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.
credentials as one long acquainted and working with anthropological data, he did not defend minimalism against the second group of charges.
Insofar as minimalists advance their position primarily on the basis of inferences about data from Biblical texts filtered through analytical tools developed for the literary study of the ‘fiction’ genre, and only secondarily on the basis of a perceived absence of contradictory data from archaeology, the Minimalist-Maximalist debate is between Biblicists30. No Syro-Palestinian archaeologist espouses a historical position vis-à-vis the origins of Biblical literature faintly resembling that of the minimalists — a position which, in any event, would have nothing to do with archaeology per se — and none have supported their particular interpretations for the absence of archaeological data.
III. The ‘Tenth Century’ Debate
The ‘Tenth Century’ debate was precipitated by Israel Finkelstein. Since the early 1990s he has charged that archaeological data interpreted as indicating the presence of a strong centralized kingdom in Israel and Judah during the tenth century BCE have been dated incorrectly. Materially, the debate focuses on whether or not excavations at a number of major Iron Age sites such as Beersheba, Dan, Hazor, Jerusalem, and Megiddo allow concluding that (1) there was no monumental architecture, i.e., water works, city walls, palaces or temples, during the tenth century; and (2) that the earliest evidence for these types of construction projects dates from the middle of the ninth century.
In Syro-Palestinian archaeology, dates are regularly established through the use of pottery found in an excavation checked against a ceramic chronology. The basis of this chronology lies in the discovery made at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century that the types of pottery, shapes, styles, manner of manufacture