Biblical Archaeology in 2011

For several years now, Brian Janeway has reported on major presentations and discussions at the Annual Meetings of the American Schools of Oriental Research in order to engage the armchair archaeologist who is unable to travel to the November conference. He has now posted his review at the website of the Associates for Biblical Research, summarizing sessions on the Philistines, the state of biblical archaeology, the Conquest narratives, biblical meals, Caesarea, and the wine of Jesus.

One subject of particular interest is Joshua’s conquest and how this is interpreted by one self-identified “maximalist.”

Perhaps it was fitting then, that Dr. Daniel Browning from William Carey University, following in the Rainey tradition, mounted a spirited critique of the findings of Dr. Bryant Wood in “Hazor versus Jericho and Ai: Dealing with Mixed Archaeological Data in Evaluating the Joshua Narrative.” Coming from a scholar who styled himself a “maximalist” regarding the Biblical text, the paper was both surprising and disappointing—the former for its contemptuous dismissal of any “maximalist” (literal) reading of Joshua—and the latter for its utter lack of reference to physical evidence presented by Wood and others. All attempts by evangelicals to interpret the data (at Jericho, Ai, and Hazor) differently than Kenyon and others are reduced to “tactics,” all of which fail on the level of presupposition—failing to see the text as a theological and not a historical one. The real key to understanding Jericho and Ai is in the figures of Rahab and Achan, who are juxtaposed to drive the underlying theological agenda. Only at Hazor can archaeological finds be made to fit the conquest narrative. In singling out Bryant Wood, Browning’s failure to cite the ceramic and stratigraphic basis of Wood’s thesis is intellectually dishonest. His largely literary approach deserves a learned archaeological response, which was not provided in San Francisco. Perhaps it is time for Dr. Wood to mount a defense of his own at the next ASOR Meetings? 

In my opinion, it is an elementary error to assume that literary artistry precludes accurate historical recording.

Janeway’s full report is here.

Jericho, Tell es-Sultan from east panorama, tb05110682p

Jericho (Tell es-Sultan) from the east

2 thoughts on “Biblical Archaeology in 2011

  1. I find it interesting to assume that a biblical Maximalist must also be a literalist. I suppose they must also be theologically a fundamentalist, too? So few people support Bryant Wood's theories outside the evangelical community that I can't see how they are accepted at all….Of course, I am neither Maximal, literal, not fundamental, I suppose….

  2. Dr. M,

    I think that definitions are essential to answer your question. How do you define "literalist"? How do you define "maximalist"? How do you define "fundamentalist"? These terms are used as labels of and by people who would not share basic conclusions.

    For me personally, there's nothing complex about the way I read Scripture. I read it as I read any other book, interpreting it according to the author's intended meaning as expressed in the text and taking into account the genre, figurative language, and the context. Perhaps that makes me a "literalist." Such a reading leads to the conclusion that the authors claimed they were being historically accurate and honest. The reader has to decide whether he/she accepts that claim. I accept it. I think that would put me in the category of "maximalist." Because I accept at face value the claims of the Bible, I believe that I should submit my life to the Creator and His Word. Some would then label me a "fundamentalist."

    I believe that this approach is more honest and satisfying than other approaches I am aware of.

    Why do so "few people" support Bryant Wood's theories? Where have they been analyzed and refuted? I suspect that the answer to this question will tell us a great deal about the scholarly community and the way that it works.

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