The Bible Unearthed:
Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of its Sacred Texts
by Israel Finkelstein and Neil Silberman
~ Book Review By Adrienne Morris ~
Why is understanding the origins and purposes of the Bible important? No one book has more strongly influenced Western history, and still does. Modern Zionists justify not only Israel's existence but its aggression based on so-ca1led Biblical history. Right-wing Christians who believe in a literal Bible strongly influence the Bush administration policies. Sadly, most Americans are ignorant of its nature and contents. This makes them very vulnerable to manipulation and power-grabbing "authorities."
Starting with genuine Biblical criticism in the 18th century, most of it has been focused on the text itself, and later with what actual history seemed to reveal or not. The Bible Unearthed is a revelation of the vast difference between what the Bible claims and what modern archeology has demonstrated. It is no surprise to find out there were no patriarchs, no exodus, no conquest of Canaan. What might be surprising to many is that Finkelstein, an archeologist at Tel Aviv University, and Silberman, also an archeologist and historian, also draw conclusions from archeological digs all over Israel in the past few decades to conclude that there was not even a united monarchy.
The book is divided into three logical sections: "The Bible as History" (it isn't), "The Rise and Fall of Ancient Israel" (not so ancient after all) and "Judah and the Making of Biblical History" (most of it was fabricated for political and religious purposes). The last section is, in my opinion, the most interesting one. The two authors think the "book of law," most probably Deuteronomy, was produced in the 7th century BCE by King Josiah and cohorts to purify the cult of Yahweh and further the aims of a small nation. Monotheism began to take root, and the Bible began to be compiled, pulling on many traditions, being edited and embellished at will.. It is among other things a political document designed to connect Josiah, etc., to a golden era, weaving historical fragments and myths of various Canaanite peoples to justify expansionist policies. The Israelites were originally natives of the land, indistinguishable from other Canaanite peoples. Much later they became the "chosen people"--an ambivalent legacy.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who thinks it is important to demythologize the ancient idols to which so many humans remain subject. Without benefit of modern science, Thomas Jefferson wrote, "We discover (in the Bible) a groundwork of vulgar ignorance, of things impossible, of superstition, fanaticism, and fabrication." He was so right.
I also recommend two classics, Folklore in the Old Testament by J. G. Frazer and Robert Graves and the Hebrew Myths by Graves and R. Patai.
The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of its Sacred Texts, by Israel Finkelstein and Neil Silberman; The Free Press, 2001.