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The Future of Israel's Past
frontpagemag.com ^ | August 6th, 2013 | Christopher S. Carson

Posted on 08/07/2013 7:40:03 PM PDT by winedarksea

Uncovering Israel’s Past Posted By Christopher S. Carson On August 6, 2013 @ 12:12 am In Daily Mailer,FrontPage | 34 Comments

It seems that many educated liberals who wish Israel didn’t exist are turning to archaeologists to succor their agendas.

These archaeologists are called biblical “minimalists,” and loosely affiliate themselves with the “Copenhagen School” of archaeology. They believe that the scientific evidence in the dirt is irrefutable—there was no Moses, there was no Exodus, there was no period of the “Judges,” there was not a Conquest of Caanan by Joshua or anyone else, and there was no glorious “United Monarchy” of King David and Solomon to guide Jewish hopes for the future of Jerusalem. There was no Ark of the Covenant with its Ten Commandments.

For example, in his 2001 wild bestseller, co-written with Neil Asher Silberman, The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts, Professor Israel Finkelstein argued that “an archaeological analysis of the patriarchal, conquest, judges, and United Monarchy narratives [shows] that while there is no compelling archaeological evidence for any of them, there is clear archaeological evidence that places the stories themselves in a late 7th-century BCE context.” David and Solomon were really “tribal chieftains ruling from a small hill town, with a modest palace and royal shrine.” He has declared that those who disagree with his conclusions are like those “who think the earth is flat. And at that point, I cannot argue with them.”

A more stringent Copenhagen-school advocate is Prof. Thomas L. Thompson, once from Detroit and now a Danish subject. Claims Thompson, “The linguistic and literary reality of the biblical tradition is folkloristic in essence.”

In The Bible in History: How Writers Create a Past, Thompson argued that the Bible was entirely, or almost entirely, a product of the period between the 5th and 2nd centuries BC. Thompson notably has argued that the Hebrew Tabernacle is a purely literary fiction, that the Merneptah Stele is not reliable evidence for a people named “Israel” in early 13th century Canaan, that the Tel Dan Stele does not refer to a Hebrew “House of David,” that the description of Solomon’s wealth is legendary, and that the use of the first person perspective in the Mesha Stele indicates a post-mortem or legendary account.

Prof. Philip Davies of the University Of Sheffield, England, has also placed the entire history of the Bible narratives squarely in the neo-Babylonian Exile, which took place after 586 BCE. Unsurprisingly, Davies also hates Israel. In a 2003 piece ostensibly slamming the historical evidence for the entire Judges period of Israel, he wrote:

Finally, I want to say….[that] the term [anti-semitism] means hatred of Jews, and I cannot see anything in any of Keith Whitelam’s [another minimalist] writings that indicates that sentiment. I appreciate that his comments are hostile to the State of Israel, and I believe he is entitled to those views.

But Davies correctly described the current stakes behind these somewhat arcane debates about ancient history:

Debate about ancient Israel is also debate about modern Israel, and in the eyes of many people, the legitimacy of the latter depends on the credibility of the biblical portrait.

Archaeologist and former Christian Prof. William G. Dever commented, “Originally I wrote to frustrate the Biblical minimalists; then I became one of them, more or less.” Now he’s an atheist. His 2001 magnum opus, What Did the Biblical Writers Know and When Did they Know It? purported to maintain a middle ground between the minimalists and what he terms “maximalists” like Prof. Kenneth Kitchen, who generally believe in the historical reliability of the Old Testament narratives and whom Dever derides as “fundamentalists.”

It is high time to confront Finkelstein, Thompson, Davies and even Dever with some recent finds from archaeology that strongly support the truth of the Biblical narrative and of Israel’s traditionally understood antiquity.

Once in Royal David’s City

The first is the remarkable excavation at Khirbet Qeiyafa, which Professors Yossi Garfinkel and Saar Ganor of Hebrew University have been leading for the past several years. For well-argued technical reasons, their publications have shown that the site is a 10th century fortified city near Jerusalem, and that it is indeed the Judean city of Shaarayim, where, it is alleged, the young David smote Goliath as described in the Bible, and where David later kept a palace.

“The ruins are the best example to date of the uncovered fortress city of King David,” Garfinkel and Ganor told the media. ”This is indisputable proof of the existence of a central authority in Judah during the time of King David.”

Garfinkel and Ganor identified one structure as David’s palace and the other as a huge “royal storeroom,” which implied a wide geographical political control. The excavators remarked on the mega-storeroom find:

It was in this building the kingdom stored taxes it received….Hundreds of large store jars were found at the site whose handles were stamped with an official seal as was customary in the Kingdom of Judah for centuries.

The excavators elaborated on other important findings at the site:

The wall enclosing the palace is about 100 feet long and an impressive entrance is fixed it through which one descended to the southern gate of the city, opposite the Valley of Elah. Around the palace’s perimeter were rooms in which various installations were found — evidence of a metal industry, special pottery vessels and fragments of alabaster vessels that were imported from Egypt.

In response to the Khirbet Qeiyafa findings, Finkelstein and Alexander Fantalkin published the article “Khirbet Qeiyafa: An Unsensational Archaeological and Historical Interpretation.” “We cannot close this article,” they sniffed, “without a comment on the sensational way in which the finds of Khirbet Qeiyafa have been communicated to both the scholarly community and the public.”

What Finkelstein and his colleagues in Tel Aviv could not explain were the proverbial “dogs that didn’t bark”—for as Garfinkel explained:

Over the years, thousands of animal bones were found, including sheep, goats and cattle, but no pigs. Now we uncovered three cultic rooms, with various cultic paraphernalia, but not even one human or animal figurine was found. This suggests that the population of Khirbet Qeiyafa observed two biblical bans—on pork and on graven images—and thus practiced a different cult than that of the Canaanites or the Philistines.

The Ophel Inscription

Only last year, Dr. Eilat Mazar’s team, excavating between the Temple Mount and the City of David, discovered a large building that dates clearly to the 10th century. A fragment from one of the large storage jars discovered there was inscribed with writing.

As scholar Douglas Petrovich, after announcing the find to Fox News, commented in his careful breakdown of the epigraphy of this potsherd:

[T]he Ophel inscription is almost certainly written in Hebrew, with all of the legible letters finding their ultimate origins in the Middle Egyptian language, as opposed to Philistine, Phoenician, or Canaanite. The letters of the inscription match those of contemporary inscriptions, many of which form words that clearly are part of the Hebrew language. Moreover, every letter of the Ophel inscription confirmed the acrophonic nature of Hebrew, meaning that the letters of the alphabet were formed by using a word whose initial sound was represented by that letter.

Garfinkel himself is uncertain on the language in the Ophel shard, but he stated that his epigrapher called the language of the Qeiyafa Ostracon “Hebrew.” Garfinkel also suggested that the Gezer Calendar, the Tel Zayit Abecedary, and the Izbet Zartah Abecedary also represent an earlier phase of the Hebrew language. The letters in all these finds are more or less the same.

It should be noted that Dr. Eliat Mazar, an archaeologist and not an epigrapher, herself does not think the letters are proto-Hebrew—but she can’t make head or tails of it at all.

But if the writing is not early Hebrew, it is early Canaanite. And if it is Canaanite, why does it have Middle Egyptian [ME] parallels? As Petrovich argued in a Yahoo group posting two weeks ago, “Most–if not all–of the ‘letters’ in this inscription find their roots in ME, not Canaanite.” Of course, owing to the time of Exodus, the Hebrew written language originated from Middle Egyptian.

“It’s just the climate among scholars that they want to attribute as little as possible to the ancient Israelites,” Petrovich explained. Talk about academic bias.


TOPICS: Apologetics; Current Events; History; Religion & Politics
KEYWORDS: archaeology; bible; catastrophism; copenhagenschool; gezer; godsgravesglyphs; history; holyland; israel; letshavejerusalem

1 posted on 08/07/2013 7:40:03 PM PDT by winedarksea
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To: winedarksea

Academic Skepticism is one thing. To simply refuse to believe evidence is another thing all together.


2 posted on 08/07/2013 7:52:52 PM PDT by Fai Mao (Genius at Large)
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Comment #3 Removed by Moderator

To: winedarksea

I’ve seen this viewpoint in documentaries about the Bible produced by the BBC. They totally debunk the accuracy of the Bible.


4 posted on 08/07/2013 8:08:59 PM PDT by Ciexyz
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To: winedarksea

I’ve seen this viewpoint in documentaries about the Bible produced by the BBC. They totally debunk the accuracy of the Bible.


5 posted on 08/07/2013 8:08:59 PM PDT by Ciexyz
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To: winedarksea

A number of years back I saw a BBC show where one of the archaeologists was lampooning those who believed in the existence of the Hittites - he categorically stated that the group had never existed and had a good smarmy chuckle to himself over those who took the Bible as an accurate historical record. I had to laugh to myself a little a week later when I saw a TV news story which made claims to the finding of a Hittite village.


6 posted on 08/07/2013 10:19:25 PM PDT by melsec (Once a Jolly Swagman camped by a Billabong.)
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To: StayAt HomeMother; Ernest_at_the_Beach; decimon; 1010RD; 21twelve; 24Karet; 2ndDivisionVet; ...

Thanks winedarksea.

7 posted on 08/08/2013 3:31:13 AM PDT by SunkenCiv (It's no coincidence that some "conservatives" echo the hard left.)
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To: 75thOVI; agrace; aimhigh; Alice in Wonderland; AndrewC; aragorn; aristotleman; Avoiding_Sulla; ...

Thanks winedarksea. One of *those* topics.


8 posted on 08/08/2013 3:31:14 AM PDT by SunkenCiv (It's no coincidence that some "conservatives" echo the hard left.)
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To: melsec

That’s quite strange as I was taught about the Hittites in my Archeaology classes in the early 80’s.


9 posted on 08/08/2013 4:51:50 AM PDT by Natufian (t)
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To: winedarksea

It looks like Saudi oil money does more than support Wahhabis madrassas.


10 posted on 08/08/2013 5:10:44 AM PDT by Alas Babylon!
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To: Alas Babylon!

Jesus is the foundation stone the doubters always trip over!


11 posted on 08/08/2013 5:56:38 AM PDT by bonehead4freedom
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To: winedarksea

Seems that they can prove or disprove anything they want to with phoney archaeologists and scientists in their back pockets.

Every one knows the benefits of owning government people but the anti Gods have out done us.

What we need to do is to buy some scientists and some archaeologists and catch back up with them.


12 posted on 08/08/2013 6:56:36 AM PDT by ravenwolf
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To: Natufian

I am not an archaeologist but for awhile in the early 2000’s I saw a number of programs that said this- there may have been a school of thought that allocated whatever evidence they did have with another group or that the Hittites were not a group on their own but an part of a larger group.


13 posted on 08/08/2013 7:30:23 AM PDT by melsec (Once a Jolly Swagman camped by a Billabong.)
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To: Natufian

I may have got the wrong end of the stick but I remember the thought being put across that to him they were a group indistinguishable from the Sumerians or Anatolians - I can’t remember which.


14 posted on 08/08/2013 7:57:58 AM PDT by melsec (Once a Jolly Swagman camped by a Billabong.)
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To: melsec

There is often debate over the ethnic or cultural links between ancient societies especially the how, why and when of a ‘great’ civilisation’s rise but I’d be really surprised if the guy who you saw say that on TV was anything other than a fringe operator.

Just as an example, the battle of Kadesh (in modern Syria) around 1270BC between the Egyptians and the Hittites was part of a border conflict between the two (Canaan/Israel formed part of the Egyptian Empire at that point) and is regarded as one of the best documented battles of ancient times.

Anyone who claims that the Hittites never really existed would be laughed out of most scholarly circles.


15 posted on 08/08/2013 8:10:51 AM PDT by Natufian (t)
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To: winedarksea

You hit a Homer with that screen name...


16 posted on 08/08/2013 9:38:10 AM PDT by null and void ( Ignorance and arrogance are a deadly combination.)
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To: Natufian

Thanks!


17 posted on 08/08/2013 7:06:26 PM PDT by melsec (Once a Jolly Swagman camped by a Billabong.)
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To: Natufian; melsec
Maybe the program you watched the professor was trying to debunk that there were no Hittites in southern Canaan during the late bronze age. There is scholarly dissension on this topic.

The reason why he might have argued this is we have no Hittite, Canaanite, Hurrian or Egyptian records of the Hittite settlements south of the Orontes river. But that does not mean small bands of Hittites did not migrate away from their homeland and settle in Canaan. Also the sons of Heth in the Bible could refer to Hatti, which preceded the Hittite empire but in the same general location.

As someone who has studied the late bronze age very closely, I would not make a definitive answer one way or the other in terms of the physical evidence, hard to tell the ethnicity of someone 3,200 years ago by whats left of their trash...

18 posted on 08/09/2013 12:27:01 PM PDT by fatez ("If you're going through Hell, keep going." Winston Churchill)
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