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What Remains of the House That Albright Built? Author(s): William G. Dever Source: The Biblical Archaeologist, Vol. 56, No. 1, Celebrating and Examining W. F. Albright ( Mar., 1993), pp. 25-35 Published by: American Schools of Oriental Research Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3210358 Accessed: 06-01-2016 03:01 UTC

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What

the House Albright Built?

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by William G. Dever

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. Albright'sinfluencein E

Ancient Near Eastern, Biblical, and archaeological studies was so widely felt that we can speak of a "Baltimore school." This remarkable one-man achievement is perhaps unparalleled in American intellectual history. It was undoubtedly the direct result of Albright's great scholarly range, powers of synthesis, and breathtaking vision-not to mention the proliferation of his views throughout the academy and even among the public by several generations of students and students' students. What I wish to suggest here is that while Albright often appeared ingenuous (as geniuses frequently are), his creation of the "Albright school" was absolutely deliberate, even programmatic. It was evidently his lifelong intent to shape all our disciplines, not just archaeology-indeed (to use his word), to "revolutionize" them. Thus I prefer to speak not of an Albright "school," but rather of a grand edifice, meant to stand the test of time: "the house that Albright built." And I wish to ask simply: What was that house? What remains of it? And what, if anything, can be built upon it, or rebuilt upon its ruins? If I have been fair regarding Albright's aims, it now remains to turn to his achievements and to sepa-

rate these into (1) methodsand (2) results for purposes of our analysis.

The House that Albright Built: Methodology Principal Aspects of Albright's Methodology At the outset, I stress the overarching importanceof method, as Albright and his students often did. Yet, as I shall suggest, Albright himself

The House that Albright Built-literally. Construction of the present home of ASOR in Jerusalem was begun in September, 1924. Albright presided over the project as the School's director,worrying about everything from exchange rates between the Egyptian and Britishpounds to the cost of an electric dynamo.

belonged to no particular philosophical school and indeed rarely articulated his own methodological presuppositions fully. Only in his last work, History,Archaeologyand Christian Humanism (1964), did he indulge himself in the luxury of more personal reflection. Despite the fact that

the philosophical and theological marginalia of this work met with embarrassed silence from some of his disciples, several of the essays reveal unique insights into what made Albright "tick." In one essay (actually his published Presidential address at the SBL meetings in 1939, but little noticed), he makes a number of uncharacteristicly explicit remarks, such as the following: I am a resolute "positivist"-but only in so far as positivism is the expressionof the modern rational-scientific approachto physical and historicalreality ... I am even in a sense an instrumentalist (read "functionalist"; WGD), but only to the extent that I acknowledge the truth of an instrumentalism sub specieaeternatatis(in its essential nature) ... I am an evolutionist, but only in an organismic, not in a technical or a melioristic (i.e., "determinist"; WGD) sense ... I am, as will be clear from the above sketch, essentially an historicist (1964:141). Despite these astonishing claims, however, Albright clearly did not embrace any of these philosophical schools as they were understood generally in the fields of anthropology or social history; nor does his own reading and published work, however BiblicalArchaeologist56:1 (1993)

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25


wide, show any attempt at serious dialogue with them. What, then, does typify his approach?

Empiricism Elsewhere Albright speaks more characteristically, over and over again, of ancient Israel's unique growth beyond mythological and prelogical to "empirico-logical" thinking; of the "logic born of experience." Albright's method for penetrating to the meaningbehind Israel's experience-his primary goal-was thus: (1) to focus on history, as reflect-

regarding the historical experience of mankind" (1964: 289). It was, of course, Albright's basic empiricism that repelled him from the theoretical speculation and skepticism of the Biblical criticism of his day, which drew him irresistably to archaeology with its promise of new, objective, "external evidence"-the realiaof which Albright often spoke so optimistically. Thus it is not far wrong to regard Albright as fundamentally a rationalist. That leads to the second aspect of his method. :-j:~:::::

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The Jerusalem school takes shape: the front and west wing were the first to be completed. The building was "ready"for occupancy in October, 1925.

ing that experience; and (2) to read history as the record of factual events that can be understood rationally, and even objectively, by rigorous analysis. In this he was reacting against rigid developmental schemes such as Hegelianism; rejecting functionalism, despite its notion of the wholeness of culture; and eschewing all metaphysical or idealist philosophies of history, such as those of Croce, Dilthey, and Collingwood. As Albright put it: "I am opposed to all systems of thought based on arbitrary postulates and denying or dis26

Positivism Despite Albright's sharp critique of classic positivism, as represented by Comte, Mill, Spencer and their modem counterparts in social theory, Albright was in many ways a positivist himself (as even he hinted). "Positivism" denotes a philosophical system that is (1) based not on speculation but on the positive, observable data of sensory experience; and (2) finds its justification in scientific facts and their relation both to each other and to the order of natural law. To what degree would Albright fit such a scheme? It is not simply Albright's empirical methods, and his insistence upon history's being amenable to rational investigation, that would mark him

as a positivist. More significantly, positivism pervades his overall orientation to the study of human society and culture as an organic whole. Thus there is a discoverable order in history. As Albright put it in its most succinct form: The most reasonable philosophy of history, in my judgment, is evolutionary and organismic.Evolution is not unilateral progress, it is more than a series of abrupt mutations; yet, like organic development, it falls into more or less definite forms, patterns, and configurations, each with its own complex body of characteristics (1964:141). Again, Albright is a positivist in his appeal to natural (i.e., "higher") law in order to fathom the meaning of history. Only on the basis of these twin presuppositions-natural order and law-like principles of organic growth-can we understand Albright's choice of typologyas an essential tool (although typology was not, as Cross and some others seem to think, the essence of Albright's method). Thus Albright could say: "The evolution of artifact types is now known to follow-superficially at least-the same course as the development of corresponding phenomena in the biological world" (1964:20). And elsewhere, he would add to these phenomena suitable for typological classification such things as ideas (his progression from "protological" to "empirico-logical" to "'logical' thinking"); institutions (especially religious institutions, classically arranged in a progressive scheme in his Fromthe Stone Age to Christianity);and categories of historical judgment (where he worked out a scale of 1-5, from the most objective to the most subjective judgments). Furthermore, Albright's abhorrence of idealism and relativism are largely aspects of his positivist outlook. If indeed there is a rationally discernible, divine order of things, then the true scholar can have no patience with speculation. As for rel-

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ativism, Albright observes: The epistemological importance of archaeology and comparable fields ancillary to history, is that they deal almost entirely with judgments of fact and typical occurrence rather than with judgments of cause and effect (as per his typology), value or personal reactions, thus redressing the imbalance which has given rise to exaggerated forms of historical relativism (1964:27). Finally, Albright's well known penchant for grand, daring theses can only be explained by reference to positivistic presuppositions. I will return to this point when looking at the results of his life's work, but one typical statement will suffice to show the underlying positivist methodology. Albright himself states that his syntheses are based on two postulates. (1) Historical knowledge is identical with scientific knowledge in vast areas of research dealing with the past of mankind. (2) The historian is obligated to use all the resources of modem scientific and philosophical analysis to reconstruct the steps by which men have learned to use their minds more effectively (1964:271). Albright goes on to conclude: "In other words, the writer insists on basing historical research on a combination of empirical and rational methodology" (1964:271). And a final methodological statement further identifies Albright with positivism: "The reliability of historical data ranges all the way from the highest humanly attainable level of cognitive certainty to the lowest level of subjective conjecture ..." (1964: 279). Even more than Albright's syntheses of Ancient Near Eastern and Israelite history, his broader humanistic (and indeed Christian) generalizations reveal what I think we must term his positivist biases. Thus he

declares without hesitation: "Archaeologists have now proved the historical as well as the contemporary primacy of Western civilization" (1964: 46; that should silence the relativists!). Conservatism It is universally recognized that Albright was a conservative-that is, in the sense that his whole career was a reaction against what he regarded as the radical and unjustified rewriting of Biblical history by Wellhausen and his followers. A single statement, actually made in 1932, but typical of

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out relation to its environment. The excessive skepticism shown toward the Bible by important historical schools of the 18th and 19th centuries has been progressively discredited. Discovery after discovery has brought increased recognition of the value of the Bible as a source of history (1935: 137, 138). Yet Albright's conservatism did not amount to Fundamentalism (though he was sometimes unfairly

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but for the east wing. As a metaphorfor Albright'sachievementsin archaeologyand relatedancientneareasterndisciplines,it appearsthat the "housethat Albrightbuilt" has largelycollapsed.Muchof the foundationsremains,however,especiallythe challenge to use new archaeologicaldiscoveriesto placethe Biblein contextand thusto renderit moreintelligible. his views at the end of his life, captures, I think, the very essence of this conservatism: Archaeological research in Palestine and neighboring lands during the past century has completely transformed our knowledge of the historical and literary background of the Bible. It no longer appears as an absolutely isolated monument of the past, as a phenomenon with-

accused of that). He was, rather, a "conservative" in the true sense. Everything he did was permeated by the consistent attempt to find and to preserve the quintessential, historical core of human experience, and so to penetrate to a timeless meaning. Thus he sought to "rescue" Israelite history and religion from the hands of radicals who, by ignoring the newer archaeological data, subverted the Bible and obscured its essential historicity (and, of course, thus BiblicalArchaeologist56:1 (1993)

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27


undermined its moral value). Ironically, Albright himself could have been termed a "radical" in the etymological sense, for he fought all his life to get to the root of the matter, which he thought was not metaphysical but factual. If Albright was a radical, however, he was not a "revolutionary," even though he often spoke of the "archaeological revolution" in Biblical studies, in the vanguard of which he saw himself and his students. I would suggest that Albright's conservatism was more a matter of temperament and personal conviction than of theological orthodoxy. Indeed, it is evident that Albright had little formal interest in theology, apart from his belated approval of the "Biblical theology" movement of the 1950's, because of its obvious connection with Neo-orthodoxy and therefore with conservatism. He called himself, in his last works, not a theist, but rather a "Christian humanist." And it is significant that it was his proteg6 Ernest Wright-a Presbyterian clergyman, seminary professor, and renowned Old Testament theologian-who masterminded the merging of "Biblical archaeology" and "Biblical theology,"not Albright. Albright remained aloof from this final phase of "Biblical archaeology" and the heated theological controversies that it engendered. In my view, Albright's religious (not theological) conservatism, based upon his views of the Bible, has been downplayed by some of his students, who were reluctant to confront the obvious. Albright's explicit focus was always on the role of religion in culture, but even moreso on the specifically Judaeo-Christian heritage. Herewith are some typical statements. Archaeologists and historians cannot help agreeing that religion is the nucleus of all cultures of the past (1964:47). Religion is still the hope of the world, as in the past. Religion alone unites the intellectual and aesthetic in man with the affec-

28

eclectic, one who, despite his disciples' claims for originality in method, Beyond this general interest in simply borrowed from any source religion, there is Albright's preoccuwhatever would likely prove usepation specifically with Israelite reliful-notably archaeology. gion, evident from his earliest to his But, as I have argued elsewhere, latest published works. This was Albright was not primarily an clearly intended to be the consummaarchaeologist (a conclusion that has tion of his life work in the longbeen maligned by Cross, who misses awaited Historyof theReligionofIsrael, the point). Of course Albright (1940) which unfortunately he left unfinseized upon archaeology at one parished. And for Albright, the religion ticular point in his career; and he of Israel led inexorably into later exploited its potential brilliantly, in Judaism, and finally to Christianity. what must be acknowledged as a polemical tour deforce.There were many who were skeptical, but they were simply overwhelmed by Albright's unparalleled mastery of not was the data. However, Albright never Albright confined himself to archaeology; he did not conceive of archaeology as a primarily an separate, autonomous discipline at but all; and he certainly would have archaeologist, resisted the specialization and profesa historian. sionalization that we take for granted today. If may be worth noting that the only body of true theory attributable to Albright-all of it limited, and implicit rather than explicit, as we noted above-is drawn from social It is no coincidence that the subtitles of the major chapters in Albright's theory and history, not from archaeread: StoneAge to Christianity ology. There is no evidence, for that Albright ever read, a Israel Was "When instance, "Praeparatio"; was influenced by, such much less and "Charisma Catharthis"; Child"; theoretical works in Ameriand "In the Fullness of Time." As he pivotal canist archaeology as Walter Taylor's summed it up elsewhere: "There is A StudyofArchaeology (1948).Indeed, only one way out of the apparent breadth all for we of modem (which life): Albright's impasse (i.e., must return again to the Bible and impresses us in our own small circle), he never moved in the mainstream of draw new strength from the sources of Judeo-Christian faith" (1964:297). archaeology; he made few if any contributions to archaeological theory; But if Albright's methodology and in the handbooks that treat the was marked by empirical reasoning and a positivistic outlook, coupled history of American or worldwide with a conservative bent, can we archaeology he invariably goes The reason is not that unmentioned. him with any particular identify not. school? was parochial, but rather Probably Albright philosophical As he himself put it, "I have become that he was not primarily an archaeologist; instead, by his own preferincreasingly aware of the inadequacy of most philosophical postulation" ence, he was an Orientalist. His forte not method, but results. To those was (1964:287). In the final analysis, I would we presently turn; but first we must characterize Albright as a pragmatist offer an assessment and critique of in the formal not his method, in order to determine (although again what may still be relevant. sense). He was an enthusiast, an tive and altruistic (1964:82).

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A Current Critique of Albright's Methodology Let us focus our discussion of Albright's method on his empiricism. For all the superficial appeal that socalled empirical methods may have, there is much skepticism today. First, taken simply as a method, empiricism is flawed. It is excessively rationalistic; it assumes an impossible "objectivity" on the part of the observer; it rejects the roles of intuition, symbol, and mystery; it tends to force facts, even when established as such, into one procrustean bed or another; it often results in intellectual arrogance, moralism, and dogmatism of the worst sort. Taken to its logical conclusion, empiricism is sterile. But let us look more close at how Albright's brand of empiricism created problems for the historian and archaeologist today. For the historian of ancient Israel, Albright's categorization of the Hebrew Bible as the "logic born of experience" begs the very question of the meaning of that experience. Upon reflection, it is clear that Albright's "empirical logic" is a modem construct forced upon the Bible, rather than derived from it. Such "logic" was Albright's experience-his perception of reality-not Israel's. Of course, all modem interpreters run that risk; but Albright, sanguine as he was in the efficacy of his empirical methods of historical reconstruction, seemed curiously unaware of the risks. Albright's empiricism led him to a view of history and history-writing that few would espouse today. Several brief quotes will suffice: By history I mean the record of man's entire past, including the reconstruction of civilizations as well as the record of event. In this essay the term "history" will never be used in a metaphysical sense (1964:291). History cannot, therefore, be distinguished from any other science or intellectual discipline on the objective-subjective plane alone

(1964:280, 281). My task is restricted as far as possible to historical description and interpretation, leaving the higher but less rigorous forms of interpretation to others (1964:141). These statements, presented so baldly, are startling; but they are characteristic. Almost totally absent here is our current awareness (forced upon us, no doubt, by the abuses of past historiography) that the historian refracts, as well as records expe-

his lifelong synthesis of Israel's history, as we shall see below (Van Seters 1983; Lemche 1985; Halpem 1988; Garbini 1988; Thompson 1987; and Edelman 1991). For the archaeologist today, there are even more serious problems with Albright's empiricism. First, his notion of archaeological data, of "realia," appears, I am sorry to say, somewhat naive today, in view of what many recent studies have revealed as the very nature of the "archaeological record." That record

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renamedin honorof her now-deceasedhusbandthree yearspreviouslyin 1969.Thethriving W. F.AlbrightInstituteof ArchaeologicalResearchabidesas one tangibleand critical legacyof Albright'slife. rience; that history-writing is anything but "objective." For all Albright's eloquent critique of historicism and his awareness of its dangers, he comes perilously close to historicism himself. Finally, Albright's empirical approach rests upon an assumption that would be widely questioned today, namely, that the bulk of the literature of the Hebrew Bible constitutes "history" in anything approaching the modem sense. This change in scholarly opinion strikes at the very heart of both Albright's method and

does not consist primarily, or even in any sense, of "facts" that can be directly observed. It consists rather of random, poorly preserved artifacts, often dislocated from the environmental and social context that once gave them meaning, subjectively interpreted in the light of modem needs. As Binford puts it, "the past is 'created' by archaeologists using observations made in the present ... it is inferred or constructed in terms of the data which archaeologists feel are significant" (1983:32;see also Binford 1982; Sabloff, Binford, and McAnany BiblicalArchaeologist56:1 (1993)

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29


1987; and especially Schiffer 1987). It is significant that Albright spoke more than once of the "science of archaeology," even alluding presciently to the multi-disciplinary thrust of the "New archaeology" in his last works. But the nomothetic, "explicitly scientific" pretensions of the "New Archaeology" are passe in today's "post-processual" climate (Watson, LeBlanc, and Redman 1971, 1984 and Dever 1992a). Albright's confidence that archaeological "facts," accumulating in ever greater

dence as mentioned above, the historical tradition may be taken as secure" (1964:268). The conclusion-i.e., the "historicity" of the Bible-simply does not follow. Analogies never constitute proof, but are only illustrative, heuristic devices. Here again, Albright's assumptions about the primacy of archaeological "facts" led him to overstate the case. Similar difficulties beset Albright's well-known espousal of typology as a method, indeed one that for him had unique explanatory

Workingmorefrom his then unrivalled knowledge of the pottery than from clean separation of loci, Albright created his stratification of TellBeit Mirsim after thefact.

archaeological literature. He made only rare statments on typological theory (1964:20-21). And today, with the proliferation of that literature, it would be difficult to find a single reputable archaeologist who would rely upon typology as unhesitatingly as Albright did (Spaulding 1953; Ford 1954; Jennings 1957; Rowe 1968; Sabloff and Smith 1969; Whallon 1972; and Thomas 1974). The other telling mark of Albright's method, his positivism, stemmed from his reliance on "empirico-logical" methods. Positivism falls under much the same criticism as empiricism. Here, however, Albright's methods, ironically, anticipated those of the school of "logical positivism" as this positivism was taken up by the "logicodeductive" or "nomothetic" branch of the "New Archaeology" of the 1970's (see the critique of positivism in Salmon 1982; Hodder 1985; 1986; Marcus and Fischer 1986; Shanks and Tilley 1987; Binford 1987; Earle and Preucel 1987; Preucel 1991; LambergKarlovsky 1989; and Trigger 1989).

WhatRemains of Albright's Methodology?

numbers and variety, would speak for themselves, and, when widely known, would bring about his "revolution" in Biblical studies, seems somewhat quaint today. Two particular aspects of Albright's archaeological empiricism deserve further comment. One is his use of analogy, which he himself saw as intrinsic to his methods. While aware of its abuses, he argued that "in empirical logic we find a more sober use of analogy" (1964:74). Much of Albright's comparative research, attempting to set the Hebrew Bible in broadest context, was, of course, based on analogical arguments. In a typical survey of comparative data he would conclude: "Historical analogies do not constitute proof when taken alone, but when they fully agree with such evi30

power in the understanding of ideas as well as artifacts. Yet typology--the systematic, even predictable arrangement of things in temporal sequences and hierarchies-is possible only if these phenomena possess an intrinsic "logic" of their own, which can be discerned with empirical methods. To put the methodological crux in terms of more recent discussions, Albright assumed that types are not "designed," but are "discovered;" that they are not merely conveniences for our purposes of classification, but indeed correspond to the real world. Thus the recognition of characteristic types enables us not only to describe but actually to explain the past. Albright seemed unaware, however, of the considerable theoretical discussion of typology in general

Here we can be relatively brief, since from the foregoing analysis it is evident that time has revealed many flaws in Albright's fundamental methodology. I would argue that most of his particularapproaches would be considered invalid today, that only a few general principles are still useful. These might be enumerated as: (1) the emphasis on the importance of new evidence, especially those data deriving from archaeological sources; (2) the necessity for changing one's mind in the light of new evidence; (3) the importance of integrating textual and artifactual/material culture data; and (4) the implicit (though not realized) thrust toward a new hermeneutic in Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern historiography. These aspects of Albright's methodology are lasting, and by no means yet fully exploited.

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The House That Albright Built: Results Whereas Albright's philosophical presuppositions were not always clearly articulated, the effectsof his research were extensively published and were there for all to see, especially in his several large-scale syntheses. This facilitates our assessment of Albright's results, though we cannot separate these results from either his methods or his aims. The tasks to which Albright set himself early on can best be seen by dividing his work into archaeology and history.

tum" method at Tell Beit Mirsim. The fact is-and most of us know it-that Albright, working more from his then unrivalled knowledge of the pottery than from clean separation of loci, createdhis stratification after the fact. Because he was a master of the comparative literature and had a genius for synthesis, it all seemed to hold together. I would suggest, however, that

four six-week seasons at Tell Beit Mirsim-a total of little more than 30 weeks. Most graduating Ph.D.'s today have more actual field experience. Certainly Tell Beit Mirsim stands as his great monument in fieldwork. Most of us "cut our eye teeth" on the site's stratigraphy (certainly at Harvard). Yet, in writing a recent encyclopedia article on Tell Beit Mirsim,

Archaeological Aims and Results The major objectives of Albright's overall work were: 1. To bring greater precision to archaeological fieldwork, so as to use improved stratigraphy in particular to work out a more refined cultural sequence for ancient Syria-Palestine. 2. To put ceramic typology on a more systematic (if not scientific) basis, largely for chronological purposes. 3. To integrate artifacts and texts, both Biblical and extra-Biblical, into an overall, organic historicalframework, focusing largely on "political" (rather than, say, cultural or socioeconomic) history. I point out in passing that there is no indication whatsoever that Albright ever intended to establish Syro-Palestinian or "Biblical" archaeology (he used both terms) as either a separate professional or academic discipline-quite the contrary. That is to say, Albright conceived of "Biblical archaeology" only as a sub-discipline of Ancient Near Eastern, and specifically of Biblical, studies (Albright 1969; Dever 1985). Assuming that Albright achieved all these aims to a greater or lesser degree, how does his achievement stand today? In the field, the real laboratory for archaeological technique, we need to recall that Albright spent only a few weeks at Tell el-Fil and Bethel, plus

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and assuming that it would be straightforward, I came to the somewhat shocking realization that nearly every major stratum has to be completely redone (AnchorBibleDictionary, s.v. " Beit Mirsim, Tell"). This is not the result so much of advances in knowledge as it is of basicflaws in stratigraphy and in critical judgment. Albright's students have defended his stratigraphic methods and results; but more objective critics like G.R.H. Wright long ago (1966) pointed out serious faults in the "locus-to-stra-

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Reisner's field methods at Samaria in 1908-1910 were, in fact, superior. But Reisner, a secularist and an "outsider," remained unrecognized in the annals of Palestinian archaeology until Ernest Wright, to his credit, rescued him from obscurity in 1970. Even so, I would argue that the real revolution in American field meth-

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ods did not come until the 1960's1970's with Gezer and its daughter excavations. And here the impetus was not Albright and "Biblical archaeology," or even our own mentor's (G. E. Wright) work at Shechem, but the "New Archaeology"-in many ways a reaction against all that had gone before. Of course we were directly and self-consciously indebted to Kenyon as well (Dever 1980; 1981b; 1985; 1988). In summary, Albright's contribution to field methods per se, despite

surprisingly long, and until recently it served us well with only the modifications that would be expected in time. I shall not go into detail regarding the necessary changes in dates and terminology, since all specialists are familiar with the problems, and they have been dealt with elsewhere (Dotan 1985; Gitin 1985). We need to organize an international panel of Syro-Palestinian archaeologists, with the intent of putting forward an entirely new scheme of periodization-one that is increasingly neces-

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Albright made much of the successive phases of Iron I stratum B: Squatter occupation

followed by Philistinesettlerssucceededby Israelitere-occupation.Thisphasingwas largelybasedon presuppositionsregardingceramicsequencesas well as notionsof biblicaltraditionand earlyIsraelitehistory.Thestratigraphyof the sites requiresa complete reworking.Albrightreliedupon his masteryof ceramicchronologyratherthan stratigraphicmethodsto achievehis highlyinfluentialresults. his brilliance and innovative ideas elsewhere, was minimal. I suggest that that is because, once again, Albright was not primarily an archaeologist, but a historian, for whom archaeology was simply a convenient, pragmatic tool, not a technical discipline to be mastered for its own sake. He moved on to other tools. Albright's more intellectual challenges were met more successfully. Indeed, his cultural and chronological framework came to dominate the field internationally. It has prevailed 32

sary as Albright's scheme continues to break down. If we are not successful, chaos will be the result. One certainly cannot assess Albright's success in archaeology without discussing "Biblical archaeology"-in his view, and that of many of his disciples, his crowning achievement. But of this I shall say little, because nowadays there is not much to say. The fact is that "Biblical archaeology" of the classic AlbrightWright style is dead, either as a serious intellectual enterprise, or as an effective force in American academic

or religious life. Although I insist that I did not kill "Biblical archaeology," I have written its obituary several times and so will leave it at that (Dever 1981a; 1985). The reasons for its demise consist partly, of course, of external threats, like the newer archaeology, together with the professionalism and secularism that are irresistable today. But, as we shall see shortly, the movement largely collapsed from within, when it finally failed to achieve either its historical or theological agenda. However one analyzes it, few of our generation, even within ASOR, and none of the next generation, think the issues of "Biblical archaeology" are even worth discussing. The programs of the ASOR Annual Meetings for the past several years bear ample witness to this situation. Ironically, I may be the last of the old-style "Biblical archaeologists" (at least Hershel Shanks thinks so)--or perhaps the first of the new? In 1990, at the Second International Congress of Biblical Archaeology in Jerusalem I presented a paper heralding a new approach to archaeology in relation to Biblical studies (although for many years I have been calling for a dialogue; see 1974; 1980; 1981a; 1985). This approach recognizes that the "New Archaeology" is passe, due partly to the "post-processual" or "contextual" archaeology of Ian Hodder, now gaining rapid momentum (see especially his Reading the Past, 1986). Aspects of this latest movement bring us back full-circle to archaeology as history (above). To that extent, Albright's archaeology as history rather than culture may not be so obsolete after all. Biblical and Historical Aims and Results It is evident from virtually all of Albright's publications, stretching across 40 years, that his overarching goal was to undo the critical, liberal rewriting of Israel's history, i.e., to reverse Wellhausenism; and in that sense, to restore confidence in the "historicity" of the literary tradition

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in the Hebrew Bible. Any number of quotes would suffice to demonstrate that Albright believed he had achieved just that. For instance: Thanks to modem research we now recognize its (i.e., the Bible's) substantial historicity. The narratives of the Patriarchs, of Moses and the Exodus, of the Conquest of Canaan, of the Judges, the Monarchy, Exile, and Restoration, have all been confirmed and illustrated to an extent that I should have thought impossible forty years ago (1964:293).

accepted (1964:294). Only one God ... This is the view of the entire Old Testament (1964:99). The religion of Israel did not change in essentials from Moses to Hillel (1964:57). Yet the overwhelming scholarly consensus today is that Moses is a mythical figure; that Yahwism was highly syncretistic from the very beginning; and that true monotheism developed only late in Israel's his-

We now recognize the substantial historicity of the entire Scriptural tradition from the Patriarchs to the end of the New Testament period (1964:56). Let us look, then, at the particulars of Albright's agenda-the superstructure, as it were, of the house that he built. As for grounding the Biblical Patriarchs in history (in this case, Albright's Middle Bronze I period, ca. 2100-1900 B.C.E.), the cumulative results of archaeological research have overturned Albright's reconstruction completely. Van Seters, Thompson, and others had already assembled the textual evidence; and in 1977 I surveyed the archaeological data. Since then, virtually no commentator has paid serious attention to Albright's views. Today, the universal scholarly consensus is that neither the literary materials nor the archaeological data permit us to say anything with certainty about a "Patriarchalera" in history. The traditions are late, and probably unreliable (Thompson 1974; Van Seters 1975; and Dever 1977). Virtually the only treatment attempting to utilize archaeological data since this shift is McCarter (1988). If we turn to Albright's second agenda item, "Moses and Monotheism," even less can be said. Albright asserted, for instance, that: The practical monotheism of Moses and other early Israelite religious leaders is again being

stein's TheArchaeology of theIsraelite Settlement(1988), the best synthesis, as well as at a voluminous secondary literature, to realize that today no reputable Biblical scholar or archaeologist anywhere would espouse Albright's views. Whatever the details, it is clear that the vast majority of the "early Israelites" were indigenous Canaanites. Mendenhall was right 30 years ago: there was no "conquest." The theologicalramifications of that fact have scarcely been envisioned; but that is another story

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The full exposure of the southeast section of Tell Beit Mirsim Stratum A shows numer-

ous four-roomhousesand a casemateperimeterwall.Visibleas well arethree "dyeplants"(e.g., square32A2-3),circularstone installationsthat Albrighttook as evidence for a localtextile industry.Morelikely,these "vats"were employedin olive oil production as manyparallels(e.g., at Ekron)makecleartoday. tory, probably not until the Exile and Return (see the state-of-the-art studies gathered in Miller, Hanson, and McBride 1987). Albright's next crusade was to provide archaeological validation for the conquest of Canaan by the Israelites under Joshua. Until about 1980, this model could still compete with others, such as the "peaceful infiltration" or "peasants' revolt" models. But a decade of intensive, multi-disciplinary field excavation and survey, mostly carried out by Israeli archaeologists, has swept away "conquest models" completely. One has only to look at Israel Finkel-

(Dever 1990; 1992b; 1992c; 1992d). Albright's syntheses of the later Monarchical and Exilic periods have stood the test of time somewhat better. But even here, his reconstruction of an archaeological and historical background for the DavidicSolomonic era has recently been challenged by younger Israeli archaeologists (who are not, as many suppose, "Biblical archaeologists" in the classic American sense at all; see Dever 1989a; 1989b). Despite a strong defense of Albright by myself and others (most recently at Gezer in 1990), skeptical voices threaten to prevail (BASOR 277/278(1990); BiblicalArchaeologist56:1 (1993)

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33


Dever 1992f). Albright had, of course, occasionally extended his "Biblical archaeology" to the New Testament period. But here he could offer little that was original, and virtually nothing that turned out to be significant, so no critique is necessary. The fact is that "Biblical archaeology" really affected only American, Protestant Old Testament studies; and that only for the earlier history of Israel, focussing on selected problems that were much more theological than historical (Dever 1985). Finally, we must ask what is of lasting value in Albright's Biblical and historical syntheses. The answer is, very little. His central theses have all been overturned, partly by further advances in Biblical criticism, but mostly by the continuing archaeological research of younger Americans and Israelis to whom he himself gave encouragement and momentum. The negative side of all this is that the "revolution" that Albright confidently predicted has indeed come about at last, but hardly in the way that he anticipated-quite the opposite. The irony is that, in the long run, it will have been the newer, "secular" archaeology that contributed the most to Biblical studies, not "Biblical archaeology."

Conclusion Despite his pivotal role in our disciplines, Albright has rarely been assessed fairly. His disciples, out of filial piety, were over-zealous in his defense. Most lionized him (something he would not have wanted), and others remained perpetually in his shadow. The liberal establishment resented him, often tried to dismiss him, but were forced to tolerate him because of his mastery of the field. The fact is that William Foxwell Albright was a figure larger than life, and we still have not come to terms with him. Here our intent is certainly not to cut him down to size, much less to psychoanalyze him, but simply to try to place him within the social context of knowledge, to evalu34

ate his achievement in the light of his own aims and methods. That is in the spirit of Albright. Let us return, then, to our original figure, "the house that Albright built," and summarize what remains. The superstructure (i.e., the overarching synthesis) has largely collapsed. It had but one principal builder; it was too grandiose; perhaps erected prematurely, just before a flood of new data became available; it had too many flimsy building blocks; it was patched up too long by well-meaning admirers. The telling blows came not from external forces, as much as from internal weaknesses that had been there all along, in historical, archaeo-

William Foxwell Albright was a figure larger than life, and we still have not come to terms with him.

logical, and even theological contradictions. The final blow came when Albright's major agenda could not be realized, and when the agenda in fact changed for the scholarly mainstream. The house collapsed rather quickly, so much so that many did not notice (see Freedman 1985). Of the foundations, however, much more remains. First, many of Albright's brilliant individual discoveries and conclusions regarding important details-stones of the foundation-remain intact, a part of our cumulative knowledge of the Bible and the Ancient Near East. Second, the fundamental methodology is still sound and essential-especially the necessity for using constantly new archaeological discoveries to place the Bible in context and

thus to render it more intelligible. There, our task is to rebuild upon the secure foundations that Albright laid. In final retrospect, I see Albright as a noble figure-a sort of "gentle giant," oblivious to his detractors, with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and an almost childlike optimism that knowledge alone would transform. For all his sophistication, in some ways he was an innocent abroad. Ours is a cynical age, when we know too much, believe too little. We can only look back at Albright with a mixture of admiration and awe.

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35

What Remains of the House That Albright Built?  

Una semblanza de la vida y obra del gran arqueólogo, entrega de la American Schools of Oriental Research en The Biblical Archaeologist.

What Remains of the House That Albright Built?  

Una semblanza de la vida y obra del gran arqueólogo, entrega de la American Schools of Oriental Research en The Biblical Archaeologist.

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