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.
historiography to the genre of apologetic mythmaking and ‘big lie’ history writing. In addition, Davies inflamed non-academic passions by attacking potential detractors in politically strategic ‘anti-political’ moves. For example, anticipating disagreement over his understanding of the intent of ancient authors in writing texts, Davies opined that his opponents introduce theological concerns to their analyses, arguing that for them reconstructing ‘ancient Israel’ is not a historical undertaking but an affirming theological one, and with regard to the way they set about engaging in their work that ‘religious commitments should not parade as scholarly methods’24. Davies thus challenged his readers to decide if they were truly historians or believers masquerading as historians. In other words, everybody who might disagree with him was either a literary fundamentalist at worst or an unsophisticated reader at best. Furthermore, the statement suggests that the book, in some way, was written as an attack on certain types of Christian beliefs.
Anticipating that his reconstruction of history would not win favor and that regnant views about historical Israel would prevail, he cast himself as an intellectual martyr and explained the conditions which would defeat his challenge: ‘The pen is indeed mightier than the sword, fiction mightier than truth, and belief more important to human motivation than knowledge’25. Davies’ statements comprise an attack on the intellectual integrity of those who might disagree with him. His polemical tone, assumed also by some other minimalists, induced visceral responses that were equally apodictic and largely beside the point.
Minimalism continues an element of the ‘Biblical Archaeology’ debate in Dever’s advocacy of unblindered scholarly objectivity when analyzing data bearing on ancient Israel. It has reconstructed a past historical world on the basis of Biblical texts alone. Its major