There are some who claim that the Bible contains little or no historical information about ancient Israel. I want to combat these “minimalist” or “revisionist” views of the history of ancient Israel by showing how archaeology can and does illuminate a historical Israel in the Iron Age of ancient Palestine (roughly 1200–600 B.C.E.). I will, however, concentrate on one period only—the earliest and most controversial period, Iron Age I (1200–1000 B.C.E.), when Israel emerges in Canaan.
Until the last generation or so, our only source for writing any reliable history of this (or any other) period in Israelite history was, of course, the Hebrew Bible. Yet in the past decade, the Hebrew Bible has come under sustained and often violent attack as a historical source for any but a literary and largely fictive Israel, supposedly contrived by Jews in the Persian (sixth to fourth century B.C.E.) or even the Hellenistic (fourth to second century B.C.E.) era as a tortuous exercise in self-justification. If that were the case, the archaeology of ancient Palestine or Canaan would be our only remaining source for writing a history of ancient Israel. Yet the revisionists generally ignore or discredit archaeology, characterizing it as “mute.”
Such a scenario would leave us with no history, no Israel. According to the revisionists, the Hebrew Bible and its portrait of ancient Israel are the product of a perfervid literary imagination—a late Hellenistic phantasmagoria. It is precisely this view that I challenge.
Revisionism, as it is now generally termed, began as a deliberate movement within Biblical studies in 1992 with a book by Philip Davies entitled In Search of “Ancient Israel.” According to Davies, three “Israels” may be discerned- “Biblical” and “ancient” Israel, which are mere constructs, invented largely by later Jews and Christians to suit their own theological needs; and a putative “historical” Israel, which might once have actually existed in the Iron Age of Palestine, but which is beyond recovery due to the practical limitations of both our textual and archaeological sources.
Other books—expanding on what some have called a “minimalist” or even “nihilist” position—soon followed, among them Keith W. Whitelam’s The Invention of Ancient Israel- The Silencing of Palestinian History (1996), Niels Peter Lemche’s The Israelites in History and Tradition (1998) and Thomas L. Thompson’s very recent The Mythic Past- Biblical Archaeology and the Myth of Israel (1999).(1)
Most Biblical scholars and virtually all archaeologists have tended to dismiss revisionism as a passing fad, not worthy of being addressed seriously. We cannot, however, avoid the basic historiographical issues that the revisionists have raised.
The fundamental propositions of the revisionist historians, even if the “school” is not entirely monolithic, may be summarized as follows-(2)
• The Hebrew Bible is a product of the religious and cultural “identity crisis” of Judaism in the Hellenistic era, not the story of an actual historical Israel in the long-gone Iron Age.
• The Hebrew Bible thus constitutes a literary tradition, not a historical document; it is a “social construct” that reflects the religious interests and propaganda of a late, elitist theocratic party within Judaism. It reveals their history, if any.
• It follows that “Biblical” and “ancient” Israel are fictitious—myths invented by the Biblical writers, not historical realities. Even if a “historical Israel” in the Iron Age could be reconstructed, it would consist of a very brief outline of a handful of later kings and a few skeletal political events, corroborated mainly by extra-Biblical texts. Archaeology may be a putative source of history writing, but in practice it is largely “mute” owing to scant data and methodological imprecision.
• There was no “early Israel” as a distinct ethnic entity in the Iron I period in Palestine, no Israelite state before the ninth century B.C.E., no Judahite state before the late eighth century B.C.E., no significant political capital in Jerusalem before the second century B.C.E.
• Archaeologists and Biblical scholars should now concentrate on writing the history of the Palestinian peoples, not that of some imaginary “ancient Israel.”
• Henceforth, Jewish and Christian theology should be “liberated” from historical considerations, allowed simply to compete in the marketplace of ideas in a multicultural and relativist society.
• Finally, the Biblical “meta-narrative,” the foundation of much of the Western cultural tradition, should be rejected as subversive.
Thus the revisionists.
The revisionist agenda sketched above appears so absurd, so lacking in any supporting data, that laypeople (and even mainstream scholars) may well ask, What is really going on here? Having pondered this question for several years, it is clear to me that revisionism is little more than a belated borrowing of the rather tired postmodern paradigm that had such a disastrous impact on many of the social sciences in the 1980s and early 1990s. But what is postmodernism, or political correctness as it is sometimes popularly known?(3)
Postmodernism is essentially a mid- to late-20th-century theory of knowledge which states that there is no real knowledge—at least not of an objective, external world that can be perceived by the human senses. As Friedrich Nietzsche, the well-known nihilist philosopher of the late 19th century and one of the founders of postmodernism, put it, “There are no facts, only interpretations.”
More recently, postmodernism denotes a radical, reactionary, rather esoteric intellectual movement that was born out of the despair of postwar Europe and gradually spread to America. It was essentially a rebellion against all aspects of the modern culture that had prevailed in the West since the late 19th century. Specifically indicted were what may be called aspects of the Western cultural tradition-
• Cartesian individualism
• Rationalism, empiricism and positivist science
• The modern, liberal democratic nation-state
• Capitalist economics
• Industrial and technological society
• Western colonialism and imperialism
• Belief in common, universal progress
All these basic values and institutions of modernity were held responsible for the creation of an overarching, oppressive Eurocentric and Judeo-Christian “meta-narrative” that caused the rape of the environment, the disenfranchisement of the masses, the devaluation of other cultures and peoples, and the depersonalization of society. In the spirit of Oswald Spengler (The Decline of the West) and Friedrich Nietzsche, postmodernism declared the Western cultural tradition bankrupt.
The basic thrust of the postmodernist revolution was threefold- (1) All claims to truth, to meaning, to value, are merely “social constructs”; they are, therefore, impressionistic, relative rather than absolute, largely fictive and “subject to erasure.” (2) There is no uniform or universal reality; what matters is only the local, the fragmentary, the exotic, even the absurd. Social reality is to be “decentered,” exposed in all its ideological illusions, subjected to constantly reinventing itself. (3) Since moral relativism and multiculturalism must prevail, the issues all become those of politics- race, class, gender and power. What weighs in finally is not “truth,” for there is none, but rhetoric, the more extreme the better.
Many postmodernists focused their attack on texts, especially on ancient texts and on history writing based on the traditional reading of texts. The notorious method of “deconstruction” of texts was simply one aspect of postmodernism’s basic skepticism and minimalism; if social reality was a “construct,” it had to be de-constructed.(4) To quote typical statements, texts do not possess any single or true or universal “meaning,” or even necessarily any authorial intent; texts are “inherently self-contradictory”; texts are “subversive and dangerous”; texts “resist the reader” and must be “turned on their heads”; how language “signifies” is more important than what is signified; and in the end “all readings of texts are political,” and their only authority lies in their appeal, if they have any, to a particular group.
I would argue that the typical postmodernist approach to texts as outlined above has been adopted by the Biblical revisionists, whether deliberately or unwittingly, and then applied indiscriminately and improperly to the texts of the Hebrew Bible, as well as to archaeology. Revisionism’s minimalist portrait of ancient Israel rests on a skeptical, negative and indeed hostile assessment of the meaning and value of the Hebrew Bible and of the religious and cultural traditions stemming from it. The Bible is the “grand meta-narrative” that must be rejected in the postmodern world.
Now, I recognize that the Bible has often been misinterpreted and abused to support about every form of evil and cultural imperialism imaginable, from slavery to genocide. But revisionism typically caricatures the Bible and modern critical Biblical scholarship.(5) At its most extreme, revisionism is little more than pseudosophisticated Bible bashing- The Biblical texts describing ancient Israel are all social constructs; all ideological cant; all to be resisted; all ultimately stripped of historical or even religious truth.
Revisionism fails to recognize that even myth may contain some historical truth, even though it always seeks to convey truth of a higher order. But for the revisionists, the Hebrew Bible is nothing more than pious propaganda—in effect, a monstrous literary hoax that has misled countless millions for two thousand years, until unmasked by the intrepid revisionists’ deconstruction of the text. (By the way, if there is no truth and everything is ideology, why is their ideology any better than anybody else’s?)
What the revisionists (who seem to see themselves as harbingers of the Brave New World) do not realize is that in real intellectual circles, postmodernism is rapidly becoming passé.(6) Postmodernism as a theory of knowledge never did make any significant inroads in the natural sciences, which by definition remain empirical and positivist, busy generating knowledge of the external world and the universe, whether that is thought to be possible or not. And in the social sciences and humanities, there is now a centrist trend toward something called “neo-pragmatism.” Once again, we confront the sad spectacle of a school of Biblical studies naively borrowing a model from another discipline long after it has become obsolete there. The revisionists are hardly the revolutionaries they claim to be; in fact they are scarcely innovative at all. Most of this is radical chic, what I call postmodernist piffle. John Barton, the Oriel and Laing Professor of the Interpretation of Holy Scripture at Oxford University, has said it well-
I find postmodernism absurd, rather despicable in its delight in debunking all serious beliefs, decadent and corrupt in its indifference to questions of truth; I do not believe in it for a moment. But as a game, a set of jeux d’esprit, a way of having fun with words, I find it diverting and entertaining- I enjoy the absurd and the surreal, and postmodernism supplies this in ample measure. Postmodernist theory is much like postmodernist knitting. You begin to make a sock, but having turned the heel you continue with a neckband; then you add two (or three) arms of unequal length and finish not by casting off but simply by removing the needles, so that the whole garment slowly unravels. Provided you don’t want to wear a postmodern garment, nothing could be more entertaining. But when the knitter tells us that garments don’t really exist anyway, we should probably suspend our belief in postmodernist theory, and get back to our socks.(7)
Since the revisionists do not recognize even a minimal “historical Israel” before the ninth century B.C.E., obviously the Biblical narratives of an Israel emerging in Canaan in the “period of the Judges” (12th to 11th century B.C.E.) are, for them, fictitious. Most of the revisionists simply dismiss the notion of “early Israel” as Biblical propaganda, as does Davies, for instance.(8) A Scandinavian revisionist, Marit Skjeggestad, declares- “How should we possibly proceed in our attempt to rewrite Early Israel when the archaeological record is silent?”(9)
In fact, the archaeological record is not at all silent. It’s only that some historians are deaf.
Let us turn, then, to the evidence.
Since the early 1980s, Israeli and American archaeologists have been developing what might be called a symbiosis model of Israelite origins. Extensive surface survey of the Israeli-occupied West Bank carried out by several teams of Israeli archaeologists, together with excavation in depth at a few sites, has revealed that in the heartland of ancient Israel about 300 small agricultural villages were founded de novo in the late 13th to 11th century B.C.E.(10)They are quite small, a few acres at most, often situated on hilltops adjacent to arable land and good springs, almost always unwalled and without defenses of any kind. These villages are located principally in the central hill country, stretching all the way from the hills of lower Galilee as far south as the northern Negev around Beersheba. None are founded on ruins of destroyed Late Bronze Age sites; indeed, the sites chosen for occupation in early Iron I are nearly all in areas conspicuously devoid of Canaanite urban centers. They are situated in the marginal hill-country frontier that had previously been only sparsely occupied. The dispersed pattern of settlement and the overwhelming predominance of small villages points to a distinctive nonurban society and economy, undoubtedly agrarian. Population estimates, based on site size and well-developed ethnographic parallels, indicate a central hill-country population of only about 12,000 at the end of the Late Bronze Age (13th century B.C.E.), which then grew rapidly to about 55,000 by the 12th century B.C.E. and then to about 75,000 by the 11th century B.C.E. Such a dramatic population explosion simply cannot be accounted for by natural increase alone, much less by positing small groups of pastoral nomads settling down. Large numbers of people must have migrated here from somewhere else, strongly motivated to colonize an underpopulated fringe area of urban Canaan, now in decline at the end of the Late Bronze Age.
The villages that have been excavated are characterized by U-shaped courtyard houses (the so-called four-room houses) clustered in groups of two to four, often sharing common walls. The houses have room for animal shelter and for the storage of provisions on the first floor, and ample space for a large extended family on the second floor. These distinctive houses have virtually no precedents in Canaan, but they would make ideal farmhouses. Indeed, almost identical houses are still found all around the eastern Mediterranean in rural areas. No monumental or “elite” structures of any kind have been found in any of these Iron Age I villages, only clusters of courtyard houses, up to a half dozen or so. Harvard’s Lawrence Stager has demonstrated that this unique house form and the overall layout of these hill-country villages correspond closely with many narratives of daily life in the period of the Judges in the Books of Joshua, Judges and Samuel, reflecting what is doubtless a close-knit family and clan structure and an agrarian lifestyle.(a) In Stager’s view, the single courtyard house represents the nuclear family dwelling; and the cluster of several such houses would then be the residence of the extended or multigenerational family equivalent to the Biblical beÆt õaµb (house of the father).(11)
I myself have compared this socioeconomic structure to the domestic mode of production, which anthropologist Marshall Sahlins has described as follows- “The domestic mode of production is in effect the tribal economy in miniature, so politically it underwrites the condition of primitive society—society without sovereign.”(12) This would seem to be an apt description of both early Israel as described in the Bible and the hill-country archaeological assemblage.
A number of new or more efficiently developed technologies also appear in the hill country at almost the same time. These include, for example, intensive hillside terracing, best suited for small-scale subsistence farming, especially horticulture and viticulture but also adaptable for cereal production in the small intermountain valleys and even for the herding of animals on many of the drier slopes. Plastered cisterns cut into the bedrock are also found in many of the houses. And stone-lined silos for grain storage are still another new feature. These are all relatively rare in preceding periods.
Bronze and flint implements continued in use at this time, but iron, a new technology, appears sporadically and only in the form of utilitarian objects such as picks or plow points.
Pottery forms continued generally in the degenerate Late Bronze Age tradition, but wares are now often partly handmade rather than fashioned on a fast wheel.
Nearly all of the traits indicate that the village economy was based on mixed agro-pastoralism, dry farming of cereals and localized exchange of agricultural surpluses and other products (as well as labor). Large multigenerational families would have been the mainstay and focus of such an economy, the domestic mode of production noted above.
Similar agrarian lifestyles have, of course, characterized rural Palestine in many periods, even in the mid-20th century.(13) But one aspect of what archaeologists are now distinguishing as food systems is unique to Iron I- the consistent absence of pig bones in excavated remains. Pork was relatively common in Bronze Age sites, pigs being well adapted to many areas. The statistical rarity of pig bones in Iron I hill-country sites—often absent altogether or composing only a fraction of a percent—may therefore be an ethnic marker.(14) In this case, it would be one consistent with later Biblical data regarding the prohibition of pork in Israelite society, probably to be understood as a criterion distinguishing “Israelites” from “Canaanites.” The presence or absence of pig bones may thus be our best archaeological indicator of the much-debated ethnic boundaries and their physical extent. I suspect, however, that many other valid indicators will eventually be discovered.
Politically, there appears to be no central authority, although the inhabitants do appear to be in the process of defining themselves as an ethnic group. This accords well with the statement in Judges- “In those days there was no king in Israel, and every man did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17-6, 21-25).
Religiously, there is a complete absence of temples, sanctuaries or shrines of any type in these Iron I hill-country villages—in sharp contrast to the proliferation of temples in the preceding Late Bronze Age in Palestine. Currently, we have only one Iron I cult installation of any sort, a small isolated open-air hilltop shrine in the Samaria hills featuring a low temenos (sanctuary) wall, an altarlike platform and a large standing stone (a Biblical maµs\s\eµba). A few Iron I pottery sherds, pieces of a terra-cotta cult stand, some iron fragments and a well-preserved bronze bull figurine(b) suggest connections with the old Canaanite cult of the male deity El, whose principal epithet was “Bull El.” El remained one of the two names of the Israelite national god in many of the early Biblical texts, associated particularly with the “god of the fathers” (See, for example, Genesis 33-20 and 35-7).(15)
Another putative early Israelite shrine has been found atop Mt. Ebal, in the Shechem area;15 but most authorities regard this installation as an isolated farmhouse or fort.(c)
Otherwise, we have no clear archaeological evidence of Israelite religion and cult before the monarchy in the tenth and ninth centuries B.C.E. The absence of more visible data suggests an extremely simple, aniconic, noninstitutionalized cult, probably family-based and still in the tradition of the older Canaanite fertility religions that would have been well suited to an agrarian lifestyle.(16)
Only a few fragmentary inscriptions have been found in these Iron I villages.(d) A late-13th- or early-12th-century B.C.E. jar handle inscribed with the proto-Canaanite letters lÕh\l\, possibly “belonging to Ah\ilud” a personal name known from the Bible, was recovered at Radannah, near Ramallah. More important is a four-line ostracon with an abecedary (list of alphabetic letters), found in an early-11th-century B.C.E. context at ‘Izbet Sartah (possibly Biblical Ebenezer), also in proto-Canaanite letters. While not a literary text with any content, such an abecedary cannot have been an isolated item; it is almost certainly a schoolboy’s practice text, and as such it indicates at least the beginnings of functional literacy.(17)
Pottery reflects many aspects of culture and remains our most sensitive index to both cultural continuity and change. The Iron I pottery of these hill-country sites, particularly that of the early 12th century B.C.E., remains strongly in the old Late Bronze II local tradition. The direct continuities are clear in nearly all forms, with only the normal, predictable typological developments.
This complex of sites and material culture constitutes a parade example of what archaeologists call an assemblage—an assortment of contemporaneous archaeological artifacts and their contexts, found together in a consistent pattern of association and distributed over a well-defined geographic region. Such an assemblage, when documented from enough excavated sites and thereby distinguished from other assemblages, is usually said to denote an archaeological culture, particularly if the assemblage can be shown to be distinctive, new or intrusive. The assemblage can then often be confidently attributed to a known ethnic group, for example, the Philistines of Palestine’s coastal plain. Similarly, we can recognize the remains of the Phoenicians, the Aramaeans, the Moabites, the Ammonites and the Edomites. Why not the Israelites—unless the revisionists have some animus against them?(18)
A few archaeologists, such as Israel Finkelstein of Tel Aviv University—who, ironically, had earlier written the book on early Israel—have recently been taken in by the now-fashionable skepticism toward ethnicity, which is simply part and parcel of the postmodern paradigm I have already discussed.(19) Since there is so little evidence to support such extreme skepticism, it puzzled me for some time—until I realized that for postmodernists ethnicity is mistakenly equated with racism. The most recent book on archaeology and ethnicity written from this perspective takes on—as virtually its only case study of archaeologists identifying “ethnicity”—the Nazis and their attempt to use archaeology to distinguish a Super Race.(20) Surely this is argumentum ad absurdum.
So has archaeology brought to light an entity that we can legitimately call “early Israel”? Consider the assemblage described above. It is demonstrably a new phenomenon at the dawn of the Iron Age around 1200 B.C.E. (in spite of a few continuities with the Late Bronze Age). This village culture is also intrusive, at least in the previously underpopulated hill country with its few urban centers. And the overall assemblage is sufficiently homogeneous and distinctive to warrant some label. The only remaining question is, What label?
We could of course call them “the early Iron Age hill-country settlers.” Even that minimalist designation presumes, however, a chronological, cultural-evolutionary and functionalist distinction- These, too, are ethnic markers. So it seems that one cannot avoid a judgment. After much reflection on the archaeological data, I have suggested that we go further, adopting the term “proto-Israelite” to designate this 12th- to 11th-century B.C.E. complex.(21)
At least one additional piece of evidence justifies this proposal-
The well-known Victory Stele of the 19th Dynasty Egyptian pharaoh Merneptah, erected at Thebes in his 3rd–5th year, about 1210 B.C.E., celebrates victory over a number of enemies in Canaan. (22) The text lists several defeated peoples and then mentions Israel, who “is laid waste; its seed is not.” All scholars would agree that the date is fixed within a margin of five years (at most); that the reading “Israel” is certain; that “Israel” is followed by the Egyptian determinative sign for “people” (rather than the sign for a kingdom, city-state or the like) and must therefore designate some ethnic group; and that in the minds of the Egyptians, this entity, whatever it is, was distinct from Canaanites, Hurrians, Shasu-Bedouin or other groups in Canaan well known to Egyptian intelligence and mentioned in this and other Egyptian texts. Yet despite this fortuitous text—our earliest and most secure extra-Biblical textual reference to Israel—the revisionists have turned somersaults to avoid the obvious implications. They argue, for instance, that the mention of an entity called Israel tells us nothing about its nature or location. Or they denigrate the reference as our only known reference.(23) But one unimpeachable witness in the court of history is sufficient. And the only thing we really need to know at this point, the Merneptah Stele tells us unequivocally- There does exist in Canaan a people calling themselves Israel, who are thus called Israel by the Egyptians—who, after all, are hardly Biblically biased, and who cannot have invented such a specific and unique people for their own propaganda purposes. Moreover, if we look at a map based on the Merneptah Stele, we see that the Egyptian-held territory is clear (see map). The Hurrians are located in the north; the Shasu-Bedouin are obviously to be located in the Negev desert and Transjordan; and of course, in less than a generation the Philistines and other Sea Peoples will be entrenched along the coast. What is left in Canaan in about 1210 B.C.E. as an Israelite enclave if not the central hill country? And if Merneptah’s Israel was not here, where was it?
The sensible conclusion is that there was an early Israel present in Canaan just before 1200 B.C.E. This Israel was sufficiently in the ascendancy to come to the notice of the local Egyptian overlords. Merneptah’s Israel is obviously to be equated precisely with the contemporaneous Iron I hill-country archaeological assemblage. The Merneptah Stele supplies a non-Biblical, textual reference that affixes an ethnic label to this archaeological assemblage.
Even some of the revisionists concede the existence of Israel in Iron II, during the ninth to seventh century B.C.E. (the evidence here is overwhelming). But the hill-country Iron I archaeological assemblage is the direct predecessor of the later Iron II material culture. The strong continuity from Iron I through Iron II is so easily demonstrable that no archaeologist would contest it. It is evident particularly in essential features such as (1) the boundaries of the settlement area; (2) the ubiquitous four-room courtyard house; (3) the basically agrarian economy and society; (4) technologies such as iron; (5) the overall pottery repertoire, always diagnostic in culture change; (6) script and language; and, of course, (7) in the very name “Israel.” Even those new cultural elements that emerge in the tenth to ninth century B.C.E. to characterize the Israelite state—urbanization, monumental architecture, international trade, art and widespread literacy—grew out of the roots already established in the hill-country villages of the Iron I period. They cannot have originated anywhere else. In short, the archaeological evidence is clear- Our “proto-Israelites” are the authentic progenitors of Biblical Israel, without whom later traditions cannot be accounted for.
In my view, most of the revisionists are no longer honest scholars, weighing all the evidence, attempting to be objective and fair-minded historians, seeking the truth. Determined to unmask the ideology of others, they have become ideologues themselves. Their agenda substitutes clever slogans, nonsensical word games, increasingly absurd assertions and escalating polemics for the open, interdisciplinary dialogue that is our only hope for illuminating ancient Israel. The revisionists and postmodernists are dangerous because they have created a kind of relativism—an anything goes attitude—that makes serious, critical inquiry difficult, if not impossible.
Ancient Israel is a fact. That this historical Israel does not correspond in all details with the “ideal theological Israel” portrayed in the Hebrew Bible is true. In the end, however, that is irrelevant.
(This article has been adapted from a talk presented at Northwestern University in October 1999.)
a. Lawrence E. Stager, “The Song of Deborah,” BAR 15-01.
c. See Adam Zertal, “Has Joshua’s Altar Been Found on Mt. Ebal?” BAR 11-01; but see Aharon Kempinski, “Joshua’s Altar—An Iron Age I Watchtower,” BAR 12-01.
1. Revisionist literature is too extensive to cite fully, but for the latest statements of the principals, with references to most earlier literature, see Philip Davies, In Search of “Ancient Israel” (Sheffield- Journal for the Study of the Old Testament [JSOT] Press, 1992), Keith W. Whitelam, The Invention of Ancient Israel- The Silencing of Palestinian History (London- Routledge, 1996); Niels Peter Lemche, The Israelites in History and Tradition (Louisville- Westminster John Knox, 1998); and Thomas L. Thompson, The Mythic Past- Biblical Archaeology and the Myth of Israel (New York- Basic Books, 1999). My latest responses, again with full references, will be found in William G. Dever, “Archaeology, Ideology, and the Quest for ‘Ancient’ or ‘Biblical Israel.’” Near Eastern Archaeology 61-1 (1998), pp. 39–52, and “Histories and Non-histories of Ancient Israel,” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research (BASOR) 316 (1999). Also helpful on the fundamental issue of historiography and faith are many of the essays in V. Philips Long, ed., Israel’s Past in Present Research- Essays on Ancient Israelite Historiography (Winona Lake, IN- Eisenbrauns, 1999).
2. This summary closely follows Lemche, “Earliest Israel Revisited,” Currents in Research- Biblical Studies 4 (1996), pp. 9–34; for my critique, see Dever, “Revisionist Israel Revisited- A Rejoinder to Niels Peter Lemche,” Currents in Research- Biblical Studies 4 (1996), pp. 35–50. See also the works cited in n. 1 above, passim.
3. Postmodernist literature is extensive, but often stupifyingly jargon ridden. For an accessible, although largely apologetic, introduction, see Charles Lemert, Post-modernism Is Not What You Think (Oxford- Blackwell, 1997); but for a devastating critique, see David Gress, From Plato to Nato- The Idea of the West and Its Opponents (London- Free Press, 1998).
4. For orientation to the method of deconstruction as applied to Biblical texts, see the essays in J. Cheryl Exum and David J. A. Clines, eds., The New Literary Criticism and the Hebrew Bible (Sheffield- JSOT Press, 1993). For the related and similarly postmodern methods of semiotics, see, for instance, George Aichele, Sign, Text, Scripture- Semiotics and the Bible (Sheffield- Sheffield Academic Press, 1997); note esp. Aichele’s quotation of the famous definition of postmodernism by one of its principal gurus, Jean-François Lyotard (pp. 15–16), which I confess I find totally incomprehensible.
5. Caricature is one of the revisionist’s favorite devices; see, for instance, Whitelam, Invention, throughout; and esp. Thompson, Mythic Past, which, however, can hardly be called scholarship, since it does not contain a single reference to support any of the countless cavalier assertions that are made. For a brief critique, see Dever, review of The Mythic Past, by Thompson, ReViews, BAR 25-05.
6. See, for instance, Gress, From Plato to Nato; and esp. Alan D. Sokal and Jean Bricmont, Fashionable Nonsense- Postmodern Intellectuals’ Abuse of Science (New York- Picador U.S.A., 1998). For trends specifically in Biblical studies, cf. William A. Beardslee, “Poststructuralist Criticism,” in Stephen R. Haynes and Steven L. McKenzie, eds., To Each Its Own Meaning- An Introduction to Biblical Criticisms and Their Application (Louisville- Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993), pp. 231–235, esp. p. 232 (for neo-pragmatism).
7. John Barton, Reading the Old Testament- Method in Biblical Study (London- Darton, Longman and Todd, 1996), p. 235.
8. See, for example, Davies, Ancient Israel, p. 24 n. 4.
9. Marit Skjeggestad, “Ethnic Groups in Early Iron Age Palestine- Some Observations on the Use of the Term ‘Israelite’ in Recent Research,” Scandinavian Journal of Theology 6 (1992), pp. 159–186.
10. See Israel Finkelstein, The Archaeology of the Israelite Settlement (Jerusalem- Israel Exploration Society, 1998); Finkelstein and Nadav Na’aman, eds., From Nomadism to Monarchy- Archaeological and Historical Aspects of Early Israel (Jerusalem- Israel Exploration Society, 1994). On the implications of the Israeli survey data, see the differences between Whitelam and myself in Whitelam, “The Identity of Early Israel- The Realignment and Transformation of Late Bronze-Iron Age Palestine,” JSOT 63 (1994), pp. 57–87; Dever, “The Identity of Early Israel- A Rejoinder to Keith W. Whitelam,” JSOT 72 (1996), pp. 3–24. Add now Dever, “Archaeology, Ideology, and the Quest,” “Histories and Non-histories.”
11. Lawrence E. Stager, “The Archaeology of the Family in Ancient Israel,” BASOR 260 (1985), pp. 1–35.
12. Marshall D. Sahlins, Stone Age Economics (Chicago- Aldine-Atherton, 1972), p. 95.
13. See David C. Hopkins, The Highlands of Canaan- Agricultural Life in the Early Iron Age (Sheffield- Sheffield Academic Press, 1985).
14. See, for instance, Brian Hesse and Paula Wapnish, “Can Pig Bones Be Used for Ethnic Diagnosis in the Ancient Near East?” in Neil Asher Silberman and David Small, eds., The Archaeology of Israel- Constructing the Past, Interpreting the Present (Sheffield- Sheffield Academic Press, 1997), pp. 238–270.
15. Amihai Mazar, “The ‘Bull Site’- An Iron Age Open Cult Place,” BASOR 247 (1982), pp. 27–42; Adam Zertal, “An Early Iron Age Cult Site on Mt. Ebal- Excavation Seasons 1982–1987,” Tel Aviv 13–14 (1986–1987), pp. 105–165.
16. For an interpretation of Israelite popular religion, in terms of continuity with the Canaanite cult, see Dever, “Folk Religion in Early Israel—Did Yahweh Have a Consort?” in Hershel Shanks and Jack Meinhardt, eds., Aspects of Monotheism—How God Is One (Washington, DC- Biblical Archaeology Society, 1997), pp. 27–56.
17. On literacy in general in Ancient Israel, see Susan Niditch, Oral Word and Written Word- Ancient Israelite Literature (Louisville- Westminster/John Knox, 1996).
18. See, for example, Dever, “Archaeology, Ideology, and the Quest.”
19. For Finkelstein’s rather abrupt about-face on Israelite ethnicity, compare Archaeology of the Israelite Settlement with “The Emergence of Israel in Canaan- Consensus, Mainstream and Dispute,” Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament 5-2 (1991), pp. 47–59; “Ethnicity and Origin of the Iron I Settlers in the Highlands on Canaan- Can the Real Israel Stand Up?” Biblical Archaeologist (BA) 59-4 (1996), pp. 198–212. Yet nowhere does Finkelstein cite actual archaeological or textual data that forced this change of opinion.
20. Siân Jones, The Archaeology of Ethnicity (London- Routledge, 1997).
21. For my “proto-Israelites,” see Dever, “The Late Bronze-Early Iron I Horizon in Syria-Palestine- Egyptians, Canaanites, ‘Sea Peoples,’ and ‘Proto-Israelites,’” in William A. Ward and Martha S. Joukowsky, eds., The Crisis Years- The 12th Century B.C. from Beyond the Danube to the Tigris (Dubuque- Kendall/Hunt, 1992), pp. 99–110, and “Archaeology and the Emergence of Early Israel,” in John R. Bartlett, ed., Archaeology and Biblical Interpretation (London- Routledge, 1997), pp. 20–50. On Late Bronze Age-Iron I ceramic continuity, see Dever, “Ceramics, Ethnicity, and the Question of Israel’s Origins,” BA 58-4 (1995), pp. 200–213, and references there to other literature. There is an overwhelming consensus among all archaeologists today on this continuity, although there are differences of interpretation on the implications of the facts. On the origin of the bearers of this Late Bronze-Iron I ceramic tradition, opinions vary from Finkelstein’s theory of local pastoral nomadic origins to my theory of local mixed elements, including nomads and displaced lowland farmers.
22. See now the exhaustive treatment of Michael G. Hasel, Domination and Resistance- Egyptian Military Activity in the Southern Levant, 1300–1185 B.C. (Leiden- Brill, 1998).
23. See, for example, Thompson, Mythic Past, p. 79; Lemche, The Israelites, pp. 35–38.