Bill Dever Responds
Your recent report on my “sermon” at the SBL/ASOR meetings [“Dever’s ‘Sermon on the Mound,’” BAR 13:02] was no doubt meant partly to amuse readers, but your own pique is obvious. Since you requested and received a copy of my full manuscript, however, you might at least have quoted me correctly. You repeat previous BAR quotations out of context. I had written of Biblical archaeology that “there probably is no such thing as an academic discipline”; or, again, “Albright was not an archaeologist … he was an ‘Orientalist.’”
This time your editorial excisions are more damaging (intentionally?). Your “quotation” has me denying the Exodus categorically. But what I actually said was simply that “the whole notion of an actual Exodus-Wilderness-Wandering-Conquest episode is no longer useful in the light of archaeological and historical research” (ms., p. 6). And the conclusion—“the Bible is, in this regard, groundless and wrong”—is yours. I said nothing of the sort.
Again, a long statement in quotation marks has me saying that the Exodus and Conquest “didn’t really happen,” that “there is no real history behind Israel’s ‘salvation history.’” You owe it to me, and to your readers, to acknowledge that you edited out my “if” in both statements! (Cf. my ms., p. 16). Your elimination of my careful qualifiers is completely misleading. I was obviously setting up a “worst case scenario”; and I went on immediately to suggest ways of resolving the dilemma that we all must confront if we are honest.