This article was first published in the Summer 2009 issue of Bible and Spade.
On May 26, 2005, ABR held its annual banquet at Calvary Church, Lancaster, PA. This night had a special focus honoring the life and ministry of Dr. Livingston, not only for his role in founding ABR, but on his influence in the lives of others. The following article was a message that night presented by Gordon Franz, giving insight into the man who began this ministry.
Tonight we are here to honor Dr. David Livingston. It has been my privilege to know David and his wife Esther for the last 28 years. We first met in January 1977. I was a student at Christian Heritage College in El Cajon, California. One of the three-week modules I had to take in my history major was Biblical Archaeology. Dr. Clifford Wilson was scheduled to teach the class, so I was all excited about taking a class with the famous Dr. Wilson. When I returned to school after the Christmas break, I found out that Dr. Wilson was not going to teach the module, but instead, somebody named David Livingston was. I did not have the foggiest idea who this person was. He wasn’t famous, he hadn’t written any books, he did not have a radio program... but one thing he had going for him was that he was from the East Coast!
The school was going through some growth problems at the time. Our small class (if my memory serves me correctly, there were six or seven in the class) met in the periodical room of the library! Dave was very flexible and presented a great class. He exposed us to new information such as the concept of divine kings. He spent a lot of time talking about the Exodus and Conquest. I liked his ideas of the legend of Keret and the fall of the moon city, Jericho. Of course, he also talked about his ideas regarding the location of Bethel and Ai. Most of the material is on his website, www.ancientdays.net.
During the course of the class, we had to do a term paper on an archaeological topic. I chose to do something on the date of the Exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt. When I got my paper back, I received an “A” for my efforts and a note from Dave saying, “You need to study in Israel and solve this problem once and for all.” Well, I went to Israel, but I have not solved this problem.
Dave encouraged me to study at the Institute of Holy Land Studies in Jerusalem. It was during that year that Dave got permission to excavate Khirbet Nisya, which he believed was biblical Ai. I guess I was the right person in the right place at the right time, because I was able to do some of the legwork for him in Jerusalem and Ramallah before the dig in order to get this dig organized.
Dave and ABR had its first season at Kh. Nisya during the summer of 1979. It went well, but I saw the disappointment in Dave’s eyes when there was no Late Bronze or Middle Bronze pottery at the site. After the dig was over and everybody went home, I took some friends up to visit the site and we walked along the spur to the south of the khirbet and I picked up some pottery. Later, I showed it to Rivka Gonen, an Israeli archaeologist who had excavated a Middle Bronze cemetery south of Bethlehem at a place called Efrat during that summer.
When she saw the pottery she commented, “Oh, this is just like our Middle Bronze pottery from Efrat.” She then proceeded to show me parallels with her pottery. We had Middle Bronze age pottery at Kh. Nisya. A few weeks later, I returned to the States and called Dave to tell him the good news. I did not need the phone to hear Dave, I could hear him yelling and screaming all the way to New Jersey, he was so excited. And the rest, as they say, is history.
I am reminded of the story of Charles Spurgeon. As a teenager he wanted to know God. He went to a local church on a cold, snowy, wintry day. When he got to the meeting, there was only the preacher and one other person at the service. The preacher could have called off the service because there were only two people in the audience, but he didn’t. He preached on John 3, the serpent in the wilderness, and said “Look and live.” That morning, Charles Spurgeon looked to the Lord Jesus and trusted Him as his personal Savior and received the free gift of eternal life, the forgiveness of sins, and a home in heaven. One wonders if the preacher realized the impact this young lad would have on the world on that snowy morning.
I’ve always wondered what went through Dave’s mind when he was teaching that class at Christian Heritage College with just a handful of students in front of him in the periodical room of the library. Well, it wasn’t snowing outside, and San Diego was a nice place to be in January! Yet one of those students, looking for direction in his life, went into archaeology as a result of that class. For that class, Dave, I thank you very much.