Bible Review 13:3, June 1997

The Biblical Minimalists

Expunging ancient Israel’s past

By Hershel Shanks

An increasingly modish—virulent?—strain of biblical scholarship concludes that the Bible is useless for reconstructing the history of ancient Israel. If this history can be reconstructed at all, it must be based solely on archaeological evidence as interpreted by anthropological models.

A recent extension—criticism, really—of this thinking argues that the attempt to locate ancient Israel even in this way fails, inevitably, because the concept of ancient Israel is simply an “invention.” The search for ancient Israel is therefore irretrievably doomed ab initio. It must be abandoned; it is, in effect, an illegitimate inquiry, nothing more than an effort by biblicists to “suppress” the real history of Palestine—that is, Palestinian history. In short, mainstream biblical scholars, if only unconsciously, are part of a contemporary Zionist cabal.

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