Angst over archaeology
Archaeology can sure raise passions. It seems that the hottest debates are to be had when archaeology is in line with the Bible’s account of history.
Trowel ©iStockPhoto.com/Walter_mitty | Bone ©iStockPhoto.com/DWithers | Dirt ©iStockPhoto.com/Hüseyin Tuncer
For example: “There is no evidence that a town or village called ‘Nazareth’ existed before the 4th century AD” say the skeptics. Wrong, say archaeologists, who in late 2009 announced that they had unearthed a dwelling in Nazareth they say dates back to the time of Jesus.1
Archaeologist Yardena Alexandre, excavations director at the Israel Antiquities Authority, said that the dwelling, along with older discoveries of nearby tombs in burial caves, suggests that Nazareth was an out-of-the-way hamlet. There were around 50 houses on a patch of about 1.6 hectares (4 acres).
Now, we would caution against relying absolutely upon any ‘dating’ assessments made by people in the present about remnants from the past (whether they be fossils or archaeological artefacts). But it is perfectly legitimate to seek evidence of places the Bible talks about. And it should not be a surprise to anyone when such evidence is found.
However, such is the hostility against the Bible, that even theologians who should know better have fallen for the notion that the biblical texts are merely stories cleverly told as uplifting literature. So when archaeologists make discoveries endorsing the Bible’s history, the astonishment, angst and even anger from some quarters can be very great indeed.
For example, when the actual pool of Siloam (John 9:7; fed by Hezekiah’s tunnel—2 Chronicles 32:30) was unearthed in the Old City of Jerusalem a few years ago, it was a huge surprise to some. “Scholars have said that there wasn’t a pool of Siloam and that John was using a religious conceit” (to illustrate a point) said James H. Charlesworth of Princeton Theological Seminary. “Now we have found the pool of Siloam … exactly where John said it was.” A gospel that was thought to be “pure theology is now shown to be grounded in history.”2
Genesis, too, is grounded in history—it is not a metaphor, or poetry, nor ‘religious conceit’, but actual history. This history sets the scene for Jesus’ redemptive death on the Cross. A history that can’t be undone, no matter how much angst it arouses.
References and notes
- Uncovered days before Christmas: Is this the Nazareth home where Jesus prayed?, www.dailymail.co.uk, 22 December 2009. Return to text.
- Maugh, T., Biblical pool uncovered in Jerusalem, www.latimes.com, 9 August 2005. Return to text.
Someone once asked, "What good can come out of Nazereth ?" The Son of God came from there as we know, and now, 2000 yrs later, evidence for the little, "backwater" town!
Thank you for this article! Just heard Dr. Randall Price giving testimony over at The Berean Call's weekly broadcast at oneplace. .... so thankful God has raised up so many giving us 'extras' of the many infallible proofs in these days of confusion, doubt & skepticism ----and prophecy fulfilled! There is no God like our God & no Word or revelation like the one He has given us & preserved for whosoever seeks truth & follows the conviction of the Holy Spirit of Truth. Encouraging.
Thank you for your article on archaeology. Archaeology is just another tool to "color in or flesh out" the reality of the historical nature of the Bible. It should never be used to interpret the Bible-how can it regarding moral and spiritual issues? And even on historical accounts, true eye witness reports are always more accurate than digging through the "trash heap" hundreds to thousands of years later.
But thanks to archaeology we know more precisely what a Roman uniform looked like, the Menorah may have looked like (from the Arch de Triumphe), and probably portions of the Temple and David's City. As well, there are inscriptions and bullae with Biblical names on them including Jeremiah, Ahaz, Hezekiah and others.
These kinds of artifacts let us almost touch these people of history.
There have been many talented but secular archaeologists, like Dr. Kathlyn Kenyon, who attempted to prove the Bible wrong, but their observations when carefully looked at have often been put back within a Biblical context. This includes her work at Jericho, whom Dr Bryant Woods has partly re-interpreted.(See Associates for Biblical Research online.) Dr Steven Collins is presently excavating what is probably Sodom-and has used Biblical descriptions to locate it. Finally, Dr Clifford Wilson (recently gone home to the Lord) helped much in placing archaeology in the context of a Biblical viewpoint.
Praise be to God who have given us an inspired and reliable text regarding Himself.
Dr John G Leslie
Thank you for posting all the interesting as well as informed articles.
This is not the first time that archaeology proves that the bible is not a 'bunch of fairy tales'. Even if you raise someone from the dead some people will never believe there is a God. This is not surprising as God has given everyone freewill and we will all be held accountable for our actions. At least these persons cannot say that they 'never heard'.
I am an archaeologist (at heart) and read (devour) everything I find especially when the writer is Christian. This is a great article and much appreciated. Thanks, keep up the good work.
In some respects it must be fun to be a long-term Bible-believer, being able to watch so many of the Bibliosceptics' favourite arguments collapse with the latest discoveries in archaeology\paleontology\biology\physics\whatever. I look forward to seeing how much more confirmation of the Bible's history shall be found in the coming years and decades.
What's even more amusing is how they seem to so often try to hang on to these discredited arguments even as they watch them fall to pieces with a single new finding!
They'll all learn someday!
The unbelieving love to rush to negative conclusions when it comes to the Bible and the archaeology surrounding it. It astounds me they haven't learned yet that just because proof hasn't been unearthed yet doesn't mean that it never will. This is why they get flustered and angry when it happens because they are so confident and sure of themselves as archaeologists, it doesn't make sense to them that they could have been mistaken. It's also an affront to their worldview.
The Bible has *got* to be the most trust-worthy book in the world....after being subjected to the most rigorous and comprehensive criticism and analysis of any historical/religious text, it has come up trumps every single time.....scientifically (where it touches on science), historically (where it refers to historical events), prophetically(on the innumerable occasions where prophecies have been fulfilled.....) and morally(where it makes moral claims and pronouncements);
That trustworthiness is being continually affirmed by ongoing archaeological discoveries....shaming and silencing not only atheist skeptics but those erstwhile Christians who reject the clear truth of God's Word for worldly compromise and kudos.....a false and tragic accommodation because, instead of being lauded by the world, they are, like Lot in Sodom, merely tolerated until such a time as the world sees fit to reveal its *true feelings* and vociferously laughs them to a withering scorn!!
Within this awful volume lies
The mystery of mysteries:
Happiest they of human race,
To whom their God has given grace
To read, to fear, to hope, to pray,
To lift the latch, to force the way;
But better had they ne’er been born,
Who read to doubt, or read to scorn.
(Sir Walter Scott)