Biblical Archaeology Review 31:1, January/February 2005


For some two millennia the Hebrew Bible, whether read through confessional or independent interpretations, was the exclusive window for viewing the religion of ancient Israel. With the rise of critical scholarship in the 19th century, the reliability of the Bible was called into question concerning the periods it described, but it was still considered trustworthy for reflecting the ages in which its various strands were composed. However, over the years some scholars have viewed the Bible as tendentious, anachronistic and as having a highly distorted view of ancient Israel’s true religious beliefs and practices. In the estimation of these scholars, official religion was anachronistically presented and evaluated, while popular beliefs and practices were totally subdued.

This revisionist appraisal of the Bible, deeming it nearly worthless for the portrait of religion it presumes to draw, would leave a vacuum in our knowledge; and archaeology, long called upon to support Scripture, is now invoked more and more to fill the gap; and the privileged status of the Hebrew Bible as testimony to what once was is now ironically enjoyed instead by archaeological finds (as interpreted by modern scholars).

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