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Also the Narratives of Israel are a Palestinian Heritage



In Zionist representations of Palestine’s history, ancient Israel’s history dominates and, at times, displaces Palestine’s. The past is often presented in two periods: a millennium-long period of greatness from the time of the ‘United Monarchy’ of David to the end of the Bar Kochba revolt, followed by a period of suffering: a great Jewish exile, presenting the land of Israel absent its people for nearly two thousand years from the ban of Jews from Aelia Capitolina in 135 CE to the 19th century ‘return’. This nationalist, neo-colonial narrative supports the ‘right of return’ for all the world’s Jews. It also eliminates such rights to the land’s indigenous population. This has successfully alienated Palestinian youth from their rich heritage and has adversely affected Palestinian identity since the 1940s. Nevertheless, historical research hardly supports such disinformation.



By Thomas L. Thompson
Professor Emeritus
University of Copenhagen
December 2014


Iron Age Palestine was not created by Israelites conquering the land of Cana’an under Joshua. There was, however, at least one significant migration into the region. So-called ‘sea peoples’ arrived in the 13th century. They were peacefully integrated along the coastal plain from Akka to Gaza and helped stabilize the indigenous population in a number of stable, small patronage kingdoms. During the Iron II period, the Assyrians called the southern coastal region Pilishtu and placed the northern coastal region, from Tantura til Akka, under Tyrian patronage. Inland, the transition period of Iron I was marked by the resedentarization of the population in small hamlets. Villages with markets in regionally centered towns in the Jezreel, Beisan and northern Jordan valleys, in the foothills, in the central highlands, in the Eastern and Lower Galilee and in the Transjordan from Damascus to the Wadi al-Hasa. Patronage over the central highlands moved from Late Bronze Sekmem (Tall Balatah) to nearby Samaria, where a small patronage kingdom was developed sometime in the 9th century. While the town of Magiddu seems to have continued to dominate the Jezreel Valley, this town, along with Hasura and La’is/ Dan, may have come under Damascus’s patronage during much of the 9th and early 8th century BCE. Generally speaking, the resettlement of most of northern Palestine during Iron I restored many of the traditional patronage towns of the Bronze Age by Iron II, while small regional kingdoms controlled the north and central Transjordan: Bit Haza’ili (Damascus), Bit Ammani and Ma‘ab/ Mo‘ab.

Agriculture in the highland regions south of Jerusalem, however, was much more vulnerable to drought and this region remained unsettled until Iron II. While Urusalimmu continued to exist as a holy city, it had not seen any significant settlement since the Middle Bronze Age. There never was a ‘United Monarchy’ in which Urusalimmu ruled all of Palestine to the Euphrates. While the place name bytdwd may well refer to al-Quds’ traditional role as a holy city, there is little room for a King David in history, though there was a Salamanu who was king of Transjordan Ma‘ab! The resettlement of the southern highlands in the mid to late 9th century was rooted in the sedentarization of pastoralists, who dominated the greater south for more than a half millennium. When the great patronage kingdoms of Syria and Mesopotamia finally succeeded in reviving international trade, Arab-controlled overland trade made a major impact on Palestine. The production of olive oil, wheat, barley, wine, wool and meat expanded as ‘cash crops’ created an economic surplus that transformed Palestine’s agriculture to such an extent that the relatively large numbers of transhumant shepherds and hunters in the marginal highlands of Judáa and ’Aduma were settled, not so much to expand agriculture, as to secure this large steppe region and organize the copper mining of the ’Araba and the overland trade so closely tied to it. By the 8th century BCE, small patronage kingdoms controlled and policed the region from the towns of Bozra and Urusalimmu. By mid century, the Assyrians had taken over the copper industry, expanding Arab overland trade by integrating Palestine’s entire southern steppe land under its patronage, maintaining as clients Bit Ammani, Ma‘ab, ‘Asqalan, Gaza. Judáa and ’Aduma. Imperial interests gave support to a number of southern Palestine’s petty kingdoms through the Iron II period, as they had done earlier in the North. Although the Syrian town of Damascus, supported by a coalition of kings at the battle of Qarqar in 853 BCE, could briefly resist Assyrian power in the region, by 841, both Aram and Bit Humri were paying Assyrian tribute. In 732, shortly after Assyria had taken over the patronage of both the Transjordan and southern Palestine and just two years after it had placed the coastal plain under its patronage, giving Tyre the administration of the northern coast as far south as Tantura, Damascus and Magiddu were annexed and taken into the Assyrian provincial system. Assyrian troops moved to the borders of Bit Ammani and Bit Humri. In 722 BCE, Samaria was put under siege and fell to Assyria in 720. The elite of Samaria and of its largest towns were deported and Bit Humri ceased to exist as a kingdom. The city, however, was rebuilt within 5 years, and, as Samerina, became the centre of a new, Assyrian province. The overwhelming majority of ancient Israel’s population continued in the land, eventually identifying themselves as Samaritans.

Judáa and its population were never a part of historical Israel. In contrast to the people of Israel, the population of Judáa was threatened with extinction. In 701 BCE, Jerusalem’s role as the ‘city of Judáa’ was undermined by Sennacherib’s punitive campaign to punishHezekiah, who had supported an anti-Assyrian rebellion in ‘Aqrun. Sennacherib destroyed Lachish and deported its people. He also destroyed most of Judáa's villages and deported much of its population. Hezekiah’s patronage over the region was redistributed to loyal clients in Gaza, Aqrun and Asdud’, as Jerusalem and Hezekiah were isolated as Sennacherib described, ‘like a bird in a cage’. With his conquest of the foothills and plundering of the highlands, Sennacherib had effectively eliminated Hezekiah’s hinterland.

In the mid-7th century, the rebuilding of Lachish, along with the villages of Judáa’s foothills and highlands and the considerable expansion of Jerusalem’s population – which spread to the western hill – are best understood by relating them to the simultaneous settlement of new areas in the province of Samarina, as well as ’Aduma and southern Judáa, including the Bir Sabe’ and ‘Arad Basins. Esarhaddon and Assurbanipal’s sedentarization policies expanded olive and wine production as well as herding and grain agriculture to help feed the growing Assyrian cities. This expansion encouraged a further integration of Judáa and ’Aduma’s populations by developing a socio-economic continuum across their large steppe region. Common historical roots and closely-parallel economies were supported by fluid borders, a common language, and Yahwistic religious traditions.

After Assyria’s collapse and the Babylonian takeover of the empire, Urusalimmu was destroyed at the beginning of the 6th century BCE and its population was deported. However, the Babylonians showed little interest in the region and both the city and the surrounding area were left in ruins throughout the Persian period. Although the devastation of Jerusalem and Judáa was massive, the majority of southern Palestine’s population prospered. Extensive archaeological excavations in al-Quds and the area immediately surrounding it offer no evidence that those who had been deported returned in the Persian period. Not a stone of Nehemiah’s legendary 12-gated wall has been found and Persian Period Yirushlem remained unreconstructed and deeply impoverished, with a population that has been estimated between 400 and 1000. Perhaps, a much diminished temple and priesthood supported the city in its role – since the Middle Bronze Age – as al-Quds. Yehud’s administration, however, seems to have been placed in Ramat Rahel. The Shephelah and the southern part of former Judáa was rebuilt and reorganized as the province of Idumea, centered in Lachish. This reorganization of the South reflected substantial earlier migration from the Edomite region, especially following Bozra’s destruction by Nabonidus.

In contrast to devastated Jerusalem, the northern provinces of Samarina, Magiddu and Tyre largely escaped destruction during the Babylonian period. The prosperity of the central highlands is suggested by the construction of a temple on Gerizim by the 5th century BCE. Its associated intellectual culture could well support the understanding of the Samaritans as substantially responsible for writing the Torah, perhaps the earliest composition in the Bible.

The Hellenistic Period

Gerizim developed the city of Luzah with some 10,000 people in the Hellenistic period, after Samaritans had been banned from Samaria, rebuilt after Alexander’s destruction of Samarina following the city’s rebellion. During the third and early second centuries, the Greeks systematically established colonies of Samaritans and Jews in new Hellenistic cities throughout the eastern Mediterranean, developing a central core of loyal subjects, wholly dependent on the empire, in each new city. Religious conversions were encouraged by both Samaritans and Jews and both religious groups spread throughout the Mediterranean region. In Palestine, Antiochus III rebuilt Jerusalem and it was restructured as a polis by his son, Antiochus IV, supporting a Hellenistic revival of the city and its temple. However, Antiochus IV’s conflict with Egypt undermined the unity of his support in the city. In ca. 166 BCE, the priestly family of Mattathias,’ under the leadership of his son, Judas, revolted against the Seleucids and led an army into Jerusalem and successfully established his brother Jonathan as high priest. The revolt was supported by the Romans, whose senate recognized their rule over Jerusalem. In 134 BCE, Judas’ nephew, John Hyrcanus, became high priest and, in 128, consolidated Hasmonean control over the city. In 110 BCE, expanding Jerusalem’s influence, he attacked the city on Gerizim and destroyed the temple. He then forced the Samaritans to recognize Jerusalem’s temple and follow Jewish religious law and ritual. He then took the southern Transjordan, the Naqab and the province of Idumea, forcing circumcision and conversion in Lachish and placing the entire South under Jewish law and ritual. When his sons took the Galilee, conversions to Judaism were also forced in the North, until he was finally stopped on the Jaulan by the Nabatean king of Damascus. A new ‘Jewish Palestine’ from Aqaba to the Jaulan, excepting only the coastal plain, was recognised by the Romans as the new Kingdom of Judea. It was long before Islam, indeed, long before Hyrcanus and his sons had forced ancient Palestine to become Jewish, Jews had ceased to be any particular people.

Under the control of Pompey, the Roman army took direct control of the region. In 37 BCE, the kingdom was placed under the rule of their client, Herod and his sons, who brought a century of peace in an increasingly Hellenistic Palestine. In 67 CE, shortly after the construction of the Herodian temple was completed, the ‘First Jewish Revolt’ led to that temple’s and the city’s destruction by Titus in 70 CE. In 132, a second revolt, led by Simon Bar Kochba, survived a brief three years. If Eusebius is to be believed (see, however, Hjelm), the city was destroyed and a new city, Aelia Capitolena was built in its stead, from which city, Jews were barred: a reiteration of a policy Josephus attributed to Alexander in regard to Samaria. Whatever the historicity of Eusebius’ commentary, Judaism continued to play a significant role among Palestinian religious forms. In the course of the second century, Messianic Jews distanced themselves from rabbinate Judaism: a distance which became antagonistic and by the third century developed into decisive separation. In the fourth century CE, when most of the Roman world had become Christian, many of Palestine’s Jews also accepted Christian forms of their common faith. In the 2nd to 4th centuries CE, Tiberias and Safad formed the religious core of rabbinate Judaism in Palestine and a rich cultural heritage of synagogues from this period gives unequivocal witness to their continued presence and prosperity. Even more important were the synagogues of the Samaritans and the role which they played within Palestine in the fourth-sixth century CE. The expansion of Judaism through conversion, which had, centuries earlier, played such an important role for Diaspora Judaism, in new Hellenistic cities of the Ptolemaic and Seleucid periods, hardly ceased during the Roman period. Along with such conversions to Judaism and Samaritanism, conversions to Christianity embraced Italy, Spain and the Berber lands of North Africa. As the empire became Christian, Judaism’s missionaries turned towards the Arab world and into the hospitable fringes of empire, spreading to the Yemen, Arabia and into Himyar in Arabia Felix. As Shlomo Sand has shown in his Invention of the Jewish People, such conversion spread, by the eighth century, well beyond the Arab world to Khazaria and entered Eastern Europe, especially Russia, Lithuania and Poland.

In 638 CE, when al-Quds came under Umayyad administration, the population in Palestine: predominantly Christian, but many of whom still Samaritans and Jews, was neither deported nor exterminated. The people continued living their lives in Palestine. They adapted to changed circumstances and most gave their allegiance to their new rulers and accepted Islam’s new interpretation of their common monotheism.

The Samaritan torah and the Jewish and Christian Bibles were not originally composed as particularly Samaritan and Jewish literature and their composition should not be seen as a stranger to the cultural heritage of Palestinians. The biblical intellectual tradition was the written expression of Palestine’s ancient Near Eastern intellectual heritage. It was just such a Bible, which, indeed, created an expansive Judaism in the Hellenistic period, interpreting a heritage of all Palestinians. In its earliest form, the Samaritan’s Pentateuch was adopted by Jews and expanded in Antioch, Damascus and, not least, Alexandria, with texts in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic. The Greek form of this new Jewish Bible itself embraced an originally Jewish New Testament literature. That Bible became Christianity’s ‘first Bible’ in the course of the second-fourth centuries. In the 7th century, the Bible served to root Islam and the Quran in Palestine’s 2500 year old literary and intellectual tradition. In spite of sectarian divisions throughout its more than 2000 year history, this religion of the book has continued to evolve Palestine’s common ancient Near Eastern heritage, so clearly reflected by the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Jewish Tanak, the Christian New Testament and the Muslim Quran.

Conclusion

It is tragically ironic that the founding of a Jewish state as a lasting and desperately necessary refuge for Europe’s Jews has come about at the cost of several million displaced Palestinians: a cost that continues to grow today. A religion, deeply rooted in old Arab and Samaritan Yahwism, centered in compassion for the poor and love for the stranger, has not hesitated in defining Palestine’s indigenous population as strangers in their own land. In constructing a common past for culturally and ethnically diverse, but religiously defined, refugees from many parts of the world, the political usefulness of constructing the heritage of Palestine as uniquely centered in an ethnic and racial understanding of Judaism has in fact come to destroy, disinherit and displace the descendents of not only the Samaritans of ancient Israel, but also of Palestine’s ancient Jews from the populations of Judáa, Idumea, Yehud and the Galilee. In Zionism’s tendentious revision of biblical allegory as a history of Jewish origins, actual historical inscriptions referring to the deportations of people from ancient Bit Humri and Judáa are downplayed and, at times, ignored. Mythic qualities of such biblical tropes as Jeremiah’s metaphor of the empty land (Jer 4:23-26) are rewritten within 20th century Israeli government perspectives of Palestine: both to create a common history for Judaism’s new colonists and to hide and displace the reality of Palestine’s indigenous population and their heritage in Palestine’s past, including that of ancient Judaism. Although the biblical narrative of the Babylonian exile is maintained in this politically tendentious construction, it is transformed as a brief hiatus within a fictive story of Jewish dominance and continuous presence in the land from ‘the time of David’ to a ‘great exile’ in 135 CE. This ‘great exile’ creates a forced expulsion of Jews from Palestine in the Roman period, when none took place. This constructed ‘origin story’ of Diaspora Judaism denies not only the heritage of Samaritans and the rest of Palestine’s indigenous population, but also the rich and well-known heritage of those who were Jews during the Byzantine period. It hides both the missionary and universal character of early Judaism in favor of an ethnic and racially exclusive Judaism, claiming the heritage of a land, claimed empty. Its purpose is to support the acceptance of Palestine as historical homeland of international Judaism. The settlement of Diaspora Jews in Palestine, beginning in the nineteenth century, is transformed by this origin story into an ideological renewal of Palestine as a divinely promised land. Not only do such nationalist and colonialist views support and legitimize policies of ‘a right of return’ for all Jews today, its central function promotes the ethnic cleansing of the land’s indigenous population.





Comments (37)


Interesting narrative. Not that connected to currently known archaeological and historical data, but definitely shows the strong ideological convictions of the author. I sense a strong post-calvinist editing, along with scribal traditions emanating from Portus Mercatorum, and perhaps with some influences from the Kingdom of Elmet...
#1 - Aren Maeir - 12/10/2014 - 13:39



"Ideological convictions of the author"?!?. In these years I've seen scholars giving lectures wearing kippahs and crosses. Everyone brings his/her own cultural background in the controversy.

I find Thomas's essay brilliant and engaging. The paradox of Palestinians without Palestine (nowadays) and a Palestine without Palestinians in the Iron Age.
#2 - Antonio Lombatti - 12/10/2014 - 19:31



Agreed. This comes off more as a screed against Israel and the Jews more than a scholarly essay. Wholly dismissable.
#3 - Gregory Chambers - 12/10/2014 - 19:33



The absence of any trace of Nehemiah's Wall, should that be an agreed fact, has long seemed to me to call for a major re-evaluation of the scriptures' account of history, far more than the more commonly claimed lack of evidence for David and Solomon. Not a dismissable essay in my view.
#4 - Martin Hughes - 12/10/2014 - 21:17



"They were peacefully integrated along the coastal plain from Akka to Gaza"
-Ideology triumphs over archaeology once again.
"In 722 BCE, Samaria was put under siege and fell to Assyria in 720."
-And yet, Thompson still relies on the Biblical account in place of real history. See Nadav Na'aman's interpretation of the Fall of Samaria.
"The overwhelming majority of ancient Israel’s population continued in the land, eventually identifying themselves as Samaritans."
-Right. And I can surely say with the utmost sarcasm that Galilee was never depopulated by the armies of Tiglath-Pileser, thus, paving the way for it to become mostly Jewish in the Roman era.
"Sennacherib had effectively eliminated Hezekiah’s hinterland."
-What? In one paragraph, Thompson is realistic about the devastation Assyrian armies wrought. In another, he denies the significance of this factor entirely.
"nearby Samaria, where a small patronage kingdom was developed sometime in the 9th century. While the town of Magiddu seems to have continued to dominate the Jezreel Valley"
-Omride conquest of the land of Madaba? Never happened. Megiddo was an unwalled village with some small palaces remarkably similar to those of Samaria, you say? Omride architecture at Ataroth? Must be coincidence.
"Agriculture in the highland regions south of Jerusalem, however, was much more vulnerable to drought and this region remained unsettled until Iron II."
-Beth-Zur? Never heard of it.
"Although the devastation of Jerusalem and Judáa was massive, the majority of southern Palestine’s population prospered."
-Another fine example of a true statement (the first) combined with a false and utterly contradictory one (the second).
"Its associated intellectual culture could well support the understanding of the Samaritans as substantially responsible for writing the Torah, perhaps the earliest composition in the Bible."
-That explains some parts of the Northern emphasis of some of the Primary History, but not its clear Jerusalemite bias.
"The Samaritan torah and the Jewish and Christian Bibles were not originally composed as particularly Samaritan and Jewish literature"
-Right. And Atlas Shrugged was not originally composed as particularly Objectivist literature.
"The Greek form of this new Jewish Bible itself embraced an originally Jewish New Testament literature."
-I thought the Septuagint doesn't include the NT.
"common ancient Near Eastern heritage, so clearly reflected by the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Jewish Tanak, the Christian New Testament and the Muslim Quran."
-I thought the Quran was written in the 7th-8th centuries AD, not in the Ancient Near East.
"A religion, deeply rooted in old Arab and Samaritan Yahwism"
-Right. Not rooted at all="deeply rooted".
"centered in compassion for the poor and love for the stranger"
-Tom, you ever read the book of Joshua? The "love for the stranger" of Nehimiah, Deuteronomy, Ezekiel, and Isaiah? Psalm 137?
"actual historical inscriptions referring to the deportations of people from ancient Bit Humri and Judáa are downplayed and, at times, ignored."
-No, they're not.
"it is transformed as a brief hiatus within a fictive story of Jewish dominance and continuous presence in the land from ‘the time of David’ to a ‘great exile’ in 135 CE."
-No, it's not, though, typically, emphasis on Jews in Palestine does decline after that date and emphasis on Jews outside Palestine does increase.

I've heard of Thomas Thompson's misrepresentations before, but never before have I realized how many contradictions can be found per square decimeter of his words.
#5 - Enopoletus Harding - 12/11/2014 - 01:25



There's a word for this type of misrepresentation in anthropology: "strategic essentialism." Thompson does his utmost to interrogate the homogenized nationalist narrative of the Israeli state, and to discredit any notion of legitimate continuities (other than "religious" ones) between ancient Palestinian populations and modern Jews. Nowhere does he do the same for the terms "Arabs" and "al-Quds." Very real differences between the four Abrahamic religions are underplayed, and commonalities overemphasized, which allows for his particular brand of anti-Zionism to appeal to the sort of vacuous faux-multiculturalism common in certain circles today. The only discontinuous, disruptive element in Thompson's narrative is Zionism.

Also, he cites Shlomo Sand as if he were a serious authority. Sand's book is considered laughable by people trained in every field he tries to dabble in. Like Thompson, Sand doesn't seem to understand that identity is constructed for EVERYBODY, not just for the powerful. There is no Essential Jew, there is no Essential Jerusalem, and there is no Essential Israel. On this, I think, we all agree. But there is no Essential Arab, Palestine, al-Quds, or Palestinian either. You don't get to have your identity protected from scrutiny simply by being subaltern.

As someone who is emphatically NOT a Zionist, and who happens to think that what the Israeli military did in Gaza this summer constitutes a crime against humanity, I have to ask Dr. Thompson to please, please, stop using Israel's present-day crimes as an excuse to tendentiously rewrite ancient history in an objective-sounding authoritative voice as if you are "speaking from nowhere." You're not. None of us are. Put your ideological cards on the table before you write such baseless revisionism.
#6 - Robert M. Jennings - 12/11/2014 - 05:58



And by "put your ideological cards on the table," I don't simply mean admit you're an anti-Zionist. We all already know that. I would be considered one too in some circles (although I prefer simply "non-Zionist" because the term "anti-Zionist" has too much baggage).

When I say "cards on the table," what I really mean is this: What is your view of the relationship between truth and power? Do you believe truth has an independent existence, as most people, myself included, believe, or is it simply a product of political power, as Foucault would have us think? Are strategic selective essentialisms ever an acceptable in a piece of scholarly writing? As archaeologists and historians, are we responsible to a real past, or simply to the political concerns of the moment?

There is much to criticize about contemporary Syro-Palestinian archaeology. One of these things is its obsessive focus on ethnicity, something that archaeology elsewhere has simply given up on (and good riddance!). Rather than go this route, Thompson chooses to simply create a counter-narrative in which everything is reversed. Nuance is not part of the equation.

The man who wrote "On the Historicity of the Patriarchal Narratives" can do better than this.
#7 - Robert M. Jennings - 12/11/2014 - 15:07



It is of course always difficult to discuss with somebody, whose affiliation is new to you and whose affiliation is less than clear. I have never heard about Mr. Enopoletus Harding before but looking him up at the internet shows that he is active on facebook and twitter. It makes sense when you read his “answer” to Tom’s essay. Plenty of use of the old tactic of not quoting your opponent correctly and distorting what is said. The clear example of how this “reply” has been concocted is the line:

-Beth-Zur? Never heard of it.

Did Tom mention Beth-Zur at all? If he did, I need a new search program.

Then from the beginning the line:

"They were peacefully integrated along the coastal plain from Akka to Gaza"
-Ideology triumphs over archaeology once again.

What ideology? And is it supposed to be wrong? And on what account?

Then:
"Sennacherib had effectively eliminated Hezekiah’s hinterland."
-What? In one paragraph, Thompson is realistic about the devastation Assyrian armies wrought. In another, he denies the significance of this factor entirely.

Mr. Harding should be more careful. Nobody will directly relate the campaign against Samaria with Sennacherib’s campaign against Hezekiah. Putting these events together creates a false argument.

"Its associated intellectual culture could well support the understanding of the Samaritans as substantially responsible for writing the Torah, perhaps the earliest composition in the Bible."

-That explains some parts of the Northern emphasis of some of the Primary History, but not its clear Jerusalemite bias.
And now, please inform me of the clear Jerusalemite bias. As far as I remember, Jerusalem is never mentioned by name in the Pentateuch. So which bias are we talking about? The position of Abraham in Genesis says something about an interest in the south but hardly – in spite of Melchisedek anything about Jerusalem.

"The Greek form of this new Jewish Bible itself embraced an originally Jewish New Testament literature."
-I thought the Septuagint doesn't include the NT.

Tom didn’t say the LXX. All old manuscripts including the Greek OT also incorporates the Greek NT. So Mr. Harding is attacking a straw argument here.

It is clear that Mr. Harding belongs to a very conservative environment, hardly able to separate himself for a very traditional understanding of Israel’s history. His reply has no value at all.

To Mr. Jennings I only have to say – or this would be to boring to print: Don’t talk about Palestinian-Syrian archaeology when you have most likely never been to Syria. Dever has used this expression for many years but he has no clue as to how it looks like in real Syria (before recent destructions of archaeological sites).

And finally, talking about ideology in a North-American context is the same as talking about lies. A totally depraved meaning of the word is current in North-American circles. People do simply not know what they are talking about.
#8 - Niels Peter Lemche - 12/11/2014 - 20:21



I am a bit taken aback by the rabid engagement of my essay. Mr Harding presents rumors about my "misrepresentations" for explaining what he asserts but does not show are contradictions in my essay. This is hardly an argument.

Mr. Jennings second comment asks me to "put my cards on the table" and then, with implicit praise, refers to my 1974 book The Historicity of the Patriarchal Narratives! But Mr. Jennings, I did put my cards on the table very clearly and very decisively back in 1974--and my position has not changed. In regard to Biblical Archaeology you might well identify this particular work as "anti-Zionist" though I had not that perception at the time, but now--and since my early history of 1992--I believe the appropriate description would be "new historian" or, even better, "post-Zionist". My work has always been evidence based, even when mistaken. Facts are something else--created on the basis of argument and ideology. By the way, though I agree with you on Gaza, I am uncertain that it has much to do with our discussion. The excessive interest in ethnicity in Israeli and Zionist history on the other hand is right on the mark. welcome aboard.

What is your strategy for doing something about that. Just shouting that you don't like it doesn't do anything.
Thomas

Thomas L. Thompson
Professor emeritus, University of Copenhagen



12/10/2014 - 20:25
#9 - Thomas L. Thompson - 12/11/2014 - 20:35



Dr. Lemche: I currently work in Gaziantep Province, Turkey, actually, and have previously worked in Jordan and Cyprus, among other places. My work involves a large amount of Syrian data, and the part of Turkey in which I work is part of "Syria" as traditionally defined before the division of the Middle East into modern nation-states. Also, your comment about Mr. Harding's "conservative" view of the Bible doesn't square with his critique of its morals.

Dr. Thompson: As I recall, your 1974 dissertation questioned the prevailing Albrightean view on the historicity of the patriarchs. That critique and similar ones by Van Seters have been accepted within the mainstream, because the arguments hold up against the evidence.

This piece, however, tries to rewrite history with zero evidence, with the explicit purpose of linking ancient presence to modern politics. That is what Zionists do, and your counter-argument falters by accepting those terms of debate in the first place. So rather than arguing that what happened 3000 years ago should have zero relevance to modern conflicts in the region (which is what I would do), you attempt to erase Jewish history in the region, apparently thinking that this will help liberate Palestinians. I hate to tell you, but it won't.

We are academics. We are not politicians, we are not revolutionaries. It is not our job to create a counter-narrative, it is our job to create an accurate narrative. We can and should speak out with regards to the politics that surround our discipline, but that is not an excuse for engaging in logical fallacies. The legitimacy of a regime does not come from ancient presence, it comes from a respect for fundamental human rights. The Israeli state has consistently failed to respect those rights when it comes to Palestinians living under its rule. But the examples of Hamas, Arafat, and the current PA give me little hope that a Palestinian-led regime would be any better, despite what naive BDS'niks want to believe. The fact that many academics (post-Zionist, anti-Zionist, or whatever they choose to call themselves) speaking in favor of Palestinian liberation feel that it cannot be achieved without treating history and identity as a zero sum game would seem to add to my reservations.

Both contemporary Jewish identity and contemporary Palestinian identity are 20th century constructs, which both, also, exhibit legitimate continuities with the distant past, albeit not in the essentialistic way your article articulates continuity. You asked me what I would do to fix the discipline's obsession with ethnicity. The first thing I would do would be to refuse to use the ancient past as a weapon when dealing with modern conflicts.

The second thing I would do would be to do my dissertation on something like ancient economies, which is what I am in fact doing.
#10 - Robert M. Jennings - 12/11/2014 - 23:17



Mr. Jennings, in his criticism of my lecture, wrote, rhetorically:
"As archaeologists and historians, are we responsible to a real past, or simply to the political concerns of the moment?"
Haven't we got past this sometime in the early nineties? The "real past" doesn't exist anymore. Of course. And all history is written from a perspective which belongs to the historian in his political context. Is there any alternative? Would Mr. Jennings propose that I "Re"construct the Bronze and Iron Age that once was, but no longer is? No! My historical constructions relate to the past of the Palestine that I know.
Further in his debate piece,m he objects to my citation of Shlomo Sand as--so he claims--his work is "considered laughable by people trained in every field he tries to dabble in" (sic!). He doesn't however make any argument which would help us believe that Sand is, in fact, mistaken.--only that he is amusing-- Should we conclude that there is humor (perhaps ironic?) in the excessive derision of Sand's critics? Myself, I find Jenning's assertion amusing particularly the assertion that "There is no Essential Jew, there is no Essential Jerusalem, and there is no Essential Israel." That indeed was my conclusion, not his, and it is not so common a conclusion that he should so freely rob me of credit for it (Does he also think the patriarchs are unhistorical?). It is also taken for granted that there is no Essential Arab, Palestine, al-Quds, or Palestinian! Nobody would ever think otherwise! The difficulty which is missed is that Palestinians--shades of Golda Meir--have no identity today to defend--a travesty that is responsible for much of the violence in the region today-- only one must needs be created!

Thomas

Thomas L. Thompson
Professor emeritus, University of Copenhagen
#11 - Thomas L. Thompson - 12/12/2014 - 00:12



Dear Mr. Jennings,
You begin your response to say that my 1974 critique of biblical archaeology, supported by Van Seters were accepted because the arguments held up against evidence. This isn't quite true. a good review by Matityahu Tsevat and The publication of Hayes-Miller, Israelite and Judean History in 1977 created a shift in the pendulum of scholarly opinion. Mainstream opinion was worth no more then than it is today!

You go on to argue that "this piece, however, tries to rewrite history with zero evidence, with the explicit purpose of linking ancient presence to modern politics."
but you do not support your claim that there is "zero evidence". This is an op-ed piece and I myself have written a dozen articles on this discussing the needed evidence. Moreover, I deny nothing of Jewish history--or, at least you do not give any support for your accusation.
I appreciate your wish to maintain a purity in scholarship, but neither mainstream scholarship norany other has resisted Zionist dominance in our field and I do not hear anything in your suggestions which might support resistance to that dominance. I am not writing propaganda--whatever your teachers might have told you--but what I write--right or wrong--has been evidence based. Even in this article where I project some of the possible conclusions of a future history of Palestine.
Thomas

Thomas L Thompson
Professor emeritus, University of Copenhagen
#12 - Thomas L. Thompson - 12/12/2014 - 01:25



A) There very much is a real past to which we are accountable. It is also true that every historian writes from a subjective, historically situated standpoint, and that this real past is ultimately unreconstructible in its totality. These two statements are not mutually exclusive.

While the totality of the real past is unreconstructible, fragments of it are very reconstructible. It is these fragments that we as historians work with, and some interpretations of these fragments are closer to reality than others. Think of it like a curve in calculus, in which reality is the axis which the curve approaches. The curve will never hit the axis, but ideally, we should strive to have the curve approach the axis as closely as possible.

Yes, these debates were raging in the 80s and 90s. They are not settled; they have simply moved on to a different terrain. Pretenses to complete objectivity are no longer taken seriously, but acknowledging one's own subjectivity does not absolve us from being faithful to the data.

B) The Palestinians DO have an identity, one which has been very much shaped by the struggle against Zionism. But like all identities, the nature of Palestinian identity is contested. Ask a Hamas militant what it means to be Palestinian, and you'll get a very different answer from a professor at Al-Quds University or a Fatah technocrat, which will be different from an American-born professor at Columbia. And this only applies to those Palestinians who actually have a voice. The meaning of this identity to an average person in the West Bank or Gaza, or a refugee living in Bani Hamida country in Jordan, has been largely silenced, as much by Palestinian elites and their allies themselves as by Israeli, Western, and Arab governments and media.

C) Any perceived lack of a Palestinian identity is not the cause of violence in the Middle East, it is the result of it. The real causes of violence can be traced to poverty and geopolitics, as they always are.

D) Of course I was aware that you know there is no essential Jew or Palestinian. What I pointed out was not a case of ignorance so much as a selective case of whose identity you choose to critique, and whose you leave unexamined.

E) I can only speak for my own specialization, but Sand's grand synthesis falters by simply selecting theories that already fit his preexisting narrative. Example: he refuses to entertain any preexilic material in the biblical texts, based on an a priori assumption, ultimately rooted in Classical Marxism, about what ancient states can and cannot do ideologically. Sand may have abandoned his Marxist politics, but his retention of Classical Marxism's teleological view of historical progress is extremely evident in his work.

F) Keep in mind that despite my rather vehement style of argument, none of this is personal. I do not doubt that your intentions are ultimately good (nor Shlomo Sand's or NP Lemche's for that matter). It's your tactics and your implicit philosophies of history that I disagree with.
#13 - Robert M. Jennings - 12/12/2014 - 01:50



Dr. Thompson:

Sorry, your most recent post hadn't been posted yet when I made my most recent response.

RE: Your most recent post as of me writing this (#12):

I think the issue in our field goes far beyond Zionism; it is intrinsic to any sort of scholars coming from a Judeo-Christian background (whether they are believers or not) attempting to investigate the origins of traditions that we consider to be "ours."

Projection of our own wishes onto the data are inevitable, whether it's in the form of Liberation Theology constructing "early Israel" as an egalitarian paradise (e.g. Gottwald), or in the form of certain brands of religiously-committed feminist scholarship (e.g. Carol Meyers) seeking to deny the clearly patriarchal structure of Israelite society so as to reconcile premodern religious texts with modern ideologies of gender egalitarianism.

Btw, Gottwald was no Zionist, but his model of early Israel as an example of "primitive communism" has had tremendous influence because it preserves "Israelite exceptionalism" within the broader ANE. Both Meyers and Dever adopt it in a modified form.

This sort of projection is not intrinsic to Zionism. Wellhausen was a Hegelian antisemite writing before Zionism existed, and he still dated his hypothetical sources based on a desire to identify earlier, "purer" Israelite religion with his own liberal Protestant sensibilities, and to treat the "priestly" (read: Jewish, Catholic) material as later "accretions."

Built into all of this is the assumption that late = bad, which is problematic in and of itself.

While Zionist ideology clearly dominated biblical archaeology from the 50s to the 80s, I don't think it still does. Certainly you can't accuse the Tel Aviv school of allowing Zionism to influence their interpretations of data. The whole thrust of the Tel Aviv project has been to remove the ideological baggage from their discipline. Now, one could critique the Tel Aviv school for replacing Zionism with Scientism and a structurally overdetermined approach to history and culture, along with an extreme processualist bias in archaeological interpretation (a critique that I would definitely get behind), but that's another issue altogether.

The real bias these days is less specifically Zionist, and more specifically just Judeo-Christian. This certainly includes Zionist ideologues like Eilat Mazar, but it is no means limited to them. I would say that your own claim in this essay that biblical stories were intended to be "allegorical" bespeaks a desire to preserve the theological authority of the Bible itself while avoiding the dangers of biblical literalism.

In my case, my strong political secularism makes me perhaps too inclined to view many biblical texts as elite propaganda designed for an ancient audience and to ignore their continuing significance for communities today.

Also, I am well-aware that your 1974 dissertation encountered resistance when first published, and of course acceptance by the mainstream is by no means a guarantee of correctness. But your 1974 views WERE eventually accepted by a majority of biblical scholars and archaeologists. Looking at the history of the field one can observe a paradigm shift from the 1970s to today towards less credulity towards biblical stories.

On the other hand, as far as I can tell, the idea that there is no preexilic material contained in the Bible has not really gained traction, despite being out there for over 20 years.

What I do see is a tendency towards dating preexilic material later within that period (no earlier than the 8th c. BC with the possible exception of a few old poems and inscriptional material), and the willingness to entertain extensive postexilic redactional activity to nearly all of our preexilic texts.

Your preference for the Hellenistic period as the date of composition (not just redaction/extensive scribal activity) is on one end of the spectrum produced by this paradigm shift, and indeed may have helped cause the current paradigm shift. But its uncritical acceptance seems limited to a hard core of scholars more concerned with modern Israel/Palestine issues than with ancient history per se. Nadia Abu el-Haj, for example, cites your Hellenistic dating in her 2001 book with no hint as to how controversial it is. This is problematic, to say the least.
#14 - Robert M. Jennings - 12/12/2014 - 05:21



Mr. Jennings,

I guess that you have paid a visit to Antakiya in the Hatay province. But probably never been to Ebla or Ugarit or any of the sites along the Euphrates like Mari. The idea about a Syro-Palestinian archaeology is another way of usurping ME archaeology for the use of a specific agenda -- probably to impose the idea of a commonality between Syria and Palestine supporting the biblical claim that Solomo's empire reached until Palmyra (Tadmor), also saying that the true NE border of Israel should be found here. For that reason the term is a Zionist invention. There is no such thing as a Syro-Palestinian archaeology. There is archaeology of Palestine, as of Syria, and of Jordan etc.

Otherwise, you seems to try to obscure the discussion with philosophical arguments (I didn't say pseudo-philosophical) instead of presenting a decent argument. When it comes to history, something happened, of course, but before you can get there you still have to do the basic and traditional historical analysis of the sources: making a distinction between primary and secondary sources, in the footstep of Niebuhr. Here also dating belongs. Hellenistic history writing as found in the OT will be able to present a narrative about the past that seems reasonable in outline to modern observers, but we really have to understand the importance of the lack of historical methodology that dominated this history writing. The almost obscene insistence that the classical "miracle" of Greece already happened in poor Palestine half a millennium before the Greek enlightenment will only work among biblical scholars who are by nature convinced of the basic "truth" of the biblical narrative -- because it is biblical.

By the way, I hope you like Turkey. My favorite place to go.
#15 - Niels Peter Lemche - 12/12/2014 - 08:07



Dr. Lemche,

No, unfortunately, I have not been to any of those sites. By the time I entered graduate school, the current civil war in Syria had broken out. Otherwise I would be working there.

But I don't think "Syro-Palestinian" is a Zionist construction. A) Dever coined the term, and he does not believe in a Solomonic "empire" that reached the Euphrates (he's even backed off on his insistence on a "Solomonic" date for the Gezer fortifications, claiming they may be "several decades later" than he thought, largely based on 14C evidence).

B) The term "Syro-Palestine" is largely synonymous with "Levant," a term coined by the French to refer roughly to what is generally known as "ash-Sham" in Arabic, going back to the province as established in the 7th century CE by the Rashidun Caliphate.

These concepts were not invented by Zionists; they reappear again and again in history based on geographical features that structure political and cultural boundaries. The interchangeable Neo-Assyrian terms "Hatti" and "Amurru" are roughly equivalent (the latter actually goes back to Sargonic times), as is the Achaemenid satrapy of Abar-Nahara, not to mention the Greco-Roman notion of "Syria" (which included Palestine).

One of the main Arabic newspapers that covered events in Palestine during the Late Ottoman and British Mandate periods was called "Southern Syria."

The modern nation-state of Syria has periodically made claims of political sovereignty over Lebanon based on this traditional geographic definition, a definition that is ultimately based on the Euphrates as a geographical feature that is convenient as a political boundary.

All of these data strongly suggest that the concept of "Syro-Palestine" is not a Zionist invention.
#16 - Robert M. Jennings - 12/12/2014 - 23:18



Reply # 2 to Dr. Lemche:

The whole point of biblical criticism is to distinguish primary from secondary from tertiary sources in the Bible. There are few primary sources (PARTS of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Proto-Isaiah, Kings, and the Twelve may count, but even these have been subject to scribal errors and "corrections" in transmission), but even secondary sources can be valuable if used critically.

Egyptian chronology is still ultimately based on Manetho, after all, even if he has been extensively corrected by the last century or so of modern Egyptological research.

It you're trying to say that inscriptions should take precedence over the biblical text, I would agree with you. Despite the propagandistic nature of the Sennacherib Prism, its account of what happened in Jerusalem in 701 is clearly more accurate than the biblical text as it comes down to us.

BUT, you might want to note that source criticism has isolated the material in 2 Kings 18-20 // Isaiah 36-39 concerning the alleged angelic demise of Sennacherib's army as a later insertion into what appears to be an earlier account in which Sennacherib withdraws due to a rumor that Taharqo of Kush is coming to break the siege.

Keep in mind that even this earlier text anachronistically refers to Taharqo as "king" while he was in fact only Crown Prince in 701 (the Kushite pharaoh in 701 was still Shebitqo), and is aware of the assassination of Sennacherib in 681 and his succession by Esarhaddon, so it cannot be earlier than that time. But it must have been early enough that these rulers would have been remembered as roughly contemporary, both to each other and to Hezekiah.

Point being that even though the text before us is late, source criticism can sometimes (emphasis on sometimes) isolate earlier material--material that in this case gives a perspective on why Sennacherib withdrew from Jerusalem that is hidden in both Assyrian sources and the biblical text as it stands.

In this case, the agent of Sennacherib's retreat was the prospect of having to fight a pitched battle with Taharqo after a long and exhausting siege. For all we know, the Assyrian troops may have been inclined to mutiny rather than fight this battle.

This scenario certainly explains the situation more plausibly than the Bible's angel or Sennacherib's simple evasion of the issue. It takes into account the social cleavages that undoubtedly existed in Assyrian society far better than an uncritical reading of Sennacherib's prism. And this reading would not be possible without the above source criticism.

I don't know if you reject this sort of source criticism a priori, but if you do, you need to justify it philosophically. The fact that it gives us a plausible version of events that exposes the ideology underlying both the Assyrian and biblical accounts is a strong argument in its favor IMHO.

This is why I must respectfully disagree when you refer to my digressions into philosophy as "evading the issue." They are not. All historical interpretation is fundamentally based on philosophical presuppositions, whether articulated or not.
#17 - Robert M. Jennings - 12/13/2014 - 00:23



Reply # 3 to Dr. Lemche:

For example, your interpretation of biblical texts as history-writing on the Classical Greek model carries the following assumptions:

1) That biblical prose is in fact more similar to Herodotus than to other ANE texts. This is false. Herodotus, and even his logographic predecessors, have an "I" that is made explicit in their writings. Hellenistic "ethnic" writers like Manetho, Berossus, and Josephus, also have an "I." The distinct first person authorial voice is typical of Hellenistic history-writing.

Biblical Hebrew prose, on the other hand, is largely anonymous and composite. The anonymity is part of what creates its authority; the voice telling the story comes "from nowhere." Its composite nature is known from compositions like Gilgamesh.

There are exceptions to this, of course, Deuteronomy and the Latter Prophets being the main examples (I'll leave aside Daniel for now since everyone agrees it's a Hellenistic apocalyptic text). But the first-person voice is still authoritative here. All of this literature claims to be speaking for God, not the named human author; the genre is ultimately that of elite biography found in both Mesopotamia and Egypt since the 3rd millennium.

Greek and Hellenistic historians and logographers, on the other hand, do not make the same level of claims to authority. They are speaking first and foremost for themselves, and explicitly so.

Assumption 2: That the Greeks were in fact the first to be conscious of history. This is also false.

The Greeks introduced a particular kind of history-writing, one based on human rather than divine causality, but the line between Greece and the ANE is not as clear-cut as it is often made out to be.

On the one hand, Herodotus is certainly credulous to accounts of divine intervention; on the other hand, the Babylonian chronicles were recording events out of pure antiquarian interest centuries before Herodotus. They also recorded contemporary events that were not necessarily flattering to the kings in power, suggesting a considerable amount of independence of scribal elites vis-a-vis the monarchs from around 700 BC on.

This is relatively close in time to when we first get biblical prophets openly critiquing monarchs in writing, suggesting parallel and possibly related processes of sociopolitical development. The emergence of Greek skepticism in the 6th c. BC would thus be a late development vis-a-vis both Mesopotamia and the Levant.

(As an aside, my dissertation research has led me to hypothesize that all of this has some connection to the shift to a more impersonal type of economy in the wake of the disruptions to long-standing social orders caused by Neo-Assyrian imperialism. Greece being further away from the imperial core, the socioeconomic shifts became visible there later than in the Near East).

Assumption 3: Palestine's poverty made it impossible for large scale social changes to happen there before they happened in Greece. This is pure geographical and economic determinism, and also false.

Read any ethnography. Massive and influential social transformations originate in out-of-the-way, peripheral locations all the time. Start with "Body of Power, Spirit of Resistance" by Jean Comaroff. Then look at the history of Christianity, which originated in poor Palestine and eventually took over the Roman Empire and large parts of the Middle East and North Africa. Or Islam, in which the previously obscure Arabian peninsula produced the largest empire the world had yet seen, in addition to what is now the world's second-largest religion. Or the rapid rise of Japan from isolated peripheral region to colonial empire in the 19th and early 20th centuries AD.

Historical contingency is a marvelous thing.
#18 - Robert M. Jennings - 12/13/2014 - 00:24



To Robert M. Jennings,

whom I cannot place. Believed you to be older, and not having started graduate studies as late as after 2010!

Now, I did not say Herodotus. That was Van Seters thirty years ago. I referred to a historiography of the type that is found in Livy, i.e. Hellenistic history writing. I have done this quite a number of times.

Otherwise try to get acquainted with the argumentation. You can start with my The Old Testament -- a Hellnistic Book? from 1992 reprinted a couple of times, and the recent volume edited by Thompson and Philip Weidenbaum, The Bible and Hellenism.

When you are updated, we may one day continue the discussion. If you started as a graduate student in 2010, there is probably a lot you have to read.


And never forget to quote your opponents correctly.


By the way, Christianity did not begin in poor Palestine but in an integrated part of the Roman Empire. So the conditions were as different from those of the Iron Age. Agai, be precise!
#19 - Niels Peter Lemche - 12/13/2014 - 09:24



And one last thing for Mr. Jennings,

You should read through the collection of articles on minimalism at this site. Then you will probably understand why we do not really want to go into another discussion about subjects that have been discussed over and over during the last twenty years. We have wasted much too much time on such discussions.
#20 - Niels Peter Lemche - 12/13/2014 - 09:42



"It is of course always difficult to discuss with somebody, whose affiliation is new to you and whose affiliation is less than clear."
-I'm about as "affiliated" with any institution as George Grena (less, actually; as I have no religious affiliation). That is, I'm just an amateur with a blog and interest. I've never visited any part of the Middle East and live in the U.S.
"I have never heard about Mr. Enopoletus Harding before"
-Yes, you have (although the relevant evidence is apparently gone from the BibleInterp website).
"but looking him up at the internet shows that he is active on facebook and twitter.
It makes sense when you read his “answer” to Tom’s essay. Plenty of use of the old tactic of not quoting your opponent correctly and distorting what is said."
-I, in fact, rarely use Facebook or Twitter (perhaps once per week or month). Have you (with much better evidence) accused Iacobus Occidentalis of "use of the old tactic of not quoting your opponent correctly and distorting what is said" and related it to his much more frequent use of Twitter and Facebook than mine? Alleging I misquote Thompson or distort what he said is not equivalent to actually demonstrating that I do so.
"It is clear that Mr. Harding belongs to a very conservative environment, hardly able to separate himself for a very traditional understanding of Israel’s history. His reply has no value at all."
-I've always understood that Prof. Lemche has on occasion been prone to misrepresent his opponents. But this takes the cake. The archaeologist with whom I generally most tend to agree with and commend is Israel Finkelstein. I am an atheist and am willing to change my mind when presented with conflicting evidence. I can only be construed as "very conservative" politically. If my comment has "no value at all" for pointing out Thompson's false statements and bizarre emphases, then Thompson's essay here has even less.

Beth-Zur had Iron I settlement "in the highland regions south of Jerusalem".
As the Greek OT came before the Greek NT, there is no way the former could have embraced the latter. It is like the King James Bible "embracing" the Book of Mormon.
"The position of Abraham in Genesis says something about an interest in the south but hardly – in spite of Melchisedek anything about Jerusalem."
-If not from Jerusalem, then from where do you think this "interest in the south" originated?
"What ideology?"
-Name one living archaeologist who believes the Philistines (we don't know enough about Dor) "were peacefully integrated along the coastal plain from Akka to Gaza".
"Putting these events together creates a false argument."
-I certainly don't see how.
#21 - Enopoletus Harding - 12/13/2014 - 20:01



Also, Neils, I was banned from your buddy Iacobus Occidentalis's blog for my offense of supporting the separation of church and state. I find this ironic given your characterization of me and my motives.
#22 - Enopoletus Harding - 12/13/2014 - 20:14



Mr. Enopoletus Harding,

Now I understand why Jim West banned you. We have done this on his list, where I am co-moderator, and had several cases like yours.

You are putting up an argument against a straw person, in no way even trying to answer what Tom and for that matter I wrote. I still do not know where you found Beth Zur; at least not in Tom's essay. And as to the Philistines, you have very few clues as to the exact nature of their settlement. I have no idea whether or not it was peaceful, but what is your basis for saying that it was by force? Really, even if they had their clash with Ramesses III's fleet at the Nile, we hear nothing about their settlement. Some have since Albrecht Alt proposed that the settlement along the coast of Palestine was peaceful, arranged by the Egyptians still very much in control of the territory.

Finally, as to the LXX, you find no major Greek manuscript of the LXX that does not also include the NT, Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Alexandrinus. The whole issue is getting very complecated because of the relative time of the appearance of an OT canon and a NT one. There was hardly any Hebrew Bible (well, it is a recent misnomer for the TaNaK) before the emergence of the NT (2-3rd century CE) So we have a Greek NT, a Hebrew Rabbinic Bible emerging quite late, and a NT in Greek. Although the Hebrew books of the TaNaK definitely are older than the NT, is the collection older than the LXX?

Of course it is not easy to getting involved in these matters being an amateur. It is not easy either for the professionals, but it is not an open subject for everybody to participate.
#23 - Niels Peter Lemche - 12/13/2014 - 21:53



Part I

I have tried to put together my reactions to the comments made by Mr. Harding and Mr. Jennings concerning Thomas Thompson’s essay on Also the Narratives of Israel are a Palestinian Heritage, not because they are very interesting but because they are the result of a modern conviction among laypersons that they are in a position to question ideas put forward by serious and professional biblical scholars on an equal term, especially when such ideas are aired without a proper scholarly apparatus.
Now we have an absolute meaningful and serious essay from Thomas Thompson. The reaction from a European scholar like Antonio Lombatti makes sense, although it is very short. Other scholars would probably disagree but will have arguments on which to base their criticism.
Now let us have a look on the arguments presented by these two laypersons.
About the Philistines: Tom wrote: "They were peacefully integrated along the coastal plain from Akka to Gaza."
Mr. Harding’s reply: “Ideology triumphs over archaeology once again.”
No argumentation at all, just insinuations. Tom may be right, or he may be wrong, but that depends on a scholarly debate of the evidence. Aren Maeir might have provided the arguments, but choose to present rather foolish comment instead of a proper argument. We can of course ask why?
Then Tom wrote: "In 722 BCE, Samaria was put under siege and fell to Assyria in 720."
And Mr. Harding replies:
And yet, Thompson still relies on the Biblical account in place of real history. See Nadav Na'aman's interpretation of the Fall of Samaria.
Well, at least here the biblical version is not so far from the contemporary Assyrian one. Whatever happened – and it has been questioned whether or not the Assyrians destroyed Samaria, or only deported a part of the population of Samaria and its environments – it is clear that there was no successor state to Samarina – previously Bit Humriya. So Mr. Harding is not really presenting any kind of argument, apart from a reference to Nadav Na’aman.
Then onwards to the next sentence: Tom:
"The overwhelming majority of ancient Israel’s population continued in the land, eventually identifying themselves as Samaritans."
And Mr. Harding:
“Right. And I can surely say with the utmost sarcasm that Galilee was never depopulated by the armies of Tiglath-Pileser, thus, paving the way for it to become mostly Jewish in the Roman era.”
Well, after another 500 years! But Tom never said that Galilee was depopulated. It is an assertion from Mr. Harding that Tom meant that.? Moreover: Why sarcasm? Is Mr. Harding simply showing his ignorance of the discussion about the meaning of deportations? Or is he directing his “sarcasm” against the biblical version, on the myth of the ten tribes that disappeared?
Tom again:
"Sennacherib had effectively eliminated Hezekiah’s hinterland."
And Mr. Harding:
“What? In one paragraph, Thompson is realistic about the devastation Assyrian armies wrought. In another, he denies the significance of this factor entirely.
"nearby Samaria, where a small patronage kingdom was developed sometime in the 9th century. While the town of Magiddu seems to have continued to dominate the Jezreel Valley."
Again Mr. Harding is directing a criticism of Tom’s argumentation based on a series of misprisions (misprision alias intended misrepresentation). Sennacherib’s acts in southern Palestine were not related to the fate of Northern Israel some twenty years earlier. Mr. Harding simply completely distorts the argumentation of Tom and presents his own “version” of Tom’s essay.
Mr. Harding goes on:
Omride conquest of the land of Madaba? Never happened.
Well, Tom never said that. Mr. Harding is also this time distorting Tom’s argumentation, bringing in his own unsupported ideas.
As is also the case here:
“Megiddo was an unwalled village with some small palaces remarkably similar to those of Samaria, you say?
And here:
Omride architecture at Ataroth? Must be coincidence.
But who denied that? Not Tom who does not mention Ataroth at all. Here Mr. Harding should read what he wrote in other places about Mesha.
Tom, according to Mr. Harding, or is it Mr. Harding who speaks here?
"Agriculture in the highland regions south of Jerusalem, however, was much more vulnerable to drought and this region remained unsettled until Iron II."
- Beth-Zur? Never heard of it.
Is this the product of Mr. Harding’s fantasy. I find nothing like this in Tom’s essay.
Tom:
"Although the devastation of Jerusalem and Jud?a was massive, the majority of southern Palestine’s population prospered."
And Mr. Harding who this time is quoting Tom correctly:
-Another fine example of a true statement (the first) combined with a false and utterly contradictory one (the second).
#24 - N.P. Lemche - 12/15/2014 - 21:14



Part II
For some reason I do not think that Mr. Harding has understood what is said here: Jerusalem and Judah were devastated. But here the distinction made is between Jerusalem and Judah and non-Judean parts of southern Palestine. Of course if Mr. Harding is naively accepting that all of southern Palestine belonging to the small kingdom of Jerusalem, then he could be right. But that was hardly the case. By making this mistake, Mr. Harding is following a path that leads nowhere.
Tom:
"Its associated intellectual culture could well support the understanding of the Samaritans as substantially responsible for writing the Torah, perhaps the earliest composition in the Bible."
Mr. Harding:
-That explains some parts of the Northern emphasis of some of the Primary History, but not its clear Jerusalemite bias.
Fine, if Mr. Harding will comment on the presence of this bias in the Primary History. In the Torah, Jerusalem is never mentioned by name. You will probably be able to find it but where? Gen 34 may be an example of an ongoing polemical situation between Jerusalem and Shechem, but Gen 34 is definitely not Primary History.
Tom:
"The Samaritan torah and the Jewish and Christian Bibles were not originally composed as particularly Samaritan and Jewish literature"
Mr. Harding:
-Right. And Atlas Shrugged was not originally composed as particularly Objectivist literature.
Now he brings in a nonsense argument referring to a novel from 1957. I cannot really see the meaning of this. Of course the intention is to discredit Tom, but in this case Mr. Harding may be shooting himself in the foot. Tom will have no troubles accepting that the biblical story about ancient Israel is mythology and talking about a society that never existed.
Tom:
"The Greek form of this new Jewish Bible itself embraced an originally Jewish New Testament literature."
Mr. Harding:
“I thought the Septuagint doesn't include the NT.”
Tiens, tiens, Mr. Harding, as I wrote in one of my short commentaries, you have no Greek Bible without the New Testament. Besides, the early Christians were Jews. Reading Matthew, you must realize his adherence to Judaism. But the interesting thing is how Tom’s argument is distorted by another misprision: Tom did not talk about the Septuagint, but about “The Greek form of this new Jewish Bible”. I admit that this is not a very precise way to present the facts, as the expression “this new Jewish Bible” is questionable. How “new”. And when did the Hebrew scripture included in the Hebrew version of the Bible become a “Bible”? Until very late it was no more than a collection of scrolls.
This must be more than enough as far as Mr. Harding is concerned. A sad example of how to misrepresent the argument of somebody Mr. Harding does not like.
And finally Mr. Harding is showing his cards:
“I've heard of Thomas Thompson's misrepresentations before, but never before have I realized how many contradictions can be found per square decimeter of his words.”
As it turns out, most contradictions derive from Mr. Harding’s concoction of the content of Tom’s essay.

Then we have Mr. Robert M. Jennings, a grad student, or so it seems, so we should expect something more essential from his pen:
Mr. Jennings:
There's a word for this type of misrepresentation in anthropology: "strategic essentialism." Thompson does his utmost to interrogate the homogenized nationalist narrative of the Israeli state, and to discredit any notion of legitimate continuities (other than "religious" ones) between ancient Palestinian populations and modern Jews.
Well, both yes and no: If Mr. Jennings try to understand what is said, it is that modern Palestinians are probably descendants from – among others – the ancient population of Palestine.
Nowhere does he do the same for the terms "Arabs" and "al-Quds." Very real differences between the four [“four”? Please enlighten me] Abrahamic religions are underplayed, and commonalities overemphasized, which allows for his particular brand of anti-Zionism to appeal to the sort of vacuous faux-multiculturalism common in certain circles today. The only discontinuous, disruptive element in Thompson's narrative is Zionism.
This is serious and essential for the discussion: The myth of the exile of European Jews from Palestine after Hadrian. Reading Palestinian history after 135 will tell you that Jewish presence did not cease although its center was moved from Jerusalem to the Galilee in the form of the Jewish Patriarchate that lasted until Theodosius II (580). Places like Beth Shearim has a story to tell about continued Jewish presence, as also Sephoris and Tiberias. But it is much easier for Mr. Jennings to accuse the Israeli historian Shlomo Sand of dilettantism and to slander Tom for relying on Prof. Sand:
#25 - N.P. Lemche - 12/15/2014 - 21:15



Part III
Mr. Jennings:
“Also, he cites Shlomo Sand as if he were a serious authority. Sand's book is considered laughable by people trained in every field he tries to dabble in.
The strange thing is that in some Israeli institutions there are two departments of history: One for Jewish history, and one for the rest of the world. Sand has been accused of God knows, but mostly from Israeli historians belonging to the first group. It is an easy allegation to put forward and it certainly reflects Mr. Jennings’ place in all of this. It is also characteristic that Mr. Jennings has no arguments but only uses the verdict of a third part. It is the old adage: Don’t read Wellhausen but read (conservative) books about Wellhausen (James Barr). In general, the response to Prof. Sand in Israel has not been very enlightened, including also physical attacks. Maybe Prof. Sand really has something to contribute to the discussion.
The Mr. Jennings second objection:
As someone who is emphatically NOT a Zionist, and who happens to think that what the Israeli military did in Gaza this summer constitutes a crime against humanity, I have to ask Dr. Thompson to please, please, stop using Israel's present-day crimes as an excuse to tendentiously rewrite ancient history in an objective-sounding authoritative voice as if you are "speaking from nowhere." You're not. None of us are. Put your ideological cards on the table before you write such baseless revisionism.
Apart from creating a diversion to present days political events, Mr. Jennings who bases much on anthropology and sociology, if not philosophy, simply implies that the biblical version of the History of Israel in its modern Zionist disguise is not tendentious “history”, whereas the alternative history presented in the essay is tendentious. Mr. Jennings, this is not a decent way to argue.
Instead of addressing the various points in Tom’s essay, Mr. Jennings reduces his answer to an insulting attack on somebody with whom he does not agree. This is the old practice found in North American evangelical circles. It is quite disgusting and has little with scholarship to do. I do understand that Mr. Jennings will not describe himself as a Zionist, but in reality he behave like one.
Mr. Jennings becomes clearer here:
And by "put your ideological cards on the table," I don't simply mean admit you're an anti-Zionist. We all already know that. I would be considered one too in some circles (although I prefer simply "non-Zionist" because the term "anti-Zionist" has too much baggage).
This is really a traditional Zionist’s way of presenting his case.??
I have made enough comments on the issue of Syro-Palestinian archaeology, with its implications. These are not essential in this summary.

These responses from two North American contributors may be understood as representing a certain non-scholarly segment of biblical students in the broad sense. Maybe Mr. Jennings will one day graduate to become a biblical scholar. Sadly the responses are not very different in quality and character from quite a few other North American responses to the challenges of minimalism. The quote about Wellhausen here is still relevant: Don’t read Thompson or Lemche: Read (conservative) books about Thompson and Lemche. And, most important: If you are a biblical scholar in opposition to minimalism: Don’t engage in a serious discussion; find some soldiers to do the job. Politics before scholarship!

If the two gentlemen scrutinized here want to answer, I beg them: Please present arguments and not allegations.
N.P. Lemche
#26 - N.P. Lemche - 12/15/2014 - 21:16



I Must apologize for being absent from this discussion the past four days, but serious illness in the family has prevented me from attending to my mail, etc. I would like to thank Niels Peter Lemche for clarifying most of what I had presented. Though we often have quite different perspecives on issues, I would concur with his observations here.

The essay I wrote was in the form of an opinion piece, with neither footnotes nor detailed arguments from evidence. I rather assumed the audience's familiarity with the now half-century debate. It is unfortunate that this can result in such thorough misunderstanding. The intense discussion of the Philistines could easily have been reduced to a footnote referring to Gösta Ahlström's History of Palestine, but it is unfortunately as Niels Peter has pointed out just so that our audience no longer has any idea of the history of scholarship, let alone such a history, independent of Zionizt historiography,

I had wanted to open a discussion about a history of Palestine that was not zionistic and to explore ist possibilities in regard to eventually developing a histoty of Palestine's ancient past that was not distorted by such nationalistic propoganda. I think the two voices of neo-Zionism that we have heard have effectively blocked any further honest discussion.I am sorry for that and I will try to raise this important issue again when the opportunity arises.
Thomas

Thomas L. Thompson
professor emeritus, University of Copenhagen
#27 - Thomas L. Thompson - 12/15/2014 - 23:43



Dr. Lemche,

I will not respond to your arguments except to say that I find your comments towards myself and Mr. Harding to be be extremely patronizing.

Throwing your (emeritus) credentials around in order to limit who can participate in the discussion is not addressing the issues that I was raising. I may be a junior colleague of yours, but I am still a colleague, and I deserve better than to be talked down to as if I know nothing.

My issue is not minimalism/maximalism; it is the politicization of scholarship in general. My references to modern politics are not "diversions" in response to an article that is openly about whose heritage belongs to whom. This is explicit politics. When you open that door, you are asking to have your political views made explicit.

No, I am not stupid enough to believe that the current North American consensus is completely depoliticized. But there is a difference between the subtle politicization that is a factor of all scholarship (which we should seek to recognize and overcome), and explicit politicization, which is what Tom's article was.

My comments about Sand were perhaps too harsh. He in fact admits in his introduction that the book may contain inaccuracies. And indeed, the attacks on him within Israel have been quite unenlightened.

But there is a difference between standing in solidarity with Sand's right to speak as a matter of principle (which I do), and using his status as an unorthodox historian to cite him uncritically (which I do not, but which Tom does--and which no one should do without investigating the sources of all his claims. As he himself writes, he is not an expert on Jewish history and should not be cited as one). This sort of practice leads to a closed circle of citationality--he cites Tom, Tom cites him, and the authority of both as acknowledged experts is weaponized to close the question.

This is not real debate. This is senior academics defending their turf from challenges on the basis of credentials alone. If anything here is "conservative," it's that.

P.S. The fourth Abrahamic religion I was referring to is Samaritanism, which is not Judaism. You should know that, unless you insist on identifying the Samaritans as Jews in contradiction to their own self-identification, just like you insist on insinuating that I am a Zionist in contradiction to my own self-identification.

P.P.S. I don't think anyone here ever denied that the Bar-Kokhba expulsion is a nationalist myth. If Sand's book excelled at anything, it was certainly for debunking that one. Imputing beliefs on others (and positing Zionist conspiracies behind every term and theory you don't like) seems to a main tactic of your style of argument.
#28 - Robert M. Jennings - 12/16/2014 - 00:50



Very short and h0pefully last commentary:

Mr. Jennings wrote: "I find your comments towards myself and Mr. Harding to be be extremely patronizing",

Of course it is patronizing. It is the job of tenured teachers at universities to patronize the young. Mostly this is appreciated by the students (at various levels). But some who may have too high regards about their own abilities react negatively to such corrections.

By the way, somewhere you wrote of Norman Gottwald as if he is not among us anymore. I haven't heard that he departed.
#29 - Niels Peter Lemche - 12/16/2014 - 09:50



Thompson gives a summary of how things were in the ancient world: we are implicitly referred to his extensive work on the subject. Other ideas, in his view misconceived, are treated as both encouraging and encouraged by Zionism. This produces a topic, ie a set of controversial propositions whose truth or falsity is linked in various ways, concerning both ancient and modern worlds. This is not a failure to put cards on tables, since there is no effort to conceal - quite the reverse! - the fact that both the ancient and the modern aspects of the topic are in mind. Nor is it an anti-Israel rant or diatribe, where there is an objection to Israeli practice or to Zionist historiography the objection is explained. Nor is it violation of a duty to keep historical and contemporary concerns strictly apart, there being no such duty: in fact if you believe that some force in the modern world is distorting our understanding of the past it is your duty to say so, perhaps quite loudly.!
If you don\'t say it loud you may be pretending to a disinterest you do not genuinely have and you may not be able to explain why a falsehood has been dominant. You\'re not allowed to say \'The Zionists (or the socialists, or the Nazis) would like this to be true: is it\'s not\'. Or \'I\'d like this to be true: so it is\'. But I don\'t think Thompson commits this sort of error. I like to think that I don\'t either, though I too call myself an anti-Zionist - I think that Zionist claims about Jewish rights in Palestine are morally mistaken.
As to essentialism, we should, in using any descriptive term whatever, have some clear idea of \'what it is to be\' a member of the category in question. Maybe there is a little obscurity about Thompson\'s use of \'Jewish\' or \'Palestinian\' but I can\'t see that his argument is in any serious sense weakened by mishandled concepts or words.
Perhaps there is a greater optimism about the roots of Abrahamic religion than I can usually muster.
I would like to keep the term \'Syria-Palestine\' in play because of the authority of Herodotus.
#30 - Martin Hughes - 12/16/2014 - 22:55



In his last letter Mr. Jennings wrote:My issue is not minimalism/maximalism; it is the politicization of scholarship in general. My references to modern politics are not "diversions" in response to an article that is openly about whose heritage belongs to whom. This is explicit politics. When you open that door, you are asking to have your political views made explicit.

No, I am not stupid enough to believe that the current North American consensus is completely depoliticized. But there is a difference between the subtle politicization that is a factor of all scholarship (which we should seek to recognize and overcome), and explicit politicization, which is what Tom's article was.

I wrote my essay specifically to address the politicization that has become increasingly influential and evendominant in biblical and archaeological scholarship since the mid-1970s. Addressing this issue, now 40 years later is improperly described as politicizing. I am rather asking this audience to recognize and address the politics which is distorting our work. The very politically engaged responses to my summary of a considerable number of the politically tendentious issues now at large suggests to me that I have been quite correct in my judgment that politics drives the judgment of the consensus on these issues. The politicisation of North American scholarship referred to is hardly a subtle politicisation common to all scholarship. Seeing anti-semitism in questions regarding the historicity of biblical narratives or in the silencing of a Palestinian voice in our field (as was long ago pointed out by Whitelam) is hardly subtle unintentional intrusion of politics. We have a need to discuss these issues openly and clearly.
Thomas

Thomas L. Thompson
Professor emeritus, University of Copenhagen
#31 - Thomas L. Thompson - 12/17/2014 - 19:40



Martin Hughes' discussion of essentialism in reference to the terms \'Jewish\' or \'Palestinian is, I think at the heart of this discussion. I think both terms can be useful and explained within a historiographical discourse, the first originally deriving from a geographical, but becoming over centuries also a designation for a religious adherence and, in modern times--especially in English discourse--an ethnic designation: not to address for the moment a racist understanding that was once so dominant in Europe and at times recurs in Israeli discourse. The latter term: "Palestinian" I use generally to refer to those who dwell in Palestine, including Israelis. It is neither an ethnic, religious or racially descriptive category, but primarily a geographical term.

Thomas

Thomas L. Thompson
Professor emeritus, University of Copenhagen
#32 - Thomas L. Thompson - 12/18/2014 - 01:29



The term "Palestinian" has been partially ethnicized since before 1948 though. People of Cisjordanian origin who moved into Transjordan in the Mandate Period have descendents who still identify as Palestinian in order to distinguish themselves from Jordan's dominant "Bedouin" population, not to mention the descendents of both 1948 and 1967 refugees living in the Palestinian Diaspora. When you identify your most basic identity with a territory you've never been to, that identity is by definition ethnic, even if it originated as territorial.

But I agree, a lot of what is causing the confusion and heated rhetoric (my own included, for which I apologize) is a lack of clarity by all parties about what we mean when we use certain words.
#33 - Robert M. Jennings - 12/18/2014 - 20:33



Just to add that no one owns words and we may all use them as we like, the only obligation being to make ourselves clear.
I still think that the fact, should it be a fact, that there is no trace where there certainly should be some traces of Nehemiah's wall is a major indication that there is an element of surrealism in the scriptural narrative.
By surrealism I mean highly imaginative attempts to portray the truth by mixture of fact, fiction and speculation and by re-fashioning and re-creating older ideas, images and stories to reflect what the re-creators consider to be their own deeper insights.
Not a narrowly scientific style.
I operate these days in the thoroughly sub-academic world and am due next summer to give a talk on these subjects to my local branch of the Classical Association. I have been looking at the appropriation by some Jewish writers of the Spartan legacy and so find Professor Thompson's mention of Jewish and Samaritan colonies - to be in the Hellenistic kingdoms what the Spartans had been in the Peloponnese? - very interesting. I hope to learn more about this.
#34 - Martin Hughes - 12/19/2014 - 16:02



To Robert Jennings,
In regard to my essay which is considering the Palestinian heritage of the region since ancient times, the use of the term to define otherness (that is, as an ethnicity) is occasionally located as in some usage of the term in Eastern Palestine (i.e., Jordan): an interesting diversion as the word "Palestine" here has variable meanings; yet, I think, all in one way o, e geographic.
As Mr. Hughes points out, it is my usage that I am describing, not yours.
I also find the Nehemiah and Ezra stories fascination. A third variation is I Esdras--all of which have a "surrealistic" relationship to "history".
I am working on an article on the use of Samaritans and Jews in the establishment of hellenistic colonies. I think it--with their very active religious proselitism-- is possible responsible for the spread of Samaritanism and Judaism throughout the empire in the Greco-Roman period.
Thomas

Thomas L. Thompson
Professor emeritus, University of Copenhagen
#35 - Thomas L. Thompson - 12/20/2014 - 17:22



To Dr. Thompson,

I look forward to your article. One of the other things I liked about Sand's book is how he points out for a popular audience that Hellenistic Judaism (or at least some varieties of it) was actively proselytizing, unlike most forms of Judaism today.

Again, I apologize for the vehemence of my original reaction to your article and will try to be more open-minded in the future. I do, after all, come from a North American school, and it is sometimes difficult to see the specific institutional histories which create one's received wisdom.

Agreeing with Martin, I think if we all defined our usage of terms more explicitly in the future, tempers may not flare up as reflexively as mine did. No one "owns" words, but we do have a responsibility to define them to our audience.
#36 - Robert M. Jennings - 12/22/2014 - 06:30



The professors do protest too much, methinks.
#37 - Rick Carpenter - 01/30/2015 - 03:09






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