The historical record is based on evidence, and a new course at B’nai Sholom will explore whether there is, or isn’t, archaeological evidence for various periods of biblical history.
On Monday, Jan. 7, Steven Stark-Riemer will begin teaching “Archaeology and History of Ancient Israel.” The eight-session course will dive into the development of biblical archaeology by looking at several time periods and how events later affected the lives of the people who now live in the Middle East.
“We’re not looking to prove the accuracy/inaccuracy of the (Hebrew) Bible in the course,” Stark-Riemer said. “Just looking at the archeology.” Stark-Reimer studied anthropology and specialized in archaeology at City College of New York and later conducted field work in Israel.
Stark-Reimer said he’ll spend the first session of the course talking about what biblical archaeology is and will then take the rest of the course to look at various periods of time in biblical history set forth in the Hebrew Bible. The course will look at the antiquarians of the late 19th century up until the present, and then later consider the Patriarchal Age, including the descent into Egypt, the Exodus, the United Kingdom of David and Solomon and then the dissolution into the Divided Kingdoms of Israel and Judah. It will finish by covering the Babylonian Conquest and the destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem in 586 B.C.E.
For example, Stark-Reimer said the class would look to see what archaeological evidence there may be for the existence of the patriarchs, including Abraham and Isaac.
“If we can’t find archaeological evidence that specially talks about or refers to them as individuals, can we find a place in history outside of The Bible where their lives as described in The Bible would reasonably fit?” Stark-Reimer said. “If you were to take biblical chronology, the patriarchs seemed to be living … 2,000 years before the common era … Using that as a theme, what can we know, how can we know it, we can then move through biblical history and see what evidence there is.”
Some scholars describe archaeological evidence, like stones, bones and artifacts made by people, as “mute,” Stark-Reimer said, because they don’t “speak.” He said if you know how to “read’ these artifacts, “in a way, they speak just like texts speak.”
Stark-Reimer said he won’t be bringing in any actual artifacts but will show them in a PowerPoint presentation to his students.
As a course that follows the development of culture and religion over thousands of years, Stark-Reimer said the class can reach many spectrums of religions and people.
“A course like this presents the background and history not only for Jews but for Christians as well and though to a somewhat lesser extent, Islam,” Stark-Reimer said. “I think it’s important for people today to know where they come from.”
Stark-Reimer has been teaching several courses part of a series at B’nai Sholom since 2007. The class size usually ranges from 20 to 30 adult students, mainly for continuing education or retirees.
“Archaeology and History of Ancient Israel” will be taught Monday mornings, beginning Monday, Jan. 7 from 10 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. at B’nai Sholom, 420 Whitehall Road, Albany. The fee for the course is $60 ($40 for B’nai Sholom members), and registration is required. For more information, visit www.bnaisholom.albany.ny.us or contact the B’nai Sholom office at 482-5283 or [email protected]