ANEToday is pleased to present comments by noted archaeologist Israel Finkelstein, delivered at a joint session of ASOR and the Society of Biblical Literature titled “Rethinking Israel” (Boston, November 2017). The session honored Professor Finkelstein’s many contributions and presented him with a festschrift, Rethinking Israel, Studies in the History and Archaeology of Ancient Israel in Honor of Israel Finkelstein, edited by Oded Lipschits, Yuval Gadot, and Matthew Adams.Excerpt from the lecture:
Speaking about material culture, we need to admit that the southern Levant was a marginal, backwater of the great Ancient Near Eastern civilizations. It has no outstanding monuments, no great archives and no beautiful art-treasures. As an archaeologist, I can disclose to you the sad fact that the people of the southern Levant were not capable of constructing a straight wall, or manufacturing a museum-piece object. The importance of archaeology in this part of the world stems from one thing only – the Bible – the Old and New Testaments. The world is interested in what we are doing, universities open positions, students come to dig with us and the media is enthusiastic to uncritically report every outrageous bit of babble or spin that issues forth from our mouths, only because we work in the cradle of Western Civilization. How to deal with biblical historiography is a different matter.Congratulations to Professor Finkelstein on this Festschrift recognizing his great contribution to the field.
I see myself as being lucky on three fronts: to deal with the archaeology of such an important region, to focus on important periods related to the rise of Judeo-Christian civilization, and because of timing. Speaking about timing, I reached the frontline of research into the history of Ancient Israel when the traditional fortress of biblical archaeology started crumbling, enabling one to think differently and freely without being crushed by “authority” – the Thought Police. Many of us were there when the time was ripe; only some of us grabbed the opportunity. Make no mistake, there were endless attempts to stop me and others like me, with all sorts of “tricks and schticks,” some funny and others less so.
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