The late Philip J. King was a scholar of not only the Hebrew Bible, but also the archaeology of the ancient Near East. Over his long career, he excavated at several archaeological sites of biblical importance. He published extensively; his books delved into the wisdom of the Bible and some illuminated prophecy from an archaeological perspective. The Biblical Archaeology Society first published articles from Philip J. King in Bible Review, our publication that was dedicated to textual criticism, but he also appeared in BAR, and published two books with BAS<.

In this BAS Library special collection, you can appreciate Philip J. King’s scholarship by reading the work he shared with BAS readers over the years.

Scroll down to read a summary of these articles.

“It has been said that the Bible is the best known but least understood book in literature.” In My View: Teaching the Bible and living its message, Philip J. King explains why the Bible is so important to him, and how we can understand its message through archaeology and the modern experience of the living word of the Bible.

Taking an example from the book of Amos, in The Marzeah Amos Denounces—Using Archaeology to Interpret a Biblical Text. Philip J. King illustrates how archaeology’s increased use of methods borrowed from the natural and social sciences can be applied to better understand a Biblical text.

In The Great Eighth Century, Philip J. King examines the eighth century B.C.E. and it’s critical role in biblical history, geopolitically as Israel and Judah became less powerful, and culturally; as religious reforms, feats of engineering, rising industries, increased literacy, and prophecy all changed the biblical world.

Valleys play a prominent role in the Bible, and are an enduring feature of the land in and around Jerusalem. In Bible Lands: Exploring the valleys of Jerusalem, Philip J. King examines the physical attributes, and the metaphorical significance of the valleys that are part of Jerusalem’s topography and its biblical story.

A recurring theme in the work of Philip J. King is that archaeology can enrich our understanding of the Bible. By showing us a glimpse of the shared reality of the people of the time of Jeremiah, we can better understand what the words of the Bible meant to those first experiencing it. Jeremiah’s Polemic Against Idols: What archaeology can teach us contains an examination of the artifacts of idols, and the materials they were made from, that archaeology has discovered from the time period when Jeremiah might have prophesied. This leads to greater understanding of Jeremiah’s message against idolatry.

“Ancient Israelite society was structured in a way that few of us in modern times experience.” In Of Fathers, Kings and the Deity: The nested households of ancient Israel, Lawrence E. Stager and Philip J. King explain what we know about that ancient agrarian society, how it was organized as patriarchal circles of family from the multi-generational family that shared a compound, to one’s lineage, to the tribal kingdom of the state, even unto the religious identity of the “children” of Yahweh. They dismiss modern class conscious analysis of biblical society as a poor fit for the circumstances.

Lachish was the second most important city in ancient Judah, after Jerusalem. Why Lachish Matters: A Major Site Gets the Publication It Deserves uses David Ussishkin’s book “The Renewed Archaeological Excavations of Lachish” as a jumping off point to examine the importance of Lachish, and delve into some of the history of the important archaeological work that has been accomplished there.

The ancient Israelites may have been unique in circumcising near birth, instead of at puberty, but many different groups practiced circumcision in the ancient near east. Philip J. King, in Circumcision: Who Did It, Who Didn’t and Why, surveys some of that history. He also tells the story of a pottery phallus he excavated at Tel Gezer, and what it taught archaeologists about the practice of circumcision in that biblical place and time.

Jesus was born in Bethlehem and lived in Nazareth, according to the gospels. In Biblical Views: Jesus’ Birthplace and Jesus’ Home, Philip J. King looks at biblical text to better understand what those places were like, as a clue to how the historical Jesus was influenced by his environment.


The Marzeah Amos Denounces—Using Archaeology to Interpret a Biblical Text
Biblical Archaeology Review, July/August 1988 By Philip J. King

Archaeologists often accuse Biblical scholars of ignoring archaeological materials that could significantly illuminate the Biblical texts that scholars are studying. As one archaeologist recently put it: “Most [Biblical] commentators do not even make use of archaeology where it can contribute best, namely in illustrating the material culture of a given period, either in general […]

The Great Eighth Century
Bible Review, August 1989 By Philip J. King

22 A century is a wholly arbitrary block of time. History surely does not proceed by 100-year chunks. And to mark the beginning and end of a historical period by the start and finish of a particular century can be justified by nothing more than our attraction for round numbers. Yet, if we don’t […]

Jeremiah’s Polemic Against Idols
Bible Review, December 1994 By Philip J. King

Biblical archaeology envisions a dialogue between artifacts and the scriptural text. In many ways archaeology can provide the context that brings the text to life. Recently I completed a book on Jeremiah and archaeology in which I fill in the background of the prophet’s entire work.1 Here we will look at a single passage […]

Of Fathers, Kings and the Deity
Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 2002 By Philip J. King , Lawrence E. Stager

043 Ancient Israelite society was structured in a way that few of us in modern times experience. Its focus was on family and kin groups organized around agrarian activities. Family and kin groups, in turn, generated the symbols by which the higher levels of the social structure—the political and the divine—were understood and […]

Why Lachish Matters
Biblical Archaeology Review, July/August 2005 By Philip J. King

Among cities in ancient Judah, Lachish was second only to Jerusalem in importance. A principal Canaanite and, later, Israelite site, Lachish occupied a major tell (mound) 25 miles southwest of Jerusalem, nestled in the foothills of Judah (the region known as the Shephelah).

Biblical Archaeology Review, July/August 2006 By Philip J. King

Pottery is probably the archaeologist’s most important diagnostic tool, not only for dating a stratum of an excavation, but also for determining the culture and ethnicity of the ancient people who lived there at the time. In 1969, however, at the excavation of Tel Gezer, where I served as an area supervisor, a most […]


Biblical Views: Jesus’ Birthplace and Jesus’ Home
Biblical Archaeology Review, November/December 2014 By Philip J. King

According to the Gospels, Jesus was born in Bethlehem but lived in Nazareth. While there has been a lot of scholarly discussion about whether or not he was actually born in Bethlehem,a both places are useful for teaching about the historical Jesus—regardless of any perceived conflict—and inspire us to take a deeper look at […]

My View
Bible Review, Spring 1987 By Philip J. King

It has been said that the Bible is the best known but least understood book in literature. If so in the past, ignorance is no longer excusable. Today, extraordinary resources are available to make the Bible intelligible. During three decades of professional involvement with the Bible I have witnessed revolutionary developments in biblical studies, […]

Bible Lands
Bible Review, April 1991 By Philip J. King

To understand the valleys of Jerusalem, it helps to know the different kinds of valleys encountered in the ancient Land of Israel (Eretz Yisrael). There are at least five Hebrew words designating the variety of valleys in biblical times. A large valley with water flowing intermittently is a nahal, corresponding to wadi in Arabic. […]