Thursday, March 17, 2005

Biblical Reliability - Archaeology Part II

In yesterday's post I set the groundwork for discussion of archaeological support of the Biblical record by pointing to some articles discussing some finds that have, apparently, provided confirming evidence of the accuracy of some Biblical stories. However, archaeology is a field rife with dispute, and understandably so: we are interpreting evidence centuries and millenia old in a modern light, with only an academic understanding of the ancient world. Anyone interpreting the evidence will filter certain conclusions through the prism of the modern day.

So, today I will point to some areas of controversy in preparation for a summation of the topic tomorrow.

This article covers the recent history of the archaeology dispute, between conservative and "higher criticism" critics very well. It discusses the fact that these disputes have been around for a while, and are not new at all. Summary paragraph:
Sayce and Driver set the debate in Anglo-American scholarship concerning archaeology’s role and relationship to the biblical record. Sayce’s goal was to provide a challenge to higher criticism through archaeological data. His method was emulated by conservative scholars and theologians who activated archaeological evidence to buttress arguments against the theories of Wellhausen and his followers. Driver asserted that higher criticism had not been refuted by archaeology. He warned his readers that they must be on guard against confusing the facts of archaeology with the precarious inferences or hypotheses founded upon them. He understood the value of archaeology and provided examples of careful interpretation of archaeological data and its illumination of the biblical record.

National Geographic steps in with an article about some of the problems in using archaeological findings in support of a thesis, such as the imprecise nature of dating discoveries and the possibility of encountering forgeries.

This article speaks from the Christian point of view, while this one speaks from a critical point of view, both in relation to the problem of the Exodus (in addition to other topics.) This is a strong area of contention, from both the Exodus out of Egypt itself (and apparent lack of Egyptian documentation of the event) to the entry into Canaan some 40 years later.

So there is still some controversy around the role archaeology can play, or has played, in demonstrating the historicity of the Bible. Tomorrow, in the words of Inigo Montoya, "I sum up."

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