[K:NWTS 20/3 (Dec 2005) 47-48]
James K. Hoffmeier and Allan Millard, eds. The Future of Biblical Archaeology: Reassessing Methodologies and Assumptions. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2004. 385 pp. Paper. ISBN: 0-8028-2173-1. $26.00.
This volume provides a window into the "biblical archaeological wars." This on-going skirmish pits so-called maximalists (led by William Dever and company) and minimalists (represented by John Van Seters, T.L. Thompson, Philip Davies, Neils Lemche and others). In brief, the maximalists maintain that objective historicity (more or less) is reflected in the biblical text of the Old Testament; the minimalists maintain that the Old Testament text is a pastiche of reconstruction built upon the mythologies of Israel's past as projected backwards from the Exilic era (586 B.C. and later). Hoffmeier and Millard have assembled a team of experts in defense of the (essential) historicity of the Old Testament narrative and that evidenced by the archaeological record. While Dever is the titular champion of the movement, other noted names such as K.A. Kitchen (blurb, footnotes), Edwin Yamauchi and K. Lawson Younger are represented. Dever and his followers are defenders of the Albright (William F. Albright) school. This will leave some conservatives slightly uneasy since Albright favored the late date of the Exodus (against the Bible's own self-witness, 1 Kings 6:1) and hedged accurate biblical historicity on occasion. The absence of John Bimson, Gleason Archer, William Shea and Bryant Wood from this volume testify to the somewhat exclusive nature of the maximalist school.
Notwithstanding this unfortunate slight (open discussion of all viewpoints is an academic and scholarly responsibility, regardless of the ideological bottom line), the present volume is stimulating, insightful and principially opposed to the extreme left in these "wars" (i.e., the biblical minimalists). Of special note is Hoffmeier's essay on the route of the Exodus from the Nile Delta region (pp. 53-66) in which he candidly declares a modification of his previously published views. Now that is maximalism with integrity!
Sampling some of the chapters, we have a lengthy article by Benjamin Scolnic (pp. 91-120) on the identification of Migdol (cf. Ex. 14:2; Num. 33:7; Jer. 44:1; 46:14) that builds on Hoffmeier's forthrightness. Millard reviews the Amorite question (pp. 148-60); William Hallo revisits "Sumer and the Bible" (pp. 163-75); Harry Hoffner, world expert on the Hittites, compares Israel's literary heritage with texts from Hatti land; Daniel Fleming (pp. 193-232) takes on Van Seters and Thompson re Genesis and the texts from Mari (i.e., authentication of second millennium B.C. milieu for patriarchal traditions); Andrew Vaughn (pp. 368-85) ponders the history of Israel via imagination (minimalists reconstruct Israel's ancient history by imposing current sociological and anthropological models upon thema methodology inherently revisionist) as contrasted with the history of Israel via the archaeological-historical record (i.e., narrative-historical as in the biblical text).
This volume attempts to set the record straight, to shift the discussion in the direction of objective biblical historicity (as evidenced in the archaeological record). If it falls slightly short in some points, orthodox inerrantists need not despair. We are merely called to work harder at the task of explicating the biblical text by means of all the literary and archaeological data that the Lord God has made available to us. In fine, even some of the maximalist advocates of this volume will be found to be too minimally committed to the absolute trustworthiness of the infallible Word of God. But they have nevertheless significantly strengthened the case for the reliability of the Old Testament.
James T. Dennison, Jr.