By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Quest for the Historical David

This is dervative work of Image:Davids-kingdom...Image via Wikipedia
For decades now, the big controversy among archaeologists in Israel and abroad is whether the United Monarchy of Kings David and Solomon really existed in the splendor described in the Hebrew Bible ("HB"). The "minimalists," who look askance at the historical reliability of the HB, at one point (some still do) doubted the very existence of David. But, in 1993, the discovery of a 9th century B.C. Aramaic inscription mentioning the "house of David" put that view to rest for most reasonable people who do not have an agenda behind their archaeology. This important discovery affirming the historicity of David and his monarchy is known as the Tel Dan inscription or stele (from the Greek term for a pillar; see this link).

David SM Maggiore
King David via Wikipedia
I raise this issue to direct readers to a very interesting National Geographic article, "Kings of Controversy," from Dec. 2010 on the issue of archaeology and Kings David and Solomon. This discussion is something you should be familiar with as people interested in the Bible. You can access the article at this link .

Why is this matter important?

1. First, as I say to my seminary class, the single most important lesson for interpreters of the New Testament ("NT") is the following: if you want to interpret and study the NT, know as much as possible about the Old Testament;

2. Second, the quest for the historical Jesus involves, at times, some of the same broad questions and methodological issues about the Bible and history as the archaeological quest for the "historical David" and the "historical Solomon" and the nature of their kingdoms. 

In my view, the National Geographic article confirms an opinion I already held based on my prior study: that archaeology is a very subjective art where different interpretations abound concerning the very same data or discoveries--and where personality and temperament play an unignorable role. So, when you hear an archaeologist pontificate, be sure to retain a reasonable skepticism until you read more widely on the issue. Archaeologists are often proven wrong, whether they are ever able to bring themselves to admit it or not.