Methodology[ edit ] The methodology applied by the authors is historical criticism with an emphasis on archaeology. Writing in the website of "The Bible and Interpretation", the authors describe their approach as one "in which the Bible is one of the most important artifacts and cultural achievements [but] not the unquestioned narrative framework into which every archaeological find must be fit. On the basis of this evidence they propose As noted by a reviewer on Salon. As the map indicates, Canaan was occupied by Egypt at that time, a fact which the Bible fails to register.
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The search has centered on a tiny land, hemmed in on two sides by desert and on one side by the Mediterranean, that has, over the millennia, been plagued by recurrent drought and almost continual warfare. Its cities and population were minuscule in comparison to those of the neighboring empires of Egypt and Mesopotamia.
Likewise, its material culture was poor in comparison to the splendor and extravagance of theirs. And yet this land was the birthplace of a literary masterpiece that has exerted an unparalleled impact on world civilization as both sacred scripture and history.
More than two hundred years of detailed study of the Hebrew text of the Bible and ever more wide-ranging exploration in all the lands between the Nile and the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers have enabled us to begin to understand when, why, and how the Bible came to be.
Detailed analysis of the language and distinctive literary genres of the Bible has led scholars to identify oral and written sources on which the present biblical text was based. At the same time, archaeology has produced a stunning, almost encyclopedic knowledge of the material conditions, languages, societies, and historical developments of the centuries during which the traditions of ancient Israel gradually crystallized, spanning roughly six hundred years — from about to BCE.
Most important of all, the textual insights and the archaeological evidence have combined to help us to distinguish between the power and poetry of biblical saga and the more down-to-earth events and processes of ancient Near Eastern history. Not since ancient times has the world of the Bible been so accessible and so thoroughly explored. Through archaeological excavations we now know what crops the Israelites and their neighbors grew, what they ate, how they built their cities, and with whom they traded.
Dozens of cities and towns mentioned in the Bible have been identified and uncovered. Modern excavation methods and a wide range of laboratory tests have been used to date and analyze the civilizations of the ancient Israelites and their neighbors the Philistines, Phoenicians, Arameans, Ammonites, Moabites, and Edomites.
In a few cases, inscriptions and signet seals have been discovered that can be directly connected with individuals mentioned in the biblical text. But that is not to say that archaeology has proved the biblical narrative to be true in all of its details. Far from it: it is now evident that many events of biblical history did not take place in either the particular era or the manner described.
Some of the most famous events in the Bible clearly never happened at all. Archaeology has helped us to reconstruct the history behind the Bible, both on the level of great kings and kingdoms and in the modes of everyday life. And as we will explain in the following chapters, we now know that the early books of the Bible and their famous stories of early Israelite history were first codified and in key respects composed at an identifiable place and time: Jerusalem in the seventh century BCE.
What Is the Bible? First, some basic definitions. When we speak of the Bible we are referring primarily to the collection of ancient writings long known as the Old Testament — now commonly referred to by scholars as the Hebrew Bible. It is a collection of legend, law, poetry, prophecy, philosophy, and history, written almost entirely in Hebrew with a few passages in a variant Semitic dialect called Aramaic, which came to be the lingua franca of the Middle East after BCE.
It consists of thirty-nine books that were originally divided by subject or author — or in the case of longer books like 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, and 1 and 2 Chronicles, by the standard length of parchment or papyrus rolls. Traditionally the Hebrew Bible has been divided into three main parts. These narrate the story of the people of Israel from the creation of the world, through the period of the flood and the patriarchs, to the Exodus from Egypt, the wanderings in the desert, and the giving of the Law at Sinai.
The next division, the Prophets, is divided into two main groups of scriptures. The Former Prophets — Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings — tell the story of the people of Israel from their crossing of the river Jordan and conquest of Canaan, through the rise and fall of the Israelite kingdoms, to their defeat and exile at the hands of the Assyrians and Babylonians. The Latter Prophets include the oracles, social teachings, bitter condemnations, and messianic expectations of a diverse group of inspired individuals spanning a period of about three hundred and fifty years, from the mid-eighth century BCE to the end of the fifth century BCE.
Finally, the Writings are a collection of homilies, poems, prayers, proverbs, and psalms that represent the most memorable and powerful expressions of the devotion of the ordinary Israelite at times of joy, crisis, worship, and personal reflection.
In most cases, they are extremely difficult to link to any specific historical events or authors. They are the products of a continuous process of composition that stretched over hundreds of years. Although the earliest material in this collection in Psalms and Lamentations may have been assembled in late monarchic times or soon after the destruction of Jerusalem in BCE, most of the Writings were apparently composed much later, from the fifth to the second century BCE — in the Persian and Hellenistic periods.
This book examines the main "historical" works of the Bible, primarily the Torah and the Former Prophets, which narrate the saga of the people of Israel from its beginnings to the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem in BCE.
We compare this narrative with the wealth of archaeological data that has been collected over the last few decades. The result is the discovery of a fascinating and complex relationship between what actually happened in the land of the Bible during the biblical period as best as it can be determined and the well-known details of the elaborate historical narrative that the Hebrew Bible contains. From Eden to Zion The heart of the Hebrew Bible is an epic story that describes the rise of the people of Israel and their continuing relationship with God.
Unlike other ancient Near Eastern mythologies, such as the Egyptian tales of Osiris, Isis, and Horus or the Mesopotamian Gilgamesh epic, the Bible is grounded firmly in earthly history.
It is a divine drama played out before the eyes of humanity. Also unlike the histories and royal chronicles of other ancient Near Eastern nations, it does not merely celebrate the power of tradition and ruling dynasties. It offers a complex yet clear vision of why history has unfolded for the people of Israel — and indeed for the entire world — in a pattern directly connected with the demands and promises of God. The people of Israel are the central actors in this drama.
It is up to the people of Israel — and, through them, all readers of the Bible — to determine the fate of the world.
He traveled with his family from his original home in Mesopotamia to the land of Canaan where, in the course of a long life, he wandered as an outsider among the settled population and, by his wife, Sarah, begot a son, Isaac, who would inherit the divine promises first given to Abraham.
In the course of a colorful, chaotic life of wandering, raising a large family, and establishing altars throughout the land, Jacob wrestled with an angel and received the name Israel meaning "He who struggled with God" , by which all his descendants would be known. And the patriarch Jacob declared in his last will and testament that the tribe of his son Judah would rule over them all Genesis The great saga then moves from family drama to historical spectacle.
The God of Israel revealed his awesome power in a demonstration against the pharaoh of Egypt, the mightiest human ruler on earth. The children of Israel had grown into a great nation, but they were enslaved as a despised minority, building the great monuments of the Egyptian regime.
And in perhaps the most vivid sequence of events in the literature of the western world, the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers describe how through signs and wonders, the God of Israel led the children of Israel out of Egypt and into the wilderness. At Sinai, God revealed to the nation his true identity as YHWH the Sacred Name composed of four Hebrew letters and gave them a code of law to guide their lives as a community and as individuals.
In some cultures, a founding myth might have stopped at this point — as a miraculous explanation of how the people arose. But the Bible had centuries more of history to recount, with many triumphs, miracles, unexpected reverses, and much collective suffering to come. For the Bible describes how, soon after the death of Solomon, the ten northern tribes, resenting their subjugation to Davidic kings in Jerusalem, unilaterally seceded from the united monarchy, thus forcing the creation of two rival kingdoms: the kingdom of Israel, in the north, and the kingdom of Judah, in the south.
For the next two hundred years, the people of Israel lived in two separate kingdoms, reportedly succumbing again and again to the lure of foreign deities. The leaders of the northern kingdom are described in the Bible as all irretrievably sinful; some of the kings of Judah are also said to have strayed from the path of total devotion to God. In time, God sent outside invaders and oppressors to punish the people of Israel for their sins.
First the Arameans of Syria harassed the kingdom of Israel. Then the mighty Assyrian empire brought unprecedented devastation to the cities of the northern kingdom and the bitter fate of destruction and exile in BCE for a significant portion of the ten tribes. The kingdom of Judah survived more than a century longer, but its people could not avert the inevitable judgment of God.
With that great tragedy, the biblical narrative dramatically departs in yet another characteristic way from the normal pattern of ancient religious epics. In many such stories, the defeat of a god by a rival army spelled the end of his cult as well.
But in the Bible, the power of the God of Israel was seen to be even greater after the fall of Judah and the exile of the Israelites.
Far from being humbled by the devastation of his temple, the God of Israel was seen to be a deity of unsurpassable power. He had, after all, manipulated the Assyrians and the Babylonians to be his unwitting agents to punish the people of Israel for their infidelity. Other ancient epics would fade over time. Who Wrote the Pentateuch, and When? For centuries, Bible readers took it for granted that the scriptures were both divine revelation and accurate history, conveyed directly from God to a wide variety of Israelite sages, prophets, and priests.
Established religious authorities, both Jewish and Christian, naturally assumed that the Five Books of Moses were set down in writing by Moses himself — just before his death on Mount Nebo as narrated in the book of Deuteronomy. Yet by the dawn of the modern era, in the seventeenth century, scholars who devoted themselves to the detailed literary and linguistic study of the Bible found that it was not quite so simple.
Other incongruities soon became apparent: the biblical text was filled with literary asides, explaining the ancient names of certain places and frequently noting that the evidences of famous biblical events were still visible "to this day.
By the late eighteenth century and even more so in the nineteenth, many critical biblical scholars had begun to doubt that Moses had any hand in the writing of the Bible whatsoever; they had come to believe that the Bible was the work of later writers exclusively. These scholars pointed to what appeared to be different versions of the same stories within the books of the Pentateuch, suggesting that the biblical text was the product of several recognizable hands.
In addition, there were dozens more doublets and sometimes even triplets of the same events in the narratives of the wanderings of the patriarchs, the Exodus from Egypt, and the giving of the Law. Yet there was a clear order in this seemingly chaotic repetition. As observed as early as the nineteenth century and clearly explained by the American biblical scholar Richard Elliott Friedman in his book Who Wrote the Bible?
They maintained certain readily identifiable characteristics of terminology and geographical focus, and — most conspicuously — used different names in narration to describe the God of Israel. Thus one set of stories consistently used the tetragrammaton — the four-letter name YHWH assumed by most scholars to have been pronounced Yahweh — in the course of its historical narration and seemed to be most interested in the tribe and territory of Judah in its various accounts.
The other set of stories used the names Elohim or El for God and seemed particularly concerned with the tribes and territories in the north of the country — mainly Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin. In time, it became clear that the doublets derived from two distinct sources, written in different times and different places. The distinctive uses of geographical terminology and religious symbols and the roles played by the various tribes in the two sources convinced scholars that the J text was written in Jerusalem and represented the perspective of the united monarchy or the kingdom of Judah, presumably at or soon after the time of King Solomon C.
Likewise, the E text seemed to have been written in the north and represented the perspective of the kingdom of Israel, and would have been composed during the independent life of that kingdom C. The book of Deuteronomy, in its distinctive message and style, seemed to be an independent document, "D.
In time, these came to be considered part of a long treatise called "P," or the Priestly source, which displayed a special interest in purity, cult, and the laws of sacrifice. In other words, scholars gradually came to the conclusion that the first five books of the Bible as we now know them were the result of a complex editorial process in which the four main source documents — J, E, P, and D — were skillfully combined and linked by scribal compilers or "redactors," whose literary traces called by some scholars "R" passages consisted of transitional sentences and editorial asides.
The latest of these redactions took place in the post-exilic period. In the last few decades scholarly opinions about the dates and authorship of these individual sources have varied wildly. While some scholars argue that the texts were composed and edited during the existence of the united monarchy and the kingdoms of Judah and Israel C. Yet all agree that the Pentateuch is not a single, seamless composition but a patchwork of different sources, each written under different historical circumstances to express different religious or political viewpoints.
Yet the fifth, the book of Deuteronomy, was an entirely different case. It bears a distinctive terminology shared by none of the other sources and contains an uncompromising condemnation of worship of other gods, a new view of God as completely transcendent, and the absolute prohibition of the sacrificial worship of the God of Israel in any place but the Temple in Jerusalem.
As narrated in 2 Kings , this document became the inspiration for a religious reform of unprecedented severity. The impact of the book of Deuteronomy on the ultimate message of the Hebrew Bible goes far beyond its strict legal codes. The connected historical narrative of the books that follow the Pentateuch — Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings — is so closely related to Deuteronomy linguistically and theologically that it has come to be called by scholars since the middle of the s the "Deuteronomistic History.
This work too was edited more than once. Some scholars argue that it was compiled during the exile in an attempt to preserve the history, culture, and identity of the vanquished nation after the catastrophe of the destruction of Jerusalem. Other scholars suggest that in the main, the Deuteronomistic History was written in the days of King Josiah, to serve his religious ideology and territorial ambitions, and that it was finished and edited a few decades later in exile.
The books of Chronicles — the third great historical work in the Bible, dealing with pre-exilic Israel — were put in writing only in the fifth or fourth century BCE, several centuries after the events they describe. Their historical perspective is sharply slanted in favor of the historical and political claims of the Davidic dynasty and Jerusalem; they almost entirely ignore the north.
In many ways Chronicles uniquely reflects the ideology and needs of Second Temple Jerusalem, for the most part reshaping an historical saga that already existed in written form.
The Bible Unearthed
The search has centered on a tiny land, hemmed in on two sides by desert and on one side by the Mediterranean, that has, over the millennia, been plagued by recurrent drought and almost continual warfare. Its cities and population were minuscule in comparison to those of the neighboring empires of Egypt and Mesopotamia. Likewise, its material culture was poor in comparison to the splendor and extravagance of theirs. And yet this land was the birthplace of a literary masterpiece that has exerted an unparalleled impact on world civilization as both sacred scripture and history. More than two hundred years of detailed study of the Hebrew text of the Bible and ever more wide-ranging exploration in all the lands between the Nile and the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers have enabled us to begin to understand when, why, and how the Bible came to be. Detailed analysis of the language and distinctive literary genres of the Bible has led scholars to identify oral and written sources on which the present biblical text was based.
The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts
The Bible Unearthed : Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts