Yehoshua Etzion
[Abbreviated and Revised 2000]

Professor W.H. Stiebing, in his book “Out of the Desert?” [Buffalo, 1989], attempts to assess “the relationship between archaeological evidence from Egypt and Palestine, and the biblical stories of an Israelite Exodus from Egypt, and conquest of Canaan” (p. 13).
Stiebing criticizes and rejects current theories of the Exodus problem, proposing a solution of his own. He revives a theory about a period of dryness at the end of the Late Bronze Age, and claims that it explains the decline of the Bronze Age and the emergence of the Iron Age. This solution is highly questionable. The change from Late Bronze into the Iron Age in the Land of Israel is an intricate process. Archaeological evidence shows that at the end of the Late Bronze the Galilee had already been ruined and long deserted, while the central hills (Samaria) were flourishing again; many of the Late Bronze settlements in the southern hills had been destroyed in a violent action, and undergone a distinct cultural change, while in the Central valleys and in the Shephela region, the Egyptian influence continued long after the Late Bronze culture had vanished. Obviously, an hypothetical period of dryness at the end of the Late Bronze Age can not explain such heterogeneous phenomena.
While criticizing Courville’s alternative dating of the Early Bronze, Stiebing claims that: “placing the Exodus at the end of the Early Bronze Age does solve some problems, especially those related to Jericho and Ai. But it does not produce perfect harmony between the biblical accounts and the archaeological evidence” (p. 135).

This is purely fundamentalistic argument. One should evaluate Courville’s alternative dating according to its ability to provide a parsimonious solution to existing problems, and not according to its agreement with the biblical accounts.
Contrary to Stiebing, I believe that the biblical evidence and the archaeological data should be studied and compared in a neutral way, free from any a priori assumptions, while keeping in mind the sharp distinction between facts and interpretations.
Hidden fundamentalism is a sophisticated and more subtle form of fundamentalism, based on the assumption that the historical validity of a piece of ancient evidence has been proven beyond doubt, and therefore it may serve as a measuring rod for the validity of any related theory.
In his book Stiebing treats the entire problem of dating the Egyptian archaeological-historical system in less than ten lines: "On the basis of king lists...Egyptologists have put together...[a relative chronology] of ancient Egypt...Absolute [dating]...have been determined primarily from references to astronomical data...Egyptian chronology during the New Kingdom...is accurate within a range of ten to twenty-six [!] years” (p. 37).
Approximately the same volume is dedicated to the issue of establishing absolute dates to the archaeological data:
"The various archaeological periods are provided with absolute dates...through archaeological correlations with ...Egypt...or by use of scientific dating methods” (p. 32).

The problem of dating the ancient archaeological-historical system is too complicated to be treated so lightly, especially in a book that the dating of Exodus is one of its main subjects. Actually. Stiebing is silently expressing a belief that “the chronology worked out by Egyptologists such as Wente and Van Sicklen [is] basically reliable” (Stiebing in a letter to C. Whelton, October 30, 1989). This belief is a form of hidden fundamentalism.
Stiebing is at his best in the sections where he discusses the revised chronologies. I strongly recommend to the adherents of revised chronologies to consider his arguments very seriously. I am of the opinion that Stiebing shows in a convincing manner that the revised chronologies raise more problems than the ones they claim to solve. Closing archaeological gaps and redating large historical segments can not correct a system constructed in a methodically unsound way. Removing symptoms will not cure a fatal malady.
I believe that an alternative independent archaeological-historical system should be constructed by using different research methods. This system would compete with the existing one, and eventually replace it.