The Letter and the Scroll

I received in the mail today a new book from National Geographic, The Letter and the Scroll: What Archaeology Tells Us About the Bible.  I’m not mentioning it only because I am pleased that some of my photos are in a National Geographic book, but also because readers here may not be aware of it. 

As you would expect with National Geographic, the book is loaded with stunning photographs. 

Some that I really enjoyed as I flipped through include:letter_scroll

  • An aerial view of the excavations of Herod’s Tomb at Herodium
  • Father de Vaux and Lankester Harding working at the entrance of one of the Qumran caves
  • A locust swarm over southern Israel in 2004
  • An aerial photo of Nebi Samwil after a snowfall
  • A nice rolling stone tomb image with burial niches visible inside
  • An aerial view of the Broad Wall while excavations were in progress

In addition, there are many maps and beautiful aerial photographs of sites in Israel.  I could do a separate post just on the dozens of photos of ancient inscriptions, some of which I’ve studied and taught, but not seen photos of previously. 

I noted a few bumps along the way:

  • The close-up of the Hulda Gate is turned on its side (p. 156) .
  • The photo of Dhiban on page 179 is actually Samaria (Sebaste).
  • They say that the Jeroboam seal “is likely a reference to the Lion of Judah.”  Probably not, since Jeroboam was a king of the north and the seal was found at Megiddo.
  • The Church of the Nativity is dated to the 11th century, but it actually goes back to the 6th.

I don’t have time to read through the book at present, but from a brief overview it appears to take an approach characteristic of mainstream scholars today.  For example, they assume a late date for the book of Daniel.  On the other hand, in connection with the 10th-century Gezer Calendar and Khirbet Qeiyafa inscriptions, they say, “Political consolidation under Kings David and Solomon may have promoted writing by providing royal support for scribes and schools” (p. 18). 

The writers’ intention is “not to prove or disprove the Bible but to explore the world that gave rise to its Scripture and consider them in their historical context—an approach that can enhance one’s appreciation for the Bible both as a work of history and as a statement of faith.  Reverence for Scripture can withstand careful study, as shown long ago by devout scholars like Martin Luther…” (p. 19).  Based on other books written by Robin Currie, I would guess that he is a man of faith.

The scope of the book reaches from “Sumer and Akkad: Land of Abraham” to “Jerusalem: A Land Besieged” after the time of Christ.  It looks like a fun and interesting book, especially when you can get it for only $26 from Amazon (or used for $9)!


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