Saturday, July 12, 2003

BIBLICAL ARCHAEOLOGY REVIEW has the following new articles of interest in its online July/August issue:

Literacy in the Time of Jesus
Alan Millard


Some scholars contend, with Stephen Patterson, that �very few people could read or write [in Jesus� day].� � But such statements are no longer supported by the evidence. Not everyone could read and write. And some who could read were not necessarily able to write. But archaeological discoveries and other lines of evidence now show that writing and reading were widely practiced in the Palestine of Jesus� day. And if that is true, there is no reason to doubt that there were some eyewitness records of what Jesus said and did.

Brother of Jesus Ossuary
New Tests Bolster Case for Authenticity

Edward J. Keall

(A defense of the inscription's authenticity by a senior curator of the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, where it was subjected to tests last fall.)

Why It's So Hard to Name Our Field

William Dever


The only way I see to cut the Gordion Knot is simply to adopt the current modern names of the various political entities in the region, however much we acknowledge their arbitrariness. Thus in future we should simply speak of �the archaeology of Israel�; of the �West Bank� (perhaps in time, �Palestine�); of �Jordan�; and of �Syria� (�Lebanon,� too, if conditions return to normal).

These are simply proper nouns, and they are thus accurate, useful, and non-judgmental. To be sure, there is a semantic difficulty when we use them as adjectives, especially for foreign archaeologists. For instance, I can hardly identify myself as an �Israeli archaeologist,� simply because I work in Israel.

When asked who we are and what we do, we may say something like �I am a Near Eastern archaeologist, specializing in X, Y, and Z.� If a non-specialist is interested only in the Biblical period, we can comfortably use language such as �the archaeology of Palestine in the Iron Age,� as I suggested some time ago; or simply �archaeology and the Bible.� For the later periods, perhaps, we can speak of �the archaeology of early Judaism and Christianity.�

The terminology that I am advocating here is admittedly rather prosaic, but that�s better than being explosive these days. And it can help us all to get on with the real business of archaeology in the Middle East.

And in his editorial Hershel Shanks replies that he wants to know where the "Archaeology of Israel" section is in the next meeting of ASOR. And his political battle with the Israel Antiquities Authority continues.

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