Tuesday, May 24, 2016

William Foxwell Albright

"THE DEAN OF BIBLICAL ARCHAEOLOGISTS": Digging with the Bible: William F. Albright proved the Bible was a book of factual, historical, real, places and people (BENJAMIN GLATT, Jerusalem Post).
He worked at the site of Gibeah or Tel el-Ful, possibly the location of the Book of Judges’ Battle of Gibeah and the first site of the capital of the Holy City, which is located in what is now the northern Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina.

The archeologist also discovered Tell Beit Mirsim, which Albright identified as Dvir (Debir), or Kiryat Sefer, on the border of the Shfela and the Hebron Hills.

The scholar played a role in authenticating the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1948, calling it “the greatest manuscript find of modern times.” Out of all his articles, archeological excavations and research, his authentication of the Dead Sea Scrolls made him well known outside of the scholarly field.
The headline rather overstates the actual quotation (from the 1975 issue of “Ministry – the International Journal for Pastors”) cited in the article: "The Bible became real to him, a book of factual, historical, real, places and people." This is true, although the view of scholars and archaeologists today is that he somewhat overstated the conclusion. For example, he thought there was at least some historical basis for the patriarchal narratives in Genesis, whereas I don't think any specialist would argue that today. Albright's most enduring contributions were not really in biblical studies, but rather archaeology and epigraphy. He contributed a great deal to the consolidation of Palestinian ceramic typology and he also laid the fundamental groundwork for the paleographical typology of Northwest Semitic inscriptions (Hebrew, Aramaic, Phoenician, etc.) And, of course, much of his fame today comes from his early recognition of the genuineness and importance of the Dead Sea Scrolls. A biography of Albright was published by Leona Glidden Running in 1975. And, as the article notes, Thomas Levy and David Noel Freedman published a brief biographical memoir of Albright in 2008, which you can read at the link or in a longer 2009 version here.