At the 40th Rècontre Assyriologique Internationale in Leiden, Holland, I obtained Dr. Thomas L. Thompson's Early History of the Israelite People,(2) an erudite historical work. I believe the book gets very close to correctly portraying the problems of Israelite history given that historical narratives of biblical Israel were written in the Persian and Hellenistic periods(3) Thus, it is extremely difficult to select the portions of the history which really correspond to the evidence and, therefore, can possibly be matched with the archeological strata in Israel (or "Palestine," in Thompson's terminology). This basic problem is, as one can recognize, aggravated by the lack of a reliable chronology which can be applied to the actual strata in the ground. Only a sound combination of stratigraphy and chronology will provide "an independently derived history,"(4) in comparison to which the biblical narratives can be made to yield a history of ancient Israel.

Thompson reminds the readers of the utmost significance of chronology: "The problem of chronology and chronological development is not a side issue of little importance. It, rather, lies at the heart of nearly every difficult problem and nearly every sharp divergence of opinion we face in the field today."(5)

Without a history independent of biblical chronology, he most convincingly argues, Israelite history will simply be caught in the trap of circular reasoning: biblical dates will be supported by biblical dates.

Does Thompson's own work live up to this decisive insight? To answer that question, we must look at the numerous dates he uses throughout his book without really questioning them. His own "Assyrian period of the [9th to 7th] centuries,"(6) for example, is derived from biblical dates for Samaria or the "Northern Kingdom," as is his "Omride dynasty." which is set in the "early [9th] century."(7) But eponymous dates do not contain independent, absolute dates which can be used to test the biblical ones. That is why they were tied to the biblical centuries and, therefore, support them via circular reasoning.

When Thompson speaks of "the end of the [7th] century,"(8) he employs biblical fundamentalism because both the climax and the end of Sargonid Assyria are dated via biblical narratives about the destruction of Samaria and Nineveh. Even when he assigns the regnal period of "Nebuchadnezer II (605-562 BC)"(9) to the -7th or -6th century, he is using fundamentalist dates for Judah. Yet, he probably knows that Hebrew literature is silent between -400 and -200, and that the best record on the "Babylonian Exile" (Daniel) dates from the -2nd century. Such a late book would point to the Persian period, no earlier, for exilic memories. It would also indicate that the 200 silent years are due to chronological errors and not to a petrification of the Jewish mind. After all, one of the Persian emperors, Artaxerxes, is on record for exiling Jews. Still, no one ever dared to speculate if Nabopolassar and Nebuchadnezer are, in Judean/ Babylonian terminology, what Xerxes and Artaxerxes I are in Greek/ Persian terminology. Nabopolassar and Nebuchadnezer are not even compared with Pul and Shalmaneser (Israeli terminology) or with Ashurnasirpal and Shalmaneser III (Assyrian terminology). That is why the conquest sagas of Israel and Judah are never thought of as two different stories about one and the same event.

Unknowingly, Thompson finds himself in the same trap of circularity for the entire first half of the first millennium BCE. This reliance on hidden biblical dates has devastating results because it creates gaps in the archeology of a highly dubious chronology which in no way can be supported by stratigraphy. According to Thompson's summary, "[t]he effects in Palestine of these [Assyrian] policies is born out in the archeological records. Settlement in the Galilee collapses and is not revived until the Hellenistic period."(10) (Emphasis added.) What Thompson calls an archeologically visible collapse is a hiatus which would require windblown layers and material discontinuity between the -600 strata and the -300 strata. However, such proofs for sterile centuries are not available. Material continuity and the absence of aeolic layers indicate that the period beginning close to -600 is dated biblically and ends close to

-300, having a Greek date.

By not giving to the Persian period what is found, immediately and hiatus-free, below the Hellenistic and Parthian strata, where an unbiased researcher would look for the Akhaemenid centuries, mainstream Orientalists are forced to call that first world empire "elusive."(11) What, in Assyria proper, is found immediately below Hellenism are the rich strata of so-called Middle, Neo- and Late Assyrian periods(12) which are all dated before -610 by mainstream chronology. Herodotus, however, advised us to look there for the very heartland of the Persian empire: "In power, the land of Assyria counts as one third of all Asia. Rule over this country--whose rule is called by the Persians a satrapy--is, of all the satrapies, by far the greatest; for instance, when Tritantaechmes, the son of Artabazus, held this satrapy from the Great King, he received each day an artaba [55 pounds] full of silver."(13) (Emphasis added.) However, neither a brick nor a potsherd, so we are taught after 150 years of excavations, has ever come from -550 to -330 Akhaemened Assyria. This is because pre-Hellenistic strata, not only in Assyria but also in Thompson's Galilee, received biblical dates instead of the Greek ones.

Let us continue checking his "independent" dates. When Thompson speaks of "Egyptian forces...of the [12th] century" reaching the Levant,(14) he applies Egyptological, so-called Sothic, chronology which Egyptologists themselves abandoned almost a decade ago as pseudoastronomical.(15) The opening lecture of the 4th International Congress of Egyptology in 1985, at Munich, was exclusively devoted to the demolition and debunking of the Sothic anchor of ancient Near Eastern chronology: "Work on chronology has clearly arrived at a crisis. The reason for this is, in part, the adoption of dogmatic scientific [Sothic] facts without testing their applicability to Egyptian material and the usefulness of this material."(16)

Thus, when Thompson speaks of "the [2nd] millennium BC,"(17) he trusts a so-called independent and reliable chronology, when, in fact, there is no such thing. The first three centuries of the -2nd millennium with so-called Old Babylonian Amorites (dated from the -20th to the -18th/ -17th centuries) are due to a hidden Abraham date. How can this be, after Abraham was abandoned as a historical figure by Thompson himself?(18) How were late -3rd and early -2nd millennium periods, originally tied to the Hebrew patriarch, kept without any further mention of his name? This was done through Hammurabi, the lawgiver of the mysterious, but most powerful Martu/ Amorites: "The date of Hammurabi is the keystone of the chrono-logy of the [2nd] and [3rd] millennia BC."(19) His original approximate date, however, derives from the contact between Abraham and Amraphel in Genesis 14:1. For a long time, Assyriologists have equated Amraphel with Hammurabi, whose date was calculated via Abraham's biblical birthday in the -21st century. After 1960, the identification of Amraphel with Hammurabi was eventually dropped but the latter's Abraham date has been kept. Only the time span between the years -2300 and -1700, a time frame set for Hammurabi, by historians, over the past century, is due to internal considerations. The absolute position of the time span around the turn of the -3rd to the -2nd millennium is still due to Abraham's date.(20)

The older half of Thompson's -2nd millennium is derived from the already debunked Sothic chronology to which the Hyksos, Old Hittites, Mitanni, Kassites,

Middle Babylonians and Middle Assyrians are still fixed. Thus, none of these empires can provide an independent chronology to which biblical, historical narratives can be meaningfully related. Ironically, even pseudoastronomical Sothic chronology has its ultimate anchor point in Abraham's date. When chronographers had to decide on the number of Sothic cycles--lasting 1,461 years--that were needed for Egyptian history, they found that neither these cycles nor Egyptian history as a whole should begin after Abraham had lived(21)--alas another circular procedure!

Abraham's biblical date, of course, also lies behind Thompson's chronological statement: "beginning as early as 3500 BC and lasting until approximately 2350 BC"(22) Old Akkadian beginnings around -2350 are calculated backwards from Hammurabi's Genesis 14:1 Amraphel date. Everything preceding -2350, therefore, is also connected to the patriarch's fundamentalist date. Eponymous lists tied to Hammurabi, therefore, do not give us dates independent of the Bible.

To summarize, Thompson's entire "independent history," from -3500 to -500, is either derived from obvious and hidden biblical fundamentalism or from unscholarly, debunked Sothic dates. This is important because Thompson may well be second to none when it comes to recognizing the elusive character of biblical dates. Therefore, Thompson's book serves to illuminate his sharp mind as to the chronological concepts he espouses but still needs to overcome. In short, there is no such thing as a -3rd or -2nd millennium of high civilization for which anyone can deliver an independent and reliable chronology. Mesoamerica, China and Ganges Valley, India--territories whose chronologies were developed independently of the chronology Thompson and his opponents apply--always had to recognize this state of affairs, being content with a full-fledged, high civilization no later than -1000.(23)

The most misleading effect of Thompson's reluctance to telescope chronology becomes visible in the two words "much later." He attacks other historians for implementing "earlier" historical events in "the much later biblical historiographical framework."(24) (Emphasis added.) These scholars cannot escape his criticism because they believe in the same chronology he adheres to. But, how much is "much" in reality? Let us focus on one of Thompson's typical questions: "Again, are we faced with a many centuries-long break in the chain of evidence between the Egyptian texts and the archeological evidence on one hand and the Assyrian records and biblical tradition on the other?"(25) (Emphasis added.)

What happened to Thompson's methodology? Phony Sothic dates (from -14th to -12th centuries) are assigned to Egyptian texts and, worse, are associated with "archeological evidence." If we look at the Sothic-dated strata in question, we will find that they sit (in Daba, Beth Shean and Timna), hiatus-free, directly beneath Hellenistic/ Ptolemaic strata of the -4th/ -3rd century(26) The same stratigraphic location within the Persian period holds for Thompson's "Assyrian records." Thompson knows that the biblical narratives were not compiled before the Persian period. Thus, his "many centuries" virtually melt down to as many decades. Where Thompson believes that there are people using -5th century texts to illuminate -14th century events, these individuals are actually illuminating -6th century events. Thompson's opponents simply do not know that they are justifying what their chronology by creating a hiatus. Thompson's judgement that "historical Israel remained as elusive as ever,"(27) therefore, may have as much validity for his own work (and G. Garbibi's or E. A. Knauf's(28)) as for that of his opponents because he also creates a hiatus.

My own attempt at a reconstruction of Israel's early history deviates both from mainstream Old Testament studies and from Thompson's approach.(29) Yet, I share his conviction that an independent chronology must be developed before one can write a history of Israel. The worst enemy of Israel's history, indeed, is biblical chronology. Whoever puts his faith in it cannot help but be tempted to extinguish ancient Israel from the map. This is not only true for anti-Semites, anti-Zionists and neutral researchers, but even for the best and the brightest of Israeli scholars.

My own search for an independent history, parallel to which a chronology of ancient Israel may be construed, led to Herodotous' history of Assyria from the -5th century.

As early as the 2nd century, Herodotus' three periods no longer started with his date of -1070 but were subjected to biblical chronology. Although the Jewish historians of the Persian and Hellenistic periods made a tremendous step forward by boldly cutting bewildering time spans of nearly 400,000 years, which were used by Babylonian and Egyptian priests, down to some 4,000 years, the biblical time span was still three times as long as the one adopted by Herodotus. Modern archeology openly kept the biblical dating scheme up to the late 19th century, as may be seen from W. K. Loftus' Travels and Researches in Chaldaea and Susiana.(30) With the focus on southern Mesopotamia, he still retains only three major post-Chalcolithic periods of Greek historiography, but now ties the end of the third period (the earliest) to Abraham's late -3rd millennium biblical birth date.

This triplicating of Herodotus' time span could and was only achieved on paper. What one was able to do with the pen could not be repeated with the spade. Even if we use a chronology of 3,000 or 1,000 pre-Christian years of high civilization, this will not change the number and thickness of strata actually in the ground. They remain unalterably the same. Therefore, biblical chronology, applied to Herodotus' ancient Near Eastern periods, created huge gaps of 1,500 or more years at individual sites. These notorious lacunae were eventually filled by historians who multiplied actual time spans by three. They performed this miracle by heaping three strata from different areas, but from contemporary periods, on top of each other in the pages of the chronology books. Of course, scholarly justifications were needed. These justifications arose from the use of three different dating schemes which made contemporary strata of different areas look like successive periods whose centers of power were located in different areas. The three schemes used were fundamentalist dates, pseudoastro-nomical Sothic dates and dates of Greek historiography.

Most significantly, modern archeology, as mentioned above for the Persian period, never found a single brick of Herodotus' three pre-Hellenistic empires in Assyria. Yet, the excavators take great pride for having discovered three different empires in Assyrian soil which, supposedly, were unknown to the scholars of antiquity. As I said before, no single territory exhibits all the periods of conventional ancient Near Eastern chronology. In Assyria, the mysterious lacunae were not supported by archeological evidence but were created by the use of chronological mechanisms.

If we tentatively return to Herodotus' dates, his three missing Assyria-centered empires suddenly surface as the same three empires excavated within the last 150 years. Simply because these discoveries were subjected to fantasized dates of biblical fundamentalism and Sothic pseudoastronomy, they remained unidentified and undiscovered.

If we try to incorporate historical events of the biblical narratives into this evidence-based, ancient Near Eastern chronological framework, a totally different picture emerges.

I do not subscribe to the details connected with historiographical events in the biblical narratives, but claim that the material contents of strata in Israel, which today are up for grabs, are not overstretched if one detects in them some hard evidence for written traditions. I cannot see a convincing reason to deprive Israel of the major events in her ancient history as they are preserved in biblical legends. The main haven of fundamentalism. I believe, is rooted in biblical chronology and not in the historical narratives of biblical Israel. Before getting rid of stories which discuss historical empires, I would, rather, abandon the chronology--in whatever disguise it may present itself. Then, everything is open for a new debate. This will reveal, for example, that monotheism does not fully emerge before the late Akhaemenid period. Redating, rather than deleting, ancient Israel will be the code of that scholarly road.

I an fully aware of Thompson's reservations concerning the dates given to ancient Near Eastern strata. In reviewing H. Weippert's work,(31) Thompson felt the extreme fragility of Syro-Palestinian archeology's absolute datings--not merely those that are based on an only presumably well-anchored Egyptian chronology, but also and particularly those that, linked as they are to a much later literarily motivated and artificial biblical chronology--have truly very few referents to historical reality at all. The archeological chronology that is derivative of such thinking provides--by whimsy--little that is of use.(32)

Despite this caution, Thompson uses that fragile chronology throughout his book. I do not understand why he has chosen that path. Yet, I am encouraged to point out that there is an alternative chronology which resolves these problems and which became publicly available only half a decade ago;(33) since then, this alternative chronology has undergone minor changes and many applications, worked out in books and articles published between 1989 and 1993.


1. We apologize for being unable to provide our readers with the English titles to most of Gunnar Heinsohn's German works, as listed in the accompanying footnotes for his articles, in both sections I and II. He did not provide us with the translated titles.--Ed.
2. Thomas L.Thompson (A), Early History of the Israelite People (Leiden, Holland, 1992).
3. Ibid., pp. 123 and 167.
4. Ibid., p. 126.
5. Ibid., p. 191. Also see pp. 117 and 164.
6. Ibid., p. 316. Also see p. 166.
7. Ibid., p. 313.
8. Ibid., p. 420.
9. Ibid., p. 347.
10. Ibid., p. 420.
11. H. Sancisi-Weerdenburg, "The Quest for an Elusive Empire?" Achaemenid History IV, eds. H. Sancisi-Weerdenburg and A. Kuhrt (Leiden, Holland, 1990), p. 264.
12. See Gunnar Heinsohn (A), Perserherrscher gleich Assyrerkönige? Assyrien ist auch in seiner persichen Blütezeit nicht ohne Schrift und Städte (Gräfelfing, Germany (?), 1992); Gunnar Heinsohn (B),"Archäologie Assyriens in der Perserzeit. Unter hellenistischen und parthischen Schichten. Sargonidica IX," in Gunnar Heinsohn (C), "Who Were the Assyrians of the Persian Period?," computer printout, 1992, Bremen, Germany; Gunnar Heinsohn (D), "Ist Reichsaramäisch tatsächlich zweimal hintereinander die Verkehrsprache eines vorderasiatischen Imperiums geworden? Sargonidica X," Vorzeit-Frühzeit-Gegenwart 4: 4/ 5 (1992); and Gunnar Heinsohn (E), "Liefert die persische Kultur lediglich ein verspätetes Imitat assyrischer Vorbilder? Sargonidica XI," Vorzeit-Frühzeit-Gegenwart 4: 4/ 5 (1992).
13. Herodotus, History I, p. 192.
14. Thompson, op. cit., p. 316.
15. W. Helck (A), "Schwachstellen der Chronology-Diskussion," Göttinger Miszellen No. 67 (1983).
16. W. Helck (B), "Zur Lage der ägyptischen Geschichtsschreibung," a résumé, 4. Internationaler Ägyptologenkongres, 26. 8.-1. 9. 1985, München--Resümees der Referate, ed. S. Schoske (Munich, Germany, 1985), p. 95. Also see W. Helck (C), "Erneut das angebliche Sothis-Datum des Pap. Ebers und die Chronologie der 18. Dynastie," Studien zur altägyptischen Kultur XV (1988); Gunnar Heinsohn (F), "Abraham and the Chronologies of Mesopotamia and Egypt," a report read at the Catastrophism 2000 conference, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada (August 17-19, 1990); and Gunnar Heinsohn (G), "Astronomical Dating and Calendrics," a report read at the 22nd annual meeting of the International Society for the Comparative Study of Civilizations (ISCSC), University of Scranton, Scranton, Pennsylvania (June 3-6, 1993).
17. Thompson, op. cit., p. 12.
18. Thomas L. Thompson (B), The Historicity of the Patriarchal Narratives (New York, 1974).
19. Georges Roux, Ancient Iraq (Harmondsworth, England (?) , 1980), p. 43.
20. Heinsohn (F), loc. cit., and Gunnar Heinsohn (H), "Where are the Houses of Assyria's Akhaemenid, Medish and Ninos-Assyrian Periods? An Evidence-based Look at the Archeological Strata of Post-Mitanni, Mitanni and Old Akkadian Assyria," a paper/ poster exhibited at the 40th Rècontre Assyriologique Internationale, Leiden, Holland (July 5-8, 1993).
21. Heinsohn (F), loc. cit.
22. Thompson, op. cit., p. 177.
23. Gunnar Heinsohn (I), "Zentralasiens chronologische Rätsel und die Rehabilitierung der altchinesischen Zivilisation," Vorzeit-Frühzeit-Gegenwart 2: 4 (1990): 7-26 and Heinsohn (H), bottom right.
24. Thompson, op. cit., p. 130.
25. Ibid., p. 138.
26. See Gunnar Heinsohn (J), "Hirsche aus Beth Shean oder gibt es wirklich keine Skythenschichten in Scythopolis? Mit einer' Anmerkung zur Geschichte der Skythen. Sargonidica II," Vorzeit-Frühzeit-Gegenwart 3: 1 (1991); Gunnar Heinsohn (K), "Who Were the Hyksos?" Sesto Congresso Internazionale di Egittologia--Epitome (Abstracts of the Sixth International Congress of Egyptology), eds. S. Curto et al. (Turin, Italy, 1991); Gunnar Heinsohn (L), "Stratigraphische Chronologie Ägyptens oder warum fehlen zwei Jahrtausende in den Musterausgrabungen von Tell el-Daba und Tell el-Fara'in?" Vorzeit-Frühzeit-Gegenwart 3: 3/ 4 (1991); Gunnar Heinsohn (M), "Stratigraphische Chronologie Israels. Ein Kurzabris zur Rehabilitation historischer Informationen aus den biblischen Legenden," Vorzeit-Frühzeit-Gegenwart 3: 5 (1991); Gunnar Heinsohn (N), "Stratigraphical Chronology of Ancient Israel: A Brief Rehabilitation of Historical Information Contained in Biblical Narratives," a report read at the annual conference of the Canadian Society for Interdisciplinary Studies (CSIS), Haliburton, Ontario, Canada (November 9-11, 1991); Gunnar Heinsohn (O), "Timna and Egyptian Dates: Stratigraphic Surprises and Chronological Puzzles," AEON II: 5 (1991); Gunnar Heinsohn (P), "Von Abraham zu Salomo. Hat es das Alte Israel tatsächlich nicht gegeben?" a report read at the University of Salzburg, Austria (May 13, 1992); Gunnar Heinsohn (Q), "Indo-Arier und Israeliten," in Heinsohn (A); Gunnar Heinsohn (R), "Who Were the Hyksos? Can Archeology and Stratigraphy Provide a Solution to the `Enigma of World History'?" Sesto Congresso Internazionale di Egittologia--Atta II (Acts of the Sixth International Congress of Egyptology II) (Turin, Italy, 1993); and Gunnar Heinsohn and H. Illig, Wann lebten die Pharaonen? Archäologische und technologische Grundlagen für eine Neuschreibung der Geschichte Agyptens und der übrigen Welt (Frankfurt/ M., Germany, 1990).
27. Thompson, op. cit., p. 27.
28. See G. Garbini, History and Ideology in Ancient Israel (London, England, 1988); E. A. Knauf (A), Midian: Untersuchungen zur Geschichte Palästinas und Nordarabiens am Ende des 2ten Jahrtausends v. Chr. (Wiesbaden, Germany, 1988); and E. A. Knauf (B), Ismael: Untersuchungen zur Geschichte Palästinas und Nordarabiens im 1sten Jahrtausend v. Chr., (Wiesbaden, Germany, 1989).
29. See Heinsohn, (J-Q); Gunnar Heinsohn (S), "The Rehabilitation of Israel's History Through Synchronization of the Contents of Biblical Historical Narratives with the Material Remains in Israel's Stratigraphies," a poster distributed at the annual meeting of the Canadian Society for Interdisciplinary Studies (CSIS), Toronto, Ontario, Canada (August 21, 1992); and Gunnar Heinsohn (T), "Sennacherib/ Sanherib und Darius II. Sarginidica XII," Vorzeit-Frühzeit-Gegenwart 5: 1 (1993).
30. W. K. Loftus, Travels and Researches in Chaldaea and Susiana (London, England, 1857).
31. H. Weippert, Palästina in vorhellenistischer Zeit (Munich, Germany, 1988).
32. Thompson, op. cit., p. 164.
33. Gunnar Heinsohn (U), Die Sumerer gab es Nicht. Von den Phantom-Imperien der Lehrbücher zur wirklichen Epochenabfolge in der Zivilisationswiege Mesopotamien (Frankfurt/ M., Germany, 1988).



In my review of Early History of the Israelite People, by Thomas L. Thompson,[1] I tried to show that the revisionist school of ancient Israelite history is as vulnerable to evidence-based criticism as its mainstream opponent. I wanted to make clear that Thompson, the author, believes in the same mixture of fundamentalist and pseudoastronomical dates for the ancient Near East as do the defenders of traditional, ancient Israelite history.

It did not come as a surprise that I only had to wait one fortnight to see Thompson's opponents explode his book in his face. I refer, of course, to John Noble Wilford's New York Times article "From Israeli Site, News of House of David" of August 6, 1993.[2] Avraham Biran's discovery, in Tel Dan, of an Aramaic inscription of about 850 BC which contained the phrases "House of David" and "king of Israel"[3] suddenly makes Thompson look ridiculous. After all, in his book, Thompson concluded that the David and Solomon traditions of the Bible are "inappropriate and of limited use to the task of writing a history of Israel's origins....The tradition fragments about Israelite kings prior to Omri (i.e., Saul, David and Solomon), falling as they do outside a fixed dynastic structure, have a weak claim to historicity."[4] Because the biblical David was never mentioned outside the Bible, Thompson considered him a character of fiction.

What will Thompson do now? Of course, he may consider joining the choir that Jack M. Sasson, professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is part of. The burden of that choir's song goes: "The reference to the House of David did not necessarily prove the man existed."[5] The House of David with no David-play gives penny-gaff a bad name. I can only hope that Thompson will not be seen with these barnstormers.

I also hope Thompson will never be seen doing a Hershel Shanks, who could not wait to throw himself into the net of circularity. I know Shanks can do better. Yet, according to Wilford, "Hershel Shanks...said the findings provided contemporaneous evidence supporting accounts of the Jewish monarchies in I Kings and II Chronicles."[6] (Emphasis added.) This statement is only half false. Contemporaneity is probable, but what about the date of 850 BC that those who were quoted in the article take for granted?

Is 850 BC an independently derived date which can be reliably used for building the chronology of ancient Israel? Let us examine the circular reasoning.

Avraham Biran believes that the stele's king of Israel may be identified with Baasha and that the king of the House of David may be identified with Asa, a descendant of the House of David. Asa has a fundamentalist date of -908 to -868. It is this fundamentalist date, and nothing else, which dates the Aramaic text on Tel Dan's stele. There is--as many believe--no independent chronology from Assyria to back the date of Tel Dan's stele. Why is this so? Because Assyria's King Shalmaneser III mentions Ahab the Israelite. Ahab has a fundamentalist date of from -871 to -852. Through this fundamentalist date, Assyrian eponyms were dated, bringing Shalmaneser III to between -859 and -824. Thus, the stele which supposedly provides independent confirmation for -9th century biblical history got its date from that very biblical history. Circularity!

Thompson is in no position to challenge Biran on 850 BC because Thompson adheres to Biran's fundamentalist date. As it happens--I know it sounds awkward--so does everyone else but me. It is clear that I do not defend Avraham Biran's chronology. His dating is as unbiased in hard evidence as everybody else's. It does no service to the reconstruction of Israelite history to tie it to such a dubious chronology. Yet, I agree with his House of David. Therefore, I disagree with Thompson's attempt to erase historical biblical narratives from memory as much as I disagree with both Thompson and Biran's fundamentalist chronology.

What I suggest that everyone do is this: Go back to stratigraphy! Do this for Tel Dan as well as for Aramaic inscriptions. Let us begin with Tel Dan and really focus on the stratigraphy, that is, put--for the time being--the fundamentalist and pseudoastronomical dates into brackets. I also want Thompson to feel encouraged by Wilford's sloppy description of the mound in question: "The earliest remains uncovered at Tel Dan indicate that the site has been occupied more or less continuously since the fifth millennium BC."[7] (Author's emphasis.)

Of course, we will have to check, carefully, what is termed "less." The most important "less" is the bewildering gap of 400 years between strata II and I of Tel Dan. Stratum I is dated via Greek chronology and has a starting point around -300. Stratum II ends in a fundamentalist date of -701. The material culture, however, between both strata is continuous. No windblown layer was found between the strata. Small finds and day-to-day pottery show no dramatic alterations. The hiatus, therefore, is a pseudohiatus. It is forced upon the archeologists not by their own expertise but by the chronology burned into their minds long before they started digging.

The 2,150 years or so are either due to mysterious gaps or to shortages of strata and materials. The Bronze Age does not begin before -1000. Stratigraphically, the area from Spain to the Indus Valley has no head start of two millennia over the Ganges Valley, India, China and Mesoamerica. This evidence-based view is also borne out by Tel Dan.

The pseudohiatus of 400 years between Dan's strata I and II simply has to be taken out of chronology because it was derived from fundamentalism but not from the evidence in situ. This means that stratum II does not end around -700 but lasts until around -300. The conclusion to be drawn is that the stele mentioning the House of David in alphabetic Aramaic belongs to the Persian period.

Thompson may not be aware that all Aramaic texts from areas found in territories dated by stratigraphy and Persian-Greek chronology are dated after -520. Only Aramaic texts dated by fundamentalism begin around -900 or earlier. In an article published in Vorzeit-Frühzeit-Gegenwart, I compiled the evidence available on that matter.[8]

Scholars of Aramaic were always bewildered by the fact that Aramaic writing dated from -900 to -600, looks very much like Aramaic dated between -500 and -300. There was little or no evolution of script and language. Yet, after -300, the evolution of Aramaic immediately sets in. The scholars were even more stunned by the fact that the shift from cuneiform Akkadian to alphabetic Aramaic had to be made twice by two different ancient Near Eastern empires. First, the Assyrians of -900 managed to do this. Around -520, the Persians of Darius the Great aped that progress. Under Cyrus, apparently, the Acheamenids went back before the stage of -900 simply to have the chance to reenact that great, intellectual innovation to the alphabet. What was considered most bizarre in Persian behavior, however, was their adoption of Aramaic in the version known from Assyrian sites (the ones dated from -900 to -600) even though they supposedly decided to let Assyria in ruins throughout their history. As I have stated before, the Assyrian heartland of the Persian empire is not missing at all but lies before us in the Assyrian strata, dated from -900 to -600 via fundamentalism and, even earlier, (as Middle Assyrians) dated via pseudoastronomical Egyptology.

With the chronology of Aramaic established, we may return to the question of the emergence of the House of David. I put the Exodus event around -630, at the end of the Ninos-Assyrian (Hyksonian, Old Akkadian, Old Assyrian) empire or at the beginning of the Medish (Mitanni) period, respectively. "Israel in Egypt" thus refers to mercenaries, administrators and settlers coming with the Ninos-Assyrian forces who could not help but launch their attacks of the stratigraphy-dated -8th century on Egypt from Israelite soil.[9]

By taking stratigraphy seriously, I also had to restore the Amarna correspondence to its evidence-based chronological position. The partners of the Medes (Mitanni) in Akhet-Aton were dated to the early Medean -6th century.[10] The dramatic shift from Middle to Late Bronze has all the ingredients of the Exodus event, reaching from natural catastrophes hitting the Hyksos to military and non-military destructions in Israel.

As an adherent to biblical fundamentalism and pseudoastronomy, A. Mazar dates that shift to around -1550 and, therefore, cannot not match it to a fundamentalistically-dated Exodus:

The most significant event concerning Palestine was the expulsion of the Hyksos from Egypt in the [mid-16th] century BCE. The Hyksos princes fled from the eastern delta of Egypt to southern Palestine; the Egyptians followed them there and put them under siege in the city of Sharuhen. This event was probably followed by turmoil and military conflicts throughout the country, as a number of Middle Bronze cities were destroyed during the [mid-16th] century BCE....However, unlike the great collapse of the urban culture at the end of the Early Bronze III period [after which I see the "Abrahamites" coming from Chaldea to Israel around -800--G.H.], the turmoils of the [mid-16th] century BCE did not cause a total break of the Canaanite urban culture.[11]

The founder of the House of David emerged in these turmoils from a tribal background in the Judean territory. The biblical narratives about David put him nearly half a millennium after Joshua and Exodus. Yet, all the ingredients of the stories indicate their contemporaneity.

The Joshua stories refer to the Nino-Assyrian (Hyksos) coastal flight out of Egypt. They belong to Israel rather than to Judah. The flight is stopped by the Medes (Mitanni), who play the main role in vanquishing Ninos-Assyria. The Exodus people know the Medes also by their Medish name; this name was derived from the Medo-Persian tribe, Amardians/ Mardians, and recorded as "Amorites" by the biblical authors. The Medes occupy Megiddo, from where the Medish (Mitanni) governor, Biridiya, corresponds with Egypt. This is reflected in Joshua's failure to conquer Megiddo. Media's treason-minded allies, the Scythians, from Asia's steppes, go their own way and rush up to the borders of Egypt[12] to give the Exodus people of the Joshua legends a lot of trouble. The Exodus people remember their aggressors simply as Asians (Amalekites). We find their icons (a stag and a panther) well preserved in the Medish (Mitanni) strata of Scythopolis (Beth Shean).[13]

The David legends belong to Judah rather than to Israel. Yet, the problems of iron shortage, clashes with Philistines and the search for a haven in Israel indicate the same context. The Hyksos expulsion coincides with a broadened use of iron. Mainstream chronology dates David (biblical fundamentalism) 600 years after the Hyksos (pseudoastronomy). Yet, he is still only beginning with iron technology. This puts him right after the Bronze Age, if we do not want to believe that iron took 600 years to travel 35 kilometers from Philistine sites to Judean hills.

What sets David apart from Joshua is that the former has to build himself a position in his native land, whereas the latter is on the attack against people who already may have forgotten their forefathers, whose descendants were coming back. These earlier Israelites--as mentioned above--settled in the Nile Valley some 100 years earlier with the conquering Ninos-Assyrians (Hyksos, Old Akkadians, Old Assyrians). Moreover, the masses now fleeing from Egypt must have contained many ethnic groups--notably descendants of Ninos-Assyrians--who were hindered by the Medes (Mitanni) from returning to Assyria proper (now Media's heartland, as we know from Mitanni rule in Nineveh) and had to be content with disputed territory in Israel.

From this context, it becomes clear that early Judah and early Israel, simultaneously, lived under Medish or Egyptian control during the -7th/ -6th century. The steady growth of these ethnopolitical entities in the early -6th century should not have gone unnoticed by these big powers. And, indeed, the Amarna correspondence of the early -6th century Medes (Mitanni) mentions warring and conquering habiru time and again. These statements, I conclude, refer to further conquests of the Exodus people and to the expansion of the House of David. That's why I utterly disagree with Thompson's conviction that "[w]e have no historical evidence to associate the [14th]-century Amarna letters and the apiru mentioned in them with the origins of Israel."[14]

Thompson's 14th century is derived from pseudoastronomical Egyptology. But even after giving Amarna its stratigraphical date, the early -6th century of Medish (Mitanni) times, nobody will look in that period for the beginnings of Judah and Israel. David, after all, is dated, fundamentalistically, to the -10th century, whereas the Exodus is either dated by the same technique to the -15th century or is dated pseudoastronomically to the -13th century. Stratigraphically and, therefore, chronologically, all three items are connected: The complaints of the Amarna correspondence about Habiru reflect the growth of Israel through the Exodus people and the growth of Judah through the House of David.

Now, with the House of David emerging in the Medish period, we should be able to look for descendants of this princely house in the Persian period--which immediately follows Media, around -540. To do this, one has to scan the strata found immediately below the Hellenistic strata--which are dated beginning around -300. If one performs such a search program in Tel Dan, he or she will have to start immediately below its Hellenistic stratum I. Avraham Biran found his stele with the House of David inscription in a location belonging somewhere between Dan's strata II and III. That is as close to a Persian period successor of David as one can get. Thus, let us applaud Biran's discovery, but let us not stop challenging all fundamentalist dates.


[1] CThomas L. Thompson, Early History of the Israelite People (Leiden, Holland, 1992).
[2] John Noble Wilford, "From Israeli Site, News of House of David," The New York Times [New York] (August 6, 1993): p. A1.
[3] Wilford, Ibid.
[4] Thompson, op. cit., p. 111.
[5] Wilford, op. cit., p. A6.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Gunnar Heinsohn (A), "Ist Reichsaramäisch tatsächlich zweimal hintereinander die Verkehrsprache eines vorderasiatischen Imperiums geworden? Sargonidica X," Vorzeit-Früzeit-Gegenwart 4: 4/ 5 (1992).
[9] See Gunnar Heinsohn (B), "Stratigraphische Chronologie Israels. Ein Kurzabris zur Rehabilitation historischer Informationen aus den biblischen Legenden," Vorzeit-Frühzeit-Gegenwart 3: 5 (1991); Gunnar Heinsohn (C), "Stratigraphical Chronology of Ancient Israel: A Brief Rehabilitation of Historical Information Contained in Biblical Narratives," a report read at the annual conference of the Canadian Society for Interdisciplinary Studies (CSIS), Haliburton, Ontario, Canada (November 9-11, 1991); Gunnar Heinsohn (D), "Von Abraham zu Salomo. Hat es das Alte Israel tatsächlich nicht gegeben?" a report read at the University of Salzburg, Austria (May 13, 1992); and Gunnar Heinsohn (E), "Indo-Arier und Israeliten," in Gunnar Heinsohn (F), Perserherrscher gleich Assyrerkönige? Assyrien ist auch in seiner persichen Blütezeit nicht ohne Schriftund Städte (Gräfelfing, Germany (?), 1992).
[10] Gunnar Heinsohn (G), "Withdrawal of Support for Velikovsky's Date of the Amarna Period," Bulletin der Gesellschaft für die Rekonstruktion der Menschheits und Naturgeschichte No. 4 (1987).
[11] A. Mazar, Archaeology of the Land of the Bible, 10,000-586 BCE. (New York, 1990).
[12] Herodotus, History I, p. 105.
[13] Gunnar Heinsohn (H), "Hirsche aus Beth Shean oder gibt es wirklich keine Skythenschichten in Scythopolis? Mit einer' Anmerkung zur Geschichte der Skythen. Sargonidica II," Vorzeit-Frühzeit-Gegenwart 3: 1 (1991).
[14] Thompson, op. cit., p. 135.


Home  Site Sections  Complete Article Map   Contact  Store  Contributions