Is Biblical Archaeology a 'Farce'?

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Excerpt As ABR approaches it, so-called "biblical" archaeology is simply applying valid archaeological principles to the archaeology of the lands discussed by the biblical writers, without the anti-Bible preconceptional bias that taints the research of so many archaeologists. The "storybook" perception you mentioned is part and parcel with this unexamined anti-Bible bias, which gets in the way of impartially evaluating the Bible's truth-claims... Continue reading

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Recently, a visitor to the ABR website wrote the following:

I just watch (sic) Bloodline and I feel that there are several inconsistencies with their version of events, and I am skeptical of how easily the producer Bruce was able to get these sit-down face to face, on camera interviews with members of a society that is so "shrouded in mystery". HOWEVER...As a REAL student of ACTUAL Archaeological Theory, some of your comments in this "review" above disturbed me. "Bibilcal(sic) Archaelogy" is a farce, The Real Archaeological Record is tangible, and the bible is a treasured storybook that has been rewritten and edited to the point that whatever "truths" might have existed are long lost to humanity now. We cannot look to the bible as a source of factual historical record it's just irresponsible on the part of any rational human being. If we take all things the bible says as factual then I expect humans to live 500-900 years starting immediately! Even the fossil record, doesn't support human life having the capability of extending that long...I feel that the bible is a good faith booster and provides a moral compass of right and wrong, good and evil. BUT it shouldn't be intertwined with the Archaelogical Record, and bibical archaeology shouldn't be perpetuated as a science, because it only helps to continue these modern "quests" into small unknown villages that "may" have had relevance in the ancient world. Simply put let science look for tangible evidence and let the bible be inspiring to many...

Rick Lanser responds:

Dear Kay,

As ABR approaches it, so-called "biblical" archaeology is simply applying valid archaeological principles to the archaeology of the lands discussed by the biblical writers, without the anti-Bible preconceptional bias that taints the research of so many archaeologists. The "storybook" perception you mentioned is part and parcel with this unexamined anti-Bible bias, which gets in the way of impartially evaluating the Bible's truth-claims.

The Dead Sea Scrolls and other manuscript evidence demonstrate conclusively, to any impartial person, that there are NO reasons to dismiss the biblical records on the basis of "rewriting" and "editing." There are some small differences in manuscripts most likely due to copyist errors, and translations bring in their own potential "gotchas," but none affect the basic meaning of the text that has been preserved to the present. There was no such thing as "priestly redactors" making up a history of the Israelites out of whole cloth. That idea was a farce itself, invented out of thin air by skeptics. (Can you envision a Moses making up the restriction-laden Jewish laws and imposing them on the Golden Calf-dancing Jewish people, and living to write about it? Ha. They'd have stoned him on the spot. Only a real God behind it all could have made it happen, and preserved the Jews as a distinct people all through history.) Rather, such ideas were cooked up by people philosophically unwilling to accept the supernatural elements of the Bible - in other words, a God who acts on the stage of human history - but trying to still salvage some "meaning" from it. But this is unworkable. If the Bible is a work of pious fiction, it is still a work of LIES, and all of its supposed "spiritual beauty" and "meaning" is the true farce! What person in his right mind hunts for beauty in a lie?

The problem "archaeological theory" has with the Bible is not with either the textual transmission or the field data archaeology has uncovered. The land of Israel, as well as other places touched on by the Bible's many writers, has already and is continually revealing new things which demonstrate that events the Bible reported as history actually happened, and people the Bible states were significant in past history actually acted on its stage at the time and place the Bible reported, such as Belshazzar in Persia. For many years the skeptics mocked the book of Daniel and its mention of Belshazzar, but further field research showed it was true history. The problem has not been with what the Bible reported, but the lack of corroborating evidence causing people to doubt it. Funny, people are far more willing to accept Plato's stories about Atlantis at face value. Double standard and bias at work...

No, the problem is not the manuscripts or the field evidences, but a philosophical one. The Bible goes into things which make no rational sense to a person whose whole framework of existence is limited to what they can see, hear and touch. They have no place in their framework of reality for a God who exists in another dimension their senses are not equipped to reach. (I am deaf, and my senses are not equipped to pick up sound. If I were like those folks, I'd write a book about how I am a "sound atheist." But if I doubted sound existed, I'd be a fool, huh?) Also, many people are living a lifestyle or embracing cultural norms they know the Bible condemns. To preserve their mental equilibrium and feel good about themselves, they discredit the messenger (the Bible and those trying to follow it) rather than taking the message seriously, examining their lives, facing up to their shortcomings, and asking Jesus to forgive their sins, cleanse them from the mistakes of their past, and give them a "here and now" appreciation of the unseen spiritual realities that await on the other side of death. It is possible to get such assurance...we at ABR have all experienced it, and Christians since the resurrection of Jesus have been sure enough of it to stake their lives on it.

Now, as to just one of the specifics you mentioned. Dr. Jack Cuozzo, an orthodontist, studied actual Neanderthal skulls (not models) in France, taking detailed skull measurements and observing dental clues (wisdom tooth eruption, etc.) to draw conclusions about the maturity of the individuals. He wrote about his research in the book Buried Alive, which I heartily recommend to you. To make a long story short, he found that the heavy brow ridges and other characteristics of Neanderthals were due to GREAT AGE, not disease or other causes. How great? On the order of 300+ years. Plus, one skull showed bone growth (skulls never stop growing) consistent with death around age 30, yet his wisdom teeth had not completely erupted, indicating his maturity corresponded to that of a modern 18-year-old. This is what the book of Genesis indicates - it gives the age when first sons were born to patriarchs as being in their 30s! There is SOLID SCIENCE behind this study, and an article about it will be in the Spring issue of our magazine, Bible and Spade, along with other articles dealing with the book of Genesis. I encourage you to order it here online.

The bottom line to your questions is...the old world was quite different from what we live in now. It was healthier, the human genome had not been exposed to inbreeding and radiation damage, telomeres in the cells were longer. That long-lived old world does not show up in the archaeological record because we have not found the evidence yet, most of it lying buried beneath hundreds of feet of SEDIMENTARY (laid down by the Flood) rocks. The problem you have is not with science, but being locked into thinking that the old world of early Bible times had to be just like the present. You actually have no basis for drawing that conclusion, you have simply assumed it, correct? So how do you know your assumptions are correct?

I hope this stretches your thinking to consider possibilities you never really took seriously before, and I will pray that you will get fresh insights as God reveals Himself in your life.

Other articles that bear on the subjects raised in this correspondence:

Dr. Wood's Archaeology

What is a Worldview?

Of Facts and Faith

Relearning Old Lessons: Archaeologists Fail to Use Sound Reasoning

Let the Evidence Speak

Does Biblical Archaeology Exist?

The Bible and Human Nature

Responding to a Skeptic

Of Facts and Faith II

Comments Comment RSS

11/24/2009 2:48 AM #

i recently viewed that movie as well and i laughed throughout the movie at the ridiculous explanations given the man in black who was being interviewed you can see the lies just spilling from his lips you dont even need a polygraph to see the lies spilling forth and what i can't believe is that people actually believe that garbage they say that jesus had a wife and so forth yet wont prove his reasonings i can't say that or i can't provide this or that that is the most ridiculous way i ever heard for one to prove his point they expect people to accept that garbage on their words alone ..........unbelieveable what a waste of $4.99 i paid for net flix lol but i did get a laugh i guess that was worth $4.99  

jose vasquez - 11/24/2009 2:48:48 AM

11/25/2009 12:35 PM #

interesting article.  i should point out that if Jesus, his life, death and ressurrection were not true, not only would josephus have reported it so would all the ancient historians who were enemies of Jesus or unbelievers and none of the books of the new testament would have been written for the disciples would have been shown to be false long before they wrote. not one ancient historian records any opposing eye witness writing or speaking against the claims of the gospel. this absence in evidence we do have, is compelling.

we may not have a lot of textual evidence to support what is needed to be taken by faith but we also do not have any evidence that would have made the bible 'lose face', be discredited and dismissed long ago.  oneneeds to be careful when they trash the Bible fo they do not have anything that supports their position especially from the 1st century.

dr. david t. - 11/25/2009 12:35:23 PM

12/7/2009 4:27 AM #

Mr. Lanser - I am simply writing to say that your rebuttal to "Kay's" comment is a wonderful and beautiful thing. It makes me all warm inside to read and I love you man for saying it. Keep up the good work! God bless you..

Andy Haverland - 12/7/2009 4:27:42 AM

12/17/2009 7:15 PM #

as a postscript, biblical archaeology will only die if christians let it die.

dr. david t. - 12/17/2009 7:15:49 PM

12/23/2009 6:26 PM #

in thinking further on this topic, it would have been better if the author had made a statement instead of asking a question. too often believers try to put spiritual knowledge into secular wineskins and ruin their purpose.

i like what yigal yadin had to say on this topic: "i think those who object to the term biblical archaeology have absolutely misused it and therefore created confusion...it is the land of the Bible we are talking about...This is biblicl archaeology. I wouldn't say biblical archaeology is a discipline as you put it. I think it is a multi-discipline...an art....I really don't understand why this objection to the term biblical archaeology has arisen. Can you show me one archaeologist in Greece who has not pursued classical studies as a sine qua non of his education?

now i have cut andpasted to get the gist of his words placed here and my point is that Christians need to stand firm and stop allowing the secular world dictate what transpire in the field of archaeology and biblical lands.

believers (including believing archaeologists and biblical scholars) do not do their work to please or gain approval from their secular counterparts. they do their work correctly to please God and gain approval from Him.

so the above author should have made a statement and said that biblical archaeology is the correct term and is a discipline not phrase it as a question which shows doubt and an adherance to the secular world's views of the ible.

dr. david t. - 12/23/2009 6:26:57 PM

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