Can anyone imagine a picture of a Biblical archaeologist appearing on the front page of The Wall Street Journal, the world’s leading financial newspaper? It has apparently happened only once in the newspaper’s 109-year history. The date it happened is December 31, 1997. The archaeologist it happened to is Israel Finkelstein. And the subject is his effort to down-date the archaeological strata that have previously been attributed to the glory days of David and Solomon, thus removing much of the glory.

The newspaper sent a reporter to cover the tenth-century sessions organized by the Biblical Archaeology Society at the Annual Meeting, and this article was the result.

The debate about the tenth century, according to the article, “is becoming the hottest issue [in Biblical studies] since the debate about who wrote various parts of the Bible.” Because of Finkelstein’s daring contention, in effect downgrading David and Solomon, he has become, says the article, “a minor celebrity.”

“Nonetheless, the notion that David and Solomon united the kingdoms of Israel and Judah in the tenth century B.C. continues to hold sway,” the article states. As for the Biblical minimalists, who deny any historicity to the kingdoms of David and Solomon, they have been “largely dismissed as eccentrics.”

Finkelstein’s colleague at Tel Aviv University, David Ussishkin, agrees with Finkelstein’s position. The Wall Street Journal article quotes the last sentence of Ussishkin’s presentation at the Annual Meeting session: “It’s hard for my romantic soul to admit it; I hope King Solomon will forgive me.”