The article by Professor Yosef Garfinkel published in the Biblical Archeology Review, the article which I mentioned in a previous post (here), is already producing some lively discussion, both in our country and in Israel.
At stake is how to interpret the results of archaeological discoveries and how these discoveries impact our understanding of the Bible. Does archeology demonstrate that David was the king of a powerful kingdom in Jerusalem? Or was David only “a sheikh in a Bedouin tent” who ruled over a small tribal group who lived in Jerusalem?
The debate about the historicity of the biblical story is focused on the tenth century B. C. and whether there was a united monarchy under David and Solomon. The minimalists argue that there was no united monarchy, that the Kingdom of Israel developed first, followed by the Kingdom of Judah. Israel Finkelstein argues that Judah did not become a centralized kingdom until the time of Josiah, that is, in the seventh century B.C.
Asaf Shtull-Trauring, in an article published in Haaretz, traces the history of the debate between those who accept the basic facts presented in the Biblical texts and those who believe that the archeological data do not support the history of the two kingdoms as presented in the Bible.
Shtull-Trauring indicates that the controversy is both political and theological. It is also based on the prestige of two academic institutions in Israel, Tel Aviv University and Hebrew University.
Professor Israel Finkelstein teaches at Tel Aviv University. Finkelstein and his colleagues at the university advocate a low chronology that says that there was no united monarchy in the tenth century. Professor Garfinkel and Professor Eilat Mazar from Hebrew University believe that there was a developed kingdom in Judah in the tenth century.
People who are not familiar with the maximalist/minimalist controversy should read Shtull-Trauring’s article. In addition, those who are not familiar with the archeological argument put forth by both groups to support their respective views will learn much from this article. It is a long article, but here is an opportunity for people to educate themselves about the issues that divide archeologists, biblical scholars, and even Christians.
To read the article, visit Haaretz online.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary