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ARCHAEOLOGY, SCIENCE, AND THE BIBLE (Spring 2017, 4 weeks) Sarah Wisseman,
[email protected]
The clash between religion and science is especially vivid when we try to recreate the world of the
Bible and the ancient Middle East. This four-week class will sample key controversies in biblical
archaeology and how scholars deal with conflicting evidence. Was there a Great Deluge and a parting of
the Red Sea? Did Joshua knock down the walls of Jericho? Where did the Israelites really come from?
Could the Shroud of Turin be authentic? These and other questions will be explored using biblical and
non-biblical literary sources, ancient art, and physical data from archaeology, geology, chemistry, and
materials science.
This four-week class will overlap substantially with the 8-week class “Archaeology and the Bible”
taught in 2015, but include new material. It will provide some introduction to biblical archaeology and
sample the instructor’s favorite controversies (e.g. The Shroud of Turin).
1/23. Introduction. The physical setting of the ancient Near East, how archaeologists think and work,
the Deluge and Noah’s Ark.
1/30. Defensive architecture and waterworks. Exodus and the Israelite Conquest.
2/6. Religion and daily life in different periods. Qumran, the home of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
2/13. Roman period archaeology. Masada, Jesus, and the Shroud of Turin.
Assyria: Northern Iraq and northern part of Mesopotamia. Assyrians invaded Israel several times,
especially during the 8th c BC.
Canaan: Israel, Lebanon, Palestinian Territories, western Jordan, and southwest Syria, especially
during the second millennium BC. “Canaanites” were the original inhabitants of Israel.
Essenes: Jewish sect who lived at Qumran starting ca 100 BC. The Essenes were the writers,
guardians, and translators of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
First Temple: built by Solomon, starting about 950 BC. Destroyed 586 by Babylonians.
Herod the Great: ruled 73/4-4 BC. Builder of cities and forts during Roman period.
Hyksos: people of mixed Semitic and west Asian descent who invaded Egypt ca. 1750 BC and ruled
it for about 200 years.
Mesopotamia: “land between the two rivers,” Tigris and Euphrates, modern Iraq, esp. the southern
Palestine: Greek term, also used by Romans, to describe what is now Israel, parts of Lebanon and
Philistines: part of the “Sea Peoples” who invaded Canaan from Greece and other parts of the
Mediterranean ca. 1200 BC and settled along the southern coast of Israel. Their territory (now the Gaza
Strip) includes the five cities of Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Gath and Ekron.
Phoenicia: corresponds roughly with the northern coast of Israel and the southern part of Lebanon.
The Phoenicians were famous traders and merchants, dominant during the Bronze Age.
Qumran: settlement near the Dead Sea of the Jewish sect, the Essenes, ca. 100 BC- 68 AD.
Second Temple: consecrated 516 BC, destroyed 70 AD by Romans.
Solomon: son of David, king of United Kingdom, 970-930 BC.
CHRONOLOGY (n.b. almost every source has slightly different dates!)
*Bronze Age: 3200-1200 BC. Canaanites in Holy Land
*Iron Age: 1200-586 BC. Israelites. First Temple finished c. 950 BC
Babylonian period: 586-539 BC. Judah falls to Babylonia (586 BC)
Persian period: 539-332 BC. Second Temple consecrated (516 BC)
Hellenistic period: 332-63 BC. Alexander conquers Palestine (332 BC)
*Roman period: 63 BC-324 AD. Herod the Great (73/4-4BC);
Jesus c. 7 BC-33 AD)
(The periods we will be most concerned with are the Bronze Age, the Iron Age, and the Roman
**Eric H. Cline, Biblical Archaeology: A Very Short Introduction (2009). Excellent: succinct and
Eric H. Cline, From Eden to Exile: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Bible (2007). Also excellent,
more depth on major controversies.
**Jodi Magness, The Archaeology of the Holy Land: From the Destruction of Solomon’s Temple to
the Muslim Conquest (2012). Essential and up-to-date reference book on New Testament Archaeology
and later periods.
**Jodi Magness, Great Course on “The Holy Land Revealed.” Much of same content as her book,
beautifully presented with great slides.
Biblical Archaeology Review. Popular magazine with many useful articles; however Hershel
Shanks, the editor, is a lawyer rather than a professional archaeologist. Some subjects he gives pride of
place (e.g. the James Ossuary, a likely forgery) don’t deserve the limelight. For scholarly articles by
professional in the field, consult Biblical Archaeologist, Israel Exploration Journal, Journal of
Archaeological Science, etc.