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For the first time, the true history of ancient Israel as revealed through recent archaeological discoveries-and a controversial new take on when, why and how the Bible was written. In the past three decades, archaeologists have made great strides in recovering the lost world of the Old Testament. Dozens of digs in Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Lebanon have changed experts' understanding of ancient Israel and its neighbours- as well as their vision of the Bible's greatest tales. Yet until now, the public has remained almost entirely unaware of these discoveries which help separate legend from historical truth. Here, at last, two of archaeology's leading scholars shed new light on how the Bible came into existence. They assert, for example, that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob never existed, that David and Solomon were not great kings but obscure chieftains and that the Exodus never happened. They offer instead a new historical truth: the Bible was created by the people of the small, southern nation of Judah in a heroic last-ditch attempt to keep their faith alive after the demise of the larger, wealthier nation of Israel to the north.
It is in this truth, not in the myths of the past, that the real value of the Bible is evident.
ISRAEL FINKELSTEIN is the chairman of the Department of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University. He is currently director of the university's excavations in Tel Megiddo, the ancient Armageddon and Israel's most important biblical-archaeological site. NEIL ASHER SILBERMAN is a former Guggenheim Fellow, a contributing editor to ARCHAELOGY magazine, and was the coordinator of the Dorot Foundation Dead Sea Scrolls Conference in 1998.