Christian Zionist archaeology: A tool of Palestinian subjugation
About 20 kilometres (12.4 miles) north of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, just west of the Israeli settlement Shiloh, lies Tel Shiloh, an archaeological site that attracts tens of thousands of evangelical Christians every year.
There, Scott Stripling, an evangelical pastor from Texas, heads a dig in search of remnants of the biblical tabernacle - a portable dwelling containing a chest holding the two stone tablets of the Ten Commandments.
In a recent interview with the Times of Israel, Stripling says his latest find - three horns that may have adorned an altar - supports his claim that Tel Shiloh is the site of the dwelling.
The site and surrounding area already advance this perspective: The nearby settlement has a synagogue designed as a replica of the tabernacle, and while the site's artefacts show a variety of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim groups residing in the area over a 3,700-year period, its attractions scarcely acknowledge anything outside the tabernacle story.
Stripling calls Tel Shiloh Israel's "first capital", based on the idea that Shiloh was the first capital of the Israelites for close to 400 years from the 15th century BCE. It is a claim Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also made on a visit to Tel Shiloh last year. He was accompanied by former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who tweeted at the time: "Shiloh is proof from 3000 yrs ago this land was home to @Israel site of ancient Tabernacle."
Biblical scholars beg to differ.
"Properly credentialed biblical scholarship does not assume the historicity of anything prior to King David [ca. 1010-970 BCE]," says Southern Methodist University Professor of Old Testament Susanne Scholz. "That Stripling projects the biblical stories into the historical record exposes him as a Christian fundamentalist. That's the origin of his drive to do archaeology at Tel Shiloh."
Scholz also points out that the claim that Shiloh was the capital of ancient Israel is "utter nonsense".
"Such statements are used to advance geopolitical goals," she says.
Indeed, as Christian Zionists, Stripling and Huckabee believe that the state of Israel is the result of biblical prophecy. The belief stems from the idea that four millennia ago God promised the land to the Jews, who will rule it until Jesus returns to Jerusalem for the rapture. While Christians will be saved upon Jesus's return, those of other religions who do not convert to Christianity will be sent to hell.
About 80 percent of US evangelicals espouse Christian Zionist beliefs.