During the past century, our knowledge of the historical and literary background of the Bible has increased by a series of prodigious leaps, and it is now advancing with steadily increasing speed. My own thinking has fully participated in this rapid change, as may be seen by comparison of my several volumes of a general nature, from The Archaeology of Palestine and the Bible (1932) through From the Stone Age to Christianity (1940) to Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan (1968). This steady advance is the result of several factors:
1. A rapid increase in the number of serious archaeological expeditions from many different countries, including Japan. Museum space and volume of publication have kept pace with the field work.
2. An improvement of archaeological method that has been little short of phenomenal. This applies both to the analysis of superimposed layers of occupation (stratigraphy) and to classification and relative dating of objects found (typology).
3. Use of innumerable new techniques derived from the natural sciences, among them radiocarbon (carbon isotope 14) for dating.
4. Decipherment and interpretation of the flood of new inscriptions and texts in many scripts and languages, many quite unknown until recent decades. The application of sound linguistic and philological method to well-preserved cuneiform tablets and Egyptian hieratic papyri makes it possible to publish them with speed and accuracy. A new script is deciphered quickly, if there are a few good clues or sufficient material to permit decoding. The number of cuneiform tablets from three millennia preserved under debris of occupation in Western Asia and Egypt seems to be practically unlimited, and new methods of baking and reproduction have reduced losses to ...1
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