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The Quest for the Historical Israel: Debating Archaeology and the History of Early Israel (Archaeology and Biblical Studies) Paperback – October 24, 2007
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About the Author
Israel Finkelstein is Professor of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University where he holds the Jacob M. Alkow Chair in the Archaeology of Israel of the Bronze and Iron Ages. He is co-director of the Megiddo excavations and the co-author of David and Solomon: In Search of the Bible s Sacred Kings and the Roots of the Western Tradition and The Bible Unearthed, Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origins of Its Sacred Texts (both from Free Press). He is also a recent laureate of the Dan David Prize (2005).
Amihai Mazar is Professor of Archaeology, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he holds the Eleazar Sukenik Chair in the Archaeology of Israel. His ongoing projects include a series of publications on the Tel Batash (Timnah) excavations and the Beth Shean Valley Archaeological Project. He is the author of Archaeology of the Land of the Bible (Anchor Bible Reference).
Brian Schmidt is Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible and Ancient West Asian Cultures at the University of Michigan. He is the author of Israels Beneficent Dead: Ancestor Cult and Necromancy in Ancient Israelite Religion and Tradition (J.C.B. Mohr/Eisenbrauns).
Top customer reviews
The view from the center is that the Deuteronomistic History, Torah, and many prophets were compiled and edited in the late monarchy, not in the post-exilic or Hellenistic periods as revisionists claim. This view also maintains that there is historical value in the biblical historical accounts. Finklestein makes it clear that he cannot go along with revisionists who maintain that much of the Hebrew Bible was invented out of thin air. He says: "It is unthinkable that the biblical authors invented stories only in order to serve their aims. Had they done that they would have lost credibility among the people of Judah, their target population." (p. 18)
These lectures also bring out significant disagreements between Finkelstein and Mazar. Mazar still maintains there was a united monarchy under David and Solomon while Finklestein argues that David and Solomon were no more than chieftains in an underdeveloped south that was not yet a state. Mazar also stretches the period of biblical origins to the eighth through the seventh centuries rather than limiting it to the reign of Josiah. He criticizes Finklestein as seeing too much of the Deuteronomistic History as a reflection of Josiah projected backward, for Mazar thinks the collecting and editing involved passing down recollections showing the influence of earlier periods. Both scholars believe in viewing history retrospectively by honing in on the period of Josiah and looking backward from that point as through a telescope to see what parts of early history have value.
All in all, these scholars are not far apart on most of what they have to say. One of their biggest differences is that they use different approaches to dating Yigael Yadin's discoveries at Megiddo, thus leading to their divergences over the united monarchy.
This collection can be recommended to anyone interested in seeing how archaeology impacts the history of early Israel. I would also recommend the statements of personal philosophy in the first and last lectures they give.
2* to Mazar for discursive vagueness as he tries to eat his biblical cake alongside his archaeological respectability.
In general, and according to this book, ancient Israelites were a mixture of canaanites with other races that developed its culture and religion in Canaan two millennia B.C.E. (approximately).
In regard to the Pentateuchal narratives, it proposes a telescopic view on ancient history. The more ancient the narratives are, the folktales got more distorted through oral transmission. However, they preserved vague memories of the ancient past. The book never negates the authority of Hebrew ancient texts, but stands for the scientific evidence of the history of the Ancient Israel, rather than affirming the Hebrew Bible's prominence in the historical reliability.