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A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

From King David's fabled palace: Is this it? by Steven Erlanger, The New York Times, as published in the International Herald Tribune:

An Israeli archaeologist says she has uncovered in East Jerusalem what she believes may be the fabled palace of the biblical King David. Her work has been sponsored by the Shalem Center, a neoconservative think tank in Jerusalem, and funded by an American Jewish investment banker who would like to help provide scientific support for the Bible as a reflection of Jewish history.

Other scholars who have toured the site are skeptical that the foundation walls Eilat Mazar has discovered are David's palace. But they acknowledge that what she has uncovered is rare and important - a major public building from around the 10th century B.C. with pottery shards that date from the time of David and Solomon and a government seal of an official mentioned in the Book of Jeremiah.

For nearly 10 years, Mazar thought she knew where the fabled palace built for King David, as described in the Bible, might be - just outside the walls of the ancient city of Jerusalem. Now she thinks she has found it, and if she has right, her discovery will be a new salvo in a major dispute in biblical archaeology - whether or not the kingdom of David was of historical importance.

For that theory, the Bible is a relatively accurate guide, but some question whether David was more like a small tribal chieftain, reigning over another dusty hilltop.

Her discovery is also bound to be used in the other major battle over Jerusalem. That is the disagreement about whether the Jews have their deepest origins there and thus have some special hold on the place, or whether, as many Palestinians believe, the notion of a Jewish origin in Jerusalem is a religious myth used to justify occupation and colonialism. Among those who subscribed to the latter view was the late Yasser Arafat.

Hani Nur el-Din, a professor of archaeology at Al Quds University, says that Palestinian archaeologists consider biblical archaeology as an effort by Israeli archaeologists "to fit historical evidence into a biblical context," he said. "The link between the historical evidence and the biblical narration, written much later, is largely missing," he said. "There's a kind of fiction about the 10th century. They try to link whatever they find to the biblical narration. They have a button and they want to make a suit out of it."

Other Israeli archaeologists are not so sure that Mazar has found the palace - the house that Hiram, king of Tyre, built for the victorious king, at least as Samuel II, Chapter 5, describes it. It may also be the Fortress of Zion that David conquered from the Jebusites, who ruled Jerusalem before him, or some other structure about which the Bible is silent.

But Mazar's colleagues know that she has found something extraordinary - the partial foundations of a sizable public building, constructed in the Phoenician style, dating from the 10th to 9th centuries B.C., the time of the united kingdom of David and Solomon.

"This is a very significant discovery, given that Jerusalem as the capital of the united kingdom is very much unknown," said Gabriel Barkay, a renowned archaeologist of Jerusalem from Bar-Ilan University. "Very carefully we can say that this is one of the first greetings we have from the Jerusalem of David and Solomon, a period which has played a kind of hide-and-seek with archaeologists for the last century."

My only issue is the sentence: "The link between the historical evidence and the biblical narration, written much later, is largely missing." That is a conclusion that is held by some scholars, but certainly not all. But putting aside that sentence, the article has further interesting facts about the find that those who are interested in archeology and the Bible should most definitely read.

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