The Bible Unearthed
Finkelstein (Israel) & Silberman (Neil Asher)
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Amazon Book Description

  1. In the past three decades, archaeologists have made great strides in recovering the lost world of the Old Testament. Dozens of digs in Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Lebanon have changed experts' understanding of ancient Israel and its neighbours – as well as their vision of the Bible's greatest tales.
  2. Yet until now, the public has remained almost entirely unaware of these discoveries which help separate legend from historical truth. Here, at last, two of archaeology's leading scholars shed new light on how the Bible came into existence.
  3. They assert, for example, that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob never existed, that David and Solomon were not great kings but obscure chieftains and that the Exodus never happened.
  4. They offer instead a new historical truth: the Bible was created by the people of the small, southern nation of Judah in a heroic last-ditch attempt to keep their faith alive after the demise of the larger, wealthier nation of Israel to the north. It is in this truth, not in the myths of the past, that the real value of the Bible is evident.

Back Cover Blurb
  1. In this iconoclastic and provocative work, leading scholars Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman draw on recent archaeological research to present a dramatically revised portrait of ancient Israel and its neighbors. They argue that crucial evidence (or a telling lack of evidence) at digs in Israel, Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon suggests that many of the most famous stories in the Bible — the wanderings of the patriarchs, the Exodus from Egypt, Joshua's conquest of Canaan, and David and Solomon's vast empire — reflect the world of the later authors rather than actual historical facts.
  2. Challenging the fundamentalist readings of the scriptures and marshaling the latest archaeological evidence to support its new vision of ancient Israel, The Bible Unearthed offers a fascinating and controversial perspective on when and why the Bible was written and why it possesses such great spiritual and emotional power today.
  3. "A bold and provocative book, well researched, well written, and powerfully argued. It challenges many of the assumptions developed by the literal religious minds of the ages, opening traditional possibilities to new conclusions."
    John Shelby Spong, author of Here I Stand: My Struggle for a Christianity of Integrity, Love, and Equality
  4. "A brutally honest assessment of what archaeology can and cannot tell us about the historical accuracy of the Bible … presented with both authority and panache."
    → Jonathan Kirsch, Los Angeles Times

  1. Almost eight years ago — during a peaceful summer weekend with our families on the coast of Maine — the idea for this book was born. The debate about the historical reliability of the Bible was again beginning to attract considerable attention outside scholarly circles and we came to the realization that an updated book on this subject for general readers was needed. In it, we would set out what we believed to be the compelling archaeological and historical evidence for a new understanding of the rise of ancient Israel and the emergence of its sacred historical texts. Over the intervening years, the archaeological battle over the Bible has grown increasingly bitter. It has sunk — in some times and places — to personal attacks and accusations of hidden political motives. Did the Exodus happen? Was there a conquest of Canaan? Did David and Solomon actually rule over a vast empire? Questions like these have attracted the attention of journalists and commentators all over the world. And the public discussion of each of these questions has often gone far beyond the confines of academic archaeology and biblical criticism into the hotly contested realms of theology and religious belief.
  2. Despite the passions aroused by this subject, we believe that a reassessment of finds from earlier excavations and the continuing discoveries by new digs have made it clear that scholars must now approach the problems of biblical origins and ancient Israelite society from a completely new perspective. In the following chapters, we will present evidence to bolster that contention and to reconstruct a very different history of ancient Israel. Readers must judge for themselves if our reconstruction fits the evidence. Before beginning, we must note a few items regarding sources and transliterations. Our direct quotations from the biblical text all come from the Revised Standard Version translation of the Hebrew Bible. Although we have followed the RSV in referring to the names of the God of Israel within the quotations, we have used the name YHWH in our text to designate the tetragrammaton or explicit name of God. In the RSV it is represented by the word "Lord," while Elohim or Elohei is represented by the word "God."
  3. Regarding biblical chronology, with its many uncertainties and pitfalls, we have decided that a combination of dating systems provides the best match with the emerging archaeological reality: from the beginning of the Israelite monarchy to the time of Ahab, we follow the dates determined in Gershon Galil, The Chronology of the Kings of Israel and Judah (Leiden: 1996). For the dates of the subsequent reigns of Israelite and Judahite kings, we follow Mordecai Cogan's article on "Chronology" in the Anchor Bible Dictionary (New York: 1992). Of course many uncertainties (relating to the precise dates of the earliest kings, later coregencies, and contradictions within the biblical material) remain, but we feel that in general, this chronological scheme is reliable for the purposes of this general work.
  4. [...]

    Prologue: In the Days of King Josiah
    Introduction: Archaeology and the Bible
  1. PART ONE: The Bible as History?
    1. Searching for the Patriarchs
    2. Did the Exodus Happen?
    3. The Conquest of Canaan
    4. Who Were the Israelites?
    5. Memories of a Golden Age?
  2. PART TWO: The Rise and Fall of Ancient Israel
    1. One State, One Nation, One People? (c. 930-720 bce)
    2. Israel's Forgotten First Kingdom (884-842 bce)
    3. In the Shadow of Empire (842-720 bce)
  3. PART THREE: Judah and the Making of Biblical History
    1. The Transformation of Judah (c. 930-705 bce)
    2. Between War and Survival (705-639 bce)
    3. A Great Reformation (639-586 bce)
    4. Exile and Return (586-c. 440 bce)
  4. Epilogue: The Future of Biblical Israel
  5. Appendices
    1. Theories of the Historicity of the Patriarchal Age
    2. Searching for Sinai
    3. Alternative Theories of the Israelite Conquest
    4. Why the Traditional Archaeology of the Davidic and Solomonic Period Is Wrong
    5. Identifying the Era of Manasseh in the Archaeological Record
    6. How Vast Was the Kingdom of Josiah?
    7. The Boundaries of the Province of Yehud

Book Comment
  • Free Press; New Edition (16 Sept. 2002)
  • Sub-Title: 'Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts'

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