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You cannot afford to ignore the biblical text, especially if you can isolate a kind of kernel of truth behind these stories and then you have the archaeological data.
How did they come up with an idea that so profoundly changed the world?
And it is the Jews who give the world an astounding legacy, the belief in one God.
This belief will become the foundation of two other great monotheistic religions, Christianity and Islam.
It is hard to appreciate today how radical an idea this must have been in a world dominated by polytheism, the worship of many gods and idols.
The Abraham narrative is part of the first book of the Bible, Genesis, along with Noah and the flood, and Adam and Eve.
Now, archaeologists and biblical scholars are arriving at a new synthesis that promises to reveal not only fresh historical insights but a deeper meaning of what the authors of the Bible wanted to convey.
They start by digging into the Earth and the Bible.
The well-established Egyptian chronology gives the date as 1208 B. Merneptah's Stele is powerful evidence that a people called the Israelites are living in Canaan, in what today includes Israel and Palestine, over 3,000 years ago.
The ancient Israelites are best known through familiar stories that chronicle their history: Abraham and Isaac, Moses and the Ten Commandments, David and Goliath. Through writing the Hebrew Bible, the beliefs of the ancient Israelites survive to become Judaism, one of the world's oldest continuously-practiced religions.
Often called the Old Testament, to distinguish it from the New Testament, which describes the events of early Christianity, today the Hebrew Bible and a belief in one God are woven into the very fabric of world culture.
But in ancient times, all people, from the Egyptians to the Greeks to the Babylonians, worshipped many gods, usually in the form of idols.
This archeological detective story tackles some of the biggest questions in biblical studies: Where did the ancient Israelites come from? How did the worship of one God—the foundation of modern Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—emerge?