Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Saturday 25 September |
Saint of the Day: Bl. Herman “the Cripple”
home iconNews
line break icon

Archaeologist known for using Bible as historical text dies

ASHDOD

Roman Yanushevsky/Shutterstock

John Burger - published on 06/01/21 - updated on 06/01/21

Eilat Mazar discovered palace of City of David in Jerusalem.

Eilat Mazar, an Israeli archaeologist who came under criticism by colleagues for her reliance on the Bible as a historical text, died May 25 at age 64. 

“I work with the Bible in one hand and the tools of excavation in the other,” Mazar once told the Jerusalem Post. “The Bible is the most important historical source and therefore deserves special attention.”

Mazar, the granddaughter of Russian Israeli immigrant and prominent archaeologist Benjamin Mazar, began getting her fingers dirty at age 11, as the elder Mazar tried to get as many family members as he could to assist on digs. She went on to get a bachelor’s degree in 1981, and later a doctorate, at Hebrew University. Her thesis on the biblical Phoenicians was based on her excavation of a Phoenician site in northern Israel.

Among her discoveries was King David’s Palace in the City of David in Jerusalem; a gate identified with King Solomon; a wall thought to have been built by Nehemiah; two clay seals that name the captors of the prophet Jeremiah; seals that name King Hezekiah, and a seal that may have belonged to the prophet Isaiah.

Although she was not religious, Mazar knew verses of the Bible by heart and would at times literally take directions from Sacred Scripture.

“In 1997, she wrote about how 2 Samuel 5:17 describes David going down from his palace to a fortification,” Christianity Today reported. “Assuming that was an accurate description and looking at the topography of Jerusalem, she identified the place where David’s palace should be. In 2005, she was able to start excavation at the site, and almost immediately discovered evidence she was right — and so was the Book of Samuel.”

Not everyone agreed with her giving the Good Book such credence. Israel Finkelstein, who maintained that David’s biblical kingdom was greatly exaggerated, said in 2006, “You cannot study biblical archeology with only a simple reading of the text. The Bible cannot be understood without a knowledge of the millennia of biblical criticism that has gone along with it. … The Bible is an important source, but we can’t take it seriously.”

But Mazar defended her methods. 

“Look,” she told Christianity Today in 2011, “when I’m excavating Jerusalem, and when I’m excavating at the city of David, and when I’m excavating near the Kidron Valley and near the Gihon Spring and at the Ophel — these are all biblical terms. So it’s not like I’m here because it’s some anonymous place. This is Jerusalem, which we know best from the Bible.”

CT said Mazar would pore over the Bible, reading it repeatedly, “for it contains within it descriptions of genuine historical reality.”

“I [can’t] believe these archaeologists who ignore the Bible,” Mazar told CT. “To ignore the written sources, especially the Bible — I don’t believe any serious scholar anywhere would do this. It doesn’t make any sense.”

Tags:
ArchaeologyBibleHistoryIsrael
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
VATICAN LEGOS
J-P Mauro
Chicago architect models Vatican City from 67,000 LEGO bricks
2
SLEEPING
Cecilia Pigg
7 Ways the saints can help you sleep better at night
3
Tolkien
Philip Kosloski
Why J.R.R. Tolkien loved to attend daily Mass
4
The Sinai Peninsula and the Dead Sea Rift
J-P Mauro
Experts now believe Sodom was destroyed by a meteor
5
PADRE PIO
Bret Thoman, OFS
Exclusive photos: Meet Padre Pio and the place he lived
6
PADRE PIO
Philip Kosloski
How Our Lady saved Padre Pio from a violent demonic attack
7
peace
Cerith Gardiner
9 Padre Pio quotes for when you’re feeling scared or uncertain
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.