Philip Davies: A Brief Note for Yossi Garfinkel

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This response to Yosef Garfinkel’s “A Minimalist Disputes His Demise: A Response to Philip Davies” originally appeared on the website Bible and Interpretation, and is republished by the Biblical Archaeology Society with the consent of the author.

Read the article as it was originally published by Bible and Interpretation:

A Brief Note for Yossi Garfinkel
Philip Davies
The University of Sheffield

Philip Davies

My original response to Yossi Garfinkel accused him of several inaccuracies. This fault seems habitual with him, to judge from his latest contribution to Biblical Archaeological Review’s website (see Garfinkel’s “A Minimalist Disputes His Demise: A Response to Philip Davies”).

He asserts that “minimalists” assign a Hellenistic date to the Biblical literature, and cites my own book (In Search of Ancient Israel) in support. But I do not hold this view (apart for a few biblical writings, where there is anyway a scholarly consensus). My book focuses rather on the Persian period. Did he really read my book, as any self-proclaimed historian of “minimalism” should have? Or has he just a very poor memory?

He also repeats the assertion that the Tel Dan inscription mentions a “king” of the house of David. In my earlier response to him I pointed out that the word “king” is a conjectural restoration by the original editors. Why does he repeat this factual error?

Garfinkel does not explain exactly why Qeiyafa should be associated with any Biblical figure or a king of Jerusalem. Perhaps because he uses “Judah” both as geographical and as a political term. Whether the Shephelah is “Judah” rather than the highlands we can quibble about, but that this part of Palestine and this city were part of a political system called “Judah” is quite another supposition. Where is the proof? I suspect Garfinkel is just using a Biblical figure to fill the gap. If so, we have just another example of the old “Biblical archaeology”. There is in fact no reference to a kingdom of Judah in Assyrian records until the 8th century (nor of course in the Mesha nor Tel Dan stelae!), and a competent historian should attach some significance to this and not assume a political state by the name of “Judah” exists until there archaeological or epigraphic evidence of it.

On pig bones: I see no reference to Hesse’s article “Pig Lovers and Pig Haters: Patterns of Palestinian Pork Production”1 or Zeder, “The Role of Pigs in Near Eastern Subsistence: A View from the Southern Levant,”2 nor to the work of Sapir-Hen cited in Finkelstein “Reconstructing Ancient Israel: Integrating Macro- and Micro-archaeology.”3 The evidence is rather more complicated than Garfinkel realizes (or should realize).

Finally: I cannot see how aniconism can be evidence for Judahite religion when there is so much evidence from Iron II (and even later) of the use of religious icons in Judah. But then, I cannot understand the patterns of thought of someone who does not or cannot read what he cites, repeats errors previously pointed out to him, and has an imperfect grasp of both archaeological methodology and logic. So perhaps any further conversation between us is a waste of time.

Read Yosef Garfinkel’s “A Minimalist Disputes His Demise: A Response to Philip Davies”



1. Brian Hesse. “Pig lovers and Pig haters: Patterns of Palestinian Pork Production.” Journal of Ethnobiology 10 (1990): 195–226.

2. Zeder, Melinda A. “The Role of Pigs in Near Eastern Subsistence from the Vantage Point of the Southern Levant.” In: Retrieving the Past: Essays on Archaeological Research and Methodology in Honor of Gus Van Beek. (Eisenbrauns/Cobb Institute of Archaeology, J. D. Seger, ed., 1996) pp. 297-312.

3. Finkelstein, Israel. “Reconstructing Ancient Israel: Integrating Macro- and Micro-archaeology” In: Hebrew Bible and Ancient Israel 1 (Mohr Siebeck, ed. 2012), 133–150: 141.

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  • Jimmy says

    This post is crazy. The house of David is a clear reference to the Davidic dynasty, and crushes the view of the ahistoricity of David. It simply crushes it. David existed, that’s a fact and we know it, blah blah blah. Khirbet Qeiyafa has shown to be an Israelite site, which annihilates minimalism. Garfinkel is absolutely correct in his positions. End of discussion.

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