Monday, November 21, 2011

Eilat Mazar and Her Critics

The controversy surrounding the work of Eilat Mazar in Jerusalem is the focus of a recent article written by Morey Altman for the Jerusalem Report. At the heart of the conflict is the role of the Bible in archaeological interpretation.

Eilat Mazar readily concedes the use of Scripture as a guide but acknowledges the limitations of the Bible as an historical document. "The fact is all historical documents are biased because they are written by people."

But she’s also critical of those who too readily dismiss the use of the Bible as a reference tool. "You don’t want to go the other extreme and ignore a document that’s potentially helpful. Information at hand, whether we’re talking about the Bible or historical documents, may direct us a certain way, but the minute you start excavating, you are obliged by very high scientific standards," she maintains. "We can use the Bible as a starting point, just as archaeologists working in the Near East have always done," she tells The Report. "People investigated what they knew, and they knew the Bible."

Nevertheless, Finkelstein’s concerns go beyond the validity of Scripture. "It is not clear whether the wall was an outer wall or an inner wall within the city," he tells The Report. "And in any event, no 10th century BCE city-wall has ever been found in Jerusalem."

I hope that Finkelstein wasn’t trying to make the argument that Mazar could not have found a 10th-century wall because no 10th-century wall has ever been found.

The article concludes with a quotation from Mazar that she still has a few secrets.

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