The Study of Man: The Bible, Archaeology, and History
THE lay reader who keeps abreast of the output of popular and semi-popular books on the subject of the Bible and Biblical archaeology, as well as the specialist working in these or related fields, cannot but be struck by a pronounced new trend reflected in a large part of the recent literature: the presentation of archaeological evidence as corroborating the Bible’s historicity. In other words, there is a marked tendency to treat the Bible as a wholly reliable record of events, exactly like a primary source in any other branch of historical inquiry. We may exclude such treatments of this theme which are frankly addressed to religiously committed audiences, usually under the sponsorship of fundamentalist or orthodox groups, and which boldly impress the impartial testimony of archaeological discovery into the service of doctrines and beliefs about the Bible that were held before such discoveries were made. What I am concerned with here are books which appeal to the public on an allegedly non-sectarian and even on a non-religious basis. For if the Bible can be shown to be “history” on a presumably scientific basis, it is obviously a matter of the first importance to all people, theist and atheist alike. The best-known example of the kind of book I have in mind is The Bible as History of one Werner Keller, originally appearing in Germany but published in this country five years ago amid much publicity, which purported to demonstrate with finality the literal accuracy of Biblical tradition as corroborated by archaeology. Whatever Keller’s qualifications were for writing a book of this kind, firsthand acquaintance with the subject was not one of them. His inaccuracies and misrepresentations were pointed out in responsible reviews, including one by Nelson Glueck-whose new volume forms the basis of the present remarks-in the New York Times (October 28, 1956). But other books dedicated to the same thesis have appeared in the last few years.
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