Khirbet Qeiyafa’s Model Shrines and the Accuracy of the Bible

Khirbet Qeiyafa’s Model Shrines and the Accuracy of the Bible May 9, 2012

Being in the throes of grading, I am a bit late blogging about the announcement of the discovery of clay model shrines at Khirbet Qeiyafa dating from roughly 3,000 years ago.

The Times of Israel has an article on the subject, and the Hebrew University issued a press release.  Demotix treats the find as evidence that the Bible is “not to be dismissed as legend.”

It is such sensationalist claims that are causing most of the hubbub, and fortunately scholars are responding to them immediately on blogs. I’ve embedded links to some of those responses throughout this post.

Seth Sanders, for instance, points out that there is reason to think that the finds reflect Canaanite rather than emerging Israelite culture.

Of course, the majority of scholars are persuaded that the origins of Israel are largely within Canaan and Canaanite society, and so these finds are indeed relevant to the study and interpretation of the Bible and likely to clarify some things about Israel’s shrines, which (contrary to what some poorly-informed readers of the Bible may assume) are not of a completely different style from earlier Canaanite shrines. And if the lack of pig bones at this site is indicative, then this might indeed be a proto-Israelite or emerging Israelite site. If so, then it is probably indeed important evidence – not that the Bible is completely accurate or something else nonsensical like that, but of how the transition from Canaanite to Israelite identity came about. If so, it is a very important find indeed.

And so my suggestion is to indeed get excited – any time we discover more data with which to reconstruct and interpret the past, it is exciting! But be wary of both those who claim that the find “proves the Bible” and those who dismiss it as irrelevant. The truth, as usual, is probably somewhere in between.

High quality photos from the press conference can be downloaded here.

Also related to archaeology, David Meadows crowdsources the attempt to read and interpret the inscription on the ossuary in the Talpiot patio tomb that has been receiving much attention, while Mark Goodacre links to an article about the discovery of Jesus’ last will and testament.

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