Scholarship and Ego

As anyone who\’s active in the blogosphere, peruses BAR, attended one of the past several ASOR conferences, or watched PBS is aware of, the finds at Khirbet Qeiyafa have caused quite the furor. The discoveries found there, while perhaps not as concrete as some might paint them, certainly appear to be the type of formative finds every archaeologist hopes to find. However, though the evidence continues to stack up against minimalists who have no room in their scholarship for an early centralized Israel, many proponents of that interpretation turn a blind eye towards the influences of the site.

As a good friend relayed to me, when at ASOR this past month he witnessed several presentations given by members of the \”Finkelstein School.\” At some of these, the finds at K.Q. were pertinent and various audience or panel members would inquire about the impact of the site on their research, and at every junction the reply was, \”There\’s no connection.\”

This story made me recall something I read earlier this year when writing a paper on the text critical issues of the synoptic episodes between Chronicles and Samuel-Kings in light of the (then new) discoveries at Qumran held on the debate.  In one of the several articles supplied by F.M. Cross, he discussed the somewhat radical nature of the find and the polarizing effect that it would have on several questions: the use of the LXX for textual criticism, the place of the MT\’s superiority, the understanding of the methods of the Chronicler, etc.  He then concludes with this gem:

The discoveries in the Jordan Rift, especially at Qumran, have initiated a new era in the study of the history of late biblical religion and of Jewish sectarianism. The assimilation of the new data will be slow. Older scholars will prefer to ignore the new materials: The ferment they produce is too strong for their stomachs. I listened to the late Yigael Yadin read diatribes against his colleagues accusing them of ignoring the Temple Scroll he published. Of course, it is uncomfortable to be told that here is a new scroll—go rewrite all your books. Or, “Here is a new Jewish library of the third to first centuries, B.C.; examine all your old presuppositions, retool, and start afresh.” New directions in research will rest largely on a young generation of scholars. I envy those who will live to read the new syntheses the future will bring (Frank Moore Cross, \”Light on the Bible from the Dead Sea Caves,\” Understanding the Scrolls: A Reader from the Biblical Archeology Review (Edited by Hershel Shanks. New York: Random House, 1992: 156–66), 166. 

New discoveries are difficult.  It\’s never fun to have something come up that leaves you with academic egg on your face, especially if you\’re heavily invested in the now-obsolete views.  I know that I would be somewhat upset if new research came out in a few years, or ever!, that rendered my thesis on how to read Chronicles invalid.  However, I hope that if that happened I would retain the academic integrity to say, \”Mea Culpa.  I did the best I could with what I have, but now I have more information and it\’s time to move on.\”  If I didn\’t, I could end up trading whatever influence I could have in order to save face.

Hopefully, all of us, whether scholar, student, or thinker, can agree that that would be a terrible trade.

(P.S. This was all written in an effort to avoid studying for my comps which are tomorrow. Wish me luck, but remember: Procrastination will always triumph!)

Published by Jared Saltz

Biblical Studies Faculty (Florida College). PhD candidate at HUC-JIR. Husband, father, student.

One thought on “Scholarship and Ego

  1. Jared-I am a student in Yeshiva U. A Prof from Bar-Ilan U (Gershon Galil) came and spoke about Khirbet Qeiyafa. If you want, I could post a very basic summary of his lecture that I wrote.

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