The Bible: Part 5: Archaeology and the Bible
In the 1800s when the budding science of Archaeology was burgeoning, various bold and confident claims were made about the past which contradicted the historical credibility of the Bible. The OT in particular has been constantly reconstructed to be myth and after the fact reporting. The insistence on approaching the Bible with an anti-supernatural bias has led many to try and debunk the prophetic and miraculous elements using late date theories and accusing the Ancients of a primitive mind-set claiming every natural thing they could not understand was supernatural. The constant underestimation of the Ancients and their culture included the denial that writing and complex legal codes could have existed in the time that Moses is that to have lived, 1400BC, and so a later date is given to all those writings traditionally attributed to Moses, and Mosaic authorship denied. Add to this the way in which the new theory of evolution was impacting all the other sciences. In the area of archaeology the theory went that all cultures moved from simplistic polytheistic notions to advanced monotheistic ones. Therefore any parts of the OT that teach monotheism are automatically aged and accused of being written later and given an appearance of being written earlier. The various accounts are no longer credible historical accounts by eye witnesses, but dishonest fabrications at the hands of editors with a particular agenda.
Today we face a problem. Many of these early theories have been disproven, but the damage to the Bible’s credibility has already been done. Endless amounts of people who reject the Bible have accepted these outdated and disproved opinions, and they are regularly repeated. My task today is to show that Archaeology does not in fact disprove the Bible but acts to reinforce that the Bible is in fact what it appears to be, eye witness accounts of various historical events. Now as we being we have to stop and recognise the limits of archaeology. I want you to imagine a scenario 3000 years from now when archaeologists find the rubbish dump of Timaru, what sort of a picture of our lives today will they be able to paint. By that time all paper will have rotted, all the iron will have rusted away, perhaps the plastics and the rubber will still be around. All the computer hard drives will be useless, the CDs perished, USBs broken, etc. How far can I go in proving that you as a single individual existed from that rubbish dump? How much about the daily life of my life today can they glean from that dump? How concrete do you think should be their conclusions about my existence and the affairs of my daily life? Given the amount of info we can access on daily life today, the amount of things written down and recorded and copied in some way, we would have a fairly large amount of confidence, but the further back you go, the less confidence you can have. If you want to see the real limits of our ability to know the past try and trace out you family tree, how far back can you go? Using the whole internet with the modern technology of scanning and the ability to access endless amounts of documents, very few of us would be able to go back further than 500 years. I say all of this to impress upon us all the humility that archaeology ought to have. And the limits of what it can confidently assert. If we see the life of the Ancients as a 1000 piece puzzle, how many pieces of that puzzle can we reconstruct by what Archaeology is able to uncover? Less than one whole piece!
As we go about seeking to show how Archaeology supports the Bible, we are not going to try and use it to prove that the person of Abraham or Moses existed by finding some document that has their name on it. No, instead the way in which Archaeology supports the Bible is by affirming how the various names, dates and places are independently confirmed to have existed, and how the various accounts are not fabrications by people who lived hundreds of years later but could only have been written by contemporary eye witnesses. This line of argumentation is not put forward as invincible proof but rather as a response to the nonsensical criticism the Bible has received and to show that it is reasonable to accept that it is in fact what it appears to be.