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The Oxford Handbook of Biblical Studies Provides a comprehensive survey of Biblical scholarship in a variety of disciplines.

‘Biblical Archaeology’

In the mid-twentieth century the accepted practice was ‘biblical archaeology’. W. F. Albright described biblical archaeology as that archaeology which covered all lands mentioned in the Bible. His pupil G. E. Wright identified biblical archaeology as ‘a special “armchair” variety of general archaeology’, and the biblical archaeologist as one who ‘studies the discoveries of excavations in order to glean from them every fact that throws a direct, indirect, or even diffused light upon the Bible…His chief concern is not with methods or pots or weapons in themselves alone. His central and absorbing interest is the understanding and exposition of the scriptures’ (Wright 1962: 17; cf. Wright 1971); in 1938 Wright founded a journal named The Biblical Archaeologist. W. G. Dever rejected this approach strongly, seeing it as rooted in a conservative and archaeologically amateurish religious concern to demonstrate the truth of the Bible. Dever advocated ‘Syro-Palestinian archaeology’, a term which indicated an area of professional archaeological activity (Dever 1985; 1992; 2001: 61 attributes the term to Albright); Dever wished to underline the ‘specialist, professional and secular’ nature of archaeology (2001: 62), and was rightly concerned that archaeology in Palestine/Israel should be conducted according to international professional standards, concerned with fields ranging well beyond ‘biblical’ history. Dever wanted Syro-Palestinian archaeology to be independent of biblical studies; J. M. Miller countered that radical separation was neither realistic nor advisable, and that scholars crossing the disciplinary lines ‘should respect the procedures, warrants, and limitations of the different kinds of evidence they draw upon’. But Miller demanded that ‘for the specifics of history, we must depend primarily on written records’ (Miller 1987: 58; cf. Miller 1991). Other scholars continued to defend the legitimacy of ‘biblical archaeology’ as a ‘subspecies of biblical studies’ (Lance 1982: 100; cf. Glock 1986); but in practice archaeology in the Levant has become the responsibility of professional archaeologists who are archaeologists first and biblical scholars second, if at all; in 1998 Wright's Biblical Archaeologist became (after much discussion) Near Eastern Archaeology.

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