7 october 7 - 30 november 2019

Archaeology and the Bible

Archaeology and the Bible


For centuries, the Bible has been considered as a historical source. Since there were no other sources, the Bible received a basic credit. Early archaeological surveys in the 19th century first seemed to show that this was right. The different “Histories of Israel” followed this understanding. But in the last decades, new archaeology changed it all. If the results of this new archaeology are right, the whole historical question in the Bible, especially the Old Testament, has to be completely rethought. What does this imply for the believers?

Objectives (3 to 4)

- To know biblical history as presented in the canonical texts.

- To know archaelogy and its evolution in its methods and interpretation.

- To evaluate the findings and interpretations of archaeology in regard tot he iblical field.

- To understand what it implies for a Judeo-Christian faith that is based on history and that seems to lose any credible basis.


Learning Outcome

  • This seminar should bring a deep reflection on the historical basis of Judeo-Christian faith.
  • If archaeology is right (it is a big “if”), how should today’s scholars and believers think or re-think faith if nothing of the founding events ever happened.
  • Understand the complexity of the question and the options available for scholars and believers.



  • The student must know well the biblical history as presented in the canonical texts.
  • The student must also know contemporary archaeology, especially in the Middle-east, its method, its religion or political independence, the interpretation of its results.
  • In the end of the process, the student will have to be able to conjugate the two sets of data: a questioned and challenged history and an uncertain archaeology.
  • Finally, the student will be invited to “re-think” or “re-interpret” the importance of history for today’s believers. Does archaeology definitely killed biblical history?


Evaluation Methods:

A contribution of XXX for each step

Participation in the debate during the second week (quality over quantity)


Bibliography :

  • Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silbermann, The Bible Unearthed. Archaeology’s New vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of its Sacred Texts, 2002; traduction française La Bible dévoilée, Gallimard, 2004.
  • Finkelstein, Le royaume biblique oublié, Paris, Odile Jacob, 2013.
  • Israel Finkelstein, Hasmonean Realities behind Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles. Archaeological and Historical Perspectives, SBL Press, 2018, XI, 208 pages. Ancient Israel and its Literature 34.
  • Mario Liverani, La Bible et l’invention de l’histoire, Histoire ancienne d’Israël, Montrouge, Bayard, 2008. Original italien: Oltre la Bibbia. Storia antica d’Israele, 2003 et 2007.
  • Nadav Naaman, “Does Archaeology Really Deserve the Status of a ‘High Court’ in Biblical Historical Research?”, Between Evidence and Ideology: Essays on the History of Ancient Israel Read at the Joint Meeting of the Society for Old Testament Study and the Oud Testamentisch Werkgezelschap, Lincoln, July 2009, ed. Bob Becking and Lester L. Grabbe, Leiden, Brill, 2010, p. 165-184.
  • Israel Finkelstein, « Archaeology as High Court in Ancient Israelite History : A Reply to Nadav Na’aman », Journal of Hebrew Scripture 10(2010), art. 19.
  • Tremblay, « Yahvé contre Baal? Ou plutôt Yahvé à la place de Baal? Jalons pour la naissance d’un monothéisme. I. Le conflit entre Canaan / Baal et Israël / Yahvé selon l’archéologie », ScEs 60(2008), p. 205-227.
  • Tremblay, « Yahvé contre Baal? Ou plutôt Yahvé à la place de Baal? Jalons pour la naissance d’un monothéisme. II. Le conflit entre Canaan / Baal et Israël / Yahvé selon les textes », ScEs 61(2009), p. 51-71.