Thursday, August 29, 2013

FYI When Reading about Archaeological Finds and the History of Israel

It's probably important for scholarship to expose itself a little and let people know that biblical archaeologists and historians have been involved in a dispute concerning whether Israel has claim to contemporary Palestine for some time. In other words, often the field is made up of scholars who are trying to support current Israel as a nation or to undermine that identity.

As such, I wouldn't really trust the field all that much when it finds something that supposedly argues one way or the other. You can use data to support either view. It also causes scholars, like anyone I suppose, to exaggerate, sensationalize, and even pretend that their findings say much more than they do.

Take, for instance, the supposed recent discovery of David's palace complex at Khirbet Qeiyafa. Is it really David's palace? How exactly do we know that? Is there some inscription on a stone that says, "David was here," or "David loves Bathsheba"?

Consider also the claim that archaeologists have found Jesus' tomb, or the tomb of James his brother. You know, because no one was named Joshua, Jacob, or Miriam in first century Palestine. LOL.

Sometimes it seems clear that certain findings are legit (e.g., the Tel Dan inscription), but when we're dealing with a lot of the assessment of what is found, the public should be made aware that there are minimalists who are trying to argue for minimalism because they don't agree with Israel being considered a state and taking over what they view to be Palestinian land (if the use of the term "Palestine," which I have used and has become standard fare in academia evidences this bias). What's even scarier is that this sentiment tends to be German borne. But this is also true on the maximalist scale with many Israeli archaeologists who want to claim that every stone proves a unified state under a Davidic monarchy.

Most of what we find, frankly, isn't going to prove one thing or the other. It's just going to be fuel used by one's preconceived ideas. We all analyze what we consider evidence and select it for use based upon our analysis. Some things we keep. Others we reject because they are viewed as improbable evidence for the contrary view by virtue of their supporting a contrary view (some scholars, although not many, still believe the Tel Dan inscription to be a forgery because it does not accord with their theories that David either never existed or was not really that important of a political figure).

In any case, beware of archaeologists and historians bearing gifts to support your views. The gifts were likely custom made for that very purpose.

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