same kind of analysis that applies to the Egyptian sojourn and the Exodus is applicable to the other instances cited by Herzog.

Take the Patriarchal Narratives. It is true that an earlier generation of scholars thought they had identified the patriarchal age—and they were wrong. From this, the minimalists conclude that there was no patriarchal age and that there is no historical truth behind the narratives. That the earlier effort to identify the patriarchal age failed does not mean that there was no patriarchal age. Archaeology has not disproved the existence of a patriarchal age. It has simply failed to identify one.

Nor has archaeology proved that the patriarchs never lived. Doubtless, the stories contain legendary material (we come to this conclusion not on the basis of archaeology but on the basis of the stories themselves), but they may well reflect an accurate historical context. As is often stated, the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. This aphorism is not always applicable, but it is applicable here.

Well, yes and no

It is said that archaeology disproves the Israelite conquest of Canaan—or, in Herzog's words, "The archaeological findings blatantly contradict the biblical picture." Well, yes and no. Again, the question is more subtle than Herzog would allow. There are problems. But Herzog ignores the fact that the Bible itself recognizes this. We get two somewhat differing pictures in the books of Joshua and Judges. If we are looking for history, we must take into account not only the successful lightning attacks described in Joshua, but also the more gradual and incomplete settlement described in Judges. That the excavations of Jericho and Ai indicate there were no cities here at the time Joshua was supposed to have conquered them must be balanced against the fact that, according to Hebrew University archaeologist Amnon Ben-Tor, Hazor was indeed most likely destroyed and burned by the incoming Israelites, just as the Bible says (Joshua 11:1-11).

Moreover, there was a destruction of Jericho that comports in extraordinary detail with the description of the Israelite conquest of the city, down to the time of year and the fallen walls. But it occurred before the supposed date of the Israelite appearance on the scene. Did the Israelites somehow later take credit for this earlier destruction of Jericho? That's quite possible. But the situation is considerably more complicated than Herzog allows. It begins to seem that he has another agenda—simply to destroy the credibility of the Bible, as is so fashionable among academic sophisticates these days.

The minimalists' most recent attack is on the United Kingdom. Some minimalists deny the very existence of a kingdom of David and Solomon. Some even deny that there were such figures as David and Solomon. Herzog apparently thinks they may be right: "The united monarchy of David and Solomon ... was at most a small tribal kingdom", he says. If that is what it was at most, what was it at least? Some of the minimalists have gone so far as to charge that the recently discovered reference to the House (Dynasty) of David in a monumental stele excavated by Avraham Biran at Tel Dan is a forgery! Herzog does not go so far. He refers to the find only glancingly and does not discuss its relevance to a recognition of the power of the Davidic dynasty; it is mentioned in a monumental inscription of a non-Israelite ruler barely a century or so after David lived.

That the kingdom of David and Solomon was not as glorious or as extensive as the Bible indicates is certainly arguable and even probable. Perhaps Israelite hegemony was measured in different terms in those days—in terms of influence rather than absolute power. But again these are questions of "more or less than." To question the very existence of the United Monarchy because the Bible does not preserve its separate name, as Herzog does, bespeaks of denigration rather than a reasoned search for truth amid great uncertainty.

Similar tendentiousness infects Herzog's discussion of Israelite monotheism. He points to two extremely interesting finds that indicate that Yahweh, the Israelite God, had a consort. From this he concludes that ancient Israel had more than one god until a very late date. On the contrary, in many respects these finds confirm the picture we get from the Bible: Yahweh had a hard time of it; Israel was a nation of backsliders; this is what the prophets are all about. Herzog does not mention in support of his argument, as he could have, that thousands of clay figurines that apparently reflect polytheistic commitments have been excavated, even (and especially) in Jerusalem. Do these finds demonstrate that all Israel was polytheistic? Do these finds disprove the biblical assertion that elements in Israel soon developed a concept of a single God who created and ruled the world? Again, the archaeological evidence does not go so far as Herzog would have us think. Not all ancient Israelites were monotheistic, but neither were they all polytheistic. A far more measured response to the evidence is called for than Herzog provides.

A few final comments about archaeological evidence: It is minute compared to what we don't know and is subject to change tomorrow. True, some archaeological facts are closer to certainty than others. But it is not always easy to identify one from the other. Take Jerusalem as an example. Herzog correctly points out that very little has been found from the period of the supposed United Monarchy. Admittedly this is a problem, especially because Jerusalem is easily the most excavated city in the world. The so-called City of David, south of the Temple Mount, has been a particular focus of such modern archaeological giants as Dame Kathleen Kenyon and the late Yigal Shiloh. Despite their efforts, however, they failed to discover a major city wall that has been discovered only in the past couple of years by Ronny Reich and Eli Shukron. This wall has been preserved to a height of 15 feet. It is very close to the Spring Gihon where we would expect archaeologists to dig. Yet Kenyon and Shiloh (and others) missed it. Reich and Shukron have also found two or three major towers that protected the spring in about 1800 B.C. that previous excavators failed to find.

I mention this not to fault them and not because it disproves anything Herzog has said, but simply to suggest that the archaeological picture is never complete and is often revised. The next generation of archaeologists may well do to do the current doubters what they have done to such eminent scholars as William Foxwell Albright. (But then again, they may not. I do not trade in the certainty that is Herzog's coin.)

Ignoring the stele

Finally, the archaeological evidence is not only minute, but random. Herzog mentions a famous Egyptian stele that refers to "Israel" as a people in Canaan in 1208 B.C. No scholar questions this. Although Herzog mentions it, however, he doesn't deal with it. This wholly chance find makes the minimalists squirm. They argue that it refers only to a geographic location, not a people; or that it refers to some other Israel, not the one mentioned in the Bible. Without this chance find, you can be sure the minimalists would be arguing that there was no such entity as Israel at such an early period, that indeed Israel was "invented" hundreds of years later.

Similarly with the existence of David: Just as the minimalists were revving up for a full-scale attack on the existence of David (who had never been mentioned outside the Bible), Biran found the "House of David" stele. All this doesn't prove that the minimalists are wrong, only that we must be very careful in reaching our conclusions. History, and especially ancient history, is unfortunately very complicated, much more so than is dreamed of in Herzog's philosophy. Just as it is unjustified to conclude that the Bible is literally true in every detail, so it is unjustified to throw it out as historically worthless, especially when that view is so vigorously pursued by a few scholars with a political agenda. •

2 posted on 06/22/2002 5:27:29 AM PDT by tomahawk
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To: Seti 1
...and the point of all of this is...???
3 posted on 06/22/2002 5:42:29 AM PDT by evad
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Comment #4 Removed by Moderator

To: valg
The point is that satan wants us all to believe that israel is a fairy tale, with out the history of israel christ is also turned into a story.

I understand where you're coming from and don't disagree.

However, belief in God and belief in the Bible are based on just that...belief.... or as most would call it, faith.

The Bible itself is riddled with all kinds of inconsistencies and can be MADE to say anything anyone WANTS it to say. All the historical evidence in the world to the contrary doesn't make a bit of difference.

Anyway, this article is interesting reading but nothing more...IMO.

5 posted on 06/22/2002 6:07:59 AM PDT by evad
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To: tomahawk
Thanks for posting that. I will refer to this discussion when I have more time.
6 posted on 06/22/2002 6:26:50 AM PDT by Raymond Hendrix
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To: tomahawk
btt.. for the rest of the story.
7 posted on 06/22/2002 6:27:58 AM PDT by snippy_about_it
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To: evad
bump for later read.
As an aside ... I'm a believer in the innerancy of the Bible.
8 posted on 06/22/2002 6:28:22 AM PDT by knarf
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To: snippy_about_it
Tomahawk has posted Shanks reply to this article which should be read with it. The two nicely summarize the debate currently going on among Biblical archaeologists.
9 posted on 06/22/2002 7:12:47 AM PDT by Seti 1
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To: tomahawk
Herzog mentions a famous Egyptian stele that refers to "Israel" as a people in Canaan in 1208 B.C. No scholar questions this. Although Herzog mentions it, however, he doesn't deal with it. This wholly chance find makes the minimalists squirm. They argue that it refers only to a geographic location, not a people; or that it refers to some other Israel, not the one mentioned in the Bible.

Shanks gets carried away here. Since "no scholar questions this" but the "minimalists" do, apparently the "minimalists" are not scholars in Shanks opinion. In fact, the term "minimalist" was invented by Shanks as a derogatory term for those scholars who contest the literal truth of the Bible. I have never read any making the arguments listed here.

The stele is one by Mernepta (grandson of Seti 1)celebrating a military campaign and listing a number of cities conquered. All of the cities cited have the symbol for city included in their name except Israel leading to the conclusion that the Israelites at this time were not settled. There is no reason why this should make "minimalists" squirm. It merely shows that there was a people called Israelites at this early period and that the Egyptians were aware of them.

10 posted on 06/22/2002 7:35:35 AM PDT by Seti 1
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To: knarf
I'm sure you meant inerrancy :)
11 posted on 06/22/2002 8:05:04 AM PDT by evad
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To: Seti 1
Tomahawk has posted Shanks reply to this article which should be read with it. The two nicely summarize the debate currently going on among Biblical archaeologists.

Shanks ends his article with the statement,

Just as it is unjustified to conclude that the Bible is literally true in every detail, so it is unjustified to throw it out as historically worthless....

In the original article, Herzog stated,

Most historians today agree that at best, the stay in Egypt and the exodus events occurred among a few families and that their private story was expanded and 'nationalized' to fit the needs of theological ideology.

It seems to me that Herzog and Shanks are both saying basically the same thing. They are both saying that there is some historical basis to the Biblical accounts but that the Biblical accounts have exaggerated the historical events.

In the debate, however, Shanks throws out a strawman argument. Herzog is claiming that Grandpa did not win the Battle of the Bulge all by himself as he claims he did. Shanks is accusing Herzog of claiming that World War II never occurred because Grandpa exaggerated his martial prowess.

12 posted on 06/22/2002 8:08:25 AM PDT by Polybius
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To: Seti 1
It would be no surprise to find inscriptions referring to "YHWH and Ashera" either. One of the big themes of the Hebrew scriptures is how the ancient Israelites had a tendency to blend worship of local pagan gods and goddesses with worship of the God of Israel.
13 posted on 06/22/2002 8:24:52 AM PDT by DallasMike
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To: Seti 1
YHWH and his Consort

Herzog makes an issue of the polytheism of the Israelites. Actually, the OT is quite clear that, first, the original Canaanites were never wiped out, and so their religions co-existed with the Hebrew religions from the start. Second, it is clear from the OT that the hebrews were never fully convinced by the Mosaic religion. And finally, starting apparently with Solomon, many Israelite kings engaged in the worship of Baal, several even engaging in the sacrifice of their own children upon the alters. The final king was married to the high priestess, who carried out a massacre of mosaic priests. So, Herzog's assertion that there was polytheism in Israel does not disprove the Bible; quite the contrary.

14 posted on 06/22/2002 8:41:04 AM PDT by marron
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To: evad
Interesting read. Any one who claims to study history, yet is fast to discount any and every possible historical variation is guilty of HISTRICIDE! How dare they consider themselves "Experts"!

There is a great book listing thousands of quotes from so called experts.

It is "The Experts Speak", by Christopher Cerf and Victor Navasky. ISBN # 0-679-77806-3.
15 posted on 06/22/2002 9:24:50 AM PDT by vannrox
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To: evad

16 posted on 06/22/2002 9:26:34 AM PDT by vannrox
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To: Seti 1
read later
17 posted on 06/22/2002 9:33:22 AM PDT by LiteKeeper
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To: Polybius
It seems to me that Herzog and Shanks are both saying basically the same thing. They are both saying that there is some historical basis to the Biblical accounts but that the Biblical accounts have exaggerated the historical events

Yeah, what's the difference between a few families and a nation of several million?

18 posted on 06/22/2002 11:03:25 AM PDT by Dave S
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To: Dave S
It seems to me that Herzog and Shanks are both saying basically the same thing. They are both saying that there is some historical basis to the Biblical accounts but that the Biblical accounts have exaggerated the historical events.

Yeah, what's the difference between a few families and a nation of several million?

They had a thread about this very topic about four years ago on ANCIEN-L, the mailing list on "History of the Ancient Mediterranean".

The answer to that particular question would have been a lot of archeological evidence left in the dry Sinai Desert where evidence of human camp sites or bits of papyrus can survive for millennia.

Both authors agree that the Biblical accounts exagerated the historical events. They seem to disagree to what extent the accounts did so. It seems to me that the archeological evidence supports Herzog's view on the latter question.

19 posted on 06/22/2002 11:39:43 AM PDT by Polybius
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To: Polybius
This response is really for all readers, not just Polybius, whose name came up in the computer program :-) There are two separate creation stories on the first page of Genesis. The first refers to a creation by 'God, in Hebrew, Elohim, which is a Plural noun. This allegorical, metaphorical, mythological,'God' (Elohim) says: "Let US make man(-kind) in OUR own image", then proceeds to: "male and female created Elohim, them", creates females and males in the same moment, as equal but obviously different :-). Elohim also gives them the fruit of EVERY TREE to eat: there are no exceptions!

There is clear evidence of later redaction (tampering) in verse 27, where Plural Elohim, of verse 26, suddenly and myteriously becomes a "He", but more about that below. What does this really tell us about Elohim? It unequivically states and portrays Elohim is Plural, Female and Male. Now as it turns out, the supreme male deity of the Canaanites (an affiliation of tribal groups living in several 'cities')was named EL and his female equal consort was named Asherah. EL and Ashera also 'pro-created' a daughter goddess named Astarte (or Anat or Anath)and a son god named Baal. This story concludes with verse 3 of chapter 2 and when all references to "He" are removed from Genesis 1:27 through 2:3 and replaced with "They or "Them" and chapter 2 begins with the present verse 4 as verse one, the proper original Plural-Male-Female deified pair are restored.

Clearly at some time in the past, someone ran the two stories together in an attempt to make them appear to be one. Who had an interest in doing that? Only priests who were redacting (tampering) to install the completely masculine and anti-female diety, 'LORD God', who makes his first named appearance in chapter 2, verse 4, which is a completely separate myth with a completely separate philosophical viewpoint. In Hebrew, Lord God is YHWH Elohim,the masculine god (YHWH) of one specific tribe, the tribe of Levi, the Levites, who where usurping supreme divine authority in their own tribal name and installing themselves as the only legitimate source for priests forever after. They also excluded their tribe from participating in warfare and enforced a 10% income tax (tythe) on all other surrounding tribes in Canaan. Pretty good deal if you happened to be a Levite priest and were successful in pulling off this scheme :-).

Note: YHWH [Elohim] makes a man from dust (and presumably water), without having anyplace to put him, then "creates" a garden in a world which already exists, then tells about where gold and bdellium (a sticky resin) and onyx can be found. This sounds more like something of interest to the fable writer and has nothing to do with creating. Then as a belated afterthought YHWH concocts a rib-woman out of the dustman and she causes all that tree-fruit and serpent business trouble in the world before she even has a name!

NOTE: Yahweh, the mudman and the rib-woman are all completely masculine! Here is the most preposterous part of the entire Judeo-Christian Old Testament which was written between approximately 550 BCE and 200 CE (A.D. for Christians).Hebrew men, even up into the time of historical Jesus, Simon-Peter, Saul-Paul (et cetera) believed that babies came entirely out of their testicles and that women's wombs were nothing more than flower pots for their man-seeds. I suspect that most people who read this will be unaware of that preposterous historical absurdity. Nevertheless, that is what pre-Christian Jewish and Jesus era Jewish men believed as part of their culture. I have one question: Why didn't the talkative Levite deity smarten up his chosen men about this basic biological error? The answer is that the priestly Levite YHWH fiction writers lived in a world that was pre-scientific. They were scientifically illiterate.

Nevertheless, on the other hand, those priests reserved the right and power unto themselves to stone to death anyone who challenged their religious authority. You better believe if you know what's good for you! This same technique was later employed by Christian priests during the age of the Inquisition, although by that time, stoning to death was replaced by burning at the stake as the favored method of dispatching impudent heretical fools.

The facts are that authorship of the Torah (first five books of the Tanach (OT), much like the four NT Evangels (Gospels) Mark, Matthew, Luke and John, is uncertain at best and impossible to discover, with any certainly in reality.

NASA announced that the Universe is 13.7 billion years old, in March, 2003. During the recently passed 20th Century, our science reliably dated the Sun as 4.56 billion years old. In 1974 Doctors William K. Hartman and Donald R. Davies, of the Planetary Science Institute, using dust and rock samples brought back from the Moon by 12 American astronauts between 1969 and 1972, confirmed that a smaller proto-earth and an impactor planetary body formed in a similar, though nor identical orbit, collided to from our present Earth and Moon 4.42 billion years ago. Although, we cannot be certain whether Life on this planet originated here, or arrived from comet, asteriod and meteor collisons with Earth or both origins, we now know that Life began on Earth, approximately 3.8 billion years ago. Genesis myth writers, were unaware of these facts.

Universe (Everything~Plural~Totality)Evolves Itself and Life within Itself, with infinite, eternal patience: Men create gods! Would you go to a medical doctor for treatment,
if you knew she or he had learned everything she or he knows about medicine from textbooks written by an anonymous shaman (or shaMEN :-) between 550 BCE and 367 CE (AD)? I would not!

In conclusion please consider the following, refreshing signed, quotation.

"A religion old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the universe as revealed by modern science, might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths. Sooner or later, such a religion will emerge."
~ Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, 1994.

20 posted on 09/23/2003 9:40:07 AM PDT by Mr. William
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