Archaeologist says scholars doubt early part of the Bible because of
virtual absence of archaeological or textual evidence corroborating it
THE millions of pious pilgrims expected to arrive in the Holy Land
the coming millennial year will be visiting holy places and
sites but they would be well advised to keep away from archaeologists.
An overwhelming number of archaeologists in Israel have concluded, on
basis of excavations in recent decades, that much of the biblical story
they had once hoped to verify never happened.
In an article published on Friday in Ha'aretz, Israel's most
newspaper, Professor Zeev Herzog, a veteran Israeli archaeologist, said
that the scholarly community was almost entirely in agreement on the
dubious historicity of the early part of the Bible.
However, he said the public in Israel and abroad refused to listen to
they were saying.
"It's difficult for the public to accept this," he wrote, "but it is
to scholars that the Israelites did not dwell in Egypt, that they
wander the desert, that they didn't conquer the Holy Land and divide it
among 12 tribes, and that the kingdom under David and Solomon,
the Bible as a regional power, was at most a small tribal kingdom."
Although Prof Herzog did not mention it in his article, the very
of David and Solomon has been challenged -- mostly by foreign scholars
because of the virtual absence of archaeological or textual evidence
non-biblical sources attesting to their rule.
These ideas have been percolating in scholarly circles with growing
intensity in the past two decades, but mostly in scholarly journals and
Prof Herzog noted that numerous ancient Egyptian documents make no
of a flight of slaves across the desert.
(They do, however, mention tribes from the east fleeing drought and
settling on the fringes of the Nile delta as in the biblical story of
and his sons.)
Scholars believe that the Bible began to be compiled about the 6th
BC by scribes on the basis of written records and, when these did not
back far enough, on national myths.
The records seem to have gone back at least to the 9th Century when
corroboration begins to appear in the records of other countries.
The Assyrians staged regular military campaigns across the Middle East
recorded them in monumental stone palace inscriptions.
Many of the Israelite and Judean kings mentioned in the Bible from this
time onwards are mentioned in such sources.
Israeli public figures queried about Prof Herzog's article gave mixed
responses. Some denounced it as baseless. Others said it contained
Poet Natan Zach said that whatever its historical accuracy, the Bible
remained one of man's greatest works.
He said: "The smaller that ancient Israel is proven to be, the greater
the wonder at the genius of this creation."
THE Biblical story of the Israelite fording of the Jordan under Joshua
conquering Canaan by the sword has not been borne out by excavations.
Some of the cities said to have been taken in the 12th century BC
did not seem to exist then and it appears Jericho then had no wall
it to be destroyed by trumpet blasts.
A surprising and disappointing discovery was that 10th century BC
-- the mighty city of David and Solomon -- was small and seemingly
Some scholars argue the site, on a steep ridge, had been eroded by
wars and by weather but others say there still should be more
remains of a regional power capital.
Field surveys in the past 30 years on the West Bank -- heart of ancient
Israel -- have led more and more scholars to believe the Israelites did
come from afar but were indigenous to the area.
But if the early biblical story is discounted, their precise origins
more a mystery than ever.