>Bill Dever Criticizes Minimalists

>In an article published in the Jewish News Weekly of Northern California, William Dever criticized scholars who have adopted a minimalist view of the biblical traditions and mounted a strong defense of ancient Israel. Dever made his criticism during a recent presentation at the Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco.

The following are a few excerpts of Dever’s presentation:

“Dever verbally buried a group of academics he referred to as “secular fundamentalists.”

According to Dever, the group is intent on reducing ancient Israel to “foundation myths,” and derives its impetus from a less-than-scholarly locus.

“Most of these people are not Jewish,” said Dever in response to a question after the event. “They are largely Christian theologians who come from a place [northern Europe] that’s been infected with anti-Semitism for centuries, and their ideas reflect that. They’re also almost universally anti-American.”

Dever, who wrote “What Did the Biblical Writers Know and When Did They Know It?” said that the work was largely a response to the group of theologians, who Dever says have called him a “Nazi” on numerous occasions.

Dever’s spirited dismissal of the group wasn’t surprising given his enthusiasm for the earth that he has excavated for almost a half-century. The professor, who sits on the editorial boards of groups ranging from the American Journal of Archaeology to the Oxford Encyclopedia of Near Eastern Archaeology, commenced his talk with a personal tribute the city.

“Fifty years ago this summer, I first visited Jerusalem, and it changed my life,” Dever said. “Jerusalem looms large as a home to me — both spiritually and temporally,” he continued, adding that no city in the world can claim to be as archaeologically complex as Jerusalem.

“But against all odds, Jerusalem prevailed, and archaeology gives the lie to people who insist that there were no ancient Jewish cities,” Dever remarked. “Archaeology brings the Bible to life in the most vivid way possible — and that’s its ultimate beauty.”

“In archaeology, if something is too good to be true — it probably is,” he said.

“One of the surest ways we can determine that we’re dealing with ancient Jewish ruins is the absence of pig bones,” Dever said. “It seems that Jewish prohibition against pork goes back a long way.”

Read Dever’s remarks by clicking here.

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

UPDATE: Read Jim West’s criticism of Dever here.

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6 Responses to >Bill Dever Criticizes Minimalists

  1. Anonymous says:

    >One ought to take Dever’s comments (as reported here) with the grain of salt they deserve. They constitute as much invective and are as utterly offensive as those he criticizes. Furthermore, they lack integrity. Dever used to be one of those “Christian theologians.”I personally think our time is better spent setting aside Dever and those he criticizes. While the excellent scholarship that has come from all of them at one point or another is worthy of attention, they have all reduced themselves to spouting junk. Why not give “airtime” to those who invest their energies in new ideas and thoughtful remarks, demonstrate integrity, and are open and kind even to those who disagree? By giving Dever and the minimalists airtime, we simply fan the flames of their fire.

  2. >Dear Anonymous,I know that Dever is controversial and that at times his criticism becomes a personal attack. However, Dever is a respected archaeologist and his criticism may shed some light on the controversy. If an archaeologist like Dever can say that the archaeological record does not prove the argument presented by the minimalists, then we should pause and listen. Who knows, Dever may be right after all.Claude Mariottini

  3. Anonymous says:

    >Dear Claude,Criticism that consists of “None of them are Jewish and they’re influenced by antisemitism” sheds light on nothing other than Dever’s character. When the criticism is substantive, I fully agree, we ought to pay attention. My point is this: others are engaging in substantive criticism and discussion of these matters WITHOUT engaging in personal attack which distracts from the real issues. Why not give THESE people our time and attention. Unless, of course, we’d rather see a good show (which is what Dever and his opponents are giving us) than actually learn something.Anonymous

  4. >Dear Anonymous:Believe me, I don’t disagree with you. There is no reason for this kind of personal attack in scholarly discussion. Scholars may disagree on important issues and yet be civilized in their discussion. I was reporting Dever’s presentation as news. Maybe I should be more reserved in what I present as news.Again, thank you for your observation. I appreciate the dialogue on this issue.Claude Mariottini

  5. Eliana Gilad says:

    >I appreciate reading the report of Dever’s presentation.I respect his middle of the road stance – arrived at from many many years of field work which physically attest to the points he makes.As an expert in the field of Ancient Healing and Transformational Music living peacefully in the very dynamic north of Israel, Dever’s body of work, particularly his books of late revealing the reverence of the feminine principle in ancient Israel, is a breath of fresh air.

  6. >Eliana,Thank you for your comment. Today there are so many extreme views about the history of ancient Israel that someone must take a middle of the road approach. Although many people don’t like Dever, he is a respected archaeologist.I am interested in knowing more about ancient healing. Have you written much on this subject?Claude Mariottini

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