The sea peoples from cuneiform tablets to carbon dating
Pre-Enlightenment considerations of biblical locations seemed by and large to be unfazed by the inability of travelers to locate them with confidence.The Bible said they existed, they were attached to real persons, they were the scenes of historically credible events, and that settled it.
Early in the 1600s, however, a pall of agnosticism and a slippage of confidence in all things biblical began to enshroud the world of the Church as well as that of European society at large.
In fact, the Old Testament situates itself in that very environment as early as the Patriarchal Age (ca. The interface of these two related but different fields of study has subsequently found expression in two major ways, depending on the faith-stance of those seriously engaged in study of the respective sets of comparative data:1.
Scholars inclined to assign little or no historical or cultural validity to the Old Testament narratives suggest that either those narratives are late, retrospective renditions of traditions that enjoyed wide currency in Israel's larger milieu, or that the alleged commonalities between the textual evidence from the ANE and the OT are illusory, coincidental, or derived from common stock.2.
Since the focus of this article is on comparative studies and not on an exhaustive description of archaeology in general nor on all the aspects of OT criticism, only a few highlights of each can be explored. Religious pilgrims and other travelers from time immemorial have criss-crossed the Middle Eastern world searching for this place or that considered to be sacred because of their mention in the Bible or of the interest they generate through legends and traditions.
Some, of course, were easily found either because of continuous occupation for thousands of years or deeply embedded tradition about sites that might or might not turn out to be correct.
Worse still was the situation in Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Anatolia. 431–355 BC), Manetho (late fourth century BC), Berossus (early third century BC), Polybius (ca. 86–35 BC), and even the Jewish historian Josephus (ca. By the time of the earliest of these historians wrote of them, the whereabouts of such ancient sites as Thebes, Memphis, Beersheba, Samaria, Ur, Babylon, Nineveh, and Susa had been lost.