As well as the historical Jesus, another biblically related subject creating a lot of hot air an some interesting stuff is Archaeology in the Middle East. This used to be called Biblical Archaeology but now everyone agrees that for the purposes of scholarship, that is a misleading title. Few modern archaeologists are out to prove the bible.
The controversy is largely around the so-called minimalist/maximalist debate. This seems to be between those who thing their is some contemporary history to be cleaned from the Books of Samuel and Kings, and those who say the whole Bible was written after the exile to Babylon just a few centuries before Christ.
What I hadn't realised is that the debate is really between archaeologists who have a good feel for how to interpret their findings, and literary critics from two universities who seem to know little about either archaeology or history. This article, Three Debates about the Bible and Archaeology, is a must read for anyone even slightly curious or worried about some of the wilder claims about how no one in the Old Testament actually existed. Once again, it seems a few academics with good publicists are making the running - just like the Jesus Seminar.