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Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From? Paperback – March 31, 2006


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Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From? + What Did the Biblical Writers Know and When Did They Know It?: What Archeology Can Tell Us About the Reality of Ancient Israel + The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (March 31, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802844162
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802844163
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #749,850 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

It could make an exciting TV thriller.
Orville B. Jenkins
If one must rely on a single source relating to the historicity of the Old Testament Professor William Dever's latest book is the one.
L C Sheppard
Still, his easy writing style and crisp prose offer an enlightening and entertaining read for those interested in the subject.
J. A Magill

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

168 of 175 people found the following review helpful By L C Sheppard on July 8, 2003
Format: Hardcover
If one must rely on a single source relating to the historicity of the Old Testament Professor William Dever's latest book is the one. "Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From?" effectively makes use of his concept of "convergences between artifacts and texts." He brings to bear archaeology, history, mythology, scripture and tradition on the people he calls the proto-Israelites, the forebears of the nation in ancient Canaan we have come to know as Israel of the Iron Age through Roman times.
Notably much of what he writes is based upon his enormous experience in archaeology and more importantly his own fieldwork. His incredible breadth and depth of knowledge and insight pour forth onto the pages of this book.
Revisionists and minimalists who allege the Old Testament contains no history of Israel and say it was not composed until the Persian or Greek periods will not like this book. Likewise conservatives and fundamentalists who interpret the scriptures literally will gain no encouragement here.
Doctor Dever's scholarly account of the stated positions of all the participants in the debate is of enormous help in sorting out the real issues and putting in perspective the biases and spin being inflicted upon us. Further by explaining how the entire mass of scientific, scriptural and other inquiries illuminates the origins of the Israelites he gives the definitive elucidation. His authoritative conclusions are astute, well thought-out, broadminded and evenhanded.
Future discoveries may yield additional knowledge about this important era and exciting subject. However it is unlikely that any results will alter drastically what Professor Dever has written in this excellent, eminently informative and readable tour de force.
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56 of 60 people found the following review helpful By David Oldacre on September 30, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The Introduction and Chapter I - "The Current Crisis in Understanding the Origins of Early Israel" contain some very important statements about the purpose of this book. Professor Dever addresses the question of the historical basis of Israel's origin in Egypt and Canaan:- that is the Exodus and the Conquest. He defines his methodology as using archaeological evidence as a control (not proof) in rereading biblical texts, and argues that there are at least 5 basic approaches for doing so, ranging from
a) Assume the biblical text is literally true, and ignore all external evidence as irrelevant
b) Hold that the biblical text is probably true, but seek external corroboration
c) Approach the text and external data with no preconceptions, single out the convergences, but remain sceptical about the rest
d) Contend that nothing in the biblical text is true unless proven by external data
e) Reject the text and any other data because the Bible cannot be true
He holds to the middle ground because he thinks that truth is most likely to be found there.
This is an absorbing book, and one which seems to use "The Systems Approach" for describing his position - i.e. What is the problem and its significance, what are the facts, what are the alternatives, and what is the most appropriate solution. Having clearly stated the problem, Professor Dever reviews the account of the Exodus, the Conquest of Transjordan, and Conquest of the land west of the Jordan, identifying the problems with these accounts, and the inconsistencies with the archaeological evidence. This is followed by a thorough review of the current state of archaeological facts, and a summary of the material culture of Iron Age I.
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82 of 94 people found the following review helpful By Atheen M. Wilson on August 13, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Although the book is mostly a review of the last 100 to 150 years of scholarship on the subject of origins, Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From offers a fine critique for the student or interested reader. The author, William Dever, is a professor of Near Eastern archaeology and anthropology at the University of Arizona, an institution noted for its on going work in the Middle East in collaboration with other institutions of higher learning, (including site work in Egypt under the directorship of Otto Schaden, with whom I studied Egyptian hieroglyphics years ago). With some thirty years of experience in the field, he is able to interlace his discussion of current theories with insights of his own taken from this perspective.

One of the points that I admire most about the book is the author's lack of rancor. Knowing as I do that the field of Biblical studies can present a minefield of controversy to anyone who professes any point of view, and that the journals can fairly smoke with comments and counter-comments to the editor, I find his openness laudable. The author does have his disagreements with the proponents of other theories, but he seems able to give them a fair and balanced airing and credit where credit is due. This isn't always easy in a field where contention rules, reputation is made by going against the current, and tenure may be given to those who successfully unseat their elders.

Part of the contention also arises from a peculiar need to justify the biblical narrative, to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that it all "really happened" and is therefore "true." Like proving the existence of God, this is essentially a non-question.
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