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Introduction
Few things are more exciting at an archaeological excavation than finding coins, probably because they provide a direct and tangible connection with history. There is often writing on these coins, which is an important factor in archaeology because a readable coin can help to date the stratum in which it was found. On June 1, 2011, my team in Field C at Khirbet el-Maqatir found nine coins; eight of them were from a single locus inside the central apse of the church. Three other coins were found in an Early Roman house on the east end of the site. In December 2011, another eleven coins were recovered. The table below provides the details of these 23 coins.

The Maqatir Coins

The oldest coin was from the mid-third century BC (Ptolemy 11, 285-246 BC), and the most recent was a British coin from the 19th century. This range of dates spanning two millennia yet appearing in the same stratum requires some explanation since the assumed dates for the ecclesiastical complex are from the fourth to the sixth century. The initial pottery readings and the coin dates confirm this. Thirteen of the coins date to the Late Roman or Byzantine timeframe. Six of the coins are from the three centuries before Christ. Five of the six were minted by the Hasmonean rulers. Three of the coins were from the first century AD, including a coin of Porcius Festus (Acts 26) and a coin from Year Two of the First Jewish Revolt. The final first century coin, the focus of this article, was minted by Herod Agrippa I; it was the first from the New Testament period to be found at Khirbet el-Maqatir after nine seasons of excavation. Previously, coins were limited to the lntertestamental Period, the latest being a coin of Herod the Great that was dated to his third year as king, 37 BC. 1


maqatir monastery pic2Agrippa coin found in the monastery excavations at Khirbet el-Maqatir. Credit: Michael Luddeni.

Agrippa I, grandson of Herod the Great, was the son of Aristobulus IV and Bernice and father of Agrippa II (Acts 25-26); he ruled as king over much of his grandfather's realm from AD 37 to 44. The Agrippa I coin dates to the sixth year of his reign, AD 41/42. Agrippa I was in many ways an enigma. He was a close friend of Emperor Caligula (AD 37-41) and also enjoyed the favor of Claudius, who came to the throne in AD 41. Claudius was emperor when the Maqatir coin was struck. Agrippa I minted coins bearing the images of these Caesars and various pagan likenesses. On the other hand, he went to great lengths to maintain peace with the local Jewish population. He persuaded Caligula to abandon his bizarre intentions to erect a statue of himself in the Jerusalem temple (Josephus, Ant. 18.8.2-9). Agrippa I also ingratiated himself with the Jewish leaders by ignominiously becoming the first ruler to persecute the nascent Christian Church (Acts 12:1-3). This was certainly in keeping with the policies of Emperor Claudius, who, according to Acts 18:2, expelled all Jews (traditional and Messianic) from Rome. In The Twelve Caesars, Suetonius poignantly confirms that "there were continual uprisings on account of Chrestus" (Life of Claudius 25.4). Chrestus is a reference to Christ.2

Agrippa's title on the obverse (front) of the coin is BASILEUS, the Greek word for "king." This title is in keeping with the Roman custom of lauding the ruler who issued a coin, and not surprisingly, was the exact title attributed to him in Acts 12:1. The reverse of Roman coins was normally for propaganda purposes, but Agrippa, as a client king, wisely placed on it three ears of barley, a traditional Jewish symbol.

The Mishnah records that during the Feast of Tabernacles in AD 41 he publically read Deuteronomy 17:15, which states, "You may not put a foreigner over you who is not your brother." When Agrippa, who like all of the Herodian rulers was only part Jewish, began to weep, the people responded, "Grieve not, Agrippa; you are our brother! You are our brother!" (Sotah 7:8). This sort of adulation led to Agrippa's gruesome death at Caesarea Maritima in AD 44 at the tender age of thirty-four. After a speech, perhaps in the still standing amphitheatre, the crowd proclaimed that his words were those of a god (clearly idolatry), and "because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died" (Acts 12:23). Interestingly, the same event was recorded by the Jewish historian Josephus (Ant.19.8.2), producing a fascinating and important synchronism between biblical and secular texts.

Dec 2011 MAQ GroupIn December 2011, fourteen people people worked on the site. The seven pictured are (back row) Steve Rudd, Lou Klauder, Scott Stripling, Greg Butz, (front row) Jacob Figueroa, Ruth Baker, and Abigail Leavitt. Credit: Scott Stripling.

Circulation of Ancient Coins

All of this is informative, but it begs the question, What is a first century coin doing in a fourth to sixth century conobium-type monastery?3 There are four possible explanations for this seemingly odd occurrence. First, one of the monks may have been a coin collector. This is pure speculation and highly unlikely. Second, maybe the monastery and church are much older than at first thought. Although recent discoveries of early churches at places like Megiddo (ca. 230) have forced a rethinking of the transition from the domus ekklesia, or house church, to basilicas, or public buildings devoted to Christian worship, this second possibility also seems unlikely, especially with the appearance of a possible side apse indicating a later church (Tsafrir 1993: 12). Third, the early coins may have been part of the fill used to level out the area upon the jagged bedrock to create a flat surface for the church and monastery. Most of the early coins came from below floor level (2,914 ft. [888.23 m]), but some were found above floor level. This could be explained by scavenging or earthquake damage. Third, in Roman and Byzantine times coins may have remained in circulation for hundreds of years. This appears to be the most plausible explanation. Classical numismatist David Yagi cites examples of this prolonged circulation:

It is well-documented both by literary and archaeological evidence that ancient coins often circulated for centuries. An excellent example is the countermarking of older, worn coins in the east by the emperor Vespasian in the early A.D. 70s. The majority of these denarii were at least a century old at the time they were countermarked. The issuance of Imperial cistophori by the emperor Hadrian (117-138) is similarly convincing. Most (if not all) of the planchets used were older cistophori issued some 100 to 150 years earlier. We have no reason to doubt that these "host" coins (the coins that were overstruck) had been in circulation up until the time they were withdrawn for re-coining. (1999: 19-20)

Furthermore, a bronze coin of Domitian (AD 81-96) was in circulation in Spain until 1636, when it was re-coined in the financial reforms of Philip IV (Blanchet 1907: 26). Coins minted under Constantine (AD 323-337) were still circulating in parts of southern France during the reign of Napoleon III (1852-1870) (Friedensburg 1926: 3). Due to the high inflation of the third century AD, older Roman coinage appears to have been used much longer than contemporary money. The coinage from Pompeii confirms that a significant number of Republican coins (prior to Julius Caesar) were still in circulation at the time the city was buried by the volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79, and they remained in circulation for another 30 to 40 years (Harl 1996: 18). This is over 150 years altogether.

The Agrippa I coin, like all bronze coins, would have remained in use much longer, especially in the provinces, than its gold and silver counterparts previously mentioned (Harl 1996: 257). So, it is certainly possible, indeed probable, that the Agrippa I coin had remained in circulation for four centuries. However, it seems to stretch the limits of plausibility to assume that the third century BC coin found in the same stratum could have remained in continual circulation. As always, archaeology raises as many questions as it answers.

Maq Monastery 2011The central apse, arch springs, and column bases were all revealed at Khirbet el-Maqatir in 2011. Credit: Scott Stripling.

Conclusion

In an ironic twist of fate, Agrippa I, who died because of his refusal to give glory to God, is 2,000 years later buttressing the historicity of the biblical narrative. Many more coins are under the accumulated debris of millennia, just waiting to tantalize us with their mysterious stories. Maybe you can be the volunteer who finds the next one!

Notes

1 See Wood, Bryant G. Three Coins from a Mountain. Bible and Spade 11.4: 86-90.
2 Other early references can be found in the following sources: Josephus (Antiquities, 18.3.3), Tacitus (Annals, 15.44.3), and Pliny the Younger (Epistles, 10.96-97).
3 Ascetic monasteries are referred to as laura, and communal monasteries as conobium.

Bibliography

Blanchet, Adrien J. 1907. Sur La Chronologie etablie Par Les Contremarques. Paris: Rolin.

Danby, Herbert. 2008. The Mishnah. Oxford: Oxford University.

Friedensburg, F. 1926. Die Munze in der Kulturgeschichte. 2nd ed. Berlin.

Harl, Kenneth W. 1996. Coinage in the Roman Economy, 300 B.C. to AD 700. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University.

Josephus, Flavius. 2006. Antiquities of the Jews. West Valley City UT: Waking Lion.

Suetonius, and Rolfe, John Carew. 2008. The Twelve Caesars: the Lives of the Roman Emperors. St. Petersburg FL: Red and Black.

Tsafrir, Yoram. 1993. Churches in Palestine: From Constantine to the Crusaders. Pp. 1-16 in Ancient Churches Revealed. Washington DC: Biblical Archaeological Society.

Yagi, David L. 1999. Coinage and History of the Roman Empire. Vol. 11. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn.


Read Scott Stripling's full article via PDF: Maqatir-Monastery-Money-_Dr-Scott-Stripling.pdf

This article was originally published in Bible and Spade Vol. 25 No. 2 (Spring)

The bones of seven women and a boy discovered by ABR in 2013 and 2014 at Khirbet el-Maqatir were recently reburied. The remains of the Jewish residents were found in a cave, where they were hiding from the Romans during the Great Revolt of AD 69. The large cave was functioning as an olive press at the time and contained a secret cave for hiding off of the main cave. In addition to the bones, arrow heads and shoe studs from Roman soldiers, were also found in the cave, testimony to their violent deaths. The remains were quietly reburied in Ofra in January, and the residents erected a stone monument (pictured below) on the grave of the victims that tells their story and includes a reference to the vision of dry bones in Ezekiel.

CE 20170909 imageDr. Scott Stripling, who along with Dr. Bryant Wood headed up the dig at Khirbet el-Maqatir, will be giving a lecture on this story at the University of Pikeville on Oct. 21, 2017.

OFF SITE LINKS:

http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/234892

http://www.ritmeyer.com/2017/09/02/victims-of-great-revolt-against-the-romans-laid-to-rest-in-ofra

According to the theory of true narratives, if the conquest of Ai narrative is factual, then it must necessarily correspond to the material time-space context to which it purports to be connected and which it purports to represent. From careful exegesis of the text of the conquest of Ai narrative in the 7 and 8 chapters of the Book of Joshua, a 14 parameter criterial screen is derived to assess the correspondence between the narrative and the three candidate sites for Joshua's Ai that emerge from past research. Through the analysis summarized in this paper, Khirbet el-Maqatir is demonstrated to be the site of the fortress of Ai, and the conquest of Ai narrative is demonstrated to meet the criteria for being a true narrative.

This is Part One of a four-part article.

Summary of the problem. The gamut of views concerning the conquest of Ai narrative in the 7th and 8th chapters of the Book of Joshua can be summarized as follows: the narrative is factual, having the weight of eye witness testimony; or, it is an aetiological legend, compiled long after the fact, either just before or during the Babylonian exile for the purpose of justifying Israel’s presence in the land of Canaan; or, it is a pernicious myth, deceptively and skillfully fabricated to correspond with the material time-space context in which it is alleged to have occurred. Is there a method that is capable of objectively arbitrating among these three views?

Summary of the method. The theory of True Narrative Representations propounded by John W. Oller provides the basis for an analytical test of the factuality of the narrative in question, and thereby an arbitration among the three views summarized above. The analytical process begins with the derivation of a fourteen-parameter criterial screen from careful exegesis of the biblical text in the Book of Joshua. The criterial screen is the analytical tool whereby the correspondence of the biblical narrative to its material time-space context can be empirically assessed. The first three parameters of the screen form a predicate criterial screen, which is applied to the three candidate sites for Joshua’s Ai that emerge from past research; namely, et-Tell, Khirbet Nisya, and Khirbet el-Maqatir. Even this very limited three-parameter screen is sufficiently explicit that only one of the candidate sites, Kh. el-Maqatir, meets all of its requirements. The remaining eleven parameters of the more elaborate and still more demanding criterial screen are then applied to that one surviving site, which entails a careful and detailed correlation of the text of Joshua 7 and 8 with the archaeological, geographical, and topographical context of the site. By this means, the conformity of the narrative in question with the determinativeness, connectedness, and generalizability properties of true narratives is empirically tested. Included in the analytical process is the postulation of viable engagement scenarios for the two battles of Ai.

Summary of the conclusion. The result of the analytical process is that, of the three candidate sites for Joshua’s Ai, only Kh. el-Maqatir satisfies all fourteen parameters of the criterial screen, thus providing conclusive evidence that the conquest of Ai narrative is a True Narrative Representation and that Kh. el-Maqatir is the site of the fortress of Ai conquered by Joshua. Key aspects of the evidence include the geographical and topographical contexts of Kh. el-Maqatir, the configuration of its defensive system, its size, its archaeology, and its total conformity with the requirements of the text in Joshua 7 and 8. The view that the conquest of Ai narrative is factual is thereby vindicated, and the aetiological legend and pernicious myth views are refuted.1

THE CONQUEST OF AI NARRATIVE: FACT OR MYTH

The Bible as Historical Narrative

The Bible is essentially an historical narrative concerning the nation of Israel, by means of which Yahweh, the God of Israel presents his character, his purposes, and his requirements with respect to human personalities. In his introduction to the commentary on the Book of Joshua in (Boling 1982: 5), G. Ernest Wright captures the Jewish concept of history and knowledge as follows:

Israel had no idea of a two-realm theory of knowledge, one of a supernal, universal Good and one of the world of human beings where they live. There was only one realm where significant knowledge was obtainable. That was their own, their own life as a people in the midst of the nations with whom they had contact. Yet in this world they indeed affirmed that God is good, but they meant by this that definitive actions in their history exhibited a mysterious Power who for his own reasons had acted toward them with remarkable graciousness.

According to Kaiser (1987: 61-79), a substantial cross-section of scholars would agree that the Bible’s theological truth claims are suspended on a cable of historical factuality. Moreover, according to the theory of true narratives propounded by John W. Oller [Oller (1996: 199-244); Oller & Collins (2000); Collins & Oller (2000)], only true narratives can support and sustain generalizations. Thus, for valid theological truth to be derived from the Bible, it is essential that the Bible’s historical content be true. If the Bible’s historical content is fictional or false, as the critics of the Bible would claim, then the theory of true narratives affirms that the theological truth claims of the Bible must be invalid.

Historical Factuality of the Old Testament

Since the focus of this paper is upon a portion of the Conquest episode recorded in the Book of Joshua, how has the factuality or non-factuality of the Old Testament been viewed from antiquity to the present? The straightforward manner in which Jesus handled, referred to, and taught from the Old Testament writings demonstrates that he regarded them as not only theologically true but also historically factual. For example, consider the following statement by Jesus as he was teaching in the temple in Jerusalem toward the very end of his ministry:

... Upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. [Matthew 23:35, NASB] 2

Concerning this statement by Christ, the following quotation is especially instructive:

Indeed, from one end of Scripture to the other there was a trail of martyred prophets that included all the martyred prophets! For Jesus, therefore, the canon began with Genesis and ended with 2 Chronicles, just as it does in the traditional Hebrew order of the OT, and so the dynamic equivalent of Jesus’ expression, considering our present English order of the OT books, would be: “all the righteous blood . . . from Genesis to Malachi” (Kaiser 1987: 46).

In like manner, the apostles Peter and Paul regarded the Old Testament scriptures to be God-breathed according to 2 Peter 1:20-21 and 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

Hayes & Miller (1977: 1-69) trace the evolution in historiography concerning the nation of Israel from the Hellenistic period to the modern era. Through the period of the Reformation and until the middle of the 17th century with the dawn of the Enlightenment, a consensus generally prevailed among biblical and historical scholars that the historical sections of the Old Testament were factual. Moreover, until this time the provenance of biblical interpretation had resided within the community of the church, albeit a church now fragmented by the polemics of the Reformation. However, by the middle of the 18th century, the provenance for critical analysis of the biblical text had been decisively wrested from the community of the church and had come to reside within the community of philosophical and scientific scholars. The momentous shift in scholarly attitude toward the Old Testament text culminated in the Graf-Wellhausen Documentary Hypothesis. Cassuto (1983: 9-11) cites the work of a succession of scholars who contributed to the development of this hypothesis, including the following: Witter (ca. 1711); Astruc (ca. 1753); Eichhorn (ca. 1783); Vater (ca. 1805); Stähelin, Ewald, et al. (ca. 1820-1830); Lachmann (ca. 1840); Hupfeld (ca. 1853); and Graf (ca. 1865). All of this past research was brilliantly combined, further developed, and persuasively articulated by Julius Wellhausen in a series of works published ca. 1876-1901. Wellhausen affirmed the Jahwist-Elohist-Priestly-Deuteronomist multi-source model developed by his predecessors. Moreover, he asserted that the theocratic organization of Israel and the priestly laws of the Pentateuch reflected post-exilic Judaism rather than the state of Israel at the time of Moses. Furthermore, according to Wellhausen, the earliest date for the codification of portions of the Old Testament was the 8th century BC beginning with the prophecy of Amos and his contemporaries. However, according to Wellhausen, the Hebrew text of the Old Testament in its present form was first compiled and integrated during the post-exilic period. Wellhausen dogmatically asserted that the account of the patriarchs in Genesis was entirely legend, being substantially, if not totally, divorced from historical reality. Because the same sources were detected in the Book of Joshua, the idea of the Hexateuch emerged from Wellhausen’s research.

According to Cassuto (1983: 1-7), Wellhausen’s literary analysis of the Old Testament was so rigorously executed and effectively presented that it came to be regarded as unassailable fact. Having embraced Wellhausen’s research, a biblical scholar would be driven to the conclusion that the earliest point at which the historical narrative of the Old Testament could be trusted as essentially factual corresponded to the establishment of the monarchy under Saul. This is exactly the conclusion manifested in the following quotations from Miller & Hayes:

Literary analysis reveals that this whole Genesis-2 Kings account, from beginning to end, is composite. In other words, many originally independent items (stories, songs, genealogies, collections of laws, and so on), each with its own issues and problems of interpretation as well as historical implications, have been combined to produce the overall account. These various items have been edited, so the resulting composite account has a degree of unity and coherence. Many ragged edges remain, however, which raise glaring questions for the serious reader and which in some cases present what appear to be blatant contradictions [Miller & Hayes (1986: 61)].

We decline any attempt to reconstruct the earliest history of the Israelites therefore, and begin our treatment with a description of the circumstances that appear to have existed among the tribes in Palestine on the eve of the establishment of the monarchy. Our primary source of information for this purpose will be narratives in the Book of Judges [Miller & Hayes (1986: 79)].

Bright (1981: 129-130) directs attention to the apparent contradictions in the account of the Conquest found in Joshua and Judges. On the one hand, the Book of Joshua describes a concentrated sequence of military campaigns by a unified Israelite army under Joshua that brought at least the central hill country under Israel’s control. On the other hand, the Book of Judges describes a fragmented and only partially successful effort by the twelve tribes to subdue the entrenched Canaanites in their various allotments. Factors such as this have motivated most biblical scholars to attribute the account of the Conquest found in Numbers 13:1-Judges 18:31 to multiple literary sources and traditions. The majority opinion in regard to the contour of the actual conquest episode favors the “fragmented model” in Judges over the “unified model” in Joshua. Following is Bright’s assessment of these two apparently competing views of the Conquest:

Both views doubtless contain elements of truth. But the actual events that established Israel on the soil of Palestine were assuredly vastly more complex than a simplistic presentation of either view would suggest [Bright (1981: 130)].

In his chapter on the Israelite occupation of Canaan [Hayes & Miller (1977: 213-221)], J. Maxwell Miller summarizes the two dominant positions of modern biblical scholarship in regard to the Conquest narrative: (a) the Hexateuch model according to Wellhausen, et al., which held that Genesis-Joshua is the product of a unified literary tradition; and, (b) the Deuteronomistic History model according to Alt, Noth, and Von Rad, which held that Deuteronomy-2 Kings is the product of a unified literary tradition. According to both models, the historical sections of the Old Testament are the product of multiple authors, compilers, and redactors who integrated oral traditions and fragments of literary and historiographic material to create a more or less coherent biblical history of Israel. Miller’s concluding assessment follows:

Obviously, the final word is yet to be said on the matter, but two conclusions hold regardless of whether one thinks in terms of a ‘hexateuch’ or a ‘Deuteronomistic history’. First, it is clear that the biblical account of the conquest in Numbers 13-Judges 1 is a highly composite construction. Second, when one attempts to disentangle the various literary strata which compose this account, it becomes increasingly apparent that older traditions which seem unaware of an initial conquest of the whole land of Canaan by a unified Israel have been incorporated into later materials which do. In fact, the concept of an initial conquest by all Israel appears to be largely Deuteronomistic... [Hayes & Miller (1977: 220-221)].

The Conquest of Ai Narrative

John Bright’s reconstruction of the Conquest episode [Bright (1981: 140-143)] bears the imprint of literary and historical criticism of the biblical text as well as that of archaeological research by Kelso & Albright at Beitin [Kelso & Albright (1968)], Kenyon at Jericho [Kenyon (1957); Kenyon (1960: 195-220 & 331-332)], and Callaway at et-Tell [Callaway (1970: 10-12)]. Bright envisages a complex, protracted, and multilateral penetration of Israelite elements into Canaan, even including Hebrew elements that had possibly remained in Canaan during the sojourn of the Israelites in Egypt. His analysis reflects the tension created by the apparently contradictory results of archaeological research. In particular, excavations at et-Tell place in evidence the fact that the Early Bronze city at that site was destroyed ca. 2400 BC, and the site remained unoccupied until a small Iron Age village was established ca. 1200 BC. Commenting upon the apparent conflict between the archaeological data and the biblical narrative, Bright makes the following statement in regard to the conquest of Ai:

This has led some to question the location, others to regard the story as legendary, and still others to adopt other expedients. Far the most plausible suggestion is that the story of Josh., ch. 8, originally referred to the taking of Bethel, of which we are told in Judg. 1:22-26, but which is not mentioned in Joshua [Bright (1981: 131)].

Bright’s reconstruction may seem reasonable in the light of the fragments of evidence, some of which may appear to be mutually contradictory. However, the reader is strongly motivated toward the conclusion that the narrative in Joshua is a vast oversimplification of the Conquest episode and far removed from a straightforward, factual account. In particular, the conquest of Ai narrative in Joshua 7 and 8 is either legendary, or it actually describes a campaign against another location such as Bethel. In either case, the conquest of Ai narrative is substantially nonfactual.

The Emergence Theory

Within the framework of the Finkelstein & Na’aman emergence theory, Na’aman proposes a more radical view of the conquest of Ai narrative:

In the light of the nonhistorical character of the conquest tradition in the Book of Joshua, one should raise a fundamental question: Where did the author derive the material for his narratives? We have yet to establish whether a vague memory of past events was retained in some stories. It is clear, however, that most of the conquest narratives are devoid of historical foundation. One may assume that the author designed the past descriptions in the light of the reality of his time; since he was well acquainted with the sites and the environment portrayed by him, he composed narratives that outwardly appear authentic (save for the conquest miracle of Jericho). This assumption may be supplemented by another: In order to add a sense of authenticity to his narratives, the author borrowed military outlines from concrete events that had taken place in the history of Israel.
Scholars have suggested that the conquest by stratagem of Ai is a literary reflection of the historical episode of the battle of Gibeah (Judges 20). Unfortunately, the literary relationship between the two narratives was not examined in detail, and it is not clear whether the author of Joshua 8 worked the narrative of Judges 20, or vice versa. The author of the story of Ai was certainly impressed by the prominent ruins of the site (Et-Tell), assuming that it was conquered by the Israelites when they occupied the country. To give this story of the capture of Ai an aura of authenticity, he used military elements of either the capture by stratagem of Gibeah or the conquest of another unknown site, transplanting them within a new environment that he knew very well from personal acquaintanceship. The conquest story of Ai did not emerge from an authentic historical memory of the event, but is rather the outcome of a reworking and adaptation of a conquest story relating to another site [Na’aman 1994:249-251)].

Thus, Na’aman proposes that not only is the conquest of Ai narrative nonfactual, but that the author of the narrative intentionally and deceptively cloaked it with an “aura of authenticity” based upon his knowledge of the geographical and topographical context of the site in question combined with the artifice of borrowing data from other historical episodes. The site around which Na’aman’s hypothetical author formulated the conquest of Ai narrative was the prominent ruins of et-Tell. In his discussion of the literary background of the narrative, Na’aman proposes that it was actually compiled either in the late 7th century BC, just prior to the conquest of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, or in the early 6th century after the Israelites had been deported to Babylon. In either case, the most ancient historiographic fragments upon which the narrative was based dated to the time of David and Solomon in the 10th century BC [Na’aman (1994: 218-230)]. Moreover, if the composition of the narrative actually took place in the 6th century BC, its author would have been physically insulated from the site, and therefore he would have been forced to rely entirely upon memory for all archaeological, geographical, and topographical detail. 3

Alternative Views of the Conquest of Ai Narrative

Aetiological Legend View

The aetiological legend view of the conquest of Ai narrative that emerges from the tradition of Albright, Callaway, Kenyon, Bright, et al., can be summarized as follows:

a. The first attempt to codify the Joshua narrative occurred during the divided monarchy toward the end of the 10th century BC. Subsequently, it was revised one or more times, ca. 640-540 BC.

b. The narrative of chapters 7 and 8 of Joshua actually derives from the conquest of nearby Bethel and was later applied to the city of Ai by either the original 10th century BC narrator or by one of the later redactors.

c. Thus, the conquest of Ai narrative can be accurately characterized as a nonfactual aetiological legend compiled long after the events in question.

d. The legend was loosely built around the ruins at et-Tell, the supposed site for the city of Ai, and nearby Bethel.

e. The original compilation of the legend together with its later revisions was strongly motivated by political and theological concerns.

The aetiological legend view of the conquest of Ai narrative probably represents the majority opinion of modern biblical scholars.

Pernicious Myth View

The pernicious myth view of the conquest of Ai narrative that derives from the work of Na’aman can be summarized as follows:

a. The formulation of the content of the book of Joshua occurred at approximately the time of the Babylonian exile; that is, either at the end of the 7th century or during the 6th century BC.

b. The fragments of historical data upon which the composition was based date no earlier than the time of David and Solomon in the 10th century BC.

c. The author of the conquest of Ai narrative possessed considerable knowledge of the Benjamin hill country context of the battle of Ai, and he employed this knowledge to deceptively impart to the narrative an aura of authenticity.

d. In particular, the author of the narrative in question crafted the story of the conquest of Ai around the prominent ruins of et-Tell.

e. Moreover, this author even borrowed the contours and outlines of certain historical battles of antiquity to further enhance the credibility of the conquest of Ai story.

Eyewitness Account View

In contrast to the above, by far the most straightforward explanation for the incredible amount of detail in the conquest of Ai narrative is that it was compiled during the lifetime of Joshua and was based upon direct, eyewitness contact with the places and events in question.

Continue to Part Two >>>

Endnotes

1. This paper is derived from the doctoral dissertation, Briggs (2007). References and footnotes in this paper direct the reader’s attention to passages in the dissertation where additional detail may be found.

2. Scripture quotations in this paper are taken from the New American Standard Bible (abbreviated NASB), Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

3. Refer to Briggs (2007: 48-51 & 77-82) for a discussion of Na’aman’s hypothesis.

4. For a fuller discussion the theory of true narratives and its application to testing the factuality of the conquest of Ai narrative, refer to Briggs (2007: 22-26 & 72-74).

References

Amiran, R. 1970 Ancient Pottery of the Holy Land, p. 12. Rutgers University Press.

Boling, R.G. 1982 The Anchor Bible: Joshua. New York: Doubleday.

Briggs, P. 2007 Testing the Factuality of the Conquest of Ai Narrative in the Book of Joshua, 5th ed. Albuquerque, New Mexico: Trinity Southwest University Press.

Bright, J. 1981 A History of Israel, 3rd ed. Philadelphia: Westminister Press.

Broshi, M. & Gophna, R. 1986 Middle Bronze Age II Palestine: its settlements and population. Bulletin of American Schools of Oriental Research, Vol. 261, pp. 73-95.

Callaway, J. A. 1968 New evidence on the conquest of ) Ai. Journal of Biblical Literature , Vol. LXXXVII, No. III, pp. 312-320.

Callaway, J. A. 1970 The 1968-1969 %Ai (et-Tell) excavations. Bulletin of American Society for Oriental Research, Vol. 198, pp. 10-12.

Callaway, J. A. 1993 Article on Ai in, The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, Stern, E. (Ed.), pp. 39-45. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Cassuto, U. 1983 The Documentary Hypothesis and the Composition of the Pentateuch. Translated by I. Abrahams. Jerusalem: Magnes.

Collins, S. 2002 Let My People Go: Using Historical Synchronisms to Identify the Pharaoh of the Exodus. Albuquerque, New Mexico: Trinity Southwest University Press.

Collins, S. & Oller, J. W., Jr. 2000 Biblical history as true narrative representation. The Global Journal of Classical Theology, Vol. 2, No. 2.

Feller, W. 1957 An Introduction to Probability Theory and Its Applications. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Finegan, J. 1998 Handbook of Biblical Chronology, p. xxxv. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.

Finkelstein, I. & Magen, Y. (Eds.) 1993 Archaeological Survey of the Benjamin Hill Country, p. 46. Jerusalem: Israel Antiquities Authority.

Fouts, D. M. 1992 The Use of Large Numbers in the Old Testament, With Particular Emphasis on the Use of ‘elep. Doctoral dissertation, Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas.

Fouts, D. M. 1997 A defense of the hyperbolic interpretation of large numbers in the Old Testament. Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Vol. 40, No. 3, pp. 377-388.

Frick, F. S. 1977 The City in Ancient Israel, pp. 25-55. Missoula, Montana: Scholars Press.

Gottwald, N. K. 1979 The Tribes of Yahweh, pp. 270-276. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books.

Hansen, D. G. 2000 Evidence for Fortifications at Late Bronze I and II Locations in Palestine. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Trinity College & Seminary, Newburgh, Indiana.

Hayes, W. C. 1975 Chronological tables (A) Egypt. Cambridge Ancient History, Vol. II, No. 2, p. 1038.

Hayes, J. H. & Miller, J. M. (Eds.) 1977 Israelite and Judean History. Philadelphia: Trinity Press International.

Humphreys, C. J. 1998 The number of people in the Exodus from Egypt: decoding mathematically the very large numbers in Numbers I and XXVI. Vetus Testamentum, Vol. 48, pp. 196-213.

Humphreys, C. J. 2000 The numbers in the Exodus from Egypt: a further appraisal. Vetus Testamentum, Vol. 50, pp. 323-328.

Kaiser, W. C., Jr. 1987 Toward Rediscovering the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Kelso, J. L., & Albright, W.F. 1968 The excavation of Bethel. In Kelso, J.L. (Ed.), Annual of American Schools of Oriental Research, Vol. XXXIX, Cambridge.

Kenyon, K. M. 1957 Digging Up Jericho. London.

Kenyon, K. M. 1960 Archaeology in the Holy Land. London: Benn.

Kitchen, K. A. 1992 History of Egypt (chronology). The Anchor Bible Dictionary, Freedman, D. N. (Ed.), Vol. 2, pp. 322-331. New York: Doubleday.

Kitchen, K. A. 1996 The historical chronology of ancient Egypt: a current assessment. Acta Archaeologica, Vol. 67, pp. 1-13.

LaSor, W. S. 1979 Article on archaeology in, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Bromiley, G. W. (Gen. Ed.), Vol. One, pp. 235-244. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Livingston, D. P. 1970 Location of Bethel and Ai Reconsidered. Westminister Theological Journal, Vol. 33, pp. 20-24.

Livingston, D. P. 1971 Traditional site of Bethel Questioned. Westminister Theological Journal, Vol. 34, pp. 39-50.

Livingston, D. P. 1994 Further considerations on the location of Bethel at El-Bireh. Palestine Exploration Quarterly, Vol. 126, pp. 154-159.

Livingston, D. P. 1999 Is Kh. Nisya the Ai of the Bible? Bible and Spade, Vol. 12, No. 1, pp. 13-20.

Mendenhall, G. E. 1958 The census of Numbers 1 and 26. Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 77, pp. 52-66.

Miller, J. M. & Hayes, J. H. 1986 A History of Ancient Israel and Judah. Philadelphia: The Westminister Press.

Na’aman, N. 1994 The ‘Conquest of Canaan’ in the Book of Joshua and in History. In Finkelstein, I. & Na’aman, N. (Eds.). From Nomadism to Monarchy. Washington: Biblical Archaeology Society.

Oller, J. W., Jr. 1996 Semiotic theory applied to free will, relativity, and determinacy: or why the unified field theory sought by Einstein could not be found. Semiotica, Vol. 108, No. 3 & 4, pp. 199-244.

Oller, J. W., Jr. & Collins, S. 2000 The logic of true narratives. The Global Journal of Classical Theology, Vol. 2, No. 2.

Petrie, W. M. F. 1931 Egypt and Israel, pp. 40-46. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. Originally published in 1910.

Wenham, G. J. 1981 Numbers: An Introduction and Commentary, pp. 56-66. Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter-Varsity Press.

Wente, E. & Van Siclen, C., III 1977 A chronology of the New Kingdom, Table 1, p. 218. Studies in Ancient Oriental Civilization No. 39. Chicago: The Oriental Institute.

Wood, B. G. 2000a Khirbet el-Maqatir, 1995-1998. Israel Exploration Journal, Vol. 50, pp. 123-130. Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society.

Wood, B. G. 2000b Khirbet el-Maqatir, 1999. Israel Exploration Journal, Vol. 50, pp. 249-254. Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society.

Wood, B. G. 2000c Kh. El-Maqatir 2000 Dig Report. Bible and Spade, Vol. 13, No. 3, pp. 67-72.

Zevit, Z. 1985 The Problem of Ai: New Theory Rejects the Battle as Described in the Bible but Explains How the Story Evolved. Biblical Archaeology Review, Vol. XI, No. 2, pp. 58-69.

 

 

This article was first published in the book: Critical Issues in Early Israelite History. Copyright (c) 2008 Eisenbrauns, Inc. Posted with permission. Available from Eisenbrauns publishers. To purchase this book from Eisenbrauns, click on the cover graphic to the left.

 

 

Dedicated to Dr. David Livingston.

Abstract: The sites of Joshua's Ai, Beth Aven and Bethel, are chronologically and geographically linked by Josh 7:2 and related passages. Joshua's Ai is commonly thought to be located at et-Tell and Bethel at Beitin. Assuming these two
identifications to be correct, no viable location for Beth Aven has been suggested. A detailed review of the geographical and archaeological data pertaining to et-Tell and Beitin reveals that et-Tell does not meet the biblical requirements for Joshua's Ai, and Beitin does not meet the biblical and extrabiblical requirements for Bethel. Based on present evidence, the only combination that meets the complex matrix of biblical and extrabiblical requirements for the three sites is to locate Bethel at el-Bira, Beth Aven at Beitin, and Joshua's Ai at the newly excavated site of Khirbet el-Maqatir.

Open this PDF file to read the rest of this extensive research on Joshua's Ai.

pdfThe-Search-for-Joshuas-Ai.pdf

Search for Joshua's Ai references MS Word.doc (70.00 kb)

Note: Although ABR founder Dr. David Livingston and Dr. Bryant Wood have drawn different conclusions on the location of Joshua's Ai, Dr. Wood has recognized the extremely important contributions made by Dr. Livingston over the past 40 years with respect to this important subject by dedicating this article to him.

The problem addressed in this article is the arbitration among the three alternative views of the conquest of Ai narrative summarized in Part One. This is accomplished by testing the correspondence between the narrative in question and the material time-space context it purports to represent. Part Two...

This is Part Two of a four-part article.

Statement of the Problem

The problem addressed in this paper is the arbitration among the three alternative views of the conquest of Ai narrative summarized above. This is accomplished by testing the correspondence between the narrative in question and the material time-space context it purports to represent. The analytical method is based upon the theory of true narratives propounded by John W. Oller.4

Theological Significance

Given the prevailing scholarly opinion concerning the Conquest narrative in general, and the conquest of Ai narrative in particular, the research summarized in this paper is of great relevance to the ongoing debate concerning the factuality of the historical sections of the Old Testament, and, therefore, the theological truth value that is contained therein. Because the Conquest narrative in Joshua is the historical fulfillment of Yahweh’s unconditional covenant with the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to give the land of Canaan to their descendants, the integrity of Yahweh, the God of Israel is either established or impugned depending on whether the Conquest narrative in Joshua is factual or nonfactual.

Definition of Terms

Numerical Values

Military force element sizes in the conquest of Ai narrative, and, in fact, throughout the Hebrew Bible, are expressed in terms of eleph, or its plural form, elephim (transliterated (eleph and (elephîym, respectively). Hereafter in this paper, these two Hebrew terms are denoted eleph and elephim without diacritical markings. Furthermore, the point of controversy is over the numerical equivalence of eleph and elephim, not over their literary meaning. Therefore, to further simplify the discussion, the numerical equivalent of eleph and elephim is designated E.

This research is narrowly focused on the meaning and numerical equivalence of eleph and elephim when the terms are used to describe military forces, such as in the military censuses of Numbers 1 and 26 and the conquest of Ai narrative in Joshua 7 and 8. Within the sphere of this specific use of eleph and elephim, the customary gloss corresponding to E = 1,000 men is employed throughout the Hebrew Bible. According to Gottwald (1979: 270), this equivalence is appropriate to the time of David. However, according to the research of Briggs (2007), Fouts (1992, 1997), Gottwald (1979), Humphreys (1998, 2000), Mendenhall (1958), Petrie (1931), and Wenham (1981), the equivalence E = 1,000 men may not be appropriate to the time of Moses and Joshua. In particular, Briggs (2007: 55-57) discusses a number of problems precipitated by E = 1,000. With regard to the conquest of Ai narrative, the most serious problem is that if the army of Israel was actually of the order of 600 thousand men in accordance with the customary rendering of Numbers 1:46 & 26:51, then it would have been the mightiest fighting force in the ancient world. Compared with the number of Canaanites killed at Ai, Israel would have possessed a 50-to-1 numerical advantage!

The results of past research concerning the meaning and numerical equivalence of eleph can be summarized as follows:

a. Within the sphere of the military application, there is general agreement that eleph designates a troop of men under command of a leader. The customary gloss of E = 1,000 corresponds to the assumption that a troop size of 1,000 applies consistently throughout the Hebrew Scriptures.

b. According to Gottwald, one eleph would have been the contribution to the national military muster deriving from a particular tribal subdivision. A troop size of E = 1,000 applies to the time of David, but not necessarily to the time of Moses and Joshua.

c. According to Humphreys, the problematically large size of the army of Israel according to the censuses of Numbers 1 and 26 results from a conflation of terms in the Hebrew text. The value of E in both censuses is tribe-dependent and lies in the range of 5 to 17 men with an average value of approximately 10. This means that the army of Israel was actually of the order of 6 thousand men during the time of Moses. Gottwald, Mendenhall, Petrie, and Wenham would probably agree with Humphrey’s result, although not necessarily with his method for obtaining it.

d. Fouts argues for a hyperbolic use of numbers in the two censuses to ascribe glory to Yahweh as the reigning monarch over Israel. Since the Israelites employed a decimal numbering system, Fouts suggests that the equivalence, E = 1,000 incorporates a divine force multiplication factor of 10, which means that E should be quantified as 100.5

e. Because of the consistency with which E = 1,000 is assumed throughout the Hebrew Bible, and because of the Pauline reference to a plague incident in 1 Corinthians 10:8, this researcher favors a third resolution to the eleph problem; namely, a representational view according to which Moses, as an inspired writer of Scripture, was consistently directed to assume a divine force multiplier of 100 to represent the invincibility of the army of Israel so long as they remained faithful to the covenant with Yahweh.

Considering the proposed resolutions to the eleph problem, there exists a two-order of magnitude range of uncertainty applicable to the value of E. That is, E lies within the range of 10 to 1000. Data from the Conquest narrative in Joshua is brought to bear later in this paper in order to shrink the uncertainty band for E applicable to the time of Joshua.

Archaeological Periods

Archaeological periods pertinent to analysis of the conquest of Ai narrative in this paper are defined in Table 1. The dates and nomenclature have been synthesized from LaSor (1979), Amiran (1970), and Finegan (1998). The archaeological period nomenclature and dates defined in Table 1 are used throughout this paper.

image.axd120Table 1. Archaeological Periods

Regnal Periods of 18th and 19th Dynasty Pharaohs

There is a tight linkage between the regnal periods of the Egyptian pharaohs and the dating of archaeological finds in Palestine. Both the 13th century date for the Exodus favored by the majority of scholars, and the 15th century date that obtains from the biblical timeline fall within the LBA and also within the time frame of the 18th and 19th dynasties. Authoritative sources for the names and regnal periods of the 18th and 19th dynasty pharaohs include the following: Hayes (1975), Wente & Van Siclen (1977), and Kitchen (1992, 1996). In Briggs (2007: 18-20) these multiple sources are compiled into a single table by means of a weighted average technique.

The Fortress of Ai

In the Hebrew text of chapters 7 and 8 of Joshua, the site in question is characterized by the Hebrew word HEBREW LETTERING, normally translated ‘city’. Frick (1977) and Hansen (2000: 36-42) present detailed analyses of this word, the central aspect of whose meaning is a fortified site. In terms of size, HEBREW LETTERING could designate a broad range of occupied sites from a watchtower or citadel to a fortified city. The configuration of the site described in Joshua 7 and 8 was probably a citadel surrounded by an outer fortification wall and gate system. The term that is selected for most precisely defining the meaning of HEBREW LETTERING in regard to the site of Ai is ‘fortress’.

The Site of Kh. el-Maqatir

This is one of the candidate sites for the fortress of Ai conquered by Joshua. It is located 3.5 kilometers east-northeast of the modern city of El Bireh, 1.6 kilometers southeast of the modern village of Beitin, and 1.1 kilometers west of et-Tell. The precise spelling of the Arabic name for this location is as follows: Khirbet el-Maqâþir. Throughout this paper, the diacritical marks are omitted for the sake of convenience and the name of the site is denoted Kh. el-Maqatir.

Definition of a Narrative

For purposes of this paper, a narrative is a verbal description of an event or an event sequence that is alleged to have taken place in a given material time-space context. An event sequence is designated an episode. Note that a delimitation is inherent in the definition; namely, only narratives that are known or alleged to be factual are considered. A fictional narrative is invented or imagined by its author; therefore, it is not known to be factual, and its author makes no claim as to its factuality. Two additional delimitations are imposed as follows: this paper only considers narratives that are, (a) written down, and, (b) linguistically coherent; in other words, well-formed in terms of syntax and grammar. Thus, the gamut of narratives to be considered include factual narratives, traditions, legends, myths, and lies. All of these terms are employed in accordance with their normal definitions. A kind of legend that is especially germane to this paper is an aetiological legend, which is a story, perhaps partially or even substantially factual, that seeks to define a cause that lies behind an observable effect (e.g., the presence of Israel in the land of Palestine, the prominent ruin of et-Tell, etc.). A kind of myth that is especially germane to this paper is a pernicious myth, which is a nonfactual story whose author intentionally and deceptively cloaks with an aura of authenticity in order to make it appear to be factual.

Definition of a True Narrative

The True Narrative Representation, or TNR, is the perfected and limiting case of a factual narrative, and it is distinguished by a triad of properties: determinativeness, connectedness, and generalizability in accordance with [Oller (1996); Oller & Collins (2000); Collins & Oller (2000)]. These properties derive from the fact that a competent observer/narrator maps an episode consisting of a sequence of one or more empirical time-space events into a linguistic representation. According to the delimitations imposed above, only true narratives that are written down are considered. The triad of TNR attributes are defined as follows:

a. Determinativeness. Through the perceptive and cognitive faculties of the narrator, the empirical particulars of the episode are mapped into language. Therefore, the surface form of the linguistic representation of the episode is motivated by the material facts of the episode as they are perceived by the narrator, and the linguistic representation determines those material facts in the sense of characterizing them and imparting meaning and relationship to them. In fact, apart from a TNR, the material facts of the episode are empty and meaningless, and therefore indeterminate. In other words, all manner of material facts, including scientific findings, are not self-determinative.

b. Connectedness. There are three aspects of this attribute. First, the components of the narrative are connected by the cognitive and linguistic faculties of the observer/narrator to the events that make up the episode. Second, the trajectory of the episode, which is embodied in the dynamic connections among the events that comprise the episode, is mapped into recognizable components of the narrative. Third, and because of the above, even as the episode is couched in a particular material time-space context, in like manner the TNR and its components are rooted in and tightly coupled to that context. Therefore, all TNRs that describe episodes that have occurred in a given material time-space context accurately reflect the particulars of that context, even though they may describe different episodes. Furthermore, since the episode of which the TNR is a mapping unfolded from event to event, with event-to-event transitions that are physically realizable, correspondingly the TNR accurately describes physically realizable event-to-event transitions.

c. Generalizability. Unlike any other kind of narrative, only TNRs are capable of supporting and sustaining generalizations. Such generalizations encompass the attributes and behaviors of any and all of the entities included in the episode, ranging from material objects to human personalities. For example, the genesis of the law of gravity undoubtedly originated with a TNR that described the falling of an object from a height.

Necessary Correspondence

This is a property of true narratives that derives from the formal properties of determinativeness and connectedness defined above. In particular, a true narrative necessarily corresponds with the material time-space context of the episode that it describes.

Empirical Correspondence

Because of the property of necessary correspondence, there ought to be an observed or empirical correspondence between a TNR and the material facts it purports to represent. Whereas necessary correspondence exists by definition, empirical correspondence is subject to the uncertainties that unavoidably attend any operation of quantitative measurement [Oller (1996: 227-229)]. Hereafter in this paper, where the term ‘correspondence’ is employed without qualification, it shall be understood as empirical correspondence rather than as necessary correspondence.

Criterial Screen

This is the particular measure of empirical correspondence that is selected for use in the present research. Through valid and correctly applied hermeneutical procedure, the parameters of the criterial screen are derived from the text of the narrative. Each of the parameters describes an aspect of the material time-space context of the narrative which must be true if the narrative is a TNR. For example, the fact that the fortress of Ai was a small site with area less than 7 acres is a criterial screen parameter which derives from the statement in Joshua 10:2 where the area of the fortress of Ai is compared with that of Gibeon.

Extending the argument to the general condition, if any given narrative is true, then all of the criterial screen parameters derived from it must also be true. In general, the greater the detail contained in the text of the narrative, the larger the number of criterial screen parameters that can be derived from the text, and, therefore, the greater the confidence factor that is associated with the result of testing the criterial screen against the material time-space context of the narrative.

Mutual Independence

Not only are the parameters of the criterial screen conditions which can be either true or false, but they are also mutually independent. That is, no parameter in the screen can be functionally linked or statistically correlated with any other parameter.

Probabilities and Confidence Factors

Suppose that it were possible to assign a probability to each of the parameters in the criterial screen. Considering the example above, one could examine a source for the sizes of Bronze Age settlements in the Benjamin hill country and determine the ratio of the number of sites whose areas are less than 7 acres divided by the total number of sites. This ratio would approximate the probability that any Benjamin hill country site selected at random would be smaller than 7 acres. If a number of parameters in the screen are found to be true, then, in accordance with the product rule for Bernoulli trials [Feller (1957: 183-198)], the joint probability of the combined event is equal to the product of the probabilities associated with each of the individual screen parameters. In fact, the result is the probability that the confluence of factors resulting in multiple screen parameters being true is a purely random occurrence. Generally, as the number of screen parameters that are true increases, the probability that such a confluence of factors is a random occurrence decreases to the point of becoming vanishingly small. In the case of a criterial screen that contains 10 parameters with a probability of 0.5 arbitrarily assigned to each, the probability that all 10 are true as a random occurrence is

2-10 = ( 1 / 1,024 ) = 0.000977

Thus, the probability that the 10 parameters being true is not a random occurrence is

1 - 2-10 = 0.999023

This exemplifies the logic that is applied later in this paper to develop a confidence factor for the result of the present research.

Reenactment

A corollary to the connectedness and generalizability properties of TNRs is this: a TNR uniquely enables the spatial reenactment of the event sequence of which the episode is comprised. In the case of the conquest of Ai narrative, the gamut of reenactment possibilities range from a detailed, “cast of thousands” portrayal of the battle to the reconstruction of one or more scenario models that fit the narrative’s description of the battle. In effect, a true narrative can be generalized back upon itself and relived in the spatial, but not the temporal, context in which the episode it describes originally occurred. This is true provided that the spatial context of the narrative can be identified and that it has not changed significantly over time. Thus, the ability to reenact the episode described in a narrative is an approach to rigorously testing the correspondence property.

Limited Cases of Reenactment

How does the reenactment property of TNRs apply in the case of the conquest of Ai episode? If the biblical narrative is a TNR, then it is possible to formulate one or more engagement scenarios involving the Israelite and Canaanite force elements described in the narrative. In particular, the traversal on foot of the routes and distances described and in the times allotted would be feasible. Thus, in the case of the conquest of Ai narrative, it is possible to probe the plausibility that a campaign such as that described in the narrative could have been carried out in actuality through a combination of analytical modeling and ground surveys of the topography in question.

Representational Uncertainty

This is a general term that includes the factors of imprecision, approximation, ambiguity, and a finite level of detail. Representational uncertainty has nothing to do with necessary correspondence, as defined above, but only with empirical correspondence. In particular, representational uncertainty can be structured and defined in terms of the criterial screen defined above. In general, the more precise and detailed a narrative, the greater the number of criterial screen parameters that can be derived from it and the lower the uncertainty. Therefore, the more precise and detailed the narrative, the greater the degree to which its factuality can be tested through comparison of its criterial screen with the material time-space context that the narrative purports to represent. The lower the precision and detail, the less amenable the narrative is to testing by this means. The level of precision and detail contained in the conquest of Ai narrative permits the formulation of a 14-parameter criterial screen.

Uncertainty Band

Representational uncertainty is encountered in deriving and evaluating the parameters of the criterial screen. For example, based upon available data, the area of Gibeon at the time of Joshua is estimated to have been 11 ±4 acres6. In this particular case, the median value of 11 6 acres is the expected value or best estimate of the size of Gibeon. The variation around the median value of ±4 acres is a measure of the representational uncertainty present in the estimate of the area of Gibeon.

Conclusiveness of the Evidence

The larger the number of parameters in the criterial screen, the more conclusive the evidence in favor of a given factuality test result. In the case of the 14-parameter criterial screen derivable from the conquest of Ai narrative in Joshua 7 and 8, if all 14 parameters are found to be true in connection with one of the candidate sites of Joshua’s Ai, then the evidence in favor of that being the correct site and the biblical narrative being factual would be conclusive beyond reasonable doubt. On the other hand, if few or none of the parameters are found to be true, then either the site has not been correctly identified, or the biblical narrative is nonfactual; in other words it would be either an aetiological legend or a pernicious myth.

DERIVATION OF THE NUMERICAL EQUIVALENT OF ELEPH

Range of Uncertainty From Past Research

The meaning of eleph, together with its plural form elephim, is one of the most baffling interpretive issues facing scholars of the Hebrew Bible. For the sake of convenience and simplicity of nomenclature, the symbol E is used to designate the numerical equivalent of either eleph or elephim. In the immediate context of the military censuses of the non-Levitical tribes recorded in Numbers 1 and 26, it has been concluded from the analysis of past research that,

eleph = Troop of fighting men

However, as to the numerical equivalent of E, the uncertainty band which results from the diversity of scholarly opinion is very large, extending over two orders of magnitude from E = 10 to E = 1,000.

Since the sizes of the various Israelite and Canaanite force elements that were involved in the two battles of Ai are described in terms of E, a central issue to correctly interpreting the conquest of Ai narrative is an accurate understanding of the numerical equivalent of E. Exegesis of the biblical texts pertinent to the conquest of Ai is brought to bear upon estimating the magnitude of E that was appropriate to the time of Joshua, and thereby narrowing the band of uncertainty to something in the order of ±50%.

The Army of Israel

The military force mustered at the command of Yahweh in Joshua 8:1-3 is described as follows: “Take all the people of war with you.” In other words, Joshua was to muster the whole army of Israel, evidently equivalent to that enumerated in the second military census of Numbers 26. Employing the analytical model of Humphreys (1998)7 as a working hypothesis, the magnitude of E under the leadership of Moses was approximately 10. At the time of the census of Numbers 26, the army of Israel numbered 5,730 fighting men organized into 593 troops, each of which consisted of between 5 and 17 men. This was the size and organizational structure of the army of Israel as it was poised on the plains of Moab opposite Jericho prior to the death of Moses. Thus, in accordance with Humphreys’ model, the number of fighting men that Joshua took with him for the second battle of Ai was 5,730. However, did Joshua organize his army with the same troop size corresponding to E . 10, or with a different troop size? In particular, does the text in the Book of Joshua provide clues as to the value of E that was appropriate to the time of Joshua?

In fact, clues as to the numerical equivalent of E can be derived from the spies’ report in Joshua 7:2-3 combined with the size of Ai as compared with that of Gibeon in accordance with Joshua 10:2.

Content of the Spies' Report

In Joshua 7:2-3, the spies commissioned by Joshua assessed the size and defensive capability of Ai in terms of the size of the attack force needed to conquer the fortress. Their recommendation was that a force of only 2E or 3E would be adequate. While I later suggest that the spies underestimated the size of Ai in terms of the number of people who were there, it is reasonable to assume that they had in mind a significant numerical advantage in Israel’s favor. Therefore, their estimate of the number of military-aged males at Ai would have been of the order of 1E so as to provide Israel with a 2-to-1 or 3-to-1 numerical advantage. Assuming that the median age of the male population of Ai was 20 years in agreement with Humphreys, the total number of males in the population of Ai would have been 2E. Assuming that the population of Ai was equally divided between males and females, the total population of Ai, according to the spies’ assessment, would have been of the order of 4E.

Implications of the Spies’ Report

The implications of the spies’ report with respect to the population and size of Ai depend upon the value selected for E. Table 2 presents the results that obtain from three values of E: E1 = 10, the minimum value associated with the range of values appropriate to the time of Moses; E2 = 1,000, corresponding to the customary gloss for eleph throughout the Hebrew Bible; and E3 = 100, which is the geometric mean between E1 and E2. For each value of E, the total population of Ai according to the spies’ report is listed in Table 2. The size of Ai is estimated from the population by application of a population density of 162 persons per acre [Broshi & Gophna (1986)].

image.axd121Table 2. Population and Size of Ai According to the Spies’ Report and for Three Values of E

Size of Ai According to the Spies’ Report

The area of Gibeon at the time of Joshua is estimated to lie between a minimum value of 7 acres and a maximum value of 15 acres; that is, 11 ±4 acres.8 I interpret the biblical requirement in Joshua 10:2 to mean that the maximum value for the area of Ai must be less than the minimum value for the area of Gibeon; in other words, the uncertainty bands for the two areas must be disjoint with that for Ai falling below that for Gibeon. Accordingly, the maximum area for the fortress of Ai is established as 7 acres. Referring to Table 2, the equivalence of E1 = 1,000 persons yields 24.7 acres as an area estimate for the fortress of Ai which is over 3½ times the maximum value of 7 acres, and therefore blatantly contradicts the statement in Joshua 10:2.

Accordingly, the value of E appropriate to the time of Joshua must be smaller than E1 = 1,000.

It is possible to derive the maximum value for E from the report of the spies. With 162 persons per acre as the population density from Broshi & Gophna (1986), 7 acres is the maximum value for the area of Ai, and 4 as the multiple of E that represents the total population of Ai according to the spies’ estimate, then the maximum value for E is given by the following equation:

(1) EMAX = ( 162 x 7 ) / 4 = 283.5, or approximately 300

As noted in Table 2, E1 = 10 yields a population and area of Ai that is implausibly small. Therefore, the value of E applicable to the time of Joshua must lie between 10 and 300. Suppose that the minimum value for the area of Ai is taken to be 10% of its maximum value of 7 acres, that is, 0.7 acres. Based upon available data concerning the area of the candidate sites of Ai, this value appears to be very conservative in terms of being much smaller than a minimum plausible area for the fortress of Ai. Nevertheless, employing it to calculate a minimum value of E according to the pattern of equation (1),

(2) EMIN = ( 162 x 0.7 ) / 4 = 28.4, or approximately 30

Thus, the uncertainty band for the value of E applicable to the time of Joshua is estimated to be from a minimum value of E = 30 to a maximum value of E = 300. The geometric mean of 30 and 300 is

(3) EMEAN = ( 30 x 300)1/2 = 94.9, or approximately 100

Referring to Table 2, the value EMEAN = E3 = 100 yields 2.5 acres for the area of the fortress of Ai, which is 36% of the maximum allowable value of 7 acres. The areas of the two most plausible candidates for Joshua’s Ai, which are Kh. Nisya and Kh. el-Maqatir, lie within the range of 3 to 6 acres; therefore, the value of 2.5 acres is plausible, albeit on the small side. In conclusion, E = 100 is selected as the best estimate for the value of E applicable to the time of Joshua.

Size of Ai According to the Canaanites Killed in the Second Battle

According to Joshua 8:25, the total number of Canaanites killed in the second battle was 12E. From Joshua 8:17, this number included the entire population of Ai plus, evidently, the fighting men from Bethel, who had joined the men of Ai in pursuing Israel. How can the constituent parts of the 12E be estimated? Let us assume that the spies underestimated the population of Ai by 50% so that there were actually 1.5E fighting men there, and the total population, including women, children, and aged men was therefore 6E. This yields an area of 3.7 acres for the fortress of Ai, which accords very well with the measured sizes of Kh. Nisya and Kh. el-Maqatir. As a byproduct, the fighting men from Bethel would have numbered 6E.

Conclusion with Respect to the Magnitude of E

The equivalence E = 100 is adopted as being appropriate to the time of Joshua. This equivalence is subject to an estimated uncertainty band of ±50%. That is, the value of E is considered to range from a minimum value of E = 50 to a maximum value of E = 150 at the time of Joshua. While the size of the army that Joshua inherited from Moses was 5,730 fighting men, he organized this force into troops of 100, each under its own leader. The attack force deployed in the first battle of Ai was 3E = 300 men, so that the 36 men killed in action would have been 12% of this attack force. The attack force that Joshua personally led into the second battle was 5,730, or approximately 57E. The primary ambush force that Joshua deployed according to Joshua 8:3-9 was 30E = 3,000 men, which would have been 53% of the entire force. The secondary ambush force mentioned in Joshua 8:12 was 5E = 500 men. The residual attack force that Joshua led to a place of encampment north of Ai according to Joshua 8:10-13 was 22E = 2,200 men, or 39% of the total force. The total number of Canaanites that were killed in the second battle numbered 12E = 1,200 people, including the following constituent parts according to the reasoning presented above: (a) fighting men of Ai = 1.5E = 150; (b) remaining population of Ai, including women, children, and aged men = 4.5E = 450; and, (c) fighting men of Bethel = 6E = 600.

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Endnotes

4. For a fuller discussion the theory of true narratives and its application to testing the factuality of the conquest of Ai narrative, refer to Briggs (2007: 22-26 & 72-74).

5. Refer to Briggs (2007: 60-61) for a discussion of Force Multiplication.

6. Refer to Briggs (2007: 117-118) for the derivation of this estimate.

7. Refer to Appendix A in Briggs (2007: 163-171) for a critical analysis and review of Humphreys’ model.

8. Refer to the discussion under Uncertainty Band on p. 12 of this paper and to Briggs (2007: 117-118).

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