Biblical Archaeology: A Very Short Introduction
Public interest in biblical archaeology is at an all-time high, as television documentaries pull in millions of viewers to watch shows on the Exodus, the Ark of the Covenant, and the so-called Lost Tomb of Jesus. Important discoveries with relevance to the Bible are made virtually every year--during 2007 and 2008 alone researchers announced at least seven major discoveries in Israel, five of them in or near Jerusalem. Biblical Archaeology offers a passport into this fascinating realm, where ancient religion and modern science meet, and where tomorrow's discovery may answer a riddle that has lasted a thousand years. Archaeologist Eric H. Cline here offers a complete overview of this exciting field. He discusses the early pioneers, such as Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie and William Foxwell Albright, the origins of biblical archaeology as a discipline, and the major controversies that first prompted explorers to go in search of objects and sites that would "prove" the Bible. He then surveys some of the most well-known biblical archaeologists, including Kathleen Kenyon and Yigael Yadin, the sites that are essential sources of knowledge for biblical archaeology, such as Hazor, Megiddo, Gezer, Lachish, Masada, and Jerusalem, and some of the most important discoveries that have been made, including the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Mesha Inscription, and the Tel Dan Stele. Subsequent chapters examine additional archaeological finds that shed further light on the Hebrew Bible and New Testament, the issue of potential frauds and forgeries, including the James Ossuary and the Jehoash Tablet, and future prospects of the field. Biblical Archaeology: A Very Short Introduction captures the sense of excitement and importance that surrounds not only the past history of the field but also the present and the future, with fascinating new discoveries made each and every season. About the Series: Combining authority with wit, accessibility, and style, Very Short Introductions offer an introduction to some of life's most interesting topics. Written by experts for the newcomer, they demonstrate the finest contemporary thinking about the central problems and issues in hundreds of key topics, from philosophy to Freud, quantum theory to Islam.
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One of the most appealing things about the Bible is its detailed, sometimes even over scrupulous, concern with the details of locations, buildings, and genealogies. Judaism and Christianity are religions that are squarely grounded in history and geography of ancient Near East. However, for the better part of the past two millennia there was a rather scarce physical evidence for most of the places and events that had been described in the Bible. That all started to change in the nineteenth century with the advent of what would now be considered the field of "Biblical Archeology." This is a rather fascinating topic in its own right, and this very short introduction does a great feat of introducing this discipline to the general readership.
The first part of the book deals primarily with the history of Biblical Archeology. Its origins can be found in the middle of the nineteenth century when Westerners started accessing Palestine in ever-greater numbers. Unsurprisingly, most of the early archeologists were in one way or another religiously motivated, and a substantial number of them were either ministers or had other religious background. Even thought these early Biblical archeologists were by and large amateurs, their work and contributions to the field were quite remarkable. Over time the field has substantially matured, and this book does a great job of describing its evolution and most significant developments and findings. This book is in fact a great introduction to all of archeology, as many of the methods and techniques that are described herein are applicable in other archeological excavations as well.
The second part of the book deals primarily with the evidence that has been obtained thus far for confirming or rejecting events and persons described in the Bible based solely on the archeological findings. Surprisingly or unsurprisingly, the general historical outlines that have been described in the Bible have received at least some support form archeology. However, there are also many biblical accounts for which the archeological evidence is still inconclusive.
The book also does a fine job with discussing several recent probable forgeries that had received a lot of media attention. The evidence and counterevidence for the authenticity of artifacts such as the James' Ossuary and several others is presented clearly and fairly, and the reader can come up with his or her own conclusions.
In the end, this book is a valuable first exposure to anyone who is interested in learning more about the archeology of the ancient Near East, whether they are religiously motivated or not. This is a very readable and accessible book and I highly recommend it.