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What Did the Biblical Writers Know & When Did They Know It?


There have been numerous and exciting discoveries from the Levant since the 2001 publication of William Dever’s research, What Did the Biblical Writers Know & When Did They Know It? Dever is an American archaeologist and professor whose focus has predominantly centered around Biblical Israel and the general Near East. While I have a high level respect for Dever, this publication specifically was a bit of a disappointment.

The author’s stated intent for this book was to provide the reader with archaeological material that corroborates the Biblical texts; however, he completely dismisses the Biblical books covering the patriarchal narratives to the conquest and relies solely on the Court History and Prophetic materials. Despite what the archaeology has to say on these early stories, there still exists a rich history of propaganda intended to unite one of history’s most infamous underdogs, the Israelites.

Anyway, the book is well written and the evidence of Iron Age Israel is presented in an extremely professional manner. My biggest gripe is that William Dever approaches his research with a specific agenda. That agenda is not necessarily intended to educate the reader with the archaeology of the Levant (it seems more of an afterthought) but instead to bring to light an issue plaguing the field of Near Eastern archaeology and Biblical history; that is, defending the history against the Biblical minimalists. The objective of the minimalist is straight forward: nothing in the Bible can be historically validated and was only written during the Greco-Roman period.

The book consists of six chapters in total (plus a short conclusion). Dever spends the first three chapters on the offensive ridiculing the minimalistic camps and also defending the Biblical books of the Court History and Prophets, against the hype created by these same minimalists at the turn of the century. It came off as somewhat childish.

Would I recommend this title? Sure. After the three chapter assault, it immediately became interesting.

By Petros Koutoupis