The Bible and Archaeology
Archaeological discoveries continually enrich our understanding of the people, cul 4 Special Issue: Crime and Punishment in the Bible and the Near East. The relationship between archaeology and the Bible is not adversarial. Service (PBS) aired a critically acclaimed special on the biblical book of Genesis. . of the positive contribution of archaeology to the understanding of biblical history. Biblical archaeology involves the recovery and scientific investigation of the material remains of In order to understand the significance of biblical archaeology it is first necessary to understand Dever, William G., " Archaeology and the Bible: Understanding their special relationship", in Biblical Archaeology Review
Those who would understand the Bible in depth would have to read it as an organic part of its context. The various sources of the hypothesis are now held to be historical, 17 but transmitted orally for a long period, so affecting the preliterary stage rather than the sources themselves, 18 Selman notes that only a few writers have argued for the abandonment of the Documentary Hypothesis on the basis of archaeological data.
Albright associated Abraham with the Amorite migrations of this period, arguing that he was a donkey caravaner who plied his trade in Canaan. He argues that the length of the Patriarchal age is sufficient to span the major changes in settlement patterns that occurred during the transition between these periods. The patriarchs must be placed somewhere between 2 - 1 BC if the chronologies are to be regarded as anything other than artificial, which seems unlikely. The alliances between Mesopotamian powers are typical for this period.
Van Seters, for example, claims that the Arabian names in Genesis 25 must be from the 1st millennium. Hamilton points out that this absence is most likely due to the lack of contact between the Tigris-Euphrates and Canaan before that time.
Biblical archaeology - Wikipedia
Van Seters' reasoning thus over extends an argument from silence. Limitations of Archaeology Archaeology is, like all sciences, is not without limitations. As mentioned above, it cannot verify spiritual truth, and data it provides can often be interpreted in different ways.
A second problem is simply the vast amount of information still to be collected. Damascus, Jerusalem, Erbil and therefore can only be partially examined. The precise location of some prominent OT places e. Only a fraction of the objects retrieved from some sites have been published.
Specialisation, the only way round this problem may mean that important facts are not passed between the various fields of study.
Many scholars regard the account as late and unhistorical. Anderson asserts, is "beset by difficulties". Some identify them with a Hurrian ruling class who, through superior weaponry and strategy dominated Syria, Canaan and the Lower Kingdom of Egypt.
However, a number of incidental features of the Joseph narrative Gen. The price of 20 shekels was the average slave price in the 18th century BC cf. The technical terms used in Pharaoh's court 'Butler', 'Baker'as well as court Gen.
Potiphar, Asenath, Zephanath-Peneahbut this is probably due to lack of documentary evidence rather than their non-use. These consist of ancient texts rather than artefacts. Excavations in the mound of Yorghan, near Kirkuk, Iraq during unearthed more than 4 clay tablets, many dating from the 15thth centuries BC, when the city there was known as Nuzi, part of a province of the Mitanni Kingdom.
These tablets include many kinds of documents, from marriage contracts to wills and agreements of sale for land and slaves 71 and are the source of the striking parallels to the patriarchal stories. This has meant that the texts are capable of being interpreted in a number of ways, as we shall see below. Excavations there began inrevealing the city to have been a prosperous city in the patriarchal period. Although they do mention some OT names e.
This claim was later withdrawn. However, they do point to a 2nd millennium rather than a 1st millennium context for Genesis as a whole, showing that names such as Abraham, Israel, Esau and places like Salim were all current at this time.
The third method was to interpret a little understood biblical practice using archaeological data. Three examples of this are the 'adoption' of Eliezer by Abraham Gen. The means by which these parallels were arrived at owes more, at times, to enthusiasm than to scientific method. Millard points out that the selection of information was eclectic, being based solely on its similarity to a Biblical passage, regardless of whether it was representative of practices recorded in other texts found at the same location.
When all is said these 'parallels' [those based on unbalanced or distorted data] prove nothing. These mounds were not formed merely by the natural drifting of sands, or by the gradual accumulation of debris.
Though these were factors, catastrophes such as war, fire, or earthquake destroyed a settlement. Then, new settlers leveled the ground, and rebuilt on the same site. The layer of debris from the previous city formed a stratum, which generally measured from about one to five feet thick Free,pp.
This caused the ground level of the new settlement to be several feet higher than the previous one.
Also, the cultural remnants of the older settlement lay underneath the new. Over the years, this process was repeated until several successive strata were formed, and the mound rose higher. As the height of the mound rose, the occupational area generally decreased though sometimes the reverse occurred; Albright,p. When the site was finally abandoned, wind and rain leveled the top and eroded the sides, until a city wall or other structure halted the erosion process.
The shape of these mounds resembles a truncated cone see Unger,pp. Most important biblical sites have this characteristic form, which trained archaeologists readily recognize.
Archaeology and History
Excavation and Dating Once a tell has been identified, then comes the arduous and fastidious task of excavation. There is more to excavating one of these mounds than merely removing each successive occupational layer, since artifacts from one stratum can intrude into another level.
Archaeologists, therefore, have developed methods that help them identify artifacts with their proper stratum see Kenyon, a, pp.
These methods also assist them in developing a sequential chronology of the tell, since artifacts from the top layer represent the most recent civilization and the bottom layer represents the oldest.
But how do they assign specific dates to these levels? Often, and especially for ancient dates, radiocarbon and dendrochronology i. For more recent dates, archaeologists generally rely on a sophisticated dating system based upon pottery, which is used extensively in Syro-Palestinian archaeology. Sir Flinders Petriethe famed Egyptologist, first introduced this method, and William Albright, the distinguished American archaeologist, refined it further.
Pottery serves well for dating purposes for at least two reasons: This system associates the marked changes of pottery styles with different archaeological ages see Figure 1. Cross section through an idealized tell showing pottery types, and successive layers of settlement from ancient to modern times. The evolutionary-based archaeological timescale on the right comes from Silberman How do pottery types date the strata from which they are unearthed?
Suppose workers discover a cooking pot with relatively straight sides, a row of holes just below the rim, and a rope decoration below the holes. According to pottery typology, this kind of vessel was dominant in the Middle Bronze Age c. Thus, if a sufficient amount of such vessels is found in a level of a tell, an archaeologist will date the stratum between the years B.
Further, the dates determined by this scheme often coincide with biblical chronology. For instance, excavators at Shiloh have dated a destruction level on that site at B. Such finds and there are many confirm the historical data of the biblical text. The chronologies supplied with the genealogies from Adam to Abraham prohibit the Earth from being as old as the archaeological timescale indicates.
If Seth were, for example, a distant relative of Adam, nevertheless, Adam was years old when Seth was born Genesis 5: We cannot dismiss a priori biblical chronology simply by assuming genealogical gaps.
- Biblical archaeology
The archaeological timescale indicates a Paleolithic era which dates back toyears ago. Further, archaeologists generally recognize a Neolithic settlement at Tell es-Sultan Jericho which dates to about B.
Since the Flood would have destroyed any orderly remains of antediluvian civilizations, the remnants of ancient societies preserved in mounds as those at Jericho most likely accumulated after the Flood Vaninger, a, The truth of the matter today is that archaeology raises more questions about the historicity of the Hebrew Bible and even the New Testament than it provides answers, and that's very disturbing to some people. Archaeology as it is practiced today must be able to challenge, as well as confirm, the Bible stories.
Some things described there really did happen, but others did not. The biblical narratives about AbrahamMosesJoshua and Solomon probably reflect some historical memories of people and places, but the 'larger than life' portraits of the Bible are unrealistic and contradicted by the archaeological evidence I am in fact not even a theist. My view all along—and especially in the recent books—is first that the biblical narratives are indeed 'stories,' often fictional and almost always propagandistic, but that here and there they contain some valid historical information This is what archaeologists have learned from their excavations in the Land of Israel: Perhaps even harder to swallow is that the united monarchy of David and Solomon, which is described by the Bible as a regional power, was at most a small tribal kingdom.
And it will come as an unpleasant shock to many that the God of Israel, YHWH, had a female consort and that the early Israelite religion adopted monotheism only in the waning period of the monarchy and not at Mount Sinai. On the alleged Temple of Solomon, Finkelstein said that there is no archaeological evidence to prove it really existed.
Perspective Digest : To What Extent Does Archaeology Confirm the Bible?
This is my career as an archaeologist. I should tell them the truth. If the people are upset, that is not my problem. In his book The Old Testament Documents: Are They Reliable and Relevant?
Evangelical Old Testament scholar Walter C. With increasing clarity, the setting of the Bible appears more vividly within the framework of general history It has continued to cast light, whether implicitly or explicitly, on many of the Bible's customs, cultures, and settings during various periods of history.
On the other hand, archaeology has also given rise to some real problems with regard to its findings. Thus, its work is an ongoing one that cannot be foreclosed too quickly or used merely as a confirming device. This is not to say that archaeology is a cure-all for all the challenges brought to the text--it is not!
There are some monstrous problems that remain--some created by the archaeological data itself.