John bimson redating the exodus mullet dating
Glueck's surface-surveys of Transjordan, undertaken chiefly in the 1930s, led to the conclusion that the region lacked any settled population between the 19th and 13th centuries BC, which ruled out a date before the 13th century for the events of Numbers -21 and -. This 13th-century scenario has been adopted by several evangelical scholars. To set against Debir, Bethel, Lachish and Hazor, with their clear destruction levels, there are the troublesome cases of Jericho, Ai and Gibeon.
Since Kathleen Kenyon's excavations at Jericho (1952-8) it has been widely accepted that no traces of the city attacked by Joshua are to be found.
We will see below, however, that it deserves renewed attention. It may be regarded as certain that a violent irruption into the land took place late in the thirteenth century!
The majority of those scholars who wish to retain the biblical picture of a more or less unified and violent conquest have long favoured the theory that this event occurred in the 13th century BC. ' These destruction levels were merely part of an impressive web of evidence which seemed to point to a 13th-century setting for the exodus and conquest.
Those evangelical scholars who have adopted the Baltimore School's scenario have tried to be more rigorously scientific in their defence of its weak points.
Kitchen has emphasized that evidence of occupation can be eroded away during periods of abandonment, or simply missed by the excavator when (as is usually the case) limited areas of a mound are explored.
There are, of course, more theories than can be discussed even in this overlong article, but most of the omitted ones are variants of those included, so that many of my comments will be applicable beyond the scope of this discussion.
The theories discussed here fall into two main groups: those which assume that Israel entered the land of Canaan from outside, and those (now the majority) which assume that Israel was to a great extent indigenous to Canaan. I will give a brief account of each before offering an assessment of it.
To be fair, however, it must be mentioned that Kitchen has offered other evidence in favour of the 13th-century date, namely the clearly attested parallels between the form of the Sinai covenant and treaty texts of the late second millennium BC. But this alone is not a sufficient counterbalance to the facing the 13th-century date. These have recently multiplied, as we will now see.
The most noteworthy alternative to the view outlined here is that the exodus and conquest occurred in the 15th century BC, as implied by a straightforward reading of 1 Kings 6:1. Albright's own excavations in the 1920s and 1930s at Beitin and Tell Beit Mirsim (which he believed to be the sites of biblical Bethel and Debir respectively) unearthed destruction levels which he associated with the traditions of the conquest.
Although this continues to be favoured by a number of American evangelical scholars, and by the present writer, it has not been influential in recent decades and will not be treated in detail here. A date at the end of the LBA (Late Bronze Age), in the second half of the 13th century BC, seemed to be indicated by the pottery evidence. British excavations (1932-8) at the site of Lachish (Tell ed-Duweir), under the direction of J. Starkey, also produced a destruction layer, which Albright dated 1230/1220 BC (though Olga Tufnell, one of the British excavators, preferred a date in the 12th century BC). Yadin's excavations at Hazor (1955-8) also produced evidence of a violent destruction, in this case clearly datable to : '...
1, beyond the fact that in both cases the Israelites take a Canaanite city! He assumed there had been a very small settlement at Gibeon at the time of Joshua, thus explaining the virtual absence of LBA material there, and suggested that Joshua 10:2 (which speaks of Gibeon as a major city in that period) is an erroneous scribal gloss. There are patent weaknesses in such explanations, especially in the latter two, where the biblical tradition has to be adapted to some extent before the archaeological evidence can be said to support it (and in the case of Gibeon there has to be a further assumption that some archaeological evidence has been missed).
Criticisms recently levelled at the methodology of the Baltimore School, that it involves inconsistencies, circular arguments and overinterpretations of the evidence, have been justified more often than not.
What has happened is that Kitchen and others have found the archaeological evidence for a 13th-century date so compelling that they have sought to reinterpret 1 Kings 6:1 and Judges in the light of it.