Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 1998.3.20

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RESPONSE: Bartlett on Bolin on Bartlett

Dear Editor,

I have received from Routledge a print-out of your review ofArchaeology and Biblical Interpretation (Routledge, 1997, reviewedatBMCR 97.12.6),and though I do not usually respond to reviewers, I feel that I must respondon this occasion. I was astonished at the views credited to me in it. Igrant that the inexplicable reference to Helena's status is shocking; itis always a mistake to edit one's own work. It is true that the classicallyeducated would have known about Egypt and Mesopotamia from Herodotus, Strabo,Xenophon and others, but I think it is also true that the great majorityof people until the nineteenth century would have known of these places,as I wrote, primarily from their bibles.

However, in what follows I simply do not recognise myself. I most certainlydo not seek to limit archaeology to the ancillary role of clarifying ourunderstanding of biblical texts, and there is nothing in my chapter whichsuggests that I do. I do not see the archaeological material as subordinateto the biblical -- I make that abundantly clear on p. 13. I do notsubscribeto the circular argumentation of the Albright school, and I point to thescholarly criticism of it on pp. 7-8, 11. I have no 'desire to neutralizearchaeology from any real challenges to the Bible's historical truth', asmust be clear from pp. 10-11. I agree entirely that archaeology can provideevidence which challenges or demands the revision of certain biblical historicalor theological claims -- I actually quote on page 11 his example of thearchaeologicalevidence for the extent of David and Solomon's power. Any scholar readingpages 10-14 of my chapter will see that they are directed precisely againstthe views with which I appear to be credited with in Bolin's review article.

In sum, your critique totally misrepresents me, and I can only concludethat he simply has not read my chapter, especially pages 10-14, with dueattention. I find this much more shocking than the unfortunate slip aboutHelena.

Yours sincerely,

Prof. John R. Bartlett

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