Digging into The Past


Biblical Archaeology

Archaeology may be defined as a systematic study of ancient people as that life of ancient people can be learned by what they left behind. MacRae describes it as "a method for, increasing our knowledge of the history of political and social events of past times."1 In addition to the remains of palaces, temples, monuments, and great buildings, the archaeologists have found immense libraries, pottery, tablets, murals, utensils and even clothing.

It should be evident that not all archaeology is of value in Biblical studies, thus we shall limit our study to Biblical archaeology. These finds have been made in what is called "the Biblical world" or "Bible lands." This includes the areas of Mesopotamia (modern Iraq), Egypt, Palestine (modern Lebanon, Israel and Jordan), Syria, Asia Minor (modern Turkey), Greece, Italy and a few other areas.

The Biblical Archaeologist

Wright describes the Biblical archaeologist as one who may or may not be an excavator, but one who "studies the discoveries- of the excavations in order to glean from them every fact that throws a direct, indirect or even diffused light upon the Bible."2 He points out that such a person must be intelligently concerned with the procedures used in archaeology, but says that "his chief concern is not with methods or pots or weapons in themselves alone. His central and absorbing interest is the understanding and exposition of the Scriptures."3

Archaeology Not to "Prove" Bible

We believe the Bible to be the inspired Word of God (2 Tim. 3:16). It is true and accurate in every way. The Psalmist declared "Forever, O Jehovah, Thy word is settled in heaven" (Ps. 119:89). With this in mind we do not seek to "prove" the Bible is true by archaeology. It is better to speak of archaeology illustrating, illuminating, or supplementing the Biblical record. There are times when the word "confirm" may be appropriately used. If we try to "prove" the Bible by anything, we are putting the authority of the Bible beneath the authority of the other field of study. In this connection LaSor tells of a man "who appeared at the doors of the Bureau of Standards in Washington and asked to see the standard yardstick."4 He had a cloth tape measure and he wanted to check the accuracy of the yardstick. 114 He says that it is just as ridiculous to seek to "prove" the Bible by some other source. Pritchard describes the job of the archaeologists, and thus the purpose of the science, in this way: "To fill in the map of Bible lands; to link Bible times with world history. And finally to cast clear light on daily life, back through the ages, through the mists of the past, to the time of-Abraham - and before."5

Since the Bible has as its primary purpose the unfolding of the scheme of redemption we understand that there are many statements beyond the sphere of archaeological investigation. One would not expect to find confirmation of a statement like "Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness" (Rom. 4:3; Gen. 15:6), but in its own sphere archaeology does much for the student of -the Book of God.

Archaeology Always Friendly to Bible

There are some problems which arise as one studies the Bible and archaeology but the evidence is so overwhelmingly beneficial that William F. Albright could recently say that the "result is throughout favorable to the biblical record."6 The Jewish archaeologist, Nelson Glueck, stated that he has "spent many years in biblical archaeology, and, in company with his colleagues, has made discoveries confirming in outline or in detail historical statements in the Bible. He is prepared to go farther and say that no archaeological discovery has ever been made that contradicts or controverts historical statements in Scripture."7 Albright and Glueck, outstanding names in archaeology, could hardly be called conservative or fundamental, and this makes their testimony even weightier.


1Allan A. MacRae, Biblical Archaeology (Marshallton, Del.: The National Foundation for Christian Education, 1967), p. 1.

2G. Ernest Wright, Biblical Archaeology (2d ed. rev.; Philadelphia: The Westminster Press,- 1962), p. 17.


4William S. LaSor, "The Use and Abuse of Archaeology," Eternity, XVII (May, 1966), p. 19.

5James B. Pritchard, "The Adventure of Rediscovery," Everyday Life in Bible Times (Washington: National Geographic Society, 1967), p. 36.

6W. F. Albright, "Archaeological Discovery and the Scriptures," Christianity Today, XII (June 21, 1968), 3.

7Frank E. Gaebelein, "The Unity of the Bible," Revelation and the Bible, ed. Carl F. H. Henry (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1958), p. 397. Quotation from "Book Review," New York Times, Oct. 28, 1956. See Glueck's Rivers in the Desert, p. 31, for a similar statement.

January 1969