Item description for What Did the Biblical Writers Know and When Did They Know It?: What Archaeology Can Tell Us About the Reality of Ancient Israel by William G. Dever...
Overview )"In contrast with the revisionists who discredit even the most reliable archaeological evidence, Dever provides a judicious analysis of data and shows how it squares with what much of the biblical text tells us. A sound critical examination of Israel's origins,"
Publishers Description 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.
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Studio: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 9.2" Width: 6.2" Height: 0.9" Weight: 1.05 lbs.
Release Date Jan 1, 2003
Publisher Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
ISBN 080282126X ISBN13 9780802821263
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More About William G. Dever
William G. Dever is professor emeritus of Near Eastern archaeology and anthropology at the University of Arizona in Tucson. He has served as director of the Nelson Glueck School of Biblical Archaeology in Jerusalem, as director of the W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem, and as a visiting professor at universities around the world. He has spent thirty years conducting archaeological excavations in the Near East, resulting in a large body of award-winning fieldwork.
Reviews - What do customers think about What Did the Biblical Writers Know and When Did They Know It?: What Archaeology Can Tell Us About the Reality of Ancient Israel?
excavation for sensible scholarship Mar 25, 2008
Where biblical studies meet arhaeology, history and literary criticism there now exists a maelstrom of conflicting views, methods and terminology that was once represented by a "biblical archaelogy" that had a certain degree of concensus. Politically correct ideologies and politics have added to the stew. Dever does an excellent job of making sense of this confusion, showing how we got to this point, making concrete suggestions towards syncretizing the discplines and promoting his side of a surprisingly vitriolic argument. Those who can enjoy a good academic punch-up will find much of amusement and interest here. It has to be one of the best of the genre! The book also gives a good idea of what archaeology is actually about, as well as an excellent account of what we know of the Iron Age in the area at present. One does not have to agree with all his conclusions or need for all of his carefully structured "hermaneutics" to find the book readable, interesting and of enormous value. I once worked on Dever's excavation at Gezer. Although low on the totem pole, I came there from rigorous training in prehistoric archaeology and I could see that the archaeological standards were up to the best of its time. The number of people involved in attributing levels, reading pottery, etc. would have made it virtually impossible to "fudge" anything. Furthermore, the feeling of academic integrity that came from Dever and his close associates was clear. It motivates this book and is not a pose.
A general reader. Dec 14, 2007
Engaging in a diatribe against his fellow academicians can only result in allienating his general reading public. He should engage in those discussions in his journals, not in a book meant for the general reader. I found his arguments exceedingly boring.
A couple of points to consider Jun 22, 2007
On page x (in the foreword), Dever says that the book is "...certainly polemical." So a reader ought to expect polemic, not everybody holding hands around the campfire and singing "Kum Bah Yah."
Also, when you consider the fact that he has been personally accused of falsifying evidence, it is understandable that he would want to expose not only the absurdity of the claims of his adversaries, but to also try to put their motives into their larger context. Put yourself in his place. Would you like it if others accused you of falsifying archaeological finds? Would you want the truth to come out? Would you keep your cool?
On a final note, this book is worth it's price if only for the numerous palaeo-Hebrew inscriptions which are wonderfully reproduced in the middle chapters of the book. Those (seems to me) are not too easy to find. Many books refer to inscriptions, but this one shows the actual inscriptions. That is awesome. Not only does it lend gravitas to his argument, it is wonderful for those who know Hebrew and would like to translate them. It really adds so much when they include the reproductions of the inscriptions.
Personal attacks are not science Apr 18, 2006
Chapters 4 and 5 in this book are very interesting, a good survey of archaeology in Israel. The preceeding 100 pages amount to little more than scathing personal attacks on other researchers coupled with some brief and basic arcaological theory. Though it is tempting to get into the post-modernism bash, the personal attacks exhibited on those researchers are in poor taste. And I'm not downplaying this, he lists their names and then gives several paragraphs explaning why their biases prevent them from being good scholars. I sincerely hope this isn't reflective of archaeological scholarship in general. From other books I've read (Finkelstein, Mazar, Stern, and Cline), I've noticed that Dever is the only one to resort to personal attacks.
For those that consider reading this, enjoy this book with a nice glass of salt water... from the satiated dead sea. And this isn't just an attack on Dever, it goes for all Biblical Archaeologists. They use the same data to come to different conclusions. To know that data, I recommend Mazar and Stern's volumes on the archaeology of Israel. Yes, there was a "consort" named Asherah who accompanies YHWH in early manuscripts, there was wide spread fertility worship (to reduce that religion as such), and there is evidence of societal change throughout the history of Israel. These observations have been made and remade throughout the development of archaeology in Israel.
I would propose a different method to abandoning (or retaining) the bible and its texts as a reliable history... give it the same doubt you would give to Hieroglyphs, Linear B tablets, and the histories of Herodotus. WE HAVE TO REMOVE THE RELIGIOUS ASPECT OF THE BIBLE TO COME TO RELIABLE CONCLUSIONS ABOUT ANCIENT ISRAELITE SOCIETY. This must be done to do justice to them and ourselves. The bible should not be a story that we plug artifacts into, the artifacts must tell a history in and of themselves, as the rest of the archaeological field must do.
Highly recommended. Aug 16, 2005
While the polemic against the minimalists gets a little excessive at times, I have to say that it is necessary, as they are very vocal these days. There is no need to debate fundamentalists because they've made up their mind already (as Michael Freeman's review shows).
The book gives a fascinating overview of the archaeological evidence. Dever pretty much represents "the mainstream" in his assessment of the historical background of the Bible; that the Patriarchs, Exodus, and Conquest are basically unhistorical or only quasi-historical is the most parsimonious explanation given the evidence, and has become the mainstream view. Likewise, the native Canaanite origins of the Israelites is the theory that most adequately explains the ceramic and cultural similarities of the two peoples. His assessment of the monarchic period from 1025-587 BC is the focal point of the book and does an excellent job of reviewing the archaeology. There were many fascinating artifacts I was unaware of.
One of the best serious books about biblical archaeology out there, and reads very well to the uninitiated.