Biblical Archaeology

Avraham Faust

in Jewish Studies

ISBN: 9780199840731
Published online August 2012 | | DOI:
Biblical Archaeology

Show Summary Details


The term “biblical archaeology” has meant different things to different people at different times. During most of its history, the term was used broadly and included archaeological (and archaeology-related) activities in the biblical lands, mainly the Near East but even beyond it, from prehistory to the medieval period. Later, the term was seen as parochial, narrow, and religiously loaded, and many felt uncomfortable using it, sometimes calling for a “secular archaeology” (e.g., William Dever), and preferring instead terms such as “Syria-Palestinian archaeology,” “Near Eastern archaeology,” or “archaeology of the Levant.” The change has also been connected with the decrease in the historical value attributed to the biblical narratives, and to political correctness. The term, nevertheless, is still widely used, and many scholars speak today about “new biblical archaeology.” Geographically, the new term is narrower, covering mainly the Land of Israel (also known as the southern Levant, Palestine, or the Holy Land; roughly covering the area of modern Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority). Chronologically, it still covers a long period, but there is a difference between Israeli usage and American/European usage. Both “groups” begin the era with the start of the Bronze Age (although all agree that there was nothing “biblical” in those periods). For Israeli scholars, however, the biblical period refers to the time covered in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), and it ends by the Late Iron Age, or the Persian period. For most American and European scholars, especially in the past, the term embraced the Hellenistic period, the Roman period, and perhaps even the Byzantine period. Today, however, scholars specialize either in the early periods (Bronze and Iron Ages) or in the later (Hellenistic-Byzantine) periods, and the term “biblical archaeology” is becoming synonymous with the Bronze and Iron Ages (including the Persian period). Indeed, these are the periods that will receive most attention here. Although originally the “child” of biblical studies and archaeology, in its current usage the term is not necessarily connected with the Bible; rather, it relates to studies of a certain era in a certain region. Due to the wide definitions of biblical archaeology, and in light of the differences in meanings associated with it, the boundaries between biblical archaeology and other disciplines are not always clear cut, and they have changed over the course of the discipline’s history. Therefore, the following sections will address some works that are not archaeological in nature. Notably, this article will usually not refer to excavation reports or technical ceramic studies.

Article.  14232 words. 

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.