archaeology

William Dever, a leading archeologist argues the Hebrew Bible is overlaid with legendary material that can’t be history

william dever 1

The consensus of biblical archaeologists is that the Hebrew Bible contains much history but its “overlaid with legendary and even fantastic materials that the modern reader may enjoy as ‘story’ but which can scarcely be taken seriously as history.”

William G. Dever, commonly referred to as “America’s leading archaeologist of Israelite history” writes: “While the Hebrew Bible in its present, heavily edited form cannot be taken at face value as history in the modern sense, it nevertheless contains much history.

Let me begin by clarifying which books of the Hebrew Bible I think can be utilized by the would-be historian, whether textual scholar or archaeologist. With most scholars, I would exclude much of the Pentateuch, specifically the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. These materials obviously constitute a sort of “pre-history” that has been attached to the main epic of ancient Israel by late editors… As for Leviticus and Numbers, these are clearly additions to the “pre-history” by very late Priestly editorial hands, preoccupied with notions of ritual purity, themes of the “promised land,” and other literary motifs…

All this may be distilled from long oral traditions, and I suspect that some of the stories – such as parts of the Patriarchal narratives – may once have had a real historical setting. These traditions, however, are overlaid with legendary and even fantastic materials that the modern reader may enjoy as “story” but which can scarcely be taken seriously as history.”

(William G. Dever “What Did the Biblical Writers Know & When Did They Know It? – What Archaeology Can Tell Us About the Reality of Ancient Israel” 2001 – William B. Eerdmans Publishing )

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Male circumcision was invented thousands of years before the Jews

Male circumcision was not invented by Abraham or the Hebrews, but has been around far longer.

Archeologists say that the early evidence indicates that Africans, Aborigines, and Ancient Near East peoples practiced circumcision for 10,000-15,000 years before the era of the Hebrews.

According to Dr. Gerald Larue (professor emeritus of Biblical history and archeology at UCLA), scholars have discovered indisputable evidence of circumcision in Egyptian tomb artwork and bodies that has been dated as early as the 40th century BC (this would be around 2,000 years before the date that conservative bible scholars say Abraham lived in). (1)

What is also fascinating is that when Columbus reached the New World, he found many of the local natives were circumcised (2), meaning that circumcision may have developed in multiple cultures independently, or that it was such an ancient practice that the people who crossed into the Americas some 20,000 years ago had brought the practice with them.

Leading Israeli archaeologists argue that the Hebrew bible contains very little accurate history

Many Israeli archaeologists, who have a vested political reason to attest to the historicity of the Old Testament, do the exact opposite:

“This is what archaeologists have learned from their excavations in the Land of Israel: the Israelites were never in Egypt, did not wander in the desert, did not conquer the land in a military campaign and did not pass it on to the 12 tribes of Israel. Perhaps even harder to swallow is that the united monarchy of David and Solomon, which is described by the Bible as a regional power, was at most a small tribal kingdom. And it will come as an unpleasant shock to many that the God of Israel, YHWH, had a female consort and that the early Israelite religion adopted monotheism only in the waning period of the monarchy and not at Mount Sinai.” (1)

(Dr. Ze’ev Herzog, Professor Emeritus/Director of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University, and archaeological adviser to the Israeli Ministry of Nature Reserves)

Whats interesting is that Dr. Herzog is not a fringe scholar:

“Herzog represents a large group of Israeli scholars, and he stands squarely within the consensus. Twenty years ago even I wrote of the same matters and I was not an innovator. Archaeologists simply do not take the trouble of bringing their discoveries to public attention. Even the extreme leftists, avowedly secular, find it hard to accept the notion that the stories they grew up with are not true, that the greatness of David and Solomon is a matter of epic, not of history. I tried all this out on my friends, but they simply are not ready to hear it.” (2)

(Dr. Magen Broshi, world-renowned Israeli archeologist, a former Curator at the Israel Museum, and Chairman of the Museum Association of Israel)