The Bible Unearthed-An Extended Review, Part 1

The Authors

The chief archeological researcher behind this book is Israel Finkelstein, a Jew born in 1949 Petah Tikva who regards religion to be independent of reality and considers his ideas not to undermine Jewish rights to the territory of Israel-“The debate over our right to the land is ridiculous. As though there is some international committee in Geneva that considers the history of peoples. Two peoples come and one says, `I have been here since the 10th century BCE,’ and the other says, `No, he’s lying, he has only been here since the ninth century BCE.’ What will they do – evict him? Tell him to start packing?”. He also believes in the existence of “today’s American Empire” <>.

Neil Asher Silberman, a contributing editor for Archeology and author of eight books before The Bible Unearthed, is probably the one responsible for all the rhetoric.


The book starts off with a vague, misleading, and partially false paragraph. While it is true all the Deuteronomic History and the ideas behind it were finalized during the few generations F&S are talking about here, to say that all before Josiah in the Bible was “a brilliant product of the human imagination” is vague, and to say that it was “first conceived” during the reign of King Josiah is utterly false. To say Jerusalem was located “on a narrow ridge between steep, rocky ravines”, is not quite accurate-while the land of Jerusalem is hilly, it hardly compares in its ups and downs to any place in western Arabia or the southern Sinai. Also, the ideas F&S are proposing here are hardly the results of “recent archeological findings”– they are the overhyping of Martin Noth’s 1943 discovery that Deuteronomy and the five books that follow it (not counting Ruth) all contain similar theological ideas.

F&S emphasize strongly that practically every single theological innovation in the Bible was born under King Josiah, including the special holiness of a central sanctuary, the universality of YHWH’s rule, and the evil and untruth of all other forms and places of worship. They emphasize with almost equal strength that Josianic Jerusalem would have looked to us like “a small Middle Eastern market town”, and that the very fact the city managed to produce a written history that would bind a whole people together is almost miraculous. They are, however wrong on at least one thing- the idea of an Israelite central sanctuary is, in fact one of the one of the oldest unifying elements of Israelite culture, dating from at least the twelfth century BC, and probably as early as the reign of Ramesses II-see Frank Moore Cross’s “archaic hymns of Israel”, which describe YHWH as moving with the Tabernacle from Sinai to Seir to Moab toward the hill country of the West Bank.

The book promises “the latest archeological insights” and evidence that the vast majority of the biblical narrative was written exclusively to serve the Deuteronomic ideology of 621 BC. I, E. Harding, otherwise known as “pithom” will see if readers get what they are promised.

Author: pithom

An atheist with an interest in the history of the ancient Near East. Author of the Against Jebel al-Lawz Wordpress blog.

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