Matthieu Richelle’s book The Bible and Archaeology comes at a time of increased interest in bringing Biblical archaeology to a wider audience. Others have recently published on this topic, but what sets Richelle’s book apart is that the author is an epigrapher, studying ancient inscriptions, originally under the direction of his teacher André Lemaire, who is well known to readers of BAR. Thus, although the majority of books on archaeology and the Bible mention the relevant ancient texts only in passing, Richelle makes them the centerpiece of much of his book.
He begins by explaining that the book is aimed at readers who are interested in “looking beyond sensationalist claims” and who want to learn what underlies the various controversies involving the Bible and archaeology. The opening chapter then discusses what it is that archaeologists discover, with topics ranging from ancient cities to evidence for daily life, including religious practices, trade, and international relations.
All of this is very well done, especially when it comes to explaining how some of the ambiguities inherent in archaeology and archaeological interpretation come to be, including differing interpretations of the same object or inscription. Throughout, Richelle shows his easy familiarity with appropriate Biblical verses, applying them in virtually every instance and example that he brings up, whether discussing objects, sites, or events.