Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Biblical Archaeology

There are many ways to confirm the authenticity of the scriptures and confirm the recorded accuracy of what makes up the 66 books of the Bible and the reality of the God of the Bible. Although, our best method for confirming the truth of the bible just may be what the psalmist suggested in 1Psalm 34:8 (NLT) and simply, “Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!”

Biblical Archaeology has laid out what seems to be an endless case for the authenticity of the Bible.

Yet, there are other fantastic ways to begin to see and confirm the authenticity of the Bible. Anything from showing the accuracy of the many ancient prophecies, to confirming the existence of individuals mentioned, the eyewitness accounts, detailed accounts of places, events, and even the timing of events, are all great places to start. 

The study of Biblical Archaeology is one of these disciplines that can be persuasive logically and coherently in showing someone of the opposing view, why Christianity is a Worldview that makes a lot of sense, and in fact, doesn’t make sense to reject. Used the right way we can make our case for biblical authenticity and more importantly deliver the Gospel at every opportunity.

Biblical Archaeology has laid out what seems to be an endless case for the authenticity of the Bible. Let’s begin by endeavoring to define archaeology, the Historical Method, and cite what will simply amount to a small fraction of the many archaeological proofs that establish the scriptures as authentic and an accurately preserved document. 

Then we will describe and demonstrate how to deliver the Gospel so we can not only persuade but also win others to Christ.

Defining Terms

A great way to start is to define terms. What is archaeology? 

According to Wikipedia, 2archaeology, or archeology, is the study of human activity through the recovery and analysis of material culture. The archaeological record consists of artifacts, architecture, biofacts or ecofacts, and cultural landscapes. 

So, it’s the study of “old stuff” to reveal a culture and when it existed.

What is Biblical Archaeology? 

Again, from Wikipedia, 3Biblical archaeology involves the recovery and scientific investigation of the material remains of past cultures that can illuminate the periods and descriptions in the Bible, be they from the Old Testament (Tanakh) or from the New Testament, as well as the history and cosmogony of the Judeo-Christian religions.

The next question is, how do we deal consistently with the evidence we find, so we have a standard for interpreting our results?

It’s fun to jump into the myriad examples of archaeological Biblical proofs but it is important to start with the methodology, known as the “historical method,” so we can begin to understand the significance of findings and take a thoughtful approach in demonstrating archaeology as a powerful means of verifying that the scriptures reveal real people, real events and they are referenced in the appropriate time in history. 

This is so we can attribute the correct value of any one finding. That is to say, that how we deal with our information is as important as the information itself. A consistent methodology gives us a baseline for making good judgements.

The Historical Method

So, what is the historical method? 

According to Wikipedia the, 4“Historical method comprises the techniques and guidelines by which historians use primary sources and other evidence, including the evidence of archaeology, to research and then to write histories in the form of accounts of the past.” 

The highlight here is, “the techniques and guidelines.”  These guidelines, if accurate for attributing value to the evidence of non-biblically related findings, are certainly applicable to findings that are biblically related. 

A thorough analysis of the Historical Method would be more than what could be accomplished here. We as laymen, and the vast majority of people we will engage in this kind of discussion, most likely do not have the time to digest all that comes along with the historical methodology but it is reasonable to expect that all findings should be treated with the same guidelines, and dare I say, respect. 

With that let’s look at just a few examples of biblical archaeology after a quick intermission.

Intermission for Encouragement

Note, that as we jump in, we can be encouraged as Christians with a couple quotes from the experts:

Reformed Jewish scholar Nelson Glueck has affirmed: 
“It is worth emphasizing that in all this work no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a single, properly understood Biblical statement. (5McDowell, The New Evidence, Pg. 370)

Millar Burrows of Yale recognized the value of archaeology in confirming the authenticity of the Scriptures: 
The Bible is supported by archaeological evidence again and again. On the whole, there can be no question that the results of excavation have increased the respect of scholars for the Bible as a collection of historical documents. The confirmation is both general and specific. 
The fact that the record can be so often explained or illustrated by archaeological data shows that it fits into the framework of history as only a genuine product of ancient life could do. In addition to this general authentication, however, we find the record verified repeatedly at specific points. Names of places and persons turn up at the right places and in the right periods.” (5McDowell, The New Evidence, Pg. 370)

Examples of Biblical Archaeology

The following examples are merely a handful of factual evidence supporting the authenticity of the Bible. If this is your field of interest please talk to your pastor and see if there is an opportunity to present your studies to your local body. It's an exciting ministry to hear from and we need you out there presenting the facts. 

The Flood of Noah
  • Some have suggested that the flood of Noah was localized. “However, there is geological evidence to support a worldwide flood. Partial skeletons of recent animals are found in deep fissures in several parts of the world, and the flood seems to be the best explanations for these.” (5McDowell, The New Evidence, Pg. 377)
The Tower of Babel
  • There is considerable evidence now that the world did indeed have a single language at one time. Sumerian literature alludes to this several times.
  • Another clay tablet states that the erection of the tower offended the gods, so they threw down what the men had built, scattered them abroad, and made their speech strange. (5McDowell, The New Evidence, Pg. 378)
King Shishak of Egypt Attacked Jerusalem
  • The campaign of King Shishak to attack Jerusalem in I Kings 14:25 found recorded on the wall of the Temple of Ammon in Thebes, Egypt. (6Missler, Digging Up the Truth, Historical Review at 9:05 mark)
The Revolt of Moab Against Israel – The Mesha Inscription
  • Both documents, 2 Kings 3 and the Mesha Inscription, describe the same event, the revolt of Mesha, but from entirely different perspectives. Mesha made his record of the event on a stone slab, or stela, 3 ft. high and 2 ft. wide.
  • The Mesha Inscription gives us “the rest of the story.” It reads, in fact, like a chapter from the Old Testament. Its language, terminology and phraseology are exactly the same as what we find in the Bible. Mesha credits his successful revolt and recapture of Moabite territory, as well as other accomplishments, to Chemosh, national god of Moab. He does not, of course, record his defeat in the south at the hands of the coalition armies. Similarly, although the Bible records Mesha's revolt, it gives no details on his successes. So, each record, accurate in its own way, records events from a different perspective. (7ChristianAnswers.net, The Moabite Stone, Wood.)


Not Doctrine but Certainly Evidence of Authenticity

What we want to take from the field of Biblical Archaeology is that people, places, events and timeline can be confirmed as accurately recorded. Verified findings authenticate biblical references and authenticate that these things existed, and existed during the specific time period they are attributed to. 

The continual mounting of evidence that confirms the accuracy of biblical references and claims, confirms we have the same message preserved and passed to us through the centuries. With this kind of evidence, it is reasonable to then test the philosophical claims of the scriptures.

A much better elaboration on what the value and limitations of Biblical Archaeology are, is found in the book, Illustrated Manners and Customs of the Bible, by J.I. Packer and M.C. Tenney:
The “truth” of the Bible is not only a matter of facts, but of their interpretation. Even if we could demonstrate the factuality of the entire Bible, that would not prove its redemptive significance. Because the Christian faith is based on historical events, Christians welcome any evidence that archaeology can provide – but they do not anchor their faith to it. 
No lack of evidence nor critical skepticism can disprove God’s Word. It is better to emphasize how archaeology helps us understand the Bible than to insist that it proves the Bible true. In fact, it cannot do so much, nor is there need that it should. (9Packer & Tenney, Manners and Customs, Pg. 86)

A great question to ask is, “do the archaeological findings that relate to biblical times support or contradict the historicity of what we find in the scriptures?”  Well, they do support the historicity in wonderful ways and the historical record continues to support the authenticity of the scriptures. So, then what would be a logical next step? 

How about testing its claims? :-)

Witnessing Strategy

There are not Christians who start their journey to knowing the Lord by seeking truth through Biblical Archaeology. You may know of a few.

Since the historical record continuously supports the authenticity of the the Bible, it is reasonable to expect, that one would then examine the value of what is claimed. So, let’s think about our objective when engaging someone through Biblical Archaeology.

There is much we can learn from archaeology. Yet, it is a field that even with the best of intention has enough subjectivity “built in” that in many cases even the experts, have to say, “I don’t know… and neither do you.” 

Does archaeology support the authenticity of the Bible? It sure does! Yet, when it comes to witnessing, you will find it to merely be a lead into just simply delivering the Gospel.

Spending time in topics that most people only have a surface knowledge of isn’t going to be productive anyway. We want to be informed but we are never going to be able to answer to every crazy theory out there. However, we do have our testimony and the Gospel at our disposal! 

Every story in the bible is based around redemption and that’s right in the Christians “wheel house.” So, go to the Gospel quick and go there often! 

Let’s look at a couple examples.

Delivering the Gospel

When you present your Biblical Archaeology evidence, be prepared to deliver the Gospel based on the story at hand. If someone is talking about Noah’s flood and they present their “facts,” you can present the real facts and conclusions of archaeology on that topic… but then immediately follow up with the redemption part of that biblical narrative. 

Therefore, if the topic is the flood, then present the archaeology info you have and then quickly throw in the Gospel. Sharing about our separation from God because of our sin, and how the story of God preserving Noah and his family is a model of His redemption for humanity. 

If the topic is on David’s kingdom, then talk about how David was a man after God’s own heart because although he sinned he cried out to God, and the Lord is near to all who call upon Him.

It’s invigorating to be ready to give the Gospel when the opportunity arises but let’s think even bigger! Maybe we don't even need to wait for the opportunity to arise. Let’s “create” the opportunity in our discussions and when the topic is Biblical Archaeology, by understanding what it is and when the topic comes up, let’s be ready to give the Gospel.

Important Takeaways

Certainly, so much more could be said about the evidences of Biblical Archaeology, the Historical Method and strategies for witnessing. All are worthy subjects of further study for those seeking the truth. As for the layman, with just a little curiosity and thoughtful investigation you can strengthen your faith, prepare yourself to field questions in this area and be ready to deliver the Gospel.

The important takeaways from this study is to understand that there is a method and standards for reasonably determining the value of historical findings. When the same standards for general findings are applied to findings that shed light on biblical times and biblical accuracy, we find an overwhelming authentication for the scriptures.

Be Prepared

As Josh McDowell’s book title indicates, this evidence demands a verdict. Those that chose to ignore the onslaught of evidence are simply not being curious, thoughtful or sincere. However, some people are, so let’s be prepared on their behalf.

We can be sure that we believe in a God who reveals Himself to those that are His. We also know that the hardened hearts of some prevent them from seeing. 

So, can Biblical Archaeology be persuasive logically and coherently in showing someone of the opposing view why Christianity is a Worldview that makes a lot of sense, and in fact, doesn’t make sense to reject? 

Yes! The evidence is crushing. Can we make the blind see? Well… God willing we will. So be prepared to deliver the Gospel anytime Biblical Archaeology is the topic at hand. 

Please, add your thoughts in the comment section.

~~~~~~~

Concept

“Archeology supports the authenticity of the Bible.”


In The Cool Zone concept. Think like Jesus thinks. Deliver the Gospel. Teach what you have learned.

In The Cool Zone and More Life in My Day are sister websites dedicated to discipleship. They work in tandem, providing the teaching and coaching for growing in the Lord and becoming effective in our walk with the Lord. 


~~~~~~~

1The Blue Letter Bible. “New Living Translation.”  Accessed 2017, May 23. Retrieved from https://www.blueletterbible.org/nlt/gen/1/1/s_1001

2Wikipedia. “Archaeology.”  Accessed 2017, May 23. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archaeology

3Wikipedia. “Biblical Archaeology.”  Accessed 2017, May 24. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblical_archaeology

4Wikipedia. “Historical method.”  Accessed 2017, May 23. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_method

5McDowell, Josh. 1999. The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict. Thomas Nelson Publishers.

6Missler, Chuck & Cornuke, Bob. “Digging Up The Truth: Biblical Archaeology.” Koinonia House, 2001. Audio Recording.

7ChristianAnswers.net. “What does the Moabite Stone reveal about the Biblical revolt of Mesha?”  Wood, Bryant G. Accessed 2017, May 23. Retrieved from http://christiananswers.net/q-abr/abr-a019.html

8Packer, J.I. & Tenney, M.C. 1980. Illustrated Manners and Customs Of The Bible. Thomas Nelson Publishers.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please, select Name/URL from the list below to comment. Note: URL is not required.