At least one reader of this Blog will be happy to see the title and perhaps even the content of this post (n’est-ce pas, Monsieur Laroche ?) In fact, all I want to do is to let him and anyone else interested in the first of the three monotheisms know about recent archeological studies in Israël, and their implications for our understanding of biblical history. Laroche will be pleased to hear that my source is an article in “Der Spiegel” – of which the French review “Books” offers a full translation in your mother-tongue (“Books”, no.65, mai 2015 – cover: “François et le Vatican”).
The books analyzed are Israel Finkelstein’s “The Forgotten Kingdom. The Archeology and History of Northern Israël”, Society of Biblical Literature, 2013, and Colin Humphrey’s “The Miracles of Exodus : A Scientist’s Discovery of the Extraordinary Natural Causes of the Biblical Stories”, Harper Collins, 2003. Neither book has been translated into French, but the article has summarized the quintessence of their content. Readers – or at least our friend Laroche and other French-speaking readers of this Blog – will discover that according to Professor Humphrey (University of Cambridge), Yahweh seems to have appeared in Saudi Arabia, not the Promised Land, and not in a burning bush but in a volcano ! (Of course we all know that Yahweh does not exist, and the scholars doubt very much that Moses did either.) Professor Finkelstein, Director of the University of Tel-Aviv’s Institute of Archeology, has found fossil evidence that Jerusalem at the time was a “simple village”, that Solomon’s fabulous empire is a romantic dream, with no fossil evidence at all, to the point that in the words of the German journo “modern theological research looks like a gigantic enterprise of illusion”. Scientific demystification is violently opposed in Israël by conservatives who, in the words of a German-Israeli archeologist, Gunnar Lehrmann, want “to give a magnified representation of the past so as to justify current territorial claims”, notably the site of Solomon’s temple, claimed by the Arabs to belong to them.
In such a context, there is little hope of rational discussion about the origins of monotheism.