Historicity of the Bible


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The historicity of the Bible is the question of the Bible‘s relationship to history—covering not just the Bible’s acceptability as history but also the ability to understand the literary forms of biblical narrative.[1] One can extend biblical historicity to the evaluation of whether or not the Christian New Testament is an accurate record of the historical Jesus and of the Apostolic Age. This tends to vary depending upon the opinion of the scholar.

When studying the books of the Bible, scholars examine the historical context of passages, the importance ascribed to events by the authors, and the contrast between the descriptions of these events and other historical evidence. Being a collaborative work composed and redacted over the course of several centuries,[2] the historicity of the Bible is not consistent throughout the entirety of its contents.

According to theologian Thomas L. Thompson, a representative of the Copenhagen School, also known as “biblical minimalism”, the archaeological record lends sparse and indirect evidence for the Old Testament‘s narratives as history.[a][4][b][6][7] Others, like archeologist William G. Dever, felt that biblical archaeology has both confirmed and challenged the Old Testament stories.[8] While Dever has criticized the Copenhagen School for its more radical approach, he is far from being a biblical literalist, and thinks that the purpose of biblical archaeology is not to simply support or discredit the biblical narrative, but to be a field of study in its own right.[9][10]

Materials and methods[edit]

Manuscripts and canons[edit]

The Bible exists in multiple manuscripts, none of them an autograph, and multiple biblical canons, which do not completely agree on which books have sufficient authority to be included or their order. The early discussions about the exclusion or integration of various apocrypha involve an early idea about the historicity of the core.[11] The Ionian Enlightenment influenced early patrons like Justin Martyr and Tertullian—both saw the biblical texts as being different from (and having more historicity than) the myths of other religions. Augustine was aware of the difference between science and scripture and defended the historicity of the biblical texts, e.g., against claims of Faustus of Mileve.[12]

Historians hold that the Bible should not be treated differently from other historical (or literary) sources from the ancient world. One may compare doubts about the historicity of, for example, Herodotus; the consequence of these discussions is not that historians shall have to stop using ancient sources for historical reconstruction, but need to be aware of the problems involved when doing so.[13]

Very few texts survive directly from antiquity: most have been copied—some, many times. To determine the accuracy of a copied manuscript, textual critics examine the way the transcripts have passed through history to their extant forms. The higher the consistency of the earliest texts, the greater their textual reliability, and the less chance that the content has been changed over the years. Multiple copies may also be grouped into text types, with some types judged closer to the hypothetical original than others.

Writing and reading history[edit]

W.F. Albright, the doyen of biblical archaeology, in 1957

The meaning of the term “history” is itself dependent on social and historical context.[14] Paula McNutt, for instance, notes that the Old Testament narratives,

“Do not record ‘history’ in the sense that history is understood in the twentieth century. …The past, for biblical writers as well as for twentieth-century readers of the Bible, has meaning only when it is considered in light of the present, and perhaps an idealized future.”[15]

— Paula M. McNutt, Reconstructing the society of ancient Israel, page 4

Even from the earliest times, students of religious texts had an awareness that parts of the scriptures could not be interpreted as a strictly consistent sequence of events. The Talmud cites a dictum ascribed to the third-century teacher Abba Arika that “there is no chronological order in the Torah”.[16] Examples were often presented and discussed in later Jewish exegesis with, according to Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907–1972), an ongoing discourse between those who would follow the views of Rabbi Ishmael (born 90 CE) that “the Torah speaks in human language”, compared to the more mystical approach of Rabbi Akiva (c. 50–135) that any such deviations should signpost some deeper order or purpose, to be divined.[17]

During the modern era, the focus of biblical history has also diversified. The project of biblical archaeology associated with W.F. Albright (1891–1971), which sought to validate the historicity of the events narrated in the Bible through the ancient texts and material remains of the Near East,[18] has a more specific focus compared to the more expansive view of history described by archaeologist William Dever (b. 1933). In discussing the role of his discipline in interpreting the biblical record, Dever has pointed to multiple histories within the Bible, including the history of theology (the relationship between God and believers), political history (usually the account of “Great Men”), narrative history (the chronology of events), intellectual history (treating ideas and their development, context and evolution), socio-cultural history (institutions, including their social underpinnings in family, clan, tribe and social class and the state), cultural history (overall cultural evolutiondemography, socio-economic and political structure and ethnicity), technological history (the techniques by which humans adapt to, exploit and make use of the resources of their environment), natural history (how humans discover and adapt to the ecological facts of their natural environment), and material history (artifacts as correlates of changes in human behaviour).[19][20]

Sharply differing perspectives on the relationship between narrative history and theological meaning present a special challenge for assessing the historicity of the Bible. Supporters of biblical literalism “deny that Biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and science. We further deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood.”[21] “History”, or specifically biblical history, in this context appears to mean a definitive and finalized framework of events and actions—comfortingly familiar shared facts—like an omniscient medieval chronicle, shorn of alternative accounts,[22] psychological interpretations,[23] or literary pretensions. But prominent scholars have expressed diametrically opposing views:

[T]he stories about the promise given to the patriarchs in Genesis are not historical, nor do they intend to be historical; they are rather historically determined expressions about Israel and Israel’s relationship to its God, given in forms legitimate to their time, and their truth lies not in their facticity, nor in the historicity, but their ability to express the reality that Israel experienced.[24]

Modern professional historians, familiar with the phenomenon of on-going historical revisionism, allow new findings and ideas into their interpretations of “what happened”, and scholars versed in the study of texts (however sacred) see all narrators as potentially unreliable[25] and all accounts—especially edited accounts—as potentially historically incomplete, biased by times and circumstances.

Hebrew Bible/Old Testament[edit]


A central pillar of the Bible’s historical authority was the tradition that it had been composed by the principal actors or eyewitnesses to the events described—the Pentateuch was the work of Moses, the Book of Joshua was by Joshua, and so on. However, the Protestant Reformation had brought the actual texts to a much wider audience, which combined with the growing climate of intellectual ferment in the 17th century that was the start of the Age of Enlightenment. This threw a harsh, skeptical spotlight on these traditional claims. In Protestant England, the philosopher Thomas Hobbes in his major work Leviathan (1651) denied Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, and identified Joshua, JudgesSamuelKings, and Chronicles as having been written long after the events they purported to describe. His conclusions rested on internal textual evidence, but in an argument that resonates with modern debates, he noted: “Who were the original writers of the several Books of Holy Scripture, has not been made evident by any sufficient testimony of other History, which is the only proof of matter of fact.”[26][27]

Title page of Simon’s Critical History, 1682.

The Jewish philosopher and pantheist Baruch Spinoza echoed Hobbes’s doubts about the provenance of the historical books in his Tractatus Theologico-Politicus (published in 1670),[28] and elaborated on the suggestion that the final redaction of these texts was post-exilic under the auspices of Ezra (Chapter IX). He had earlier been effectively excommunicated by the rabbinical council of Amsterdam for his perceived heresies. The French priest Richard Simon brought these critical perspectives to the Catholic tradition in 1678, observing “the most part of the Holy Scriptures that are come to us, are but Abridgments and as Summaries of ancient Acts which were kept in the Registries of the Hebrews,” in what was probably the first work of biblical textual criticism in the modern sense.[29]

In response Jean Astruc, applying to the Pentateuch source criticism methods common in the analysis of classical secular texts, believed he could detect four different manuscript traditions, which he claimed Moses himself had redacted (p. 62–64).[30] His 1753 book initiated the school known as higher criticism that culminated in Julius Wellhausen formalising the documentary hypothesis in the 1870s,[31] which identifies these narratives as the JahwistElohistDeuteronomist, and the Priestly source. While versions of the documentary hypothesis vary in the order in which they were composed, the circumstances of their composition, and the date of their redaction(s), their shared terminology continues to provide the framework for modern theories on the composite nature and origins of the Torah.[32]

By the end of the 19th century the scholarly consensus was that the Pentateuch was the work of many authors writing from 1000 BCE (the time of David) to 500 BCE (the time of Ezra) and redacted c. 450, and as a consequence whatever history it contained was more often polemical than strictly factual—a conclusion reinforced by the then fresh scientific refutations of what were at the time widely classed as biblical mythologies.

Torah (Pentateuch)[edit]

Genesis creation narrative[edit]

The Garden of Eden. By Lucas Cranach der Ältere (1472–1553)

There is a Christian tradition of criticism of the creation narratives in Genesis dating back to at least St Augustine of Hippo (354–430), and Jewish tradition has also maintained a critical thread in its approach to biblical primeval history. The influential medieval philosopher Maimonides maintained a skeptical ambiguity toward creation ex nihilo and considered the stories about Adam more as “philosophical anthropology, rather than as historical stories whose protagonist is the ‘first man’.”[33] Greek philosophers Aristotle,[34] Critolaus[35] and Proclus[36] held that the world was eternal. Such interpretations are inconsistent with what was after the Protestant Reformation to be “commonly perceived in evangelicalism as traditional views of Genesis”.[c]

The publication of James Hutton‘s Theory of the Earth in 1788 was an important development in the scientific revolution that would dethrone Genesis as the ultimate authority on primeval earth and prehistory. The first casualty was the Creation story itself, and by the early 19th century “no responsible scientist contended for the literal credibility of the Mosaic account of creation.”[38] The battle between uniformitarianism and catastrophism kept the flood alive in the emerging discipline, until Adam Sedgwick, the president of the Geological Society, publicly recanted his previous support in his 1831 presidential address:

We ought indeed to have paused before we first adopted the diluvian theory, and referred all our old superficial gravel to the action of the Mosaic Flood. For of man, and the works of his hands, we have not yet found a single trace among the remnants of the former world entombed in those deposits.[39]

All of which left the “first man” and his putative descendants in the awkward position of being stripped of all historical context, until Charles Darwin naturalized the Garden of Eden with the publication of On the Origin of Species in 1859. Public acceptance of this scientific revolution was, at the time, uneven, but has since grown significantly. The mainstream scholarly community soon arrived at a consensus, which holds today, that Genesis 1–11 is a highly schematic literary work representing theology/symbolic mythology rather than actual history or science.[30][page needed]

The Patriarchs[edit]

In the following decades Hermann Gunkel drew attention to the mythic aspects of the Pentateuch, and Albrecht AltMartin Noth and the tradition history school argued that although its core traditions had genuinely ancient roots, the narratives were fictional framing devices and were not intended as history in the modern sense. Though doubts have been cast on the historiographic reconstructions of this school (particularly the notion of oral traditions as a primary ancient source), much of its critique of biblical historicity found wide acceptance. Gunkel’s position is that

if, however, we consider figures like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to be actual persons with no original mythic foundations, that does not at all mean that they are historical figures. …For even if, as may well be assumed, there was once a man call “Abraham,” everyone who knows the history of legends is sure that the legend is in no position at the distance of so many centuries to preserve a picture of the personal piety of Abraham. The “religion of Abraham” is, in reality, the religion of the legend narrators which they attribute to Abraham.[40]

— Gunkel, 1997, page xviii

This has in various forms become a commonplace of contemporary criticism.[d]

In the United States the biblical archaeology movement, under the influence of Albright, counterattacked, arguing that the broad outline within the framing narratives was also true, so that while scholars could not realistically expect to prove or disprove individual episodes from the life of Abraham and the other patriarchs, these were real individuals who could be placed in a context proven from the archaeological record. But as more discoveries were made, and anticipated finds failed to materialise, it became apparent that archaeology did not in fact support the claims made by Albright and his followers.

Following Albright’s death, his interpretation of the patriarchal age came under increasing criticism: such dissatisfaction marked its culmination with the publication of The Historicity of the Patriarchal Narratives by Thomas L. Thompson[42] and Abraham in History and Tradition by John Van Seters.[43] Thompson, a literary scholar, argued on the lack of compelling evidence that the patriarchs lived in the 2nd millennium BCE, and noted how certain biblical texts reflected first millennium conditions and concerns, while Van Seters examined the patriarchal stories and argued that their names, social milieu, and messages strongly suggested that they were Iron Age creations.[44] Van Seter and Thompson’s works were a paradigm shift in biblical scholarship and archaeology, which gradually led scholars to no longer consider the patriarchal narratives as historical.[45] Some conservative scholars attempted to defend the patriarchal narratives in the following years,[46][47] but this position has not found acceptance among scholars.[48][6]

Today, although there continues to be some debate on the historical background of the narratives, many scholars (possibly most) reject the existence of the Patriarchal age.[49] William Dever stated in 1993 that

[Albright’s] central theses have all been overturned, partly by further advances in biblical criticism, but mostly by the continuing archaeological research of younger Americans and Israelis to whom he himself gave encouragement and momentum. …The irony is that, in the long run, it will have been the newer “secular” archaeology that contributed the most to Biblical studies, not “Biblical archaeology”.[50]

— William Dever, The Biblical Archaeologist, “What Remains of the House that Albright Built?”, March 1993, pp. 25–35

The Exodus[edit]

Most mainstream scholars do not accept the biblical Exodus account as history for a number of reasons. It is generally agreed that the Exodus stories reached the current form centuries after the apparent setting of the stories.[51] The Book of Exodus itself attempts to ground the event firmly in history, dating the exodus to the 2666th year after creation (Exodus 12:40-41), the construction of the tabernacle to year 2667 (Exodus 40:1-2, 17), stating that the Israelites dwelled in Egypt for 430 years (Exodus 12:40-41), and including place names such as Goshen (Gen. 46:28), Pithom and Ramesses (Exod. 1:11), as well as stating that 600,000 Israelite men were involved (Exodus 12:37).[52] The Book of Numbers further states that the number of Israelites in the desert during the wandering were 603,550, including 22,273 first-borns, which modern estimates put at 2.5-3 million total Israelites, a clearly fanciful number that could never have been supported by the Sinai Desert.[53] The geography is vague with regions such as Goshen unidentified, and there are internal problems with dating in the Pentateuch.[54] No modern attempt to identify a historical Egyptian prototype for Moses has found wide acceptance, and no period in Egyptian history matches the biblical accounts of the Exodus.[55] Some elements of the story are miraculous and defy rational explanation, such as the Plagues of Egypt and the Crossing of the Red Sea.[56] The Bible also fails to mention the names of any of the pharaohs involved in the Exodus narrative.[57]

While ancient Egyptian texts from the New Kingdom mention “Asiatics” living in Egypt as slaves and workers, these people cannot be securely connected to the Israelites, and no contemporary Egyptian text mentions a large-scale exodus of slaves like that described in the Bible.[58] The earliest surviving historical mention of the Israelites, the Egyptian Merneptah Stele (c. 1207 BCE), appears to place them in or around Canaan and gives no indication of any exodus.[59]

Despite the absence of any archaeological evidence, a majority of scholars agree that the Exodus probably has some historical basis,[60][61] with Kenton Sparks referring to it as “mythologized history.”[62] Scholars posit that small groups of people of Egyptian origin may have joined the early Israelites, and then contributed their own Egyptian Exodus story to all of Israel.[e] William G. Dever cautiously identifies this group with the Tribe of Joseph, while Richard Elliott Friedman identifies it with the Tribe of Levi.[63][64] Most scholars who accept a historical core of the exodus date this possible exodus group to the thirteenth century BCE at the time of Ramses II, with some instead dating it to the twelfth century BCE at the time of Ramses III.[60] Evidence in favor of historical traditions forming a background to the Exodus narrative include the documented movements of small groups of Ancient Semitic-speaking peoples into and out of Egypt during the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Dynasties, some elements of Egyptian folklore and culture in the Exodus narrative,[65] and the names MosesAaron and Phinehas, which seem to have an Egyptian origin.[66] Scholarly estimates for how many people could have been involved in such an exodus range from a few hundred to a few thousand people.[60]

Deuteronomistic history[edit]

Many scholars believe that the Deuteronomistic history preserved elements of ancient texts and oral tradition, including geo-political and socio-economic realities and certain information about historical figures and events. However, large portions of it are legendary and it contains many anachronisms.[67]

The “conquest narrative” in Joshua and Judges[edit]

A major issue in the historicity debate was the narrative of the Israelite conquest of Canaan, described in Joshua and Judges. The American Albright school asserted that the biblical narrative of conquest would be affirmed by archaeological record; and indeed for much of the 20th century archaeology appeared to support the biblical narrative, including excavations at Beitin (identified as Bethel), Tel ed-Duweir, (identified as Lachish), Hazor, and Jericho.[68][69]

However, flaws in the conquest narrative appeared. The most high-profile example was the “fall of Jericho“, excavated by John Garstang in the 1930s.[68] Garstang originally announced that he had found fallen walls dating to the time of the biblical Battle of Jericho, but later revised the destruction to a much earlier period.[69] Kathleen Kenyon dated the destruction of the walled city to the middle of the 16th century (c. 1550 BCE), too early to match the usual dating of the Exodus to Pharaoh Ramses, on the basis of her excavations in the early 1950s.[70] The same conclusion, based on an analysis of all the excavation findings, was reached by Piotr Bienkowski.[71] By the 1960s it had become clear that the archaeological record did not, in fact, support the account of the conquest given in Joshua: the cities which the Bible records as having been destroyed by the Israelites were either uninhabited at the time, or, if destroyed, were destroyed at widely different times, not in one brief period.[68]

The consensus for the conquest narrative was eventually abandoned in the late 20th century.[68]

Peake’s Commentary on the Bible argues that the Book of Joshua conflates several independent battles between disparate groups over the centuries, and artificially attributes them to a single leader, Joshua.[72] However, there are a few cases where the biblical record is not contradicted by the archaeological record. For example, stratum[which?] in Tel Hazor, found in a destruction layer from around 1200 BCE, shows signs of catastrophic fire, and cuneiform tablets found at the site refer to monarchs named Ibni Addi, where Ibni may be the etymological origin of Yavin (Jabin), the Canaanite leader referred to in the Hebrew Bible.[73][74] The city also shows signs of having been a magnificent Canaanite city prior to its destruction, with great temples and opulent palaces,[74] split into an upper acropolis and lower city; the town evidently had been a major Canaanite city. Israel Finkelstein theorized that the destruction of Hazor was the result of civil strife, attacks by the Sea Peoples, and/or a result of the general collapse of civilization across the whole eastern Mediterranean in the Late Bronze Age, rather than being caused by the Israelites.[74]

Amnon Ben-Tor (Hebrew University of Jerusalem) believes that recently unearthed evidence of violent destruction by burning verifies the biblical account.[75] In 2012, a team led by Ben-Tor and Sharon Zuckerman discovered a scorched palace from the 13th century BC in whose storerooms they found 3,400-year-old ewers holding burned crops; however, Sharon Zuckerman did not agree with Ben-Tor’s theory, and claimed that the burning was the result of the city’s numerous factions opposing each other with excessive force.[76] Biblical scholar Richard Elliot Friedman (University of Georgia) argues that the Israelites did destroy Hazor, but that such destruction fits better with the account of the Book of Judges, in which the prophetess Deborah defeats the king of Hazor.[77]

Books of Samuel[edit]

The Books of Samuel are considered to be based on both historical and legendary sources, primarily serving to fill the gap in Israelite history after the events described in Deuteronomy. According to Donald Redford, the Books of Samuel exhibit too many anachronisms to have been compiled in the 11th century BCE.[78] For example, there is mention of later armor (1 Samuel 17:4–7, 38–39; 25:13), use of camels (1 Samuel 30:17), and cavalry (as distinct from chariotry; 1 Samuel 13:52 Samuel 1:6), iron picks and axes (as though they were common; 2 Samuel 12:31), and sophisticated siege techniques (2 Samuel 20:15). There is a gargantuan troop called up (2 Samuel 17:1), a battle with 20,000 casualties (2 Samuel 18:7), and a reference to Kushite paramilitary and servants, clearly giving evidence of a date in which Kushites were common, after the 26th Dynasty of Egypt, the period of the last quarter of the 8th century BCE.[78] Alan Millard argues that those elements of the Biblical narrative are not anachronistic.[79][80]

United Monarchy[edit]

Much of the focus of modern criticism has been the historicity of the United Monarchy of Israel, which according to the Hebrew Bible ruled over both Judea and Samaria around the 10th century BCE.

Thomas L. Thompson, a minimalist scholar, for example, has written:

There is no evidence of a United Monarchy, no evidence of a capital in Jerusalem or of any coherent, unified political force that dominated western Palestine, let alone an empire of the size the legends describe. We do not have evidence for the existence of kings named Saul, David or Solomon; nor do we have evidence for any temple at Jerusalem in this early period. What we do know of Israel and Judah of the tenth century does not allow us to interpret this lack of evidence as a gap in our knowledge and information about the past, a result merely of the accidental nature of archeology. There is neither room nor context, no artifact or archive that points to such historical realities in Palestine’s tenth century. One cannot speak historically of a state without a population. Nor can one speak of a capital without a town. Stories are not enough.

— [81]

In Iron Age IIa (corresponding to the Monarchal period) Judah seems to have been limited to small, mostly rural and unfortified settlements in the Judean hills.[67] This contrasts to the upper Samaria which was becoming urbanized. This archaeological evidence as well as textual criticism has led many modern historians to treat Israel/Samaria and Judah as arising separately as distinct albeit related entities centered at Shechem and Jerusalem, respectively, and not as a united kingdom with a capital in Jerusalem.

Excavations at Khirbet Qeiyafa, an Iron Age site located in Judah, support the biblical account of a United Monarchy. The Israel Antiquities Authority stated: “The excavations at Khirbat Qeiyafa clearly reveal an urban society that existed in Judah already in the late eleventh century BCE. It can no longer be argued that the Kingdom of Judah developed only in the late eighth century BCE or at some other later date.”[82]

The status of Jerusalem in the 10th century BCE is a major subject of debate.[67] The oldest part of Jerusalem and its original urban core is the City of David, which does show evidence of significant Judean residential activity around the 10th century.[83] Some unique administrative structures such as the Stepped Stone Structure and the Large Stone Structure, which originally formed one structure, contain material culture dated to Iron I.[67] On account of the alleged lack of settlement activity in the 10th century BCE, Israel Finkelstein argues that Jerusalem in the century was a small country village in the Judean hills, not a national capital, and Ussishkin argues that the city was entirely uninhabited. Amihai Mazar contends that if the Iron I/Iron IIa dating of administrative structures in the City of David are correct (as he believes), “Jerusalem was a rather small town with a mighty citadel, which could have been a center of a substantial regional polity.”[67]

It has been argued that recent archaeological discoveries at the City of David and the Ophel seem to indicate that Jerusalem was sufficiently developed as a city to be the capital of the United Monarchy in the 10th century BCE.[84]

Since the discovery of the Tel Dan Stele dated to the 9th or 8th century BCE containing bytdwd, interpreted by many as a reference to the “House of David” as a monarchic dynasty in Judah[85][86] (another possible reference occurs in the Mesha Stele),[87] the majority of scholars accept the existence of a polity ruled by David and Solomon, albeit on a more modest scale than described in the Bible. Most scholars believe that David and Solomon reigned over large sections of Cisjordan and probably parts of Transjordan.[88] William G. Dever argues that David only reigned over the current territories of Israel and West Bank and that he did defeat the invading Philistines, but that the other conquests are fictitious.[89]

New Testament[edit]

Historicity of Jesus[edit]

The majority of modern scholars of antiquity agree that Jesus existed historically, that he was baptized by John the Baptist and crucified by order of Roman prefect Pontius Pilate.[f] The “quest for the historical Jesus” began as early as the 18th century, and has continued to this day. The most notable recent scholarship came in the 1980s and 1990s, with the work of J. D. Crossan,[97] James D. G. Dunn,[98] John P. Meier,[99] E. P. Sanders[100] and N. T. Wright[101] being the most widely read and discussed. Other works on the matter were published by Dale Allison,[102] Bart D. Ehrman,[103] Richard Bauckham[104] and Maurice Casey.[105]

The earliest New Testament texts which refer to Jesus, the Pauline epistles, are usually dated in the 50s CE. Since Paul records very little of Jesus’ life and activities, these are of little help in determining facts about the life of Jesus, although they may contain references to information given to Paul from the eyewitnesses of Jesus.[106]

The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls has shed light into the context of 1st century Judea, noting the diversity of Jewish belief as well as shared expectations and teachings. For example, the expectation of the coming messiah, the beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount and much else of the early Christian movement are found to have existed within apocalyptic Judaism of the period.[107] This has had the effect of centering Early Christianity much more within its Jewish roots than was previously the case. It is now recognised that Rabbinic Judaism and Early Christianity are only two of the many strands which survived until the Jewish revolt of 66 to 70 CE.[108][109]

Most historical critics agree that a historical figure named Jesus taught throughout the Galilean countryside c. 30 CE, was believed by his followers to have performed supernatural acts, and was sentenced to death by the Romans, possibly for insurrection.[110]

Historicity of the Gospels[edit]

Most modern scholars hold that the canonical gospel accounts were written between 70 and 100,[111] four to eight decades after the crucifixion, although based on earlier traditions and texts, such as “Q“, Logia or sayings gospels, the passion account or other earlier literature (See List of Gospels). Some scholars argue that these accounts were compiled by witnesses[104][112] although this view is disputed by other scholars.[113]

Some scholars believe that the Gospel of Mark shows signs of a lack of knowledge of geographical, political and religious matters in Judea in the time of Jesus. Thus, today the most common opinion is that the author is unknown and both geographically and historically at a distance from the narrated events;[114][page needed][115][116] however, opinion varies, and scholars such as Craig Blomberg accept the more traditional view.[117] The use of expressions that may be described as awkward and rustic cause the Gospel of Mark to appear somewhat unlettered or even crude.[118] This may be attributed to the influence that Saint Peter, a fisherman, is suggested to have on the writing of Mark.[119] It is commonly thought that the writers of the Gospel of Matthew and Gospel of Luke used Mark as a source, with changes and improvement to peculiarities and crudities in Mark.[118]

Historicity of Acts[edit]

Archaeological inscriptions and other independent sources show that Acts contains some accurate details of 1st century society with regard to titles of officials, administrative divisions, town assemblies, and rules of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. However, the historicity of the depiction of Paul the Apostle in Acts is contested. Acts describes Paul differently from how Paul describes himself, both factually and theologically.[120] Acts differs from Paul’s letters on important issues, such as the Law, Paul’s own apostleship, and his relation to the Jerusalem church.[120] Scholars generally prefer Paul’s account over that in Acts.[121]: 316 [122]: 10 

Schools of archaeological and historical thought[edit]

Overview of academic views[edit]

According to Spencer Mizen of BBC History Magazine, “The origins of the Bible are still cloaked in mystery. When was it written? Who wrote it? And how reliable is it as an historical record?”[123]

An educated reading of the biblical text requires knowledge of when it was written, by whom, and for what purpose. For example, many academics would agree that the Pentateuch was in existence some time shortly after the 6th century BCE, but they disagree about when it was written. Proposed dates vary from the 15th century BCE to the 6th century BCE. One popular hypothesis points to the reign of Josiah (7th century BCE). In this hypothesis, the events of, for example, Exodus would have happened centuries before they were finally edited.[citation needed]

The documentary hypothesis claims, using the biblical evidence itself, to demonstrate that the current version of the Bible is based on older written sources that are lost. It has been modified heavily over the years, and some scholars accept some form of this hypothesis. There have also been and are a number of scholars who reject it, for example Egyptologist Kenneth Kitchen[124] and Old Testament scholar Walter Kaiser, Jr.,[125] as well as R. N. WhybrayUmberto CassutoO. T. AllisGleason ArcherJohn Sailhamer,[126] Bruce Waltke,[127] and Joshua Berman.[128]

Maximalist–minimalist dichotomy[edit]

There is great scholarly controversy on the historicity of events recounted in the biblical narratives prior to the Babylonian captivity in the 6th century BCE. There is a split between scholars who reject the biblical account of Ancient Israel as fundamentally ahistorical, and those who accept it as a largely reliable source of history—termed biblical minimalists and biblical maximalists, respectively. The major split of biblical scholarship into two opposing schools is strongly disapproved by non-fundamentalist biblical scholars, as being an attempt by conservative Christians to portray the field as a bipolar argument, of which only one side is correct.[129]

Recently the difference between the Maximalist and Minimalist has reduced, and a new school started with a work, The Quest for the Historical Israel: Debating Archaeology and the History of Early Israel by Israel FinkelsteinAmihai Mazar, and Brian B. Schmidt.[130] This school argues that post-processual archaeology enables us to recognize the existence of a middle ground between minimalism and maximalism, and that both these extremes need to be rejected. Archaeology offers both confirmation of parts of the biblical record and also poses challenges to the interpretations made by some. The careful examination of the evidence demonstrates that the historical accuracy of the first part of the Old Testament is greatest during the reign of Josiah. Some feel that the accuracy diminishes the further backwards one proceeds from this date. This, they claim, would confirm that a major redaction of the texts seems to have occurred at about that date.[citation needed]

Biblical minimalism[edit]

The viewpoint sometimes called biblical minimalism generally holds that the Bible is principally a theological and apologetic work, and all stories within it are of an aetiological character.[citation needed] The early stories are held to have a historical basis that was reconstructed centuries later, and the stories possess at most only a few tiny fragments of genuine historical memory, which by their definition are only those points which are supported by archaeological discoveries. In this view, all of the stories about the biblical patriarchs are fictional, and the patriarchs mere legendary eponyms to describe later historical realities. Further, biblical minimalists hold that the twelve tribes of Israel were a later construction, the stories of King David and King Saul were modeled upon later Irano-Hellenistic examples, and that there is no archaeological evidence that the united Kingdom of Israel—where the Bible says that David and Solomon ruled over an empire from the Euphrates to Eilath—ever existed. Archaeological evidence suggesting otherwise, such as the Mesha Stele, is often rejected as allegorical.[citation needed]

It is hard to pinpoint when the movement started but 1968 seems to be a reasonable date. During this year, two prize-winning essays were written in Copenhagen; one by Niels Peter Lemche, the other by Heike Friis, which advocated a complete rethinking of the way we approach the Bible and attempt to draw historical conclusions from it.[131]

In published books, one of the early advocates of the current school of thought known as biblical minimalism is Giovanni Garbini, Storia e ideologia nell’Israele antico (1986), translated into English as History and Ideology in Ancient Israel (1988).[132] In his footsteps followed Thomas L. Thompson with his lengthy Early History of the Israelite People: From the Written & Archaeological Sources (1992) and,[133] building explicitly on Thompson’s book, P. R. Davies’ shorter work, In Search of ‘Ancient Israel’ (1992).[134] In the latter, Davies finds historical Israel only in archaeological remains, biblical Israel only in scripture, and recent reconstructions of “ancient Israel” to be an unacceptable amalgam of the two. Thompson and Davies see the entire Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) as the imaginative creation of a small community of Jews at Jerusalem during the period which the Bible assigns to after the return from the Babylonian exile, from 539 BCE onward. Niels Peter Lemche, Thompson’s fellow faculty member at the University of Copenhagen, also followed with several titles that show Thompson’s influence, including The Israelites in history and tradition (1998). The presence of both Thompson and Lemche at the same institution has led to the use of the term “Copenhagen school”. The effect of biblical minimalism from 1992 onward was debate with more than two points of view.[135][136][137]

Biblical maximalism[edit]

There is great scholarly controversy on the historicity particularly of those events recounted in the biblical narratives prior to the Babylonian captivity in the 6th century BCE. Regarding the debate over the historicity of ancient Israel, the maximalist position holds that the accounts of the United Monarchy and the early kings of Israel, David and Saul, are to be taken as largely historical.[138]

Decreasing conflict[edit]

In 2001, Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman published The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts which advocated a view midway toward biblical minimalism and caused an uproar among many conservatives.[139] In the 25th anniversary issue of Biblical Archaeology Review (March/April 2001 edition), editor Hershel Shanks quoted several biblical scholars who insisted that minimalism was dying,[140] although leading minimalists deny this and a claim has been made “We are all minimalists now” (an allusion to “We are all Keynesians now“).[141]

Apart from the well-funded (and fundamentalist) “biblical archaeologists,” we are in fact nearly all “minimalists” now.

— Philip Davies.[142]

The fact is that we are all minimalists—at least, when it comes to the patriarchal period and the settlement. When I began my PhD studies more than three decades ago in the USA, the “substantial historicity” of the patriarchs was widely accepted as was the unified conquest of the land. These days it is quite difficult to find anyone who takes this view. In fact, until recently I could find no ‘maximalist’ history of Israel since Wellhausen. …In fact, though, “maximalist” has been widely defined as someone who accepts the biblical text unless it can be proven wrong. If so, very few are willing to operate like this, not even John Bright (1980) whose history is not a maximalist one according to the definition just given.

— Lester L. Grabbe.[143], pages 57–58

However, other more mainstream scholars have rejected these claims:

The skeptical approaches peaked in the 1990s, with the emergence of the minimalist school which attempted to deny the Bible any relevance for the study of the Iron Age, but this extreme approach was rejected by mainstream scholarship.

— Avraham Faust.[144], page 79

In 2003, Kenneth Kitchen, a scholar who adopts a more maximalist point of view, authored the book On the Reliability of the Old Testament. Kitchen advocated the reliability of many (although not all) parts of the Torah and in no uncertain terms criticizes the work of Finkelstein and Silberman.[145]

Jennifer Wallace describes archaeologist Israel Finkelstein’s view in her article “Shifting Ground in the Holy Land”, appearing in Smithsonian Magazine, May 2006:

He (Israel Finkelstein) cites the fact—now accepted by most archaeologists—that many of the cities Joshua is supposed to have sacked in the late 13th century B.C. had ceased to exist by that time. Hazor was destroyed in the middle of that century, Ai was abandoned before 2000 B.C. Even Jericho (Tell es-Sultan), where Joshua is said to have brought the walls tumbling down by circling the city seven times with blaring trumpets, was destroyed in 1500 B.C. Now controlled by the Palestinian Authority, the Jericho site consists of crumbling pits and trenches that testify to a century of fruitless digging.[146]

— Wallace

However, despite problems with the archaeological record, some maximalists place Joshua in the mid-second millennium, at about the time the Egyptian Empire came to rule over Canaan, and not the 13th century as Finkelstein or Kitchen claim, and view the destruction layers of the period as corroboration of the biblical account. The destruction of Hazor in the mid-13th century is seen as corroboration of the biblical account of the later destruction carried out by Deborah and Barak as recorded in the Book of Judges. The location that Finkelstein refers to as “Ai” is generally dismissed as the location of the biblical Ai, since it was destroyed and buried in the 3rd millennium. The prominent site has been known by that name since at least Hellenistic times, if not before. Minimalists all hold that dating these events as contemporary are etiological explanations written centuries after the events they claim to report.

Both Finkelstein and Silberman do accept that David and Solomon were really existing persons (not kings but bandit leaders or hill country chieftains)[147][148] from Judah about the 10th century BCE,[149] but they do not assume that there was such a thing as United Monarchy with a capital in Jerusalem.

The Bible reports that Jehoshaphat, a contemporary of Ahab, offered manpower and horses for the northern kingdom’s wars against the Arameans. He strengthened his relationship with the northern kingdom by arranging a diplomatic marriage: the Israelite princess Athaliah, sister or daughter of King Ahab, married Jehoram, the son of Jehoshaphat (2 Kings 8:18). The house of David in Jerusalem was now directly linked to (and apparently dominated by) the Israelite royalty of Samaria. In fact, we might suggest that this represented the north’s takeover by marriage of Judah. Thus in the ninth century BCE—nearly a century after the presumed time of David—we can finally point to the historical existence of a great united monarchy of Israel, stretching from Dan in the north to Beer-sheba in the south, with significant conquered territories in Syria and Transjordan. But this united monarchy—a real united monarchy—was ruled by the Omrides, not the Davidides, and its capital was Samaria, not Jerusalem.

— Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman[150], page 103

Others, such as David Ussishkin, argue that those who follow the biblical depiction of a United Monarchy do so on the basis of limited evidence while hoping to uncover real archaeological proof in the future.[151] Gunnar Lehmann suggests that there is still a possibility that David and Solomon were able to become local chieftains of some importance and claims that Jerusalem at the time was at best a small town in a sparsely populated area in which alliances of tribal kinship groups formed the basis of society. He goes on further to claim that it was at best a small regional centre, one of three to four in the territory of Judah and neither David nor Solomon had the manpower or the requisite social/political/administrative structure to rule the kind of empire described in the Bible.[152]

These views are strongly criticized by William G. Dever,[153] Helga WeippertAmihai Mazar and Amnon Ben-Tor.

André Lemaire states in Ancient Israel: From Abraham to the Roman Destruction of the Temple[154] that the principal points of the biblical tradition with Solomon are generally trustworthy. Kenneth Kitchen shares this view, arguing that Solomon ruled over a comparatively wealthy “mini-empire”, rather than a small city-state.

Recently, Finkelstein has joined with the more conservative Amihai Mazar to explore the areas of agreement and disagreement and there are signs the intensity of the debate between the so-called minimalist and maximalist scholars is diminishing.[130] This view is also taken by Richard S. Hess,[155] which shows there is in fact a plurality of views between maximalists and minimalists. Jack Cargill[156] has shown that popular textbooks not only fail to give readers up-to-date archaeological evidence, but that they also fail to correctly represent the diversity of views present on the subject. Megan Bishop Moore and Brad E. Kelle provide an overview of the respective evolving approaches and attendant controversies, especially during the period from the mid-1980s through 2011, in their book Biblical History and Israel’s Past.[157]

See also[edit]


  1. ^

    Biblical archaeology has helped us understand a lot about the world of the Bible and clarified a considerable amount of what we find in the Bible. But the archaeological record has not been friendly for one vital issue, Israel’s origins: the period of slavery in Egypt, the mass departure of Israelite slaves from Egypt, and the violent conquest of the land of Canaan by the Israelites. The strong consensus is that there is at best sparse indirect evidence for these biblical episodes, and for the conquest there is considerable evidence against it.

    — Peter Enns.[3]
  2. ^

    So although much of the archaeological evidence demonstrates that the Hebrew Bible cannot in most cases be taken literally, many of the people, places and things probably did exist at some time or another.

    — Jonathan Michael Golden.[5]
  3. ^

    But someone may ask: ‘Is not Scripture opposed to those who hold that heaven is spherical, when it says, who stretches out heaven like a skin?’ Let it be opposed indeed if their statement is false…. But if they are able to establish their doctrine with proofs that cannot be denied, we must show that this statement of Scripture about the skin is not opposed to the truth of their conclusions

    — Augustine of Hippo.[37]
  4. ^

    BIBLICAL HISTORY AND ISRAEL’S PAST The Changing Views of Scholars in Their Own Words

    The dramatic shifts in the study of the patriarchs and matriarchs that occurred during and after the 1970s can be illustrated by quotations from two works on the history of Israel separated by several decades. In a history originally written in the 1950s, John Bright asserted, “Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were clan chiefs who actually lived in the second millennium B.C…. The Bible’s narrative accurately reflects the times to which it refers. But to what it tells of the lives of the patriarchs we can add nothing.”1 Assessing the situation in scholarship four decades later, William Dever in 2001 concluded, “After a century of exhaustive investigation, all respectable archaeologists have given up hope of recovering any context that would make Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob credible ‘historical figures.'”2

    1. John Bright, A History of Israel, 4th ed. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2000), p. 93.

    2. William G. Dever, What Did the Biblical Writers Know, and When Did They Know It? What Archaeology Can Tell Us about the Reality of Ancient Israel (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001), p. 98.

    … historical figures but as literary creations of this later period. Though the evidentiary underpinnings of this thesis were new, the thesis itself was quite similar to the views held by Alt and Noth. Thompson, Van Seters, and others had shown that the earlier scholarly consensus of a second-millennium date for the traditions depended upon coincidences and harmonization of evidence that could not be sustained. Thompson provided one of the most representative statements of this change in the study of Israel’s past: “[N]ot only has ‘archaeology’ not proven a single event of the patriarchal traditions to be historical, it has not shown any of the traditions to be likely. On the basis of what we know of Palestinian history of the Second Millennium B.C., and of what we understand about the formation of the literary traditions of Genesis, it must be concluded that any such historicity as is commonly spoken of in both scholarly and popular works about the patriarchs of Genesis is hardly possible and totally improbable”.[41]

  5. ^ “While there is a consensus among scholars that the Exodus did not take place in the manner described in the Bible, surprisingly most scholars agree that the narrative has a historical core, and that some of the highland settlers came, one way or another, from Egypt…” “Archaeology does not really contribute to the debate over the historicity or even historical background of the Exodus itself, but if there was indeed such a group, it contributed the Exodus story to that of all Israel. While I agree that it is most likely that there was such a group, I must stress that this is based on an overall understanding of the development of collective memory and of the authorship of the texts (and their editorial process). Archaeology, unfortunately, cannot directly contribute (yet?) to the study of this specific group of Israel’s ancestors.”[60]
  6. ^ In a 2011 review of the state of modern scholarship, Bart Ehrman wrote, “He certainly existed, as virtually every competent scholar of antiquity, Christian or non-Christian, agrees”.[90] Richard A. Burridge states: “There are those who argue that Jesus is a figment of the Church’s imagination, that there never was a Jesus at all. I have to say that I do not know any respectable critical scholar who says that any more”.[91] Robert M. Price does not believe that Jesus existed, but agrees that this perspective runs against the views of the majority of scholars.[92] James D. G. Dunn calls the theories of Jesus’ non-existence “a thoroughly dead thesis”.[93] Michael Grant (a classicist) wrote in 1977, “In recent years, ‘no serious scholar has ventured to postulate the non historicity of Jesus’ or at any rate very few, and they have not succeeded in disposing of the much stronger, indeed very abundant, evidence to the contrary”.[94] Robert E. Van Voorst states that biblical scholars and classical historians regard theories of non-existence of Jesus as effectively refuted.[95] Writing on The Daily BeastCandida Moss and Joel Baden state that “there is nigh universal consensus among biblical scholars – the authentic ones, at least – that Jesus was, in fact, a real guy”[96]



  1. ^ Thompson 2014, p. 164.
  2. ^ Greifenhagen, Franz V. (2003). Egypt on the Pentateuch’s Ideological Map. Bloomsbury. p. 206. ISBN 978-0-567-39136-0.
  3. ^ Enns 2013, p. unpaginated.
  4. ^ Davies, Philip (April 2010). “Beyond Labels: What Comes Next?”. The Bible and Interpretation. Retrieved 2016-05-31It has been accepted for decades that the Bible is not in principle either historically reliable or unreliable, but both: it contains both memories of real events and also fictions.
  5. ^ Golden 2009, p. 275.
  6. Jump up to:a b Grabbe 2007: “The fact is that we are all minimalists—at least, when it comes to the patriarchal period and the settlement. When I began my PhD studies more than three decades ago in the USA, the ‘substantial historicity’ of the patriarchs was widely accepted as was the unified conquest of the land. These days it is quite difficult to find anyone who takes this view.In fact, until recently I could find no ‘maximalist’ history of Israel since Wellhausen. … In fact, though, ‘maximalist’ has been widely defined as someone who accepts the biblical text unless it can be proven wrong. If so, very few are willing to operate like this, not even John Bright (1980) whose history is not a maximalist one according to the definition just given.”
  7. ^ Nur Masalha (20 October 2014). The Zionist Bible: Biblical Precedent, Colonialism and the Erasure of Memory. Routledge. p. 228. ISBN 978-1-317-54465-4critical archaeology—which has become an independent professional discipline with its own conclusions and its observations—presents us with a picture of a reality of ancient Palestine completely different from the one that is described in the Hebrew Bible; Holy Land archaeology is no longer using the Hebrew Bible as a reference point or an historical source; the traditional biblical archaeology is no longer the ruling paradigm in Holy Land archaeology; for the critical archaeologists the Bible is read like other ancient texts: as literature which may contain historical information (Herzog, 2001: 72–93; 1999: 6–8).
  8. ^ Dever, William G. (March–April 2006). “The Western Cultural Tradition Is at Risk”. Biblical Archaeology Review. 32 (2): 26 & 76. “Archaeology as it is practiced today must be able to challenge, as well as confirm, the Bible stories. Some things described there really did happen, but others did not. The biblical narratives about AbrahamMosesJoshua and Solomon probably reflect some historical memories of people and places, but the “larger than life” portraits of the Bible are unrealistic and contradicted by the archaeological evidence.”
  9. ^ William G. Dever (1992). “Archeology”. In David Noel Freedman (ed.). The Anchor Bible dictionary. Doubleday. p. 358. ISBN 978-0-385-19361-0.
  10. ^ J.K. Hoffmeier (2015). Thomas E. Levy; Thomas Schneider; William H.C. Propp (eds.). Israel’s Exodus in Transdisciplinary Perspective: Text, Archaeology, Culture, and Geoscience. Springer. p. 200. ISBN 978-3-319-04768-3.
  11. ^ Grosse, Sven (2011). Theologie des Kanons: der christliche Kanon, seine Hermeneutik und die Historizität seiner Aussagen; die Lehren der Kirchenväter als Grundlegung der Lehre von der Heiligen Schrift (in German). LIT Verlag Münster. pp. 91–92. ISBN 978-3643800787.
  12. ^ Grosse, Sven (2011). Theologie des Kanons: der christliche Kanon, seine Hermeneutik und die Historizität seiner Aussagen; die Lehren der Kirchenväter als Grundlegung der Lehre von der Heiligen Schrift (in German). LIT Verlag Münster. p. 94. ISBN 978-3643800787One does not read in the Gospel that the Lord said: “I will send you the Paraclete who will teach you about the course of the sun and moon.” For He willed to make them Christians, not mathematicians. (Translation of the German Quote according to wikiquote)
  13. ^ Barstad, Hans M. (2008). History and the Hebrew Bible: Studies in Ancient Israelite and Ancient Near Eastern Historiography. Mohr Siebeck. pp. 40–42. ISBN 978-3161498091.
  14. ^ Compare Herodotus and Ranke.
  15. ^ McNutt, Paula M. (1999). Reconstructing the society of ancient Israel. London: SPCK. p. 4. ISBN 978-0281052592.
  16. ^ “JCR – The Babylonian Talmud, Pesachim”juchre.org. Retrieved 2023-05-11.
  17. ^ Heschel, Abraham Joshua (2005-01-01). Heavenly Torah: As Refracted Through the Generations. A&C Black. ISBN 978-0-8264-0802-0.
  18. ^ Albright, William Foxwell (1985). Archaeology of Palestine. Peter Smith Pub Inc. p. 128. ISBN 978-0844600031Discovery after discovery has established the accuracy of innumerable details of the Bible as a source of history.
  19. ^ Dever, William G. (2008), “Did God Have a Wife?: Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel” (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
  20. ^ Ingram, Thomas C. (2019). “Ecological Facts About The Bible”funfactoday.com. Retrieved 2020-03-19.
  21. ^ Henry, Carl Ferdinand Howard (1999) [1979]. “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy”God, Revelation and Authority. Vol. 4. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books. pp. 211–219. ISBN 978-1581340563. Archived from the original on 2006-11-15.
  22. ^ Note the varying creation accounts of Genesis 1 versus Genesis 2.
  23. ^ “And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.” – Genesis 6:6.
  24. ^ Thompson, Thomas (2002) [1974]. The Historicity of the Patriarchal Narratives: The Quest for the Historical Abraham. Valley Forge, Pa: Trinity Press International. ISBN 978-1563383892.
  25. ^ Jaeger, Stephan (2015). “Unreliable Narration in Historical Studies”. In Nünning, Vera (ed.). Unreliable Narration and Trustworthiness: Intermedial and Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Naratologia. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG. ISBN 9783110408416. Retrieved 8 July 2020[…] witnesses’ narratives or the sources in general could be unreliable. This locates unreliable narration on the axis of primary narration which the historian needs to verify and make reliable through source criticism and interpretation in order to balance the subjective, objective, and reflexive orientations of meaning.
  26. ^ Hobbes, Thomas (1651). “Chapter XXXIII. Of the number, antiquity, scope, authority and interpreters of the books of Holy Scripture”Leviathan. Green Dragon in St. Paul’s Churchyard: Andrew Crooke.
  27. ^ Driver 1911, p. 861, para 2, “Hobbes”.
  28. ^ Spinoza, Baruch (1670). “Chapter VIII. Of the authorship of the Pentateuch and the other historical books of the Old Testament”A Theologico-Political Treatise (Part II).
  29. ^ Simon, Richard (1682). A critical history of the Old Testament. London: Walter Davis. p. 21.
  30. Jump up to:a b Wenham, Gordon J. (2003). “Genesis 1–11”. Exploring the Old Testament: A Guide to the Pentateuch. Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press. ISBN 978-0830825516.
  31. ^ Wellhausen, Julius (1885). Prolegomena to the History of Israel. Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black.
  32. ^ Wenham, Gordon (1996). “Pentateuchal Studies Today”Themelios22 (1): 3–13.
  33. ^ Klein-Braslavy, Sara (1986). “The Creation of the world and Maimonides’ interpretation of Gen. i–v”. In Pines, S.; Yovel, Y. (eds.). Maimonides and Philosophy (International Archives of the History of Ideas / Archives internationales d’histoire des idées). Berlin: Springer. pp. 65–78. ISBN 978-9024734399.
  34. ^ Physics I, 7
  35. ^ Dorandi 1999, p. 50.
  36. ^ Lang 2001, p. 2.
  37. ^ Young 1988, pp. 42–45.
  38. ^ Gillispie, Charles Coulston (1996) [1951]. Genesis and geology: a study in the relations of scientific thought, natural theology, and social opinion in Great Britain, 1790–1850. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. p. 224. ISBN 978-0674344815.
  39. ^ Quoted in Gillispie, Charles Coulston (1996) [1951]. Genesis and geology: a study in the relations of scientific thought, natural theology, and social opinion in Great Britain, 1790–1850. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. pp. 142–143. ISBN 978-0674344815.
  40. ^ Gunkel 1997, p. lxviii.
  41. ^ Moore & Kelle 2011, p. 62.
  42. ^ Thompson, Thomas L. (1974). The Historicity of the Patriarchal Narratives: The Quest for the Historical Abraham. Text. Gruyter, Walter de, & Company. ISBN 9783110040968.
  43. ^ Seters, John Van (1975). Abraham in History and Tradition. Echo Point Books and Media. ISBN 978-1-62654-910-4.
  44. ^ Moore & Kelle 2011, pp. 18–19.
  45. ^ Moorey, Peter Roger Stuart (1991-01-01). A Century of Biblical Archaeology. Westminster John Knox Press. ISBN 978-0-664-25392-9.
  46. ^ Kitchen, Kenneth (1995). “The Patriarchal Age: Myth or History?”Biblical Archaeology Review. Retrieved 2021-07-12.
  47. ^ Kitchen 2003, p. 313.
  48. ^ Dever 2001, p. 98: “There are a few sporadic attempts by conservative scholars to “save” the patriarchal narratives as history, such as Kenneth Kitchen […] By and large, however, the minimalist view of Thompson’s pioneering work, The Historicity of the Patriarchal Narratives, prevails.”
  49. ^ Faust 2022, pp. 69, 71–72.
  50. ^ Dever, William (March 1993). “What Remains of the House that Albright Built?”. The Biblical Archaeologist56 (1): 25–35. doi:10.2307/3210358JSTOR 3210358S2CID 166003641.
  51. ^ Moore & Kelle 2011, p. 81.
  52. ^ Dozeman & Shectman 2016, pp. 138–139.
  53. ^ Dever 2003, pp. 18–19.
  54. ^ Dozeman & Shectman 2016, p. 139.
  55. ^ Grabbe 2014, pp. 63–64.
  56. ^ Dever 2003, pp. 15–17.
  57. ^ Grabbe 2014, p. 69.
  58. ^ Barmash, Pamela (2015). “Out of the Mists of History: The Exaltation of the Exodus in the Bible”. In Barmash, Pamela; Nelson, W. David (eds.). Exodus in the Jewish Experience: Echoes and Reverberations. Lexington Books. pp. 1–22. ISBN 9781498502931.
  59. ^ Grabbe 2014, pp. 65–67.
  60. Jump up to:a b c d Faust 2015, p. 476.
  61. ^ Redmount 2001, p. 87: “To some, the lack of a secure historical grounding for the biblical Exodus narrative merely reflects its nonhistorical nature. […] To others, still in the majority among scholars, the ultimate historicity of the Exodus narrative is indisputable. The details of the story may have become clouded or obscured through the transmission process, but a historical core is mandated by that major tenet of faith that permeates the Bible: God acts in history.”
  62. ^ Sparks, Kenton L. (2010). “Genre Criticism”. In Dozeman, Thomas B. (ed.). Methods for Exodus. Cambridge University Press. p. 73. ISBN 9781139487382.
  63. ^ Dever 2003, p. 231.
  64. ^ Friedman, Richard Elliott (2017-09-12). The Exodus. HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-06-256526-6.
  65. ^ Meyers, Carol (2005). Exodus. Cambridge University Press. pp. 8–10. ISBN 9780521002912.
  66. ^ Redmount 2001, p. 65.
  67. Jump up to:a b c d e Mazar, Amihai (2010). “Archaeology and the Biblical Narrative: The Case of the United Monarchy” (PDF). In Kratz, Reinhard G.; Spieckermann, Hermann; Corzilius, Björn; Pilger, Tanja (eds.). One God – one cult – one nation archaeological and biblical perspectives. Berlin; New York: Walter de Gruyter. pp. 29–58. doi:10.1515/9783110223583.29ISBN 978-3110223583S2CID 55562061. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-04-02.
  68. Jump up to:a b c d Israel Finkelstein; Neil Asher Silberman (2001). The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Sacred Texts. Simon and Schuster. pp. 81–82. ISBN 978-0743223386.
  69. Jump up to:a b Holland, Thomas A. (1997). “Jericho”. In Eric M. Meyers (ed.). The Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Near East. Oxford University Press. pp. 220–224.
  70. ^ Kenyon, Kathleen M. (1957). Digging up Jericho: The Results of the Jericho Excavations, 1952–1956. New York: Praeger. p. 229.
  71. ^ Bienkowski, Piotr (1986). Jericho in the Late Bronze Age. Warminster. pp. 120–125.
  72. ^ Peake, A. S.; Grieve, A. J., eds. (1919). A Commentary on the Bible (1st ed.). London: T.C. and E.C. Jack.
  73. ^ “Hatzor – The Head of all those Kingdoms”. Retrieved 2018-09-18.
  74. Jump up to:a b c Finkelstein & Silberman 2001
  75. ^ Ben-tor, Amnon (2013-01-01). “Who Destroyed Canaanite Hazor?”BAR.
  76. ^ “A 3,400-year-old Mystery: Who Burned the Palace of Canaanite Hatzor?”Haaretz. Retrieved 2023-05-11.
  77. ^ Friedman, Richard Elliott (2017-09-12). The Exodus. HarperCollins. p. 80. ISBN 978-0-06-256526-6.
  78. Jump up to:a b Redford, Donald B. (1992). Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in ancient times. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. p. 305ISBN 978-0691000862.
  79. ^ Millard, Alan (2011). “Are There Anachronisms in the Books of Samuel?”. In Khan, Geoffrey; Lipton, Diana (eds.). Studies on the Text and Versions of the Hebrew Bible in Honour of Robert Gordon. BRILL. pp. 39–48. ISBN 978-90-04-21730-0.
  80. ^ Millard, Alan R. (2020). “On Some Alleged Anachronisms in the Books of Samuel”Tyndale Bulletin71 (1): 65–73. doi:10.53751/001c.27735ISSN 2752-7042S2CID 239722609.
  81. ^ “The Bible in History: How Writers Create a Past (Thomas Thompson)”dannyreviews.com. Retrieved 2023-05-11.
  82. ^ Garfinkel, Yossi; Ganor, Sa’ar; Hasel, Michael (19 April 2012). “Journal 124: Khirbat Qeiyafa Preliminary Report”. Hadashot-esi.org.il. Archived from the original on 16 May 2012.
  83. ^ Faust 2022, p. 73.
  84. ^ Geva, Hillel (2019). “Archaeological Research in Jerusalem from 1998 to 2018: Findings and Evaluations”Ancient Jerusalem Revealed: Archaeological Discoveries, 1998-2018. Israel Exploration Society. p. 12. ISBN 978-965-221-124-8.
  85. ^ Schniedewind, W.M. (1996). “Tel Dan Stela: New Light on Aramaic and Jehu’s Revolt”. Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research302 (302): 75–90. doi:10.2307/1357129JSTOR 1357129S2CID 163597208.
  86. ^ Dever, William G. (2002), What Did the Biblical Writers Know and When Did They Know It? Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, ISBN 080282126X
  87. ^ Lemaire, André “House of David Restored in Moabite Inscription” Archived 2011-07-13 at the Wayback MachineBiblical Archaeology Review, May/June 1994.
  88. ^ Orlin, Eric (2015). Routledge Encyclopedia of Ancient Mediterranean Religions. Routledge. p. 462. ISBN 9781134625529.
  89. ^ Dever, William G. (2020). Has Archaeology Buried the Bible?. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4674-5949-5.
  90. ^ Ehrman, Bart (2011). Forged: writing in the name of God – Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are. HarperCollins. p. 285ISBN 978-0-06-207863-6.
  91. ^ Burridge, Richard A.; Gould, Graham (2004). Jesus Now and Then. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. p. 34ISBN 978-0-8028-0977-3.
  92. ^ Price, Robert M. (2009). “Jesus at the Vanishing Point”. In Beilby, James K.; Eddy, Paul R. (eds.). The Historical Jesus: Five Views. InterVarsity. pp. 55, 61. ISBN 978-0-8308-7853-6Archived from the original on September 7, 2015. Retrieved August 14, 2015.
  93. ^ Sykes, Stephen W. (2007). “Paul’s understanding of the death of Jesus”. Sacrifice and Redemption. Cambridge University Press. pp. 35–36. ISBN 978-0-521-04460-8.
  94. ^ Grant, Michael (1977). Jesus: An Historian’s Review of the Gospels. Scribner’s. p. 200ISBN 978-0-684-14889-2.
  95. ^ Robert E. Van Voorst (2000). Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. p. 16. ISBN 978-0-8028-4368-5.
  96. ^ Baden, Candida Moss (October 5, 2014). “So-Called ‘Biblical Scholar’ Says Jesus a Made-Up Myth”The Daily Beast.
  97. ^ Crossan, J. D. “The Historical Jesus: A Mediterranean Jewish Peasant,” HarperOne, 1993, ISBN 0060616296
  98. ^ James D. G. Dunn, “Jesus Remembered: Christianity in the Making, Vol. 1, Eerdmans, 2003”
  99. ^ John P. Meier, “A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, 5 vols., the most recent volume from Yale University Press, 2016”
  100. ^ Sanders, E.P. “The Historical Figure of Jesus,” Penguin, 1996, ISBN 0141928220
  101. ^ Wright, N.T. “Jesus and the Victory of God: Christian Origins and the Question of God”, Vol. 2, Augsburg Fortress Press, 1997, ISBN 0800626826
  102. ^ Allison, Dale C. (1998). Jesus of Nazareth: Millenarian Prophet. Fortress Press. ISBN 978-1-4514-0556-9.
  103. ^ Ehrman, Bart D. (1999). Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-983943-8.
  104. Jump up to:a b Richard, Bauckham (2017). Jesus and the Eyewitnesses (2nd ed.). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. ISBN 978-0-8028-7431-3.
  105. ^ Casey, Maurice (2010-12-30). Jesus of Nazareth: An Independent Historian’s Account of His Life and Teaching. A&C Black. ISBN 978-0-567-64517-3.
  106. ^ John P. MeierA Marginal Jew Volume I, Doubleday, 1991.
  107. ^ Fitzmyer, Joseph A. (2000-03-03). The Dead Sea Scrolls and Christian Origins. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. pp. 28ff. ISBN 978-0-8028-4650-1.
  108. ^ Bernstein, Richard (April 1, 1998). “BOOKS OF THE TIMES; Looking for Jesus and Jews in the Dead Sea Scrolls”The New York Times. Retrieved May 25, 2010.
  109. ^ Shanks, Hershel (1992). Understanding the Dead Sea scrolls : a reader from the Biblical archaeology review. Internet Archive. New York : Random House. ISBN 978-0-679-41448-3.
  110. ^ Meier, John P. A Marginal Jew, Vol. II, Doubleday, 1994, ISBN 0300140339
  111. ^ Mack, Burton (1996), “Who Wrote the New Testament?: The Making of the Christian Myth”, Harper One, ISBN 0060655186
  112. ^ Byrskog, Samuel (2000). Story as History – History as Story: The Gospel Tradition in the Context of Ancient Oral History. Mohr Siebeck. ISBN 978-3-16-147305-0.
  113. ^ “Is There Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus? A Debate between William Lane Craig and Bart D. Ehrman” (PDF). 2009-03-05. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-03-05. Retrieved 2023-05-11.
  114. ^ Analecta Romana Instituti Danici, Danske selskab, Copenhagen, Denmark, 1998.
  115. ^ Nineham, Dennis, Saint Mark, Westminster Press, 1978, ISBN 0664213448, p. 193
  116. ^ McDonald, Lee Martin and Porter, Stanley. Early Christianity and its Sacred Literature, Hendrickson Publishers, 2000, p. 286 ISBN 1565632664
  117. ^ Strobel, Lee. “The Case for Christ”. 1998. Chapter one, an interview with Blomberg, ISBN 0310209307
  118. Jump up to:a b Hurtado, Larry W. (1981). Text-critical Methodology and the Pre-Caesarean Text: Codex W in the Gospel of Mark. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. p. 25. ISBN 978-0-8028-1872-0.
  119. ^ “Biblical literature | Definition, Types, Significance, Survey, & Development | Britannica”www.britannica.com. Retrieved 2023-05-11.
  120. Jump up to:a b Cain, Seymour; et al. “Biblical literature”Britannica.com Online. Retrieved 15 November 2018.
  121. ^ Harris, Stephen (1985). Understanding the Bible: A Reader’s Introduction (2nd ed.). Mayfield Pub. Co. ISBN 978-0874846966.
  122. ^ Hornik, Heidi J.; Parsons, Mikeal C. (2017). The Acts of the Apostles through the centuries (1st ed.). John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. ISBN 9781118597873.
  123. ^ “A history of the Bible: who wrote it and when?”HistoryExtra.
  124. ^ Kitchen 2003, p. 492
  125. ^ “Exploding the J.E.D.P. Theory – The Documentary Hypothesis”jashow.org. 6 September 1991.
  126. ^ Sailhamer, John (2009). The Meaning of the Pentateuch: Revelation, Composition and Interpretation. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic. pp. 22–25.
  127. ^ Waltke, Bruce (2001). Genesis – A Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. pp. 24–27.
  128. ^ Berman, Joshua (2017). Inconsistency in the Torah: Ancient Literary Convention and the Limits of Source CriticismOxford University PressISBN 978-0-19-065880-9.
  129. ^ Spong, John Shelby (1992) Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism (Harper)
  130. Jump up to:a b Finkelstein, Mazar & Schmidt 2007, p. [page needed]
  131. ^ George Athas, ‘Minimalism’: The Copenhagen School of Thought in Biblical Studies, edited transcript of lecture, 3rd ed., University of Sydney, April 29, 1999.
  132. ^ Garbini 1988.
  133. ^ Thompson 1992.
  134. ^ Davies 1995.
  135. ^ Mykytiuk 2010, p. 76.
  136. ^ Brettler 2003, pp. 1–21.
  137. ^ Mykytiuk 2012, pp. 101–137 see the section “Toward a Balanced View of Minimalism: A Summary of Published Critiques”
  138. ^ “Maximalists and Minimalists – Livius”www.livius.org. Retrieved 2023-05-11.
  139. ^ Finkelstein & Silberman 2001.
  140. ^ “Ancient Civilizations Timeline: The Complete List from Aboriginals to Incans | History Cooperative”. 2019-12-15. Retrieved 2023-05-11Quoting Amy Dockster Marcus about the minimalists: “The bottom line is that when it comes to the big picture, they are often right. Many of their ideas, once considered far-fetched, are now solidly mainstream concepts”.
  141. ^ American Journal of Theology & Philosophy Vol. 14, No. 1 January 1993″ (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-09-30. Retrieved 2018-09-18.
  142. ^ Philip Davies “Beyond Labels: What Comes Next?
  143. ^ Grabbe 2007, pp. 57–58.
  144. ^ Faust 2022, p. 79.
  145. ^ Kitchen 2003, p. unpaginated.
  146. ^ Wallace 2006, p. unpaginated.
  147. ^ David and Solomon Archived 2012-03-06 at the Wayback Machine Beschrijving. Bol.com
  148. ^ Richard N. Ostling Was King David legend or fiction? Archived 2011-04-27 at the Wayback Machine The Associated Press
  149. ^ Finkelstein & Silberman 2006, p. 20
  150. ^ Finkelstein & Silberman 2006, p. 103
  151. ^ Ussishkin, David, “Solomon’s Jerusalem: The Texts and the Facts on the Ground”, in Vaughn Andrew G. and Killebrew, Ann E. eds. (2003), Jerusalem in Bible and Archaeology: The First Temple Period (SBL Symposium Series 18; Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature)
  152. ^ Lehrmann, Gunnar, “The United Monarchy in the Countryside: Jerusalem, Judah, and the Shephelah during the Tenth Century BCE”, in Vaughn Andrew G. and Killebrew, Ann E. eds. (2003), Jerusalem in Bible and Archaeology: The First Temple Period (SBL Symposium Series 18; Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature)
  153. ^ Dever 2001, p. 160.
  154. ^ Shanks 1999, p. 113.
  155. ^ Hess, Richard S. (2007) Israelite Religions: An Archaeological and Biblical Survey, Baker Academic, ISBN 0801027179
  156. ^ “Jack Cargill – Ancient Israel in Western Civ Textbooks – The History Teacher, 34.3”. 2001-12-12. Archived from the original on 29 June 2012. Retrieved 5 October 2014.
  157. ^ Moore & Kelle 2011.


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