Digging through the Bible

Understanding Biblical People, Places, and Controversies through Archaeology

by Richard A Freund

Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2009, 352 pp.
$44.95 (hardcover), $18.95 (paperback)
Reviewed by Eric H. Cline
Two words: caveat emptor. In the introduction to this book, modestly titled “A Crash Course in Biblical Archaeology,” one finds 46 pages of rambling text but not even the bare rudiments of a crash course in Biblical archaeology. Instead, there is a stream-of consciousness mishmash that lurches from an initial 26-page discussion of the Bible, its redaction and the Documentary Hypothesis, with a twopage aside on the minimalist-maximalist debate, to a nine-page discussion of possible forgeries, including stories of George Washington and some lady who thought she had a Dead Sea Scroll in her sock drawer, then back again for another four pages on minimalists and maximalists, and a final six pages titled “The Three Roles of Archaeology in the Study of the Bible” but which have nothing to do with archaeology and everything to do with Freund discussing the Zohar, plus a paper that he presented in Rome in the early 1990s, and, for some reason, baby Moses in a basket of bulrushes.

There is a lot of writing on these 46 pages, but nobody reading them will come away with any more knowledge about how to conduct Biblical archaeology than they had before they began. The same holds true for the bloated first-person narrative in the rest of the volume, which seems to include just about every waking thought that Freund has ever had about archaeology, religion and the Bible. While readers may not actually learn anything useful about digging through the Bible, they will learn a lot about Freund, his life, his thoughts, the “personal and intellectual connection to Qumran” that he apparently feels, his meeting with the Pope, every single TV documentary he has ever been in, etc., etc., etc. Who knew that Rowman & Littlefield had turned into a vanity press?

Eric H. Cline is the chair of the department of classical and Semitic languages and literature at The George Washington University, associate director of the Megiddo expedition and codirector of the Tel Kabri Project.

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