Dig­ging Through the Bible: Under­stand­ing Bib­li­cal Peo­ple, Places, and Con­tro­ver­sies Through Archaeology

Richard A. Freund
  • Review
By – January 6, 2012

The ques­tion of just how fac­tu­al the Bible is — was there real­ly an Exo­dus from Egypt; was there a King David? — is one that can hard­ly be dis­cussed with equa­nim­i­ty. Every­one has a stake in the answer, both reli­gious and sec­u­lar, Jew­ish, Chris­t­ian, or Mus­lim. Even aca­d­e­m­ic schol­ars have their vest­ed inter­ests. In his third book, Fre­und — a rab­bi and a pro­fes­sor of Jew­ish his­to­ry — delves into this vexed field. In fair­ly sim­ple terms, he explains the dif­fer­ent sides of each ques­tion and presents the avail­able evi­dence. He describes the method­olo­gies of bib­li­cal lit­er­ary crit­i­cism and of bib­li­cal archae­ol­o­gy. Bib­li­cal archae­ol­o­gists are divid­ed into Min­i­mal­ists and Max­i­mal­ists, accord­ing to the degree to which they believe that Bible sto­ries are true.” His own posi­tion is inter­me­di­ate — he is sus­pi­cious of tak­ing bib­li­cal infor­ma­tion at face val­ue, and of using archae­o­log­i­cal evi­dence to con­firm it, but he does believe that the Bible is some­what fac­tu­al, and that phys­i­cal arti­facts can help to under­stand the Bible. 

Under the head­ing of Bible,” Fre­und dis­cuss­es the Tanakh as well as the New Tes­ta­ment and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Each chap­ter is set around a top­ic that Fre­und has per­son­al­ly researched and exca­vat­ed. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, in a book plagued by rep­e­ti­tions, pre­cious lit­tle is said about the author’s per­son­al expe­ri­ences and dis­cov­er­ies, which could have made the nar­ra­tive much more engag­ing. It is a good intro­duc­tion to the prob­lems of believ­ing” the Bible in a post-mod­ern, sci­en­tifi­cized world. Bib­li­og­ra­phy, index.

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