Skip to comments.Was Saul real king of Israel? (Scholars debate history from Bible)
Posted on 01/11/2003 1:46:01 PM PST by vannrox
Scholars debate history from Bible
AP RELIGION WRITER
TORONTO--Judging from a session at 2002's key gathering of Bible scholars, King Saul and King David aren't dead yet. So to speak.
A lengthy session on non-biblical evidence for the first kings of ancient Israel occurred during the convention of the Society of Biblical Literature, held in November.
These are often called years of "crisis" in Old Testament history. Traditionalists say the Old Testament reliably records ancient Israel's history or, more liberally, is substantially historical, though with problems and mistakes.
These and even more liberal views are challenged by "minimalists," who regard the Hebrew Scriptures as fictional propaganda that boosted Jewish nationalism after the Exile in Babylon (beginning in 597 B.C.) or long after that.
Minimalist Niels Peter Lemche of the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, admits something called Israel did exist centuries before the Exile. It's nearly impossible to argue otherwise, since a military attack upon "Israel" was cited around 1210 B.C. in an Egyptian inscription.
But, Lemche continues, we can't be sure "the real history" of that Israel "has much--if anything--to do with the history of the Israel" depicted in the Old Testament.
Much debate focuses on Israel's first three kings, given these traditional dates of rule: Saul (1034 B.C. or earlier to 1012 B.C.), David (1012 B.C. to 972 B.C.) and Solomon (972 B.C to 932 B.C). Others say dates are uncertain but the three reigned around 1000 B.C.
No strong conservative was included on the Toronto program. But it was notable that Diana Edelman, from a minimalist hotbed, the University of Sheffield, England, told the scholars that Saul was "not merely a fictional character" but an actual figure in history.
Not that Edelman buys the full biblical account in 1 Samuel. Rather, she thinks literary analysis shows there are some truly ancient strands of Saul material mingled with the many unreliable stories. Due to the "meager" record, she believes, one can concoct "a number of conflicting histories of Saul."
As for Saul's successor David, Ryan Byrne of the University of Maryland said skeptics make a big mistake thinking of David's kingdom in modern-day terms as an advanced, centralized state. In reality, "most archaic states were quite small." For instance, the Bible says there was only one scribe in David's retinue.
It's true that archaeologists haven't found great material remains from the time of David, but it's a "blunder" to expect these when the Bible itself "makes modest building claims for David," Byrne said.
And if we "curtail our expectations" on the material culture that might have been left behind, he said, there's no big conflict between the archaeological record and the biblical account of David.
Next, Walter Aufrecht of the University of Lethbridge, Alberta, dismissed as "bogus" the arguments biblical leftists raise against the most important David inscription of recent times.
In 1993, Israeli archaeologist Avraham Biran reported an inscription at the site of ancient Dan that he said reads "House of David," indicating a kingly line.
Readings are not open and shut because Hebrew used no vowels, and some skeptics proposed other translations. However, Aufrecht argued that the relevant experts are not Bible theorists or historians but epigraphers (specialists in deciphering ancient inscriptions), including many experts in his audience, and they mostly back Biran.
Finally, Avraham Faust of Israel's Bar-Ilan University offered a circumstantial case from southern Samaria for the biblical setting. He said that in the late 11th century B.C., many rural villages were abandoned, indicating concentration in central towns and formation of a more centralized state.
"These changes did not just happen," he argued. Some "agent" was involved. Archaeology doesn't give that agent's name but "in general lines" the archaeology supports the Bible, he said.
Um thats the mentality of the suicide bombers. Never close your mind to all reason.
Would that be a more accurate a statement?
You mean to keep an open mind like and Eve did when Satan deceived her and now we're all cursed because of disobedience?
The is WAY TOO MUCH historical and verifiable evidence to think any different.
God inspired men to write the Old and New testaments and all of it is true.
Sorry that this is going to be a hit and run post, but my internet connection is down at home and I was just taking a quick look (i.e., 'feeding my fix') at the freerepublic posts before I took off from work.
If the Bible was under the control of man - then what you say is absolutely reasonable. Who can be sure what is correctly translated after 2000 to 3000 years. But although flesh may fade away - the Word of the Lord last forever.
1 Peter 1
24 For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:
25 But the word of the Lord endureth for ever.
And certainly read and ponder Psalm 119. God is not impotent, nor sitting disinterested on some throne a gazzillion miles away. He is in control, and He will guard His Word.
What does that have to do with whether or not Saul existed or the bible is true?
What I would like to see is people accepting the loving Grace of Jesus making him Lord of their lives.
The problem with modern archaeology and conflicts with Biblical history have more to do with the assumptions of early Egyptologists than with lack of archaeological evidence for King Saul and David. Modern archaeologists are looking in the right place but in the WRONG TIME.
King Saul, Jonathon, David, and the events depicted in the Bible are also recounted in the archaeogical record IF one looks with an understanding of the basic error made very early in Egyptology. That error was to equate Ramses the Great, Ramses II, with the pharoah of the Exodus. This error displaced Biblical and Egyptian synchronicity a couple of hundred years out of sync. It would be akin to looking for US vs. Soviet events among the records of the Revolutionary War.
The Amarna letters are a vast library of clay tablets that were written to Pharoah reporting on events on the Northern frontier of Egypt. Some of these letters from ambassadors and allied rulers describe the very same events the Bible reports including the rebelling of David, the slaying of Jonathon, the death of Saul, using contemporary appelations for these persons. The evidence of the Amarna letters has been dismissed by orthodox archaeologists because they DO NOT FIT THE ACCEPTED EGYPTIAN TIME LINE that was established by that original error.
Have you read David Rohl's excllent work "Pharoahs and Kings"? I highly recommend it. He lays out an alternative Egyptian timeline, documenting his evidence, that more accurately fits OTHER non-bibilical events, including records of solar and lunar eclipses, Pharoanic records, and dynastic histories, than does the accepted "orthodox" timeline based on the Ramses II/Moses connection. Rohl's timeline places the Kingdoms of Israel in the era where Egyptian hegemony was at its weakest: the time when Pharoah Ahkenaten (Born Amenhotep) was leading a religious revolution against the old gods declaring the ascendency of the god Aten (Sol) and ending shortly after the death of the boy Pharoah Tutankhenamen (born Tutankhenaten).
Ahkenaten's religious revolution resulted in chaos and unrest in Egypt. A power vacuum developed on Egypt's frontiers as political and military attention was turned inward. This was paralled by similar problems in Babylon, the other super-power of the era, and their attention also turned away from the Levant. Only in this hiatus period where the two ancient "big bullies" were otherwise occupied could the nation of Israel rise up to any semblence of prominence without being slapped down by one of the contending empires.
Once we accept this new synchronicity, examining the Amarna letters reveals many Biblical personages BY NAME and the events described are found to be the same events recounted in the Bible from another viewpoint!
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