This article was first published in the Summer 2009 issue of Bible and Spade.
Dr. David Livingston has devoted his life to teaching the Word of God and upholding and defending the Bible. He has been an inspiration to laymen and scholars alike and to all those who love the Bible, the Word of the living God.
As the founder and director of ABR, David was led of God to establish a ministry that would demonstrate the reliability of the Bible and provide an umbrella organization under which likeminded scholars could serve. His passion was fueled by the distortions of critics who declared that whole portions of Old Testament narratives were unhistorical.
In 1979, David began his excavations at Khirbet Nisya in search of the lost city of Ai. The city of Ai was one of the Conquest cities spoken of in the book of Joshua, as the Lord led Israel to conquer the land He had given them. The dig at Nisya would last 24 years, during which time David would earn his Ph.D. from Andrews University in 1989.
Foundational to his work at Ai was his breakthrough research properly establishing that the city of Bethel is located at el-Bireh and not at Beitin. This correction to the work of W.F. Albright clearly fit the biblical data more precisely, and opened the door to the correct identification of the city of Ai.
David pioneered a new model for establishing a dig in Israel, without large foundations or funding sources being the primary underwriters of such excavations. His work in raising teams of diggers who would fund their own way to Israel to participate in the project had never been tried before. Under David’s skillful leadership this new model took shape, and in this way the entire dig was funded. Indeed, this approach has been followed by ABR in every subsequent dig. In addition to this model, David worked closely with the Israeli Antiquities Authority to maintain a strong relationship so that trust would be established. That relationship has lasted for over 30 years, and ABR continues to enjoy the fruit of that relationship down to this day. Until David Livingston, no private Christian organization could have conceived of operating its own dig. Thanks to David’s visionary leadership and his dogged determination, evangelicals have been given extraordinary opportunities for archaeological excavation in Israel.
David’s leadership of ABR has drawn together a team of scholars who continue his vision to the present day. That vision, focused on dismantling the false conclusions of biblical critics and re-establishing the proper interpretation of archaeological evidence, continues as a key objective of ABR. ABR scholars also write on any number of different issues that affect the reliability of the Bible. Some areas of focus include Noah’s Ark research; issues in the book of Genesis; early man; contemporary issues related to biblical history; the text of the Bible; and a myriad of other topics. Ultimately, David wanted ABR to have an impact not only on the Church but on the general culture as well, as people would hear of the powerful evidences for the reliability of the Bible. What was at stake was the very authority of the Word of God. Through ABR and its team of scholars, the Church of Jesus Christ was receiving important research data that would strengthen its grasp of biblical authority. ABR continues to produce important scholarly and popular works to educate and edify the Body of Christ.
It is important to note the staggering significance of David’s legacy. In a day of post-modern skepticism and the retreat among many evangelicals from a clear and unequivocal concept of biblical authority, David’s life and ministry has been a corrective force. Indeed, after many years of decline there is a renewed focus and passion among younger evangelicals in search of answers. The skepticism of our age has resulted in the raising of a new generation of believers eager to provide answers to the critics and to those seeking the truth.
We owe Dr. David Livingston a debt of gratitude for leading the way and leaving a legacy for today’s scholars and students. David combined the mind of the scholar and the heart of a pastor in the ministry of ABR. May those of us who have received the blessing of his life and legacy pass this blessing along to future generations.