Friday, September 25, 12-1
Last week, our study group examined Chapters 2-5 of Finkelstein and Silberman’s The Bible Unearthed. We began with a brief consideration of the possibility of re-titling our subject of study. A few of us thought that the title The Bible Unearthed suggested a search for empirical evidence that lent credence to the narratives recorded in the Hebrew Bible. Five chapters into this text, it appears that the title The Bible Debunked might be more appropriate because it appears as though Finkelstein and Silberman seem more dedicated to demonstrating that the narratives recorded in the Hebrew Bible are a constructed fiction. Their method seems to be 1) offer readers an overview of the Biblical narrative (e.g. Joshua’s ”conquest” of Canaan or King David’s rise to power); 2) present readers with a record of archaeological explorations of regions related to the Biblical narrative and plausible historical speculation that emerged as a result of such exploration (e.g. Israelites were nomadic shepherds who ”gradually infiltrated Canaan and settled there or King Solomon constructed magnificent buildings in Jerusalem); 3) supplying readers with a record of archaeological evidence that essentially negates all such historical speculation (e.g. Israelites were NOT Joshua’s invading armies nomadic shepherds but instead were long-time peasant residents who rebelled against their feudal overlords or there is no archaeological evidence of King David’s armies or King Solomon’s magnificent palace and Temple).
Some of the points made by our authors in the material we read last week included:
the ethnic identity of the Israelites grew slowly among the inhabitants of Canaan who lived not in major cities but small self-sufficient agricultural villages
the emergence of early Israel was an outcome of the collapse of Canaanite culture, not the cause of it.
there was no mass exodus from Egypt and no violent conquest of Canaan. Most Israelites were local people who were originally Canaanite.
One factor that distinguished Israelite settlements from those of other inhabitants of the region (e.g. Moabites or Ammonites) was the absence of pig bones.
the arrival of of monarchy of King David broke a cycle of sin–divine retribution–salvation–sin, etc. The stories told of Kings David and Solomon depicted a Golden Age.
even though there is physical evidence of the existence of these kings, the Golden Age was clearly idealized
compilers of the Hebrew Bible during the time of King Josiah (7th c. BCE) constructed stories of a mythical Golden Age that were based on theological and political hopes of a united monarchy
When our group gathers on September 25, we will begin a discussion of Part Two, chapters 6 and 7, of The Bible Unearthed (pp. 149-195), in which our authors present the main outlines of the rise, fall, and rebirth of Israel from 930 -842 BCE with a perspective quite different from the Biblical narrative.
Our informal discussion group is held online every Friday from 12-1. All are welcome to join us, regardless of their level of expertise or attendance at previous noon study group discussions. If you have questions, or would like the Zoom link, please contact Jay Jacoby at firstname.lastname@example.org.