Biblical Archaeology Review 39:4, July/August 2013

First Person: What Brings You Here?

By Hershel Shanks

Why are you interested in Biblical archaeology—or at least interested enough to be reading a Biblical archaeology magazine?

Some people are interested in it because they think it will validate the historical truth of the Bible. I guess that’s OK, although it’s not my shtick. I’ve always felt you’ve got a weak faith in the Bible if you need archaeology to validate it. On the other hand, archaeology does sometimes provide exciting evidence, for example, that indeed David existed and was the father of a dynasty, as shown by the Tel Dan stela.a

But archaeology also sometimes provides evidence that seems to refute the Biblical account. That is the case, for example, with the Israelite conquest of the land as described in the Book of Joshua. The various cities that the Israelites supposedly conquered simply cannot be lined up with the archaeological evidence. As I conclude after analyzing the evidence in the new third edition of our book Ancient Israel, “The conquest tradition in the Book of Joshua is therefore better seen as a literary, theological account, rather than an historical one.”b (But see the article on the conquest of Hazor.)

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