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The Ottawa School of Theology & Spirituality
The Bible: Archaeological
and Historical
September 16 – November 25, 2013
Lecturer - David Steinberg
[email protected]
Tel. 613-731-5964
Lecture 1
September 16
Lecture 1
• The Land
• Critical – Scientific
• Israelite Religion
• Bible as History Book
• Archaeology
• Biblical Archaeology
Fertile Crescent
Trade Routes
Mountains and Streams
Israelite areas
Views of the Bible
These lectures relevant to views 2 and 3
1. Divine or divinely inspired errorfree document. Although revealed
or authored at one time and place
can be understood in every time
and place without regard to
original context.
2. Divinely inspired complex
document whose original
meaning(s) can only be
understood in context of authors’
social-cultural-historical context.
3. Human complex document whose
original meaning(s) can only be
understood in context of authors’
social-cultural-historical context.
Then the servant took ten of his master’s
camels and departed, Genesis 24
Greek Science
Ancestor of all Modern
Developed by the Ionian PreSocratic Philosophers
Characteristics • separating the natural from
the supernatural
• creating tools of logical
• employing logical and
empirical research
Father of Scientific
Unlike his predecessor Herodotus (often called "the
father of history"), Thucydides did not included rumors
and references to myths and the gods in his writing,
Thucydides consulted written documents and
interviewed participants in the events that he records.
He, like any historian or archaeologist, held
unconscious biases but Thucydides was the first
historian who seems to have attempted complete
objectivity. By his discovery of historic causation,
he created the first scientific approach to history.
He stated explicitly that human history is causal,
and that causes can be proximate and long-range.
Events are likely to repeat if the same causes occur
again. Understanding long-range causes is a guide
to the future as well as the past.
Thucydides presents more than an application of
causation to history--his work may hold the very
discovery of causation as a principle of human
affairs. This is an astounding achievement. It
makes history, which to him meant any
investigation into the facts of human affairs,
Biases in Interpretation
It is a paradox of archaeology that the objects dug up are
concrete and real things, yet it is difficult to ascribe any
meaning to them. Interpretation takes place, for example
in the choices made about what sites to excavate and
what portions of those sites to excavate, about what kinds
of information to record in the field hooks and computer
databases and what kinds of material to send off to
specialists for analysis, in the reports written by the
excavators and specialists, and in the choices made
about what reports to consult in resolving a particular
historical problem. Interpretation is greatly affected,
therefore, by the question of who makes what decisions
in what context. Certain objects or places, for example,
may be considered important for one interpreter and not
worth bothering about by others.
As with textual interpretation, the assumptions and biases
of the interpreters will ultimately influence the
conclusions they draw. Our understanding of past culture
always has its context in the present. Politics and
ideologies (including theologies) can influence how archaeological materials and their relation to literary
sources are evaluated. Archaeologists, like scholars in
any other discipline, are influenced in their interpretations
by the received wisdom of their times, both in the sorts of
classificatory schemes they consider appropriate to their
subject, and in the way the dating of their material is
affected by their assumptions about the capabilities of the
people concerned.
The historian's main aim is to reconstruct the human past
as accurately as possible. Despite the ideal of objectivity,
the relationship between the available material and the
variety of aims and interests of the interpreter necessarily
involves subjectivity and creativity on the interpreter's
part. Historians' choices about what is significant are
crucial, as is the kind of history being written. Any
political, social, economic, or religious history is likely to
be colored by the historian's own views on politics,
society, economics, or religion.
What’s Around You is
What You See
• Scientific Revolution, Industrial
Revolution, Trains, Telegraphs
• Primitive = Pristine (Golden Age
in Past; Kohelet/Ecclesiastes;
Proverbs) to Primitive = Savage
• Evolution, Cult of Progress
• Inappropriate Extension of
Paradigm – Social Darwinism,
Moral Progress, Wellhausen
Fad Factor
• Modernism Processual
• Post-Modernism PostProcessual Archaeology
Political Correctness
• The threat that certain
conclusions are ideologically
unacceptable displays more
heat than wisdom
• Asherah
Religion in the Context of
Archaeological evidence has been fundamental for
this investigation. At the same time, the voices of
the ancient texts and insights from the social
sciences have been critically important.
This approach reverses that of the past century,
during which time studies of Canaanite and
Israelite religions have relied heavily upon written
sources, in particular the texts from Ugarit and the
Hebrew Bible. The growing corpus of
archaeological data has often served as
documentation for the texts rather than as an
independent witness to Bronze and Iron Age
religious practice.
Traditionally, studies have focused upon religion as
religion rather than viewing it as one aspect of
culture as a complete entity. Indeed, "the
conceptualization of religion as an integral and
integrative part of society rather than as a discrete
cultural expression, and as a component of sociocultural identity rather than as its sole foundation,
has been slow to penetrate the scholarship of
biblical religion" (Meyers 1988: 22). Here, the
insistence of anthropologists and sociologists that the
organization and practice of religion reflect multiple
dimensions of society at-large has enriched our study.
Quoted from Archaeology and the Religions of Canaan and Israel (Asor Books) by Beth Alpert Nakhai p. 201
Study of Ancient Israelite
1. Objectivity??
• Considering the nature of the subject, it is not
to be expected that the study of religion, will
ever set an example of dispassionate
scholarly enquiry. Those involved in it always
have, in one way or another, a personal stake
in the matter.
• That is why studies of religion are not merely
windows on the subject under scrutiny; they
also mirror the views and fascinations of the
researcher and the researcher’s society.
• Since both Judaism and Christianity claim to
be the heirs of Israelite religion, it is often
classified as a period in the history of the
living religions. Its position is perceived as
fundamentally different from that of, say,
Babylonian religion, which no living religion
claims as its ancestor. It has often required to
create an image of the past aimed at
explaining legitimizing current views and
practices in Judaism and Christianity.
Study of Ancient Israelite
2. Interests and Fads
• New archaeological
evidence, though important,
is not commensurate to the
shifting modes in the history
of Israelite religion.
• The history of Israelite
religion reflects changing
ideological needs, styles and
fashions. (Feminism,
Modernism, Post-Modernism
Study of Ancient Israelite
3. Three periods
1870–1920, was a time of optimism, in which the
history of the religions of humankind was treated
as the history of God’s progressive revelation,
culminating in the teachings of Christianity, the end
of all religion. Israelite religion, according to this
view, was an important step toward this
dénouement. (Evolutionary paradigm)
1920–60, experienced the loss of this naïve
confidence in the notion of progress. History was
no longer regarded as the theatre of God’s
revelation; nor was the history of religion. Under
the influence of dialectical theology Israelite
religion was deemed quite irrelevant. (WWI and
Depression leading to loss of optimism)
1960s onward – attempt to recover not history as it
should have been (which is what biblical theology
stood for), but history as it really was. Key themes,
or foci of interest, are (1) family religion; (2) the cult
of the goddess; (3) religious iconography and the
rise of aniconism; (4) and the continuity between
Israelite and Canaanite religion.
Some of the common questions of
historiography are:
• Who wrote the source (primary or secondary)?
• For primary sources, we look at the person in
his or her society, for secondary sources, we
consider the theoretical orientation of the
approach for example, Marxist or Annales
School, ("total history"), political history, etc.
• What is the authenticity, authority,
bias/interest, and intelligibility of the source?
• What was the view of history when the source
was written?
• Was history supposed to provide moral
• What or who was the intended audience?
• What sources were privileged or ignored in
the narrative?
• By what method was the evidence compiled?
• In what historical context was the work of
history itself written?
Annales Historiography
• Dating from between the World Wars
• Rejected the predominant emphasis on
politics, diplomacy and war of many 19th
century historians.
• Combines geography, history, and the
sociological approaches emphasis on
study of long-term historical structures (la
longue durée) over events. Geography,
material culture, and mentalities or the
psychology of the epoch.
• Strives to pose and solve problems
and, neglecting surface disturbances,
to observe the long and medium-term
evolution of economy, society and