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A Brief Note for Yosi Garfinkel





We can quibble about whether the Shephelah is “Judah” rather than the highlands, but that this part of Palestine and this city were part of a political system called “Judah” is quite another supposition. Where is the proof? I suspect Garfinkel is just using a biblical figure to fill the gap. If so, we have just another example of the old “biblical archaeology.”



By Emeritus Professor Philip Davies
University of Sheffield, England
June 2012


My original response to Yosi Garfinkel accused him of several inaccuracies, “The End of Biblical Minimalism?” (http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/dav358019.shtml). This fault seems habitual with him, to judge from his latest contribution to Biblical Archaeological Review’s website (http://www.bib-arch.org/scholars-study/minimalist-response-garfinkel.asp).

He asserts that “minimalists” assign a Hellenistic date to the biblical literature and cites my own book (In Search of Ancient Israel) in support. But I do not hold this view (apart for a few biblical writings where there is a scholarly consensus anyway). My book focuses rather on the Persian period. Did he really read my book, as any self-proclaimed historian of “minimalism” should have? Or does he have just a very poor memory?

He also repeats the assertion that the Tel Dan inscription mentions a “king” of the house of David. In my earlier response to him, I pointed out that the word “king” is a conjectural restoration by the original editors. Why does he repeat this factual error?

Garfinkel does not explain exactly why Qeiyafa should be associated with any biblical figure or a king of Jerusalem. Perhaps this is because he uses “Judah” both as a geographical and as a political term. We can quibble about whether the Shephelah is “Judah” rather than the highlands, but that this part of Palestine and this city were part of a political system called “Judah” is quite another supposition. Where is the proof? I suspect Garfinkel is just using a biblical figure to fill the gap. If so, we have just another example of the old “biblical archaeology.” There is, in fact, no reference to a kingdom of Judah in Assyrian records until the 8th century (nor of course in the Mesha nor Tel Dan stelae!), and a competent historian should attach some significance to this and not assume a political state by the name of “Judah” exists until there is archaeological or epigraphic evidence of it.

Concerning the issue of pig bones, I see no reference to Hesse’s article “Pig Lovers and Pig Haters: Patterns of Palestinian Pork Production, (Journal of Ethnobiology 10 [1990]: 195-225) or Zedar, “The Role of Pigs in Near Eastern Subsistence: A View from the Southern Levant,” in Retrieving the Past (ed. J.D. Seger; Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1996), 297-312, nor to the work of Sapir-Hen cited in Finkelstein “Reconstructing Ancient Israel: Integrating Macro- and Micro-archaeology,” Hebrew Bible and Ancient Israel 1 (2012), 133–150: 141. The evidence is rather more complicated than Garfinkel realizes (or should realize).

Finally: I cannot see how aniconism can be evidence for Judahite religion when there is so much evidence from Iron II (and even later) of the use of religious icons in Judah. But then, I cannot understand the patterns of thought of someone who does not or cannot read what he cites, repeats errors previously pointed out to him, and has an imperfect grasp of both archaeological methodology and logic. So perhaps any further conversation between us is a waste of time.