Archaeological and Historical Minimalists of Israel’s History “just a bunch of dilettantes”

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Part 2

If Moses did not really lead God’s people out of Egypt, as described in the book of Numbers, then the Law of Moses is a man-made tradition.

If David was not the anointed ruler of Israel, then Jesus, the Son of David, was a pretender to a false legacy.

If the stories of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph are just the creation of imaginative and pious Jews in the second century BC, then Paul’s statement in Romans 4:16,17 concerning Abraham, “He is the father of us all. As it is written: I have made you a father of many nations.” becomes meaningless. John Oakes

Let us say it very clearly, if the events recorded in the Old Testament are just religious stories with little or no basis in fact, then both the Old and the New Testament lose nearly all their meaning, and Christianity becomes a man-made religion.

Do not be deceived. This is the view of a vast number of the intellectual elite, and believe it or not, even of many supposed Christian theologians today.


On the Hebrew Passover in 2001“Rabbi” David Wolpe of Los Angeles stated that “the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way it happened, if it happened at all.”

Wolpe made his declaration before 2,000 worshippers at the Conservative Sinai Temple, and the speech was reported on the front page of the Los Angeles Times. The article entitled, “Doubting the Story of Exodus,” asserts that archaeology disproves the validity of the Biblical account.

Michael Lemonick (majored in Journalism) wrote for TIME magazine : “… much of what is recorded in the Bible is at best distorted, and some characters and events are probably totally fictional. Most scholars suspect that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob … never existed“.

In a similar vein, professor Gunnar Heinsohn (Masters Sociology) of the University of Bremen has written

“Mainstream scholars are in the process of deleting Ancient Israel from the history books. The entire period from Abraham the Patriarch in the -21st century (fundamentalist date) to the flowering of the Divided Kingdom in the -9th century (fundamentalist date) is found missing in the archaeological record.….”

Minimalists and Maximalists

  • Minimalists do not believe that the Bible is historical. Most believe that most of the Old Testament was created during the Persian Empire. Maximalists however believe the Bible is historical but is not inspired.






To the right are some popular minimalists (sometimes called Revisionists). However, one has changed his mind based on extensive evidence.

William Dever

Dever, who once did not believe the Bible was historical, now believes much of it is. Although Dever is not a minimalist or a maximalist, he seems to be more objective when he sees the evidence. He also points out how his former peers are not being objective with the evidence. He has now written a book on the Historical Israel

Prof. Israel Finkelstein is another famous minimalist who has written books on the history of Israel. He believes that the history of Israel (including the Old Testament) is just a fabrication of stories created in the Persian Empire.

One forward of his book reads:

“A revolution is happening in Biblical Archeology. Biblical Archeology is critically examining the Bible against the archeological record and is turning everything we thought we knew upside down. It may disturb many that hold strong political or highly conservative religious beliefs. This will be true of Christians, Muslims and Jews who interpret the Bible literally.

It will disturb many secular Zionists who justify modern Israel’s existence and the proposed annexation of “Judah and Sumaria” based on the Biblical Texts. You can choose to believe this research or not. But it has profound implications for the Israeli Palestinian conflict. This article will review the theories of one of the foremost of these revolutionary Biblical archeologists -Israel Finkelstein. “

“Finkelstein has had an impact on radically revising the history of Israel in the 10th and 9th centuries BCE. He has transformed the study of history and archaeology in Israeli universities, moving from a “monumental” to a “systemic” study of the archaeological evidence.”

Yet, says William Dever, Ph.D. (a fellow revisionist) this new dating system “is not supported in print by a single other ranking archaeologist.”

Prof. Israel Finkelstein, a revisionist, theorized a different dating system that places the construction of the gates 100 years after the time of Solomon.

Revisionists stubbornly dismiss as fictitious most historical aspects of the Bible. To them, the patriarchal period (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) is all imagination, the story of Joseph and the sojourn in Egypt is fabricated, as are the Exodus and the desert wanderings. The conquest, settlement and united monarchy (Saul, David and Solomon) are mere “propaganda” to quote Philip Davies.

Marit Skjeggestad, a Scandinavian revisionist, said that on biblical history, “the archaeological record is silent.”

“In fact,” asserts Dever, “the archaeological record is not at all silent. It’s only that some historians are deaf.”

Revisionists evasive maneuvers are also too much for Dever. He said that this “is an example of the lengths to which scholars will go to avoid the obvious when it does not suit them.”

Dever states:

None of the revisionists can or will write a history of any “Israel” in the Iron Age.

Davies denies the existence of either a “biblical” or a “historical” Israel, both being in his

view post-modernism’s “social constructs”; and his putative “historical” Israel cannot be

illustrated because he completely ignores the archaeological data, now our primary

source. (He dismisses Mazar’s handbook in a single footnote as “irrelevant,” because it

does not extend to his “Persian period Israel”; 1991:24, n. 4).

Dever continues:Thompson attempted a 450-page History of the Israelite Peoples (sic) in 1992,

which however he now repudiates as it is “after all hardly history, critically speaking, but

rather just another rationalistic paraphrase for biblical Israel” (1997:178, 179). His 1999

400-page book The Mythic Past, despite its subtitle Archaeology and the Myth of Israel,

has nothing whatsoever to do with modern archaeology. And the few pages devoted to

Iron Age Israel (1999:158-168; 179-190 [23 pages]) scarcely even mention “Israel” by

name, speaking rather of “southern Syria’s marginal fringe” or “the (Assyrian) province

of Samarina.”

Dever sums up the attitude of objective scholars:

“In my view, most of the revisionists are no longer honest scholars, weighing all the evidence, attempting to be objective and fair-minded historians, seeking the truth. Determined to unmask the ideology of others, they have become ideologues themselves. The revisionist and the postmoderns are dangerous because they have created a kind of relativism — an anything goes attitude — that makes serious, critical inquiry difficult if not impossible.”

In the words of Anson Rainey:

“As someone who studies ancient inscriptions in the original, I have a responsibility to warn the lay audience that the new fad (revisionism) represented by Philip Davies and his ilk is merely a circle of dilettantes. Their view that nothing in the biblical tradition is earlier than the Persian period, especially their denial of the existence of the united monarchy, is a figment of their vain imagination. The name ‘House of David’ in the Tel Dan and Mesha inscriptions sounds the death knell to their specious conceit. Biblical scholarship and instruction should completely ignore the (revisionist) school. They have nothing to teach us.”

Most archaeologists are not minimalists like Israel Finkelstein.

The California Institute of Ancient Studies along with most Archeologists and Historians disagree with such skeptics. The few minimalist Dever-Finkelstein followers (one who authored “The Bible Unearthed”) have been proven wrong simply because they have used the outdated Sothic Chronology. Even on an ABC special, the archeologists did have some embarrassing moments such as when the founder of the famous Tel Dan inscription referring to the “House of David” showed that actual inscription to the cameras and laughed at the early attempts by the archaeologists to explain it away. David himself was grudgingly accorded a real existence, based largely on the Tel Dan evidence.

Damien Mackey

Gate at Tel Dan

In fact, the program’s presenter himself came to be convinced that a massive altar on Mount Ebal in Samaria was the one that Joshua had built there (Joshua 8:30). Indeed it was made of “unhewn stones” (v.31), and the archaeological data discovered around this altar seemed to fit very well that this was indeed an ancient Israelite site of sacrifice.

Damien Mackey

Even a statement made by a true scholar on the subject, Prof. Adam Zartal, chairman of the Dept. of Archaeology at the University of Haifa who had this to say about history, archaeology and the Bible:

“After years of research, I believe it is impossible to explore Israel’s origins without the Bible. At the same time, the research should be as objective as possible. The Bible should be used cautiously and critically. But again and again we have seen the historical value of the Bible. Again and again we have seen that an accurate memory has been preserved in its transmuted narratives, waiting to be unearthed and exposed by archaeological fieldwork and critical mind work.”

“Dr. and Professor

Eilat Mazar is a third-generation Israeli archaeologist, specializing in Jerusalem and Phoenician archaeology. She has worked on the Temple Mount excavations, as well as excavations at Achzib and Bethlehem, and is a visiting scholar with the Institute of Archaeology AND the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.”

Dr. Eilat Mazar: Israeli Archaeologist / Discovered the King David’s Palace in February 2005.

Alongside her laptop on a paper-strewn desk sits the most telling object: a heavily marked Bible. Like her grandfather and father before her, Mazar is a believer in the Bible’s historical reliability.

“One of the many things I learned from my grandfather was how to relate to the biblical text,” she says. “Pore over it again and again, for it contains within it descriptions of genuine historical reality.” She adds, “I work with the Bible in one hand and the tools of excavation in the other. That’s what biblical archaeologists do. The Bible is the most important historical source and therefore deserves special attention.”

This approach led Mazar to the site she now believes is the northern edge of King David’s palace in an area known as the City of David. When she set out on her quest in search of the palace in 1997, she turned to her Bible. She looked in……

Second Book of Samuel chapter five, verse 17. “When the Philistines came to fight, the Bible says David went down from his palace to the fortress,” Mazar says. “I wondered down from where? It’s very reasonable to assume that when the Bible describes David going down he came from a higher place. The only higher place is from the north.”

It was a crucial observation. Mazar reasoned the only direction where the topography is higher would be just north of the City of David, outside the walls of the Old City. She began excavating in February of 2005. The finds came quickly. Surprisingly intact, just two yards beneath ground level, were Byzantine-era artifacts, including a fully-preserved room with mosaic floors dating to the 4th to 6th centuries C.E. When Mazar peeled back the room, she uncovered water cisterns, pools and a mikvah from the Second Temple period.

But it was what was under these that would prove to be the most startling. The Second Temple remains were directly on top of thick foundation walls that protruded in all directions—and even beyond—the length and width of her 30-by-10 meter excavation site.

The pottery found under the building—that is, from before the building’s construction—dated back to the 12th to 11th centuries B.C.E.—just before David conquered Jerusalem.

But inside one of the rooms, Mazar’s team found pottery from the 10th to 9th century B.C.E., indicating that the building was in use during the period of David’s reign in Jerusalem. In addition, Mazar found a seal impression, called a bulla, of a late 7th-century royal official named Jehucal, son of Shelemiah, son of Shevi, who is mentioned twice in the Book of Jeremiah (37:3 and 38:1). “The bulla find—it’s an amazing find,” she says, adding that it proves “that the site was an important center in the ancient Israelite monarchy for four centuries.”

Jeremiah 37: 3

And Zedekiah the king sent Jehucal the son of Shelemiah, and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah, the priest, to the prophet Jeremiah, saying, Pray now unto Jehovah our God for us.

Jeremiah 38: 1

    • 1 And Shephatiah the son of Mattan, and Gedaliah the son of Pashhur, and Jucal the son of Shelemiah, and Pashhur the son of Malchijah, heard the words that Jeremiah spake unto all the people, saying,
  • 2 Thus saith Jehovah, He that abideth in this city shall die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence; but he that goeth forth to the Chaldeans shall live, and his life shall be unto him for a prey, and he shall live.

Prof. Yigael Yadin, Dean of Archeology in the University of Jerusalem, has also further confirmed the Bible’s records in other areas of Solomon’s accomplishments. He was asked if archeology is was confirming the Biblical accounts. He replied:

“I would say, generally speaking, that this is very definitely so. I would say that the historical portions of the Bible are thus far being proved true by archeologists. I would go one step further, and say that a biblical diary has actually helped us archeologists find our way and understand the data.

The Bible tells us, for example, that King Solomon built three strategic cities. One is Megiddo, and one is Gezer, near Jerusalem. And we excavated Hazor, the third Solomonic city.

“Were it not for the passage in the Bible which tells us that Solomon built these three cities we would not have been able to identify them. The actual discovery of these gates proved that this example of a verse in the Bible was correct. Now this is only one example. Wherever we go in this land of the Bible we illuminate our finds with the Bible, and the finds, I would say, are illuminating the Bible.”




Dr. David Rohl

“I consider the Bible a historical document just like the writings of Herodotus or a text of Rameses II,” says Rohl. “It’s ridiculous to throw it in the dustbin just because it’s a religious text. If so strong a tradition evolves out of the past, it is likely to have a genuine geographical setting.”



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