Saturday, 7 January 2012

David the King?

Picking up from my articles of the last couple of days, I was reminded of the new controversy surrounding King David and his successor, Solomon. This was covered in an article in the National Geographic in which they discussed the argument between a small group of atheist Jews (Yes, there are some) who are determinedly rewriting everything their predecessors and quite a number of the contemporaries have done to uncover Israels past and the history of the Jewish nation. This is a major challenge even without the "nay sayers" rewriting everything.

One reason is that much of the archeology which supports the Jewish accounts - most contained in the Old Testament - lie in land controlled by Muslim governments. A second reason is that, in the course of the history of this region, things have been torn down, rebuilt, destroyed, buried and built over during the last 2,500 years, starting with the Babylonians, the Assyrians and on through Alexander the Great, the Romans and eventually the Arabs, the Crusaders and the Turks. Nearly all of them intent on erasing everything about the Jews for one reason or another. All the Jewish records that survived the Hellenic invaders and the Maccabean revolt were finally destroyed by the Roman Army in 70 - 73AD.

So, one can understand the frustration of one of Israels leading archeologists when she is forced to confront one of her own students who is telling tourists that everything she has written or uncovered in her life's work - is rubbish. The problem is in the dating. The chief anti-Bible archeologist is a Dr Finkelstein who has redated everything his companions found, asserting it is all at least 100 years younger than David or Solomon. He is following the common tactic of so many in the anti-religion camp - cast doubt on the source book, and you undermine everything else. By calling into question the status of King David, he calls into question all claim Israel has to an illustrious history. All Jews look back to the Kingdom of David and Solomon as the Golden Age of their people and it is the fact that the only comprehensive record of this is in the Bible that annoys the likes of Finkelstein. He and his supporters want to pull the rug out from under the Orthodox Jewish community - so they attack the root of their faith. The encyclopedia gives the following on David ...
His life is conventionally dated to c. 1040–970 BC, his reign over Judah c. 1010–1003 BC, and his reign over the United Kingdom of Israel c. 1003–970 BC. The Books of Samuel, 1 Kings, and 1 Chronicles are the only sources of information on David, although the Tel Dan stele records the existence in the mid-9th century of a Judean royal dynasty called the "House of David". David's life is very important to JewishChristian and Islamic culture. In Judaism, David, or David HaMelekh, is the King of Israel, and the Jewish people. Jewish tradition maintains that a direct descendant of David will be the Messiah. In Islam, he is known as Dawud, considered to be a prophet and the king of a nation.
The dating is supported, but the argument revolves, as the article in the National Geographic suggests, around the status of the "king" - was he a jumped up hill tribe chief, or something more? Finkelstein and his faction can't get rid of the Stele, it is far too well known and far to authentic, so now they play with the dating.

One has to recognise, as any true Biblical scholar will tell you, that the books of Chronicles, Kings and Samuel are fragments reassembled after the Babylonian exile. The original Court Records of Israel and Judah having been destroyed by the conquerors as was the custom in those days. The books are the remembered records and may not be entirely accurate, but they are a record.

It can only be hoped that the Finkelsteins of this world will, eventually, be exposed and discredited. Until then the likes of Dr Mazar and her supporters must continue fighting. More than just some dusty ruins and shards of pottery depend upon it.

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