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C O U R S E 
The Bible's Prehistory, Purpose, and Political Future
Dr. Jacob L. Wright, Emory University
C O U R S E   L E C T U R E 
Archaeological Theories on the History of Israel
Notes taken on May 2, 2015 by Edward Tanguay
John Bright
A History of Israel (1959)
Age of the Patriarchs
Exodus and Conquest
Period of the Judges
United Monarchy of Saul, David and Solomon
Divided Monarchies of Israel and Judah
Exile, Return, Restoration
a conservative history which for the most part replicates the Biblical story
since the 80s and 90s most historians are skeptical about the historicity of the first two periods
the age of the patriarchs
the exodus/conquest period
many allow and exodus from Egypt on a small scale
but it is doubtful that
this group comprised the entire people of Israel
that this group descended directly from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
Ephraim Speiser (1902-1965)
a group of scholars thought they could prove the historicity of Genesis by showing how various institutions and practices described in these texts appear in documents found in a city in Northern Iraq called Nuzi
documents date from 1450-1350
long after the Biblical patriarchs (ca. 2000)
leading paradigm and theories with which archeologists and historians work when reconstructing the origins of ancient history
for many years, there were two models:
1. peaceful infiltration
Albrecht Alt
Martin Noth
Yohanan Aharoni (1919-1976)
Israelites entered Canaan as semi-nomads
coalesced gradually into a united people
originated somewhere in the Transjordan, today Jordan
2. conquest
conservative reaction to the peaceful infiltration model
William Foxwell Albright (1891-1971)
Yigael Yadin (1917-1984)
Israel was already a unified people before they entered Canaan by military force and conquest
takes its point of departure from the Biblical accounts
very few scholars would defend this view today
the main reason is that the various layers which Albright and Yadin all date from very different periods
peaceful view has persisted in modern scholarship but has been subjected to changes
1. social revolution model
Israelites were originally an under-privileged and oppressed class of Canaanites
rose up in rebellion
abandoned the urban centers
moved outside urban areas in hills
where they joined with a small group which had recently made an exodus from bondage in Egypt
established an egalitarian society
George Mendenhall
Norman Gottwald
2. sedentary / nomadic / sedentary
Israel Finkelstein
Shlomo Bunimovitz
the population which became Israel were local animal herders who gradually made a transition from being nomads to sedentary land owners
began as sedentary Canaanites, became nomads in the 16th century BC when Canaan was destroyed
by 1200 BC when Israel starts to emerge as a people, they begin a sedentary existence again
most scholars think of Israel's origins as a gradual process of identity formation
elicited by social, political and ecological factors
may have originated in Canaan proper
or they may have migrated from the east of the Jordan
1200 BCE, the Merneptah Stele attests to the existence of a people called Israel
doesn't contain any information about how Israel was constituted
no mention of how large the group was
or even if Merneptah's armies had encountered them firsthand
there is also reason that these inscriptions would be unreliable, e.g. for kings to boast of battles they never won and peoples they never conquered
the maintenance of a social organization does not necessarily imply any sort of cultural continuity
just because there is one group called Israel in one period and another group called Israel in another period, doesn't necessarily imply tight, cultural connection between the two