Israel Finkelstein Revises His Dating: Is the Indefatigable Minimalist Slipping?

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Excerpt During his presentation, Israel Finkelstein revised his dating, and stated that he was now dating the transition from Iron Age I to IIA to about 950 BC. This was momentous. Continue reading

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The March 2011 Newsletter published by Australian Archaeology Institute (www.aiarch.org.au) reported the following:

Israel Finkelstein revises his dating

 

"Two afternoon sessions at the Society of Biblical Literature Meeting were devoted to Archaeology and Text, and in particular to the dating problems associated with the transition from Iron Age I to Iron Age II. In these sessions Ayelet Gilboa spoke on Tel Dor, Amihai Mazar on Tel Rehov, Aren Maeir on Tell es-Safi, Israel Finkelstein on Megiddo, and David Ussishkin on Jezreel.

 

During his presentation, Israel Finkelstein revised his dating, and stated that he was now dating the transition from Iron Age I to IIA to about 950 BC. This was momentous. Based on their experiences in the Philistine areas and sites such as Lachish, Ussishkin and Finkelstein have been dating the start of Iron Age II to 920–900 BC and they, along with many others, have used this dating to argue that David and Solomon did not exist. Archaeologists working elsewhere in the southern Levant have found the comparatively short period of Iron Age II problematic because it was difficult to compress their Iron Age II levels into it. While they mounted archaeological arguments to support an earlier start to Iron Age II they were normally accused of being ‘biblically biased’.

 

Now that Finkelstein is digging at Megiddo, where there is a significant depth of Iron Age II material, he realises that the period was longer and that an earlier date for the start of Iron Age II is necessary. There are numerous books written by Finkelstein arguing that there was no United Monarchy because Iron Age II began long after the time it was supposed to have existed. Unfortunately these books will continue to have influence for decades to come, although the core argument is no longer accepted. The change does not mean that the United Monarchy did exist; it simply removes one of the hypothesised impediments.

 

It was interesting that in the presentations the only person to regularly refer to biblical texts was Finkelstein: for him, disproving the Old Testament appears to be a hobby-horse. Much of the scholarly world has been fixated on Finkelstein conveying his hypotheses as facts. It will be interesting to see if it now takes a less dogmatic stance.

 

Sadly, the only Israeli archaeologists in these sessions to present archaeology as a way of understanding ancient lives were Aren Maeir and to some extent Amihai Mazar. The others were caught up with the historical imperatives."

 

 

This report is illuminating. Dr. Finkelstein is well-known for his skepticism towards the Bible, so this backtracking is rather surprising. Let us see if he remains consistent, or if he recognizes that he dropped the ball for his fellow skeptics everywhere. In either case, his bias against the ancient text of the Bible should be recognized by anyone who wants to be remotely fair minded and intellectually honest.

 

 

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