A very good question with a complex set of possible answers! There is a very provocative and thoughtful post on the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) blog & newsletter by my good friend Steven Collins (of “Sodom and Gomorrah” fame) by the above title.
The relationship between archaeology and the Bible has been a much-debated topic over the last 25 years. The terms ‘minimalists’ and ‘maximalists’ are now as frequent as ‘exodus’ and ‘epigraphy’.
The author at a nearby dolman with Tall el-Hammam in the background. Photo courtesy Steven Collins.
There seems to be little or no middle ground. On the one hand, William Dever is—as he has stated on several occasions—flattered to have the death of biblical archaeology ascribed to him, although he is quick to point out that, in fact, he “only wrote the obituary.” On the other hand, Bryant Wood takes those to the ‘left’ of him to task for not holding to a ‘literal’ interpretation of the Genesis patriarchal lifespan numbers and an early (ca. 15thcentury BCE) date for the Israelite exodus from Egypt. While Israel Finkelstein has long abandoned looking to the Bible for any authentic historical information that might shed light on the ‘actual’ origin(s) of Israel, Eilat Mazar announces the discovery of King David’s palace in the archaeological excavations of the Iron Age city presently bearing his name. The Bible is pronounced both ‘boon’ and ‘bust’ by scholars of equal acumen!
Be sure and read the complete article here and while you are at the ASOR site take a bit of time to browse by clicking on the ASOR Home Page in the top menu. You will find information on the upcoming Annual Meeting in Baltimore (November