Before the 1970s, "biblical archaeology" was the dominant research paradigm for those excavating the history of Palestine. Today this model has been "weighed in the balance and found wanting." Most now prefer to speak of "Syro/Palestinian archaeology." This is not just a nominal shift but reflects a major theoretical and methodological change. It has even been labeled a revolution. In the popular mind, however, biblical archaeology is still alive and well.
In Shifting Sands, Thomas W. Davis charts the evolution and the demise of the discipline. Biblical archaeology, he writes, was an attempt to ground the historical witness of the Bible in demonstrable historical reality. Its theoretical base lay in the field of theology. American mainstream Protestantism strongly resisted the inroads of continental biblical criticism, and sought support for their conservative views in archaeological research on the ancient Near East. The Bible was the source of the agenda for biblical archaeology, an agenda that was ultimately apologetical.
Davis traces the fascinating story of the interaction of biblical studies, theology, and archaeology in Palestine, and the remarkable individuals who pioneered the discipline. He highlights the achievements of biblical archaeologists in the field, who gathered an immense body of data. By clarifying the theoretical and methodological framework of the original excavators, he believes, these data can be made more useful for current research, allowing a more sober, reasoned judgment of both the accomplishments and the failures of biblical archaeology.
Thomas Daviss Shifting Sands: The Rise and Fall of Biblical Archaeology could not be more timely.The long-standing question of the historicity, the truth, of the Bible; understanding the role that it has played in the now-beleaguered Western cultural tradition; seeing how archaeology is being employed today in the Middle East by all parties to create a past (or invent it) that may well shape all our futures-these are burning issues. Daviss well told story of archaeology in the region, his balanced judgments, and his cautious optimism for an honest dialogue between archaeology and biblical studies, free of theological and nationalistic biases, offer some hope at a time when skepticism prevails. --William G. Dever, Professor of Near Eastern Archaeology emeritus, University of Arizona
"Davis perceptively traces the history of biblical archaeology and the issues underlying its rise and demise. In recent years self-criticism within the discipline has strengthened it to face the new challenges posed by historical minimalists. Davis lays out the current debate between minimalists and maximalists with tremendous clarity. This book is necessary reading for anyone interested in the discipline and will become a standard text."--James K. Hoffmeier, Professor of Old Testament and Near Eastern Archaeology, Trinity International University Lucid, systematic, comprehensive: an illuminating guide to the growth and practice of Syro-Palestinian archaeology since the 19th century and its complex relationship to the study of the Hebrew Bible and ancient Israelite history. --Peter Machinist, Hancock Professor of Hebrew and Other Oriental Languages, Harvard University
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Oxford University Press, Incorporated
March 03, 2004
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