Cline’s new book, Biblical Archaeology, A Very Short Introduction
, quotes the so-called Tel Dan Stele
, found in rubble in the 1990s, according to Times Online.
The stele, which is dated to 842 B.C., describes the defeat of the Hebrew kingdoms of David’s descendants by a ruler of Aram (Damascus.) The ancient Syrian king describes that after the Israelites invaded his land, he:
Slew seventy kings, who harnessed thousands of chariots and thousands of horsemen. And I killed Joram son of Ahab, king of Israel, and I killed Ahaziyahu, son of Joram, king of the House of David.
Cline has pointed to a serious methodological problem in Biblical archaeology. He says archaeologists have taken a Biblical reference and assumed it referred to a particular find. Later pottery finds were then linked to the assumed dates, but no objective proof has been available.
The Times article added that modern dating techniques had raised doubts about the dating of Biblical statements. Cline characterised the great city of David, according to The Times, as:
A small cow town. In fact, it is still not clear where David is positioned along the continuum from tribal chieftains to might kings.
Cline, however, in a post to Digital Journal, denies that he made the statement. He says his fellow scholar, Professor Nadav Na'aman
of Hebrew University in Tel Aviv, coined the 'cow town' phrase.
Pointing to references to the founder of the House of David and his equally famous son, King Solomon, Cline said:
We are still lacking any contemporary or near-contemporary inscriptions that mention Solomon: at the moment we do not have a single one. Moreover, there is still very little archaeological evidence for the existence of David.
Cline pointed out that digs in the Holy Land were not actually about matters of faith:
Ultimately, biblical archaeology is not about proving or disproving the Bible: archaeologists are more
concerned with reconstructing the culture and history of the Holy Land.
Additionally, Cline wrote in his post:
My book is a summation of biblical archaeology, from its origins to the current debates today, with neutral statements as to the opposing sides.
The Tel Dan Stele is said to refer to two passages in the Old Testament, 2 Kings 8:28 and 2 Kings 9:15-16. Verse 28 is similar to the Stele:
And he went with Joram the son of Ahab to the war against Hazael king of Syria in Ramothgilead; and the Syrians wounded Joram.
While the Stele’s great defeat of the Hebrews is not mentioned, Joram is and he is wounded in the Book of Kings version. Hopefully further research will shed more light on the historicity of Bible passages.