kdlitwak kdlitwak at
Fri Nov 12 23:53:05 EST 1999


Ian, not having visited the web site, but just reading the quotation, there are two
things I'd say.
1.  (I hope the list management will forgive me for this)  From a reader-response
perspective, it is a rather triumphalist set of assertions:  I'm brilliant and
everyone who ever thought that anything in the Scriptures of Israel was historical is
stupid  That in and of itself communicates to me that I should approach such a book
under the "hermeneutics of suspicion".
2.  Can we get past the naive notion that you can disprove the existence of a thing
through archaeology or expect tiny sampling of any area to tell you all that you could
know, especially when those sampling are filtered through the archaeologist's
ideological perspective, which dictates what, and what is not, possible, regardless of
what the data might really mean?  I can go to Pearl Harbor in Hawaii right now and the
a memorial over the hull of the U.S.S. Arizona.  The plaque there claims it wa sunk on
Dec. 7, 1941.  No amount of archaeological research could ever "prove" that.  No
amount of archaeological research could prove, beyond question, that it was sunk by
torpedoes dropped from Japanese Imperial Navy torpedo planes or bombs from Japanese
dive bombers (Vals and Kates, I think, but I'd have to check). You cold never prove
what kind of plane dropped them.  You could you prove, solely through archaeology, the
nationality of the pilots or even of the bombs.  In fact, if I wanted to, I could
mount a strong case that it wasn't sunk by an enemy at all based on the archaeological
remains, as opposed to the written accounts.  Those accounts are all just like Joshua
or 2 Kings. They make claims that cannot be substantiated by mere archaeological
research.  I could argue, instead, that this ship was merely scuttled by the U.S. Navy
here after having an accident when some seaman dropped a cigarette into the forward
magazine which caused an explosion.  You cannot disprove that archaeologically.
The fact is that my father's eyewitness testimony regarding what happened to his ship,
the U.S.S. California, is more important than any other data on the ship, because all
the pictures of it on Dec 7 1941 are too covered with smoke to really tell anything.
How much less an archaeological analysis of a piece of pottery.

In my perspective, a minimalist is someone who appeals only to his or her
interpretation of just archaeological data, ignoring the fact that no piece of data is
ever free of interpretation or that the data itself could tell a sufficient story.
Are yo ready to apply your rubric everywhere?  Can you prove archaeologically that
Nero existed or that Hannibal crossed the Alps or that there ever was a Plato?  No.
You cannot validate these events unless you are willing to accept the testimony of
written texts, even texts for which there is no and in the event cannot be, any
physical evidence.  I won't discuss this further, but i do hope we can dispense with
this naive concept that archaeology can by itself provide a complete proof or disproof
of anything beyond the mere existence of what is found.  You can say, I fond a coin
with a certain inscription.  You cannot prove that anyone named on it ever existed.
You can't do this with a fifty year old ship and you sure can't do  it with a 2000
year old  anything.

Ken Litwak

> what your problem is with the content of the
> quotation? Please show me your historical efforts so that I can understand
> what your gripe is really about. Do you disagree with the the historical
> implications and have something to back your dissent up or are you just
> bleeding in public?
> >I'm not going to continue this discussion,
> You haven't started in "this discussion". You haven't discussed anything.
> I'd be happy to hear whatever evidence you'd like to bring to bear.
> Cheers,
> Ian
> >because, frankly
> >not much that you've said in response to my messages has been
> >particularly worthy of much reply (though I hasten to assure
> >you that I have no doubts about your institutional status as a
> >professor) -- but what I said about the website was factual at
> >a simple and direct level.  I quote:
> >
> >    One of the world's leading Biblical archaeologists concludes that
> >    the Old Testament offers absolutely no credible historical data
> >    on the early history of Israel.  Its often startling assertions
> >    will make for a powderkeg of a book.  Among the author's
> >    conclusions are these: There never was a "united monarch" [Saul,
> >    David, Solomon] in history We can no longer talk about a time of
> >    the Patriarchs.  The entire notion of "Israel" and its history is a
> >    literary fiction.  The Jewish people's historical claims to
> >    Israel, the small area bordering the eastern Mediterranean, is
> >    not only the foundation for the modern state of Israel...
> >
> >The webmaster refrained from adding at the end, "Take that, you evil
> >Zionists", and I commend him for his relative subtlety on this point  ;-)
> ---
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