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TITLE The Bible and Archaeology: An Introduction

LEVEL H - Higher Level


DEPARTMENT Centre for the Liberal Arts and Sciences

DESCRIPTION Both the Bible and Archaeology have fascinated the general public, and this is evident from the great number of documentaries shown on Television such as those relayed on the National Geographic channel. This is an interesting phenomenon, however, there is one snag, namely that more often than not such programmes end up by being sensational in nature. This Unit aims to redress such a state of affairs by presenting the essential hallmarks of both a critical reading of the biblical texts (primarily with reference to the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament) as well as a critical approach to archaeology. Thus, fundamentalism (with reference to a wrong approach to textual reading) and treasure hunting in archaeology (with reference to an incorrect “reading” of the archaeological data) will be shown for what they are: a-priori, biased, uncritical, and ultimately irrational attitudes which are imposed on the biblical texts as well as on the archaeological material. This Unit will also lay down the methodological principles on how to relate the results of biblical criticism with those of modern-day “scientific” archaeology. Only after the different kinds of data are scrutinized, each according to their own methodological principles, can an attempt be made to correlate text and artefact. In this Unit, the students will also be introduced to the basic principles of “scientific” archaeology and biblical criticism. The case studies presented will be mainly taken from Pre-Exilic Israel with special reference to the problem of the Emergence of Ancient Israel and the Religion of Pre-Exilic Israel in the light of the relevant biblical and archaeological evidence.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:

By the end of the Unit the student will be able to:
- Grasp the essential principles of biblical criticism, such as historical criticism and source criticism;
- Understand the basic methods used in archaeological research, such as that of stratigraphic excavation;
- Appreciate the problems involved in reconstructing the history of Early Ancient Israel;
- Appreciate the opinions of those who hold other views than him/her;
- Grow in a critical appreciation of various societies and their cultures and problems.

2. Skills:

By the end of the Unit the student will be able to:
- Undertake a close reading of texts;
- Sharpen his/her powers of observation;
- Link, without confusing, textual and material evidence thereby gaining a holistic view of past societies, such as that of Ancient Israel.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

- Barton, John (1996) Reading the Old Testament: Method in biblical Study, 2nd edn, London: Darton, Longman, & Todd.
- Barton, John (2007) The Nature of Biblical Criticism, Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press.
- Barton, John (2010) The Bible: the Basics, London/New York: Routledge.
- Frendo, Anthony J. (2011) Pre-Exilic Israel, the Hebrew Bible, and Archaeology: integrating Text and Artefact, London/New York: T & T Clark.
- Gamble, Clive (2008) Archaeology: the Basics, 2nd edn, London/New York: Routledge.
- Harris, Edward C. (1989) Principles of archaeological Stratigraphy, 2nd edn., London: Academic Press Ltd.
- Kenyon, Kathleen M. (1961) Beginning in Archaeology, 2nd revised edn., London: Phoenix HouseLtd, 1961.


Assessment Component/s Resit Availability Weighting
Oral Examination (15 Minutes) Yes 100%


The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the study-unit description above applies to the academic year 2017/8, if study-unit is available during this academic year, and may be subject to change in subsequent years.
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