Ziony Zevit, «Three Debates about Bible and Archaeology», Vol. 83 (2002) 1-27
Three significant debates affecting perceptions of Israelite history, the Bible’s historiography, the relationship between this historiography and archaeology, and the dating of parts of the Bible’s literature have occupied Biblicists and archaeologists for the last 25 years. This article distinguishes the debates by analyzing the issues involved, the terminologies employed, as well as the professions of the protagonists engaged in each. It considers each within its own intellectual context. In light of these analyses, the article proposes a positive assessment of the contribution of these debates to the study ancient Israel’s history.
After commenting on the deficiencies of all non-minimalist scholarship, Lemche who has assumed the role of philosophical and methodological spokesperson for minimalism writes:
The conclusion that historical-critical scholarship is based on a false methodology and leads to false conclusions simply means that we can disregard 200 years of bible scholarship and commit it to the dustbin. It is hardly worth the paper on which it is printed 19.
Contrary to what their detractors believe, minimalists take the historical writings seriously. Given their conclusions concerning the late date of authorship and the lack of historicity, their attempts to explain why the stories were written as they appear and to what purpose constitute a valid and necessary undertaking. Maximalists, however, disparage the minimalist narrative, arguing that its base conclusions remain undemonstrated assertions and that sufficient evidence disproves the hypotheses underlying them.
Minimalism has at least five sets of intellectual roots: (1) conclusions about when most books were written that were accepted by liberal Protestant scholars at the end of the nineteenth century20; (2) the employment of socio-anthropological models of how societies evolve and tell stories about themselves that were popularized in Biblical studies during the 1970’s by Gottwald’s studies of Israelite