Frustrated with Biblical Archaeology Review

Now I have a subscription to Biblical Archaeology Review (here after known as BAR) and by and large enjoy reading the articles and getting kicks out of watching experts bash (e-mail term “flame”) one another in the letters to the editor.

But lately, ok, since the beginning, the articles in this magazine have had a strong Israeli view on biblical archaeology.

Now the Israeli’s have a very strong position on archaeology, especially when dealing with the bible.  In the early part of the 20th century, archaeologists discovered a lot of information that contradicted many of the events in the Old Testament, the foundation of the Jewish faith.  Once Israel was given National status by the UN after World War II, the Israeli Government moved quickly to discourage foreigners from digging in their nation.  As a result most of the archaeological digs are now done by Israeli Universities.

Now this can be viewed in two ways, one that the Israeli Government is serious about its heritage and cultural treasures and wants to protect them or two, they can control information about the finds, even if they unravel Jewish land claims and the supposed ‘truth’ of the bible.  I tend to believe the latter, which will not win me many friends in Israel.

But returning to BAR, many of the articles are written by Israeli scholars and the information they present is well grounded, factual and enlightening.  But there is always a catch, that many of these same, well educated scholars think that Jewish events were the most important moments of all time.

In the latest issue of BAR, the cover title was “The Revolt Which Shook Them Empire” and to make a long article short, it essentially tells the story of a town in Israel which resisted Roman rule until the Romans had had enough.  All of which was fine and dandy and I have no arguments with.  But to claim that the 2nd Jewish Revolt, some how really affected the lives of people outside of the Levant, is silly.

When the second Jewish Revolt broke out (AD 132-135), the Romans were pre-occupied with issues in Britain (Hadrian was thinking about a Wall…) and along the Danube.  There was also the threat of a Parthian Invasion from the east, essentially the Jews found a weak time with the Romans and began raising trouble.

Judea was often a punishment assignment in the Roman Government system.  No one wanted to be Governor there, at least not willingly.  If a rebellion did break out the Governor would have been very slow to send word to Rome, hoping to solve the crisis himself and not look like an idiot.  When word finally did reach Rome, it would have taken time for an imperial response, then troops would have to be raised, supplies moved and armies marched.  It would have taken a good year for the Romans to begin counter insurgency operations (thank you CNN) effectively.

Once in combat the Jewish revolt faltered fast.  The armies were crushed and it took the Romans another good year or so to root out the last stalwart defenders (see Masada).  All in all the revolt in my opinion was more of a nuisance to the Romans, then something that brought the Empire to it’s knees.  Rome was never threatened, heck even the surrounding provinces were barely affected.  Not exactly earth shattering stuff.

I wish BAR would edit out the useless rhetoric that comes with Israeli scholars.  I wish they would just stick to the facts rather than allow the blantent nationalism that comes out in these articles.  Too many Israeli scholars are trying to support land claims in the Holy Land, but if we want to give land back to the people who held it 2,000 years ago, than the Irish would like much of Western Europe back.

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