Bible Archaeology

Israel Finkelstein Revises his Dating: Is the Indefatigable Minimalist Slipping?

Associates for Biblical Research reports:

Israel Finkelstein revises his dating

“Two afternoon sessions at the Society of Biblical Literature Meeting were devoted to Archaeology and Text, and in particular to the dating problems associated with the transition from Iron Age I to Iron Age II. In these sessions Ayelet Gilboa spoke on Tel Dor, Amihai Mazar on Tel Rehov, Aren Maeir on Tell es-Safi, Israel Finkelstein on Megiddo, and David Ussishkin on Jezreel.

During his presentation, Israel Finkelstein revised his dating, and stated that he was now dating the transition from Iron Age I to IIA to about 950 BC. This was momentous. Based on their experiences in the Philistine areas and sites such as Lachish, Ussishkin and Finkelstein have been dating the start of Iron Age II to 920–900 BC and they, along with many others, have used this dating to argue that David and Solomon did not exist. Archaeologists working elsewhere in the southern Levant have found the comparatively short period of Iron Age II problematic because it was difficult to compress their Iron Age II levels into it. While they mounted archaeological arguments to support an earlier start to Iron Age II they were normally accused of being ‘biblically biased’.

Now that Finkelstein is digging at Megiddo, where there is a significant depth of Iron Age II material, he realises that the period was longer and that an earlier date for the start of Iron Age II is necessary. There are numerous books written by Finkelstein arguing that there was no United Monarchy because Iron Age II began long after the time it was supposed to have existed. Unfortunately these books will continue to have influence for decades to come, although the core argument is no longer accepted. The change does not mean that the United Monarchy did exist; it simply removes one of the hypothesised impediments.

It was interesting that in the presentations the only person to regularly refer to biblical texts was Finkelstein: for him, disproving the Old Testament appears to be a hobby-horse. Much of the scholarly world has been fixated on Finkelstein conveying his hypotheses as facts. It will be interesting to see if it now takes a less dogmatic stance.

Sadly, the only Israeli archaeologists in these sessions to present archaeology as a way of understanding ancient lives were Aren Maeir and to some extent Amihai Mazar. The others were caught up with the historical imperatives.”

This report is illuminating. Dr. Finkelstein is well-known for his skepticism towards the Bible, so this backtracking is rather surprising. Let us see if he remains consistent, or if he recognizes that he dropped the ball for his fellow skeptics everywhere. In either case, his bias against the ancient text of the Bible should be recognized by anyone who wants to be remotely fair minded and intellectually honest.

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Bible Archaeology

Israel and Palestine: Who Owns What – Archaeologically

While officials squabble over heritage sites, non-government experts are working behind the scenes to propose solutions.

The Art Newspaper:

In anticipation of a Palestinian bid for statehood recognition at the UN in September, Israelis and Palestinians are racing to claim cultural heritage sites in the West Bank. Both are channeling money into excavating, developing and branding sites as their own, underscoring connections bound to history and identity. Yet as each side puts facts on the ground, the rules for the contested playing field have not been agreed upon: who owns cultural property? Who can make changes to or profit from heritage sites? What legal questions are relevant? If a Palestinian state is recognised, negotiators will have to be ready to address these questions. But as the issues have never been negotiated, non-governmental experts have filled in behind the scenes, to have cultural property policy recommendations and documentation ready, in the event of a peace deal…

Framing such ongoing and explosive disputes are long unresolved questions of borders and who owns cultural heritage. In principle, archaeology and cultural heritage, like other issues, were to be worked out in Israeli-Palestinian final status negotiations. Every round of peace talks failed though, before archaeology was ever seriously discussed. The heritage committee mandated by the Oslo Accords is non-existent; the void has helped maintain intractable Israeli and Palestinian positions and discouraged co-operation.

Israeli officials have argued that heritage sites with Jewish historical connection must remain under Israeli sovereignty. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated that position last year, after Unesco ruled that, despite being venerated by Jews, Christians and Muslims, heritage sites in Bethlehem and Hebron are Palestinian (The Art Newspaper, December 2010, p25). He denounced the decision as “absurd”, calling it “an attempt to disconnect the nation of Israel from its heritage.”

Palestinians counter that location, not religious identification, determines sovereignty of a site…

There’s a lot more here.

Bible Archaeology

How Should we Respond to Sensational Archaeological Claims?

Like crucifixion nails, Noah’s ark and the Jesus Tomb?

Every few years, it seems, a spectacular Bible-related archaeological claim catches media attention. Such claims dominate news websites for a few weeks and then tend to fade quickly from public attention, revealed as fakes—or at the very least shown to be less compelling than originally claimed. In recent years we’ve seen flurries of hype and interest over the Jesus tomb and Noah’s Ark. The latest claim—suspiciously timed for Easter—is by a journalist who claims to have (maybe) found the nails used to crucify Jesus.

You don’t have to read very far down that Time article to realize that this is less spectacular than the hype suggests; even the journalist making the claim admits that it’s a possibility, not a certainty. Not knowing anything more about this particular claim, I won’t comment on its merits, but this seems a good opportunity to talk about how to approach sensational claims like this.

It’s understandable that Bible readers and believers would be excited at the discovery of a possible artifact mentioned in the text of Scripture. (And by contrast, an atheist might be excited by an archaeological find that appears to contradict the Bible.) But how can we—most of us not archaeologists, and only dimly aware of the scholarship and context behind archaeological claims—evaluate these claims? Here are a few thoughts to consider…

Read the here.

They’re well worth remembering for the next time (which will be soon enough) a sensational archaeological claim hits the headlines.

HT:   Bible Places

Culture

Justin Bieber Gets a ‘Yeshua’ Tattoo

The Jewish Daily Forward, is reporting:

A month after his first visit to Israel, Justin Bieber has gotten a Hebrew tattoo.

The 17-year-old pop star showed off the new ink during a visit to Hawaii with his girlfriend this week. (Because that’s what normal 17-year-olds do: get tattoos and go to Hawaii with their girlfriends.)

The letters spell out “Yeshua,” or Jesus, in Hebrew.

Israel’s Mako website speculates that the Christian singer may have been influenced in his tattoo selection by his Jewish manager, Scooter Braun. The site claims Bieber says the “Shma” before every concert, and that Braun has discussed Jewish ethics with the performer.

Whatever the tattoo’s inspiration, The Shmooze hopes it means that Bieber wasn’t too traumatized by his visit to Israel, which was marred by overzealous paparazzi and opportunistic politicians.

The concert itself went off without a hitch, and the singer delighted fans by using a bit of local slang — “sababa,” or cool — that didn’t make the cut as his tattoo.

And this is what it looks like:

Church

Speaking of End Times, Did Christ Wrongly Predict His Second Coming?

No, and here’s why:

In the comments on the previous post, I had to go after someone who made the old accusation that Saint Paul and the first century Church were gravely disappointed by the fact that Christ did not return in their lifetime, as Christ had promised.
 
Liberal scholars, beginning in the 17th century, but especially Germans in the 19th century began to promote the wrong belief that Christ was an eschatological and charismatic leader. Incorrectly, they claim that He was a pacifist, who nevertheless prophesied the judgment of God on Israel and Rome through His miraculous return. These heretics then say that the sudden crucifixion of Christ complicated this claim and so His followers had to scramble and create a new theology to justify His death. So then, these heretics claims that the disciples created the doctrine of the resurrection of Christ, who then became a “cosmic Christ” who would come again to judge the living and the dead. The Jesus legend, they say, expanded to epic proportions.
 
The common teaching of this false modernist theology is the belief that Jesus was a “failed charismatic prophet,” and that early Christian theology is an attempted response to patch up the failure…
 
The following story is also behind the so-called “historical Jesus” movement…

The rest is by Taylor Marshall here.
Church

Islamic End Times Scheduled for 5 June 2011

Via the Blog of Veith:

Not to be outdone by Harold Camping, some Muslims are predicting the onset of the End Times  to occur on June 5.   Iran’s political establishment is being torn by a controversy over the return of the messiah-like Mahdi.   Some Shi’ites have set a date, so we will be able to see if they are right.  From Reza Kahlili:

Increasing tensions between Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad intensified when hardline clerics exerted pressure on Ahmadinejad to obey the supreme leader as the ultimate authority. Those tensions were exacerbated with the arrest of over 25 of Ahmadinejad’s associates and loyalists, along with a high-level member of his inner circle. Supporters of the supreme leader are referring to Ahmadinejad’s group as “The Deviant Movement.”

This “group” has announced that within the upcoming weeks a monumental event will turn the tide to their advantage.

Based on a report from Iran’s Ayandeh, one of the officials within “The Deviant Movement” has informed his confidants that certain sources close to the “Mahdi’s Emergence Movement” have stated that an important event will soon change the course of operations to Ahmadinejad’s favor. According to interpretations offered by Ahmadinejad’s team, a high-ranking member of the Islamic Republic will meet with a climactic incident. This in turn will build up to the announcement of the “covert emergence” of the Twelfth Imam (or Mahdi) in Medina, Saudi Arabia.

Hardliners critical of Ahmadinejad  maintain that his team believes a covert emergence will commence on the 14th of Khordaad (June 5) in Medina, setting the stage for the announcement of the actual emergence in the next few years.

Certain accounts have chronicled that prior to the official emergence of the Mahdi, he will appear covertly in Medina, and during a period of one to three years he will lay the foundations for the actual announcement of his appearance. . . .

Ahmadinejad believes that the covert emergence has, in fact, occurred. Therefore, he acts like he no longer needs the supreme leader and that he can disobey him, as he is taking his orders directly from the Mahdi himself.

Mehdi Khazali, son of Ayatollah Khazali — an ally of Khamenei who has access to high-level authorities within the supreme leadership — has noted on his website that the month of Khordaad (May 21 to June 21) will generate much chaos within the Iranian political strata. He has also expressed grave concern regarding the state of affairs and developments facing the Iranian people in the second half of the month. . . .

Since Ahmadinejad’s ascent to power, talk of the emergence of the Mahdi has increased. A number of hardliners, who are installed within the halls of the presidency, are attempting to utilize the Iranian and global situation to demonstrate the signs of the emergence of the Mahdi and to prove that the Rapture is imminent.

As I revealed recently, a secret Iranian documentary, The Coming is Upon Us, details the last condition for the reappearance as the destruction of Israel and the conquest of Jerusalem by Ahmadinejad. He has been portrayed as the mythical figure in centuries-old Hadiths, Shoeib-ebne Saleh, the Islamic commander who attacks Israel in the End of Times and creates the needed circumstances for the reappearance of the Shiite messiah, the 12th Imam Mahdi.

The question is: Will the rifts in the Iranian leadership push Ahmadinejad and his team to draw Israel into an unwanted war to prove that he is that mythical figure and to facilitate the Rapture?

How is the religion of Harold Camping like that of Islam?

Good question.

But I think I’ll just be shaking me head…