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

Surveying and Site Identification

Traditional learning had been challenged by the development of science from the days of Galileo, but it was only in the nineteenth century that biblical scholarship in particular began to open up to increasing archaeological, geographical, and historical discoveries. Professional scientific mapping of Palestine began with Pierre Jacotin, who mapped the coastal plain and lower Galilee for Napoleon in 1799, though apparently not by triangulation; this was first used in a survey of Palestine and Syria by a British military survey in 1840–1 (Jones 1973). This achievement was soon overshadowed by the surveying of Jerusalem (1865), Sinai (1868–9), and western Palestine (1871–7) by British army engineers under the aegis of the Palestine Exploration Fund (founded in 1865). (A Survey of eastern Palestine was begun in 1872, but was abandoned for political reasons after several months' work.) Just before the 1840–1 survey, the American professor Edward Robinson (1794–1863), with his former student Eli Smith, then a missionary in Beirut, travelled throughout Palestine (1838–9, and again in 1852) to locate places mentioned in the Bible. He worked from the Arabic place-names, which, he argued, preserved cognates to the ancient Semitic biblical names (though on geographical grounds Robinson correctly declined to identify Lachish with Um Lakis; Biblical Researches, ii. 388–9). ‘On May 4 and 5 he travelled north of Jerusalem and on the basis of Arabic place-names established nine identifications with biblical places: Anathoth, Geba, Rimmon, Michmash, Bethel, Ophrah, Beeroth, Gibeon and Mizpah. Of these only the identification of Beeroth has proved to be uncertain' (de Geus 1980: 65). Robinson did not recognize, however, that the ‘tells’ of the Palestinian plain were the remains of ancient cities, so could not identify Lachish with Tell ed-Duweir. Albrecht Alt (1883–1956) famously commented that ‘in Robinson's footnotes are forever buried the errors of many generations’ (Alt 1939: 374). Robinson and Smith's Biblical Researches (1841 and 1856) remains an essential reference work. The researches of Robinson and the Survey of Western Palestine between them laid the foundations for all subsequent archaeological work and much biblical historical scholarship.

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