Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Archaeology, the Bible, and history

THE DOG ATE MY EVIDENCE: King David Slept Here. Thoughts about Evidence and Method in Biblical Archaeology (Michael Press, ASOR Blog).
The continuing search for the historical David appears, like the conclusions of the Albright School, to be driven – problematically – by heavy investment in the historicity of the Bible. And here lies the paradox: heavy investment in the Bible is what motivates work in the field in the first place, and what drives public interest. Without it, our field simply would not exist. (Why else would anyone care about a tiny corner of southwestern Asia?). We must be careful in crafting responsible scholarly approaches that acknowledge this investment, with all its positives and negatives. In any attempt to historicize the United Monarchy, we must also historicize our own scholarship by acknowledging this context. After all, mythic history has a tremendous appeal, to scholars and non-scholars alike. It is why people still care, over 200 years later, where George Washington slept – and why people still care, 3000 years later, where David might have slept.
Archaeology does not readily align itself with the concerns of the ancient biblical texts, and the texts themselves were often not interested in the historical questions that interest us and cannot readily be used to answer them.