A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
Israel Finkelstein tilts with colleagues over the history of Early Iron Age Palestine.
Until relatively recently, archaeologists and historians attempted to match the story of the Bible with the evidence provided by excavations and documents discovered in Egypt, Syria, and elsewhere in the Near East. Over the last three decades, however, a growing number of scholars have begun to argue that archaeological finds previously taken as corroborations of the biblical story have, in fact, been misinterpreted. Most, though not all, now believe that there is little independent evidence to corroborate the stories of the patriarchs, the enslavement, the exodus, and the conquest, and what exists is ambiguous at best. Israel Finkelstein, the director of Tel Aviv University's Sonia and Marco Nadler Institute of Archaeology and the author and leading advocate of a new chronology for most of the major finds of Early Iron Age Palestine, argues that many biblical stories are literary creations from the reign of King Josiah (r. 639-609 B.C.), the time he says that the biblical account of Israel's origin and history was first drafted.
Haim Watzman is a freelance science and academic affairs writer in Jerusalem.