The Great Minimalist Debate


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Yosef Garfinkel’s “The Birth & Death of Biblical Minimalism” in the May/June 2011 Biblical Archaeology Review created quite a stir. Garfinkel controversially critiques Biblical minimalism as “profoundly undermined by an archaeological discovery.” Citing the major archaeological discoveries of recent decades and his own excavation site, Khirbet Qeiyafa, he argues that David and Solomon ruled over a well-organized and fully urbanized Judahite state in the tenth century B.C.E. In doing so, he rejects some of the essential tenets of Biblical minimalism and the Low Chronology.

As would be expected, proponents of Biblical minimalism were upset by Garfinkel’s article, noting that their research was far from dead. The prominent Welsh minimalist Philip Davies published a response on the Bible and Interpretation website (included here). In it, he accuses Garfinkel of “misrepresent[ing]” what minimalism is, of being a “careless and overblown writer” and “unable to distinguish truth from fact.”


Yosef Garfinkel recently responded to Davies with a clarification of his points. He focuses on a discussion of the mythological paradigm, the Low Chronology paradigm and the ethnic identification of Khirbet Qeiyafa. The reply is far from a concession: it presents data on the groundbreaking excavations at Khirbet Qeiyafa that point to the existence of to an organized state in the early Judahite Kingdom. Finally, he continues his charges against Biblical minimalism, suggesting that the minimalist school of the 1980s meant “minimalism in knowledge and limited intellectual horizons.”

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  • Dennis says

    Offhand, I recall reading that some of the Judges were ruling concurrently. I don’t have a problem with adding the years of their service up to find more than 480.

  • Ric says

    For me the debate is void of substance all around. Simply because there is no validation of the origin of Bible Chronology that is the measuring rod of all current studies of scripture, data, or artifacts.

    Repeatedly, I read in these debates, “The Bible says”. Literally is says only that from Exodus to the fourth year of Solomon’s rule had lapsed 480 years. Nor are cultural or psychological considerations given to this verse, if not literal what then look to Judges it does not equal the sum 480 years.

    Bible Chronology as currently understood plays to the minimalists’ point of view there is something wrong with the understanding of Biblical Chronology. A bi-partisan investigation of its origin would show that it was first promulgated in the 1st & 3rd centuries AD. Altered in the 5th century, fine-tuned in the 17th century, and codified in the 19th century existing in what we call “The Bible says”. It is a farce!

    The debate is a waste of my time, as is currently understood chronology supported by both sides for their own purposes. Neither way is in support of Scripture, Old or New Testament.

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