Dr. Joe Cathey has provided us with a nifty little mini-bibliography on the subjects of biblically-related inscriptions, including here his “top five finds in field of archaeology of the Hebrew Bible.”
I also concur in his perception that “more data about the nature of life in the Late Bronze and Iron Ages is becoming clearer to the sound minded interpreter.” While the “minimalist assault” on the possibility of historicality of the biblical narratives has been a subject of discussion here and elsewhere, I find that minimalism’s primary value has been secondary: it has spurred a re-evaluation of both the evidence and the epistemological underpinnings of those scholars doing biblical studies. Everyone is better off for that. On this side of the controversy, finally cooling it seems, it appears that the majority, post re-evaluation, leans toward a more “maximalist” acceptance of the Hebrew Bible as containing genuine records, however attentuated, from at least the Iron Age, if not the Late Bronze. Minimalist theories on the formation of the Hebrew Bible’s texts, which theories in some cases I believe are best categorized (and probably entirely intended) as scholarly alternative histories, or “what if?” scenarios, rather than serious suggestions, are not standing up well to the re-evaluation. Indeed, many, if not most, were ripped to shreds upon their birthing! Even so, they were useful for their time. As I’ve mentioned before, here and elsewhere, the wider field of historiography already experienced this kind of challenge and re-evaluation, and has come out the better for it, though almost entirely unchanged from its earlier positions, with the differences involving simply a tightening-up of methodologies, which is a kind of coming to maturity of the field itself. The same is only to be expected for biblical historiography, which, as usual for biblical studies, generally lags years behind the trends of wider scholarship: some minor readjustments, but reaffirmation of the earlier methodologies and general conclusions. In biblical studies, the identical result is shaping up: “minimalists” will remain, though increasingly marginalized, just as the postmodernists remain in wider historiography, but as a distinct minority.
Perhaps we’ll finally be rid of all those revolting peasants at long last!