It all started in the spring of 1966, when David P. Livingston was studying in Jerusalem. He was disturbed when a professor simply accepted that the biblical account of Joshua’s capture of the city of Ai and archaeological evidence did not match up. The professor went with the archaeological data, and the Bible was left out.
Ai and Biblical Authority
At issue for Livingston was the assumed disparity between the biblical text and archaeological evidence. The argument went like this. Archaeological evidence for Ai does not fit the biblical description of the site. Archaeologists have identified the correct site for Ai. Therefore, the Bible is wrong in its description of the ancient city.
As a veteran educator and missionary, Livingston understood the far-reaching implications of such thinking. If people really couldn’t trust the Bible about the past, how could they honestly trust the Bible for the future—for eternity! Livingston had no doubt the Bible was accurate in its description of both the battle and the city of Ai, so he made a personal commitment to study the evidence for himself.
Consequently, in 1969, he founded the Associates for Biblical Research. The goal was to create an organization of scholars who believed that the Bible spoke authoritatively on history. Together they would roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty, investing the time and resources necessary to do good academic research and solid archaeological excavation—all for the purpose of connecting the dots between archaeological evidence and the biblical text.
ABR and Biblical Archaeology
There were a number of sites from the Exodus and Conquest period of biblical history, beyond the story of Ai, where scholars suggested archaeological evidence and the Bible did not match up. So, over the next forty years, Livingston’s research was expanded. ABR sponsored and directed archaeological excavations, surveys and research projects focused on the identification and excavation of the biblical cities of Ai, Bethel, Jericho and Hazor, along with the Exodus route from the Nile Delta through the Sinai Peninsula. Much of this expanded research was done with the addition of Dr. Bryant G. Wood to the ABR staff.
Yet the mission of ABR goes far beyond the Exodus and Conquest. Over these forty years ABR has sponsored, directed and participated in projects throughout the Middle East addressing all periods of Old and New Testament studies. ABR staff has been and continues working in Greece, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Israel.
ABR and Biblical Authority
While to many it may sound like a vacation in the sun or exciting Indiana Jones-type adventures, ABR’s work in biblical archaeology is serious business and hard work. We frequently go against the tide of modern critical scholarship. The energy and resources necessary to plan, sponsor and direct archaeological digs in the Middle East are significant. Processing, analyzing, researching and publishing results of an excavation after returning home are almost as daunting. But this is ABR’s commitment, because we have seen over and over again how evidence from the ground dovetails with what the Bible says—and we understand the need to get that message to the Church and our culture today.
Admittedly, here at ABR we have done a better job at sponsoring and directing archaeological excavations and research projects than we have done getting this information, in an engaging and meaningful manner, to those who would benefit from it. Moving into the next forty years, there is much enthusiasm at ABR as we help develop the next generation of biblical archaeologists who trust the Bible as accurate history. New technologies will allow us to explore and understand the biblical world in whole new ways, as well as help us get this important information to the world.
All of us here at the Associates for Biblical Research are excited about the results of our research and the proclamation of that information to those who are interested and looking for answers. The Bible has changed our own lives, and the results of our archaeological research these past forty years have encouraged our faith-walks. For the next forty years, we are committed to continuing this research and to proclaiming that the Bible can be trusted in the history it presents, and that its message can change your life, now and forever.
Gary A. Byers, MA, is Spiritual Life Director at Helping Up Missions, Baltimore, and President of the Board of Directors of the Associates for Biblical Research.