Ronald S. Hendel: "Giants at Jericho." What a Story Indeed!

When I say there is no archaeological evidence for the Israelite Exodus, wilderness wanderings, or Canaanite conquest, I mean exactly what I say. Listen to what Ronald S. Hendel said about Jericho. He's a Professor of Hebrew Bible and Jewish Studies in the Department of Near Eastern Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

This is what he said matter-of-factly:
According to the best interpretations of the archaeological evidence, Jericho was destroyed around 1550 B.C.E. and was not settled again until after 1000 B.C.E. But the emergence of Israel dates to around 1200 B.C.E., right in the middle of this 500-year gap. If Joshua and his troops had surrounded Jericho, there would have been nobody home.
Then Hendel goes on to try to salvage some kind of historicity to the story itself involving mythical giants in the land, whom it was believed were sired from the sons of god mating with women (Genesis 6). But one myth cannot be used to lend credibility to another one. He may be correct about what the Israelites believed, but I see no reason to accept any of this as historical at all. Apparently there were a number of these giants in the land--even Goliath was one of them. Where are the archaeological digs revealing any of the skeletal remains of even one of these giants? Again, there are none.

Christian, does this not trouble you? It should. Such a lack of evidence as this is the same thing we find when it comes to the Mormon claims of people living in America that form the basis of the Book of Mormon. You don't believe the Mormons precisely because of this lack of archaeological evidence. Why then do you not apply this same kind of evidential test when it comes to your own beliefs? This is what it means to take The Outsider Test for Faith. Come on, you can do it.


Eternal Critic said...

According to a professor I had the evidence said there was evidence of squatters and continual such habitation, but no serious civilization since when you note, around 1550 BCE

I don't think I find anything worse than the book of Daniel though. Just recently wrote a bit on that actually. Nothing deeply academic though.

Harry McCall said...

Ronald Hendel was an above average student of Frank Cross at Harvard. He wrote several articles EJ Brill’s in the Dictionary of Demon and Deities in the Bible (published in the US by WB Erdmann).

Hendel also was a student winner at the Society of Biblical Literature meeting for presenting the best paper on the Hebrew Bible; plus I believe he is nw editing a major commentary on Genesis.

Hendel is a grandson in ideology of the Albright School whose founder WF Albright believed in a historical Moses.

I was at the 1986 AAR / SBL meeting held in Atlanta, Ga. which held a seminar entitled Israelite and Canaanite Religion. One of the main speakers for the seminar was Frank M. Cross of Harvard who read a paper on the traditions of Judah, Jacobs oldest son.

{Also present was Marvin Pope of Yale; David Noel Freeman of the University of Michigan and the University of Calf. at LA and Gosta Alstrom from the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago.}

After Cross finished reading his paper, Alstrom stood up and accused Cross of depending too much on the credibility of the Bible for his historical facts, when he should have looked more at the historical facts in ancient Near Eastern texts.

This accusation did not sit well with Cross and a confrontation occurred between these two Old Testament scholarly giants. The shouting match was still going on when the seminar adjourned.

For all his knowledge Hendel, like Cross and Albright before him, thinks there is some historical basis behind the facts in Genesis. (Another of Albright’s doctorial student from Johns Hopkins (George E. Wright (died 1974) believed in much of the historicity as described in the mythical tale of Israelite conquest as he states his faith in God in his introduction to the Anchor Bible’s Commentary on Joshua.)

On thing is for sure: A Ronald Hendel with a doctorate under Cross at Harvard would not be the same Hendel with a doctorate under Alstrom at the University of Chicago in his apporach ot the Hebrew Bible!

Dave Huntsman said...

The most recent readable book on the archeological evidence - or lack of same - for things like the Exodus, can be found in The Bible Unearthed by Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman. I got mine from the local library.

ismellarat said...

Are there big holes in JP Holding's article on Jericho?

It looks as if he thinks there's some leeway in the dating. No mention of the "giants," either.

You probably don't have to try too hard. I impress easily.

ab138501 said...

The question that you raise has indeed been bothersome to me since I read a book in my high school years that was written by Kathleen Kenyon.

For the past six years I have researched this question in a lot of depth. I have read and rejected a long list of theories. I have a shelf and a half of books related to this topic.

In March 2009, a new book came out with another new proposal for resolving this very question.

The book is:
Sivertsen, Barbara J. The Parting of the Sea: How Volcanoes, Earthquakes, and Plagues Shaped the Exodus Story. Princeton: Princeton University Press. (2009)

One of the editorial reviews says that Barbara Sivertsen’s book The Parting of the Sea, “provid[es] what may be the most coherent correlation yet of ancient Egyptian history, the archeology of both Egypt and Palestine, and the biblical traditions of pre-literate Israel. … This outstanding accomplishment should be a source of research direction for years to come.”

According to the dust jacket summary, “Barbara Sivertsen demonstrates that the Exodus was in fact two separate exoduses stemming from two volcanic eruptions. Over time, Israelite oral tradition combined these events into the Exodus narrative known today. Skillfully unifying textual and archaeological records with details of ancient geological events, Sivertsen shows how the first exodus followed a 1628 B.C.E Minoan eruption that produced all but one of the first nine plagues. The second exodus followed an eruption of a volcano off the Aegean island of Yali almost two centuries later, creating the tenth plague of darkness and a series of tsunamis that "parted the sea" and drowned the pursuing Egyptian army. Sivertsen's brilliant account … fits chronologically with the conquest of Jericho and confirms that the Israelites were in Canaan before the end of the sixteenth century B.C.E.”

This book is not a warmed over, repackaged version of Hans Goedicke, Ian Wilson, or Simcha Jacobovici. It is a new theory with many new and highly original ideas. This book does an exceptional job of weaving the textual and archaeological evidence together in a way that works without resorting to revisionist chronologies and far-fetched scenarios that have been discredited by other scholars. It is well researched and it is very "coherent". It does an exceptional job of fitting the seemingly discrepant pieces of the puzzle together in a way that ends up making a lot of sense. I recommend it to everyone for thoughtful consideration.