Published in 2001, William G. Dever, a top archaeologist in Near East studies, sums up in this book 35 years of his life's work, concentrating on Israel in the Iron Age (c.1200-600BC). His main motivation for this substantial 300 page work is the academic polemic of the last decade instigated by the minimalist postmodern school. He examines their philosophical worldview, the logic of their argument and interpretation, and the coalition supporting their case. (The beginning student in this area might be best advised to start with something like 'The Bible and the Ancient Near East' by Gordon & Rendsburg.) As an expert excavator and director of fieldwork his great strength is his interpretation of the physical data, respect for professional standards such as establishment of context and stratigraphy, and relation of hard evidence to the bible text. He engages in a little light anthropology, explaining the wars and peacetime behaviour of the nation. Above all his orthodox motivation and passion sizzle off the page - he correctly feels his life's work and archaeology itself to be threatened by the minimalist approach.
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The chapters are hard to summarise as they present so much physical evidence and close argument but here are the titles. 1) The bible as history, literature, and theology. 2) Revisionists and their non-histories. 3) What archaeology is and what it can contribute to biblical studies. 4) Getting at the 'history behind the history': convergences between texts and artifacts - Israelite origins and the rise of the state. 5) Daily life in Israel in the time of the divided monarchy. 6) What is left of the history of ancient Israel and why should it matter to anyone? Hugely recommended.
The review of this Book prepared by Michael JR Jose