21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on November 23, 2009
Update May 2011: The author of this book has been searching for Atlantis and now believes it to be located buried under the earth in Spain. Yet more evidence that what he proclaims should be taken with a grain of salt.
My original review: This 2009 book is unfortunately named and marketed, because it is not really about archaeology at all. It is more about textual analysis, critical Biblical scholarship, and the Documentary Hypothesis. Archaeological matters take up only about 5% of the book. Not that the book isn't interesting and a good read. The author's writing style is very approachable and even soothing, rationally explaining the issues and relevant details to true neophytes; this is definitely a "popular" work, meant for a mass audience new to Biblical debates rather than for scholars who could jump right in without missing a beat. The primary problem with this book is that it is peppered with errors. The author appears out of his element although his smooth, structured delivery would make one think otherwise. Here are just a small sampling of the errors I found in the book. These are direct quotes followed by my comments:
- "The Bible makes clear that Moses saw an old temple on top of the mountain, which he later used as a model." (p. 96). He did? I have been reading the Torah in Hebrew for quite a long time and I have degrees in Biblical Studies and Jewish Studies, yet I am unfamiliar with this notion. Maybe the Biblical text does suggest such a thing(?) but I am completely unaware of it. This is a perfect example of where a citation or Biblical reference would have been appropriate and welcome.
- "[Josephus] Flavius places the Exodus in the Hellenistic period, some three hundred years earlier." (p. 97) Um, no. Josephus is far too exacting in his scholarship to suggest that the Exodus took place in the Hellenistic, post-Alexandrian world just a couple hundred years earlier(?!). I wish the author of this book had half of Josephus' scholarly rigor...
- "Egyptian records indicate that in approximately the last quarter of the tenth century, the Pharaoh Sheshonk came to Jerusalem and despoiled the Temple of Jerusalem." (p. 102) No. Egyptian records indicate that Sheshonk came to Cana'an and attacked many towns & villages which ARE named, but Jerusalem is NOT mentioned at all, nor are any main towns in the territory of Judah. The fact that Jerusalem is not mentioned in the list at Karnak is what makes a majority of scholars think that Sheshonk/Shishak NEVER came and attacked Jerusalem & despoiled the temple as the Bible states, because any Egyptian Pharoah would have bragged about such a thing. Freund's above statement is completely false, utterly misrepresenting what the monument at Karnak says, or rather, does not say.
- "The past twenty years of excavation at our Bethsaida site.....Bethsaida is one of the largest unexcavated sites of ancient Israel..." (p. 108). These two statements contradict one another...but several such incompatible statements litter the book.
- "Bethsaida, on the other hand, was abandoned some eighteen years ago." (p. 108). I think he meant eighteen hundred years ago, possibly? This book needs a better editor and researcher.
These are just some doozies from the first third of the book. After that my hand got tired of making dubious notations, but the errors did continue. I agree with the reviewer above who said that Freund leans more toward Biblical Maximalism than Minimalism: Not only does he think the Exodus happened, he actually thinks there were likely three of them! But he does not believe that Biblical events always happened exactly as written down in the Bible -he espouses the idea that there was "telescoping and collapsing" of disparate events into one singular event, which I tend to agree with. I did enjoy the author's breadth of subject matter for he covers all aspects of the Bible and beyond: he explores aspects of Jesus/Christianity, the Talmud, Mishnah, Islam, Bar Kokhba, Jewish women in ancient history, etc. In summary, this book was an interesting read, but the author very much needs to back up any statements that he presents as facts, and hold himself back from extracting things out of primary sources that are not actually there. By NOT doing both these things, he insults the intelligence of his readers.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Although this book is entitled "Digging through the Bible" and the subheading is "Understanding Biblical People, Places, and Controversies Through Archaeology" you will find very little archaeology in the book apart from the first chapter which is entitled "A Crash Course in Biblical Archaeology." Instead, much of the book relies on various forms textual analysis, which in and of itself is not a bad thing, but hardly qualifies as archaeology.
There is a very disturbing anecdote in Chapter 3 (Searching for Jesus) in which the author presents Pope John Paul II with a copy of an iron door key dated from the first century and found in Bethsaida. The Pope makes the leap and says "the key of Peter" (John 1:44 says that Peter's hometown was Bethsaida) to which the author responds affirmatively. Of course it's not the key of Peter and the author knows this well. But by acknowledging the artifact as "the key of Peter" the author has put the stamp of authenticity on what will forever be known as "the key of Peter" and used by future generations to prove that Peter existed - after all, if we have the key to his house, he must have existed! (The plain fact is that there is even less historical evidence for Peter than for Jesus). When you read a passage like this, can you really trust anything this author says? Well, I continued to read the book, but...
More disturbing news comes when the author reveals that he was unaware of the controversy concerning the existence of Nazareth in the early first century. Moreover, he doesn't appear to be aware that many people believe the proper translation is "Jesus the Nazarene" and not "Jesus of Nazareth." Without opening up either of these controversies, Freund's apparent lack of knowledge in this area is very telling.
Having dwelt on some disturbing aspects of the book, I can say that it is well written, discusses a breadth of issues in an intelligent and reasonable manner, and does offer some interesting perspectives. Moreover, Freund has chosen to focus on a small number of topics (e.g., Jesus, Mary, the Teacher of Righteousness, Bar Kokhba, King David) which he discusses in detail.
In summary, the book is not without merit, but there are some disturbing elements.
1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on December 27, 2010
I found Digging Through The Bible an interesting read and a "crash course in Biblical Archaeology". Through many
exavations Dr Freund brought to life events and people of the bible--
the search for the Exodus from Egypt and locating Mt. Sinai, searching for Jesus in the Galilee as well as confirming that Bar Kokhpa, a leader in the Second Revolt, really lived. Dr. Freund writes in a personal way about digging at various archaeological sites. He touches on major contemporary controversies and through his experience as an archaeologist and rabbi brings a unique perspective to the reader.
1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on May 4, 2010
I began reading Digging Through the Bible from a copy I found in the library, but felt I'd be referring to it often enough that I should have one of my own. Freund combines archaeological finds, Biblical references and the ongoing debate between Biblical "minimalists" and "maximalists throughout his book and intersperses his chapters with personal experiences on excavations, literary references, cultural history, word analysis, rabbinical interpretations and more in a thoroughly readable way. I am very impressed with the richness of his knowledge and his well-rounded, inclusive approach.