Christian Zionist Archaeologist Smears Colleagues

The Jamaica Gleaner profiles British Biblical archaeologist Garth Gilmour, who is giving a lecture tour there. Despite a decent academic CV and links to both Oxford University and the Albright Institute, Gilmour has a very odd idea of what archaeology actually should be. Defending his belief that archaeology proves the history of Biblical Israel, he has this to say of colleagues who think otherwise:

…several renowned professors and scholars of both secular and Biblical history are dismissive of the historicity of Israel’s King David and King Solomon. Some of these sceptics, he said, say David and Solomon were no more historical than the mythical King Arthur.

…He contends that these academics, unwittingly are acting out a form of anti-semitism. He argues: ” If you can deny ancient Israel’s claim to the land in ancient Israel’s time ­ then you can deny modern Israel’s claim to the land that is based on Biblical history. If you can deny modern Israel’s claim to the land, then you can deny Israel’s right to exist as a state. If you can deny Israel’s right to exist as a state, then you can throw them out and as there is nowhere else for them to go. I leave it to your imagination to take it to its logical conclusion. What do you do with them. They are unwanted people. They are in the land that belongs to other people. They have no rights to any other land. Nobody wants them. We just have to get rid of them ­ and we are right back where we were 60 years ago.”

I’m not sure what’s worse: the gross offensiveness of the “anti-Semitic” libel or the insult to my intelligence in the rest of the paragraph.

As it happens, I have some misgivings about the “minimalist” position that Gilmour dislikes. But showing scepticism of the sources is not anti-Semitism, unwitting or otherwise. What makes Gilmour’s accusation particularly obnoxious is that some of the scholars he is here accusing are actually Jewish Israelis, such as Israel Finkelstein. And as for Gilmour’s general point, that must surely undermine any confidence we can have that Gilmour is a serious scholar rather than an ideologue (although he is not an isolated case). Not only has he betrayed the standards of his discipline, his hysterical ramblings about the consequences of disagreeing with him are simply wrong. Ancient claims to the land may be part of Zionist rhetoric, but they have nothing to do with the legal basis for Israel’s current existence, which is based on international law.

Gilmour was speaking in Jamaica at the behest of a local Christian Zionist organisation, Olive Branch Ministries. Although he is of the view that modern Israel is the fulfilment of Biblical prophecy and should therefore be supported, to his credit he adds that

It is very important for the Church to stand with the Palestinians in their sufferings and in their tragedy and humiliation at the hands of Israel and at the hands of their own Arab brothers.

Nice words, but what does this mean in practice? Unless Gilmour is in favour of either an independent Palestinian state or Israeli citizenship for Palestinians, then this qualification is nothing but cant.

(Jamaica Gleaner link from Christianity Today)

One Response

  1. Thank you for your lucid and intelligent debunking of Gilmour, who truly is a fringe element in archaeological studies. When folk like him pontificate it casts a dark shadow on an excellent discipline. And, as a card carrying “minimalist” and member of the Copenhagen School, his slurs are unacceptable and on the verge of slanderous.

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