Bryn Mawr Classical Review 98.3.20


RESPONSE: Bartlett on Bolin on Bartlett


Dear Editor,

I have received from Routledge a print-out of your review of Archaeology and Biblical Interpretation (Routledge, 1997, reviewed at BMCR 97.12.6), and though I do not usually respond to reviewers, I feel that I must respond on this occasion. I was astonished at the views credited to me in it. I grant that the inexplicable reference to Helena's status is shocking; it is always a mistake to edit one's own work. It is true that the classically educated would have known about Egypt and Mesopotamia from Herodotus, Strabo, Xenophon and others, but I think it is also true that the great majority of 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 certainly do not seek to limit archaeology to the ancillary role of clarifying our understanding of biblical texts, and there is nothing in my chapter which suggests that I do. I do not see the archaeological material as subordinate to the biblical -- I make that abundantly clear on p. 13. I do not subscribe to the circular argumentation of the Albright school, and I point to the scholarly criticism of it on pp. 7-8, 11. I have no 'desire to neutralize archaeology from any real challenges to the Bible's historical truth', as must be clear from pp. 10-11. I agree entirely that archaeology can provide evidence which challenges or demands the revision of certain biblical historical or theological claims -- I actually quote on page 11 his example of the archaeological evidence for the extent of David and Solomon's power. Any scholar reading pages 10-14 of my chapter will see that they are directed precisely against the 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 conclude that he simply has not read my chapter, especially pages 10-14, with due attention. I find this much more shocking than the unfortunate slip about Helena.

Yours sincerely,

Prof. John R. Bartlett