Finding Early Israel, Pt 2

PhilistinePottery_AshdodIn the November/December issue of Biblical Archaeology Review (a magazine I encourage you to subscribe to and read), Avraham Faust writes about evidence in the archaeological record for early Israel.

What is the big deal, some of you might ask, I thought the Bible showed us the origin of Israel and that is all we need.

I would say that finding history in stones and clay pots is important alongside the Bible for a number of reasons. Two in particular are helping people believe that the Biblical story is true and helping those who already believe in the Biblical story to understand in more depth what life was like and how the history unfolded. The Bible is a very incomplete account and the stones do help us flesh out the picture.

In recent years the world has been bombarded in mass media with skepticism. I wonder how many people are unwilling to seriously consider the Bible because of people like Israel Finkelstein or, worse, minimalists like Lemche, Davies, Thompson, and Whitelam, whose ideas make for good controversy on television documentaries about Israelite history.

Many people whose research will include only watching a special on the History Channel think that archaeology proves the Biblical story to be a legend with very little truth behind it.

A Pharaoh Writes About Israel
Avraham Faust, associate professor at Bar-Ilan University and author of Israel

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4 Responses to Finding Early Israel, Pt 2

  1. michaelger says:

    Derek I meant to post on this right away and I forgot. Monday of last week I attended a lecture at the local Jewish community center. The guest lecturer was a prof in Biblical Studies at York University. The theme of his lecture was:

    “Israel and Mesopotomia: Between Iraq and a hard place:Assyria and Babylonia, the forerunners of modern Iraq, both had a long history with Israel both as allies and enemies. We will hear about war, peace, diplomacy and a side of Iraq that is worlds’ away from the Iraq currently in the news. No neat pictures exist, this is the middle east”

    Its interesting because the key part of his introduction was the Menepteh stele.
    Likewise, it is always interesting (is that a diplomatic enough word)to hear what is a more secular perspective. Particularly from some of the audience who I am guessing were a little bit more observant than Dr. Maidman.

    When questioned precisely about the understanding that the stele places “Israel” as a people group in the “Canaan” at about the same time time that the Israelites were supposed to be in Egypt-or ath the very least coming out of Egypt, Dr. Maidman had an interesting response:

    Again, I am paraphrasing here:

    ” When I am standing at the head of the table leading the seder, reading from the hagadah, I have to have a different perspective than when I am representing York University as a faculty member of the Assyrian Studies division of the Biblical Studies program.”

    His thesis was that to his knowledge, there is still no evidence supporting Israel as a captured group in Egypt, but that they were certainly living in the land by that date of ~1200 BCE. He even went on to counter several questions fielded from those in attendance who were arguing that point.

    How unfortunate that there has to be that disconnect. Again though, it is comforting in knowing that the concrete evidence of Israel as a people is becoming more irrefutable. Ultimately there are still moments of History that must be taken on faith.

  2. michaelger says:

    Sorry, my last post wasn’t very clear. I wrote:

    “Likewise, it is always interesting (is that a diplomatic enough word)to hear what is a more secular perspective. Particularly from some of the audience who I am guessing were a little bit more observant than Dr. Maidman.”

    To clarify, I was commenting on what I sensed to be a more secular perspective by Dr. Maidman as opposed to those in the crowd whose questions would appear to have been driven by a concern to reconcile his presentation with the biblical record.

  3. michaelger:

    Thanks for letting us know about this lecture. I think it is fair to say that while there is evidence and a pretty good case from archaeology and external writings that Israel was in the land around 1200 B.C.E., we have very little evidence outside of the Bible to corroborate the Egyptian sojourn and exodus. This is not alarming. We would not expect such an event to necessarily register in Egyptian records (an embarrassment to Pharaoh) or in the finds of archaeology.

    I think it is fair to differentiate what we can say by faith (the Biblical record is true) from what we can demonstrate with evidence. Perhaps Professor Maidman is not so far from us in his faith and his Passover is a matter of trust apart from direct evidence. I would say that my Passover is a matter of trust in the historicity of the Biblical story as well.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Derek Leman

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