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.
in Biblical studies since the early nineteenth century, whose general sense was transparent to all. For example, in 1839, Jahn’s Biblical Archaeology began to provide generations of American seminarians and clergy the following definition:
Archaeology ... considered subjectively ... is the knowledge of whatever in antiquity is worthy of remembrance, but objectively is that knowledge reduced to a system ... in a limited sense has special reference to religious and civil institutions, to opinions, manners and customs and the like 3.
Jahn’s book, first published in German in 1802, assumed this archaeological agenda and illustrated what it could accomplish using the Bible itself as its primary source and resource, but also ancient monuments, coins, the writings of Philo, Josephus, Rabbinic and some Patristic literature, and journals of travelers. For Jahn, archaeology could be done in the scholar’s study. It was simply a matter of word study and philological analysis.
The conservative exegete Keil noted that Jahn had simply borrowed his comprehension of ‘archaeology’ from Greek usage attested in sources as diverse as Plato, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, and Josephus and applied it to the Bible4. For his own Handbuch der biblischen Archäologie published in 1858, Keil adopted a somewhat different definition:
By Biblical archaeology or knowledge of antiquity we mean the scientific representation of the way of life of the Israelite people as the only nation of antiquity that God had selected as bearer of revelations recorded in the Bible.
This knowledge, according to Keil, excluded history per se, but included physical geography, religious institutions such as places of worship, personnel, rituals, and calendar; social institutions such as houses, food, clothing; family institutions and organizations and