God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God.
To understand the nature and function of archaeology as it relates to biblical studies, one must realize that archaeology and biblical studies are two separate and distinct disciplines. Archaeology is not an ancillary branch of biblical or theological studies. As a discipline in its own right, archaeology can make contributions to biblical studies in two main areas. First, archaeology is the only discipline we have that can provide new information pertaining to the history of the Levant. This new information provided through archaeology gives us the ability to test the historical reliability of the Bible. Second, one of the major functions of archaeology is to reconstruct extinct social systems and cultures. A better understanding of the social systems and cultures, which existed in the Levant during the periods of the Bible will allow biblical scholars to better interpret the message of the Bible.
Many in the academic world of biblical studies have challenged the historicity of the Bible for many years. Most recently the major challenge has come from a group known as “revisionist” who believes that there is little or no real history in the Bible and that it is impossible to write a history of Israel or it religion. This challenge brings up the question of what procedures and tests do we use to determine the historicity of the Bible. To answer this question we need to go back in antiquity to seek evidence of the people and cultures written about in the Bible. Archaeological techniques developed over the last 200 years, especially the last 50 years, provide us the means to go back in time and examine the evidence of these cultures which is required to answer this question. The data provided by archaeological digs in the Levant, both old and new, can be confronted with the writings of the Bible thereby testing its historicity.
Because the Bible is sacred and canonical for both Judaism and Christianity it deserves special attention. In line with Plato’s comment “an unexamined life is not worth living”, an unexamined book should not be accepted. To properly examine and understand the Bible we must deal with four obstacles. First, the geography of the Middle East is an area and climate which most of us are completely unfamiliar. Second, the bible is written in three languages. The Hebrew Scriptures were written Hebrew an Aramaic and the New Testament was written in Koine Greek, all of which few of us are familiar. While language is a media of communication it can also be a media of division and confusion. Third, time may be the greatest obstacle. We know that as we become older we can become strangers to our children in one generation. When we read the Bible we must travel back in time 2,000 to 4,000 years. Can we enter into the minds of people who lived thousands of years ago? Fourth, the combined results of the first three obstacles give us the last obstacle called culture. How can people of one culture completely understand the people of another cultural, especially when the one culture no longer exists? There are several tools which, allows us to partially overcome these obstacles. There is the critical study of both the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament. There is also considerable amount of extra Biblical writings such as the Dead Sea Scrolls. Archaeology is also a major tool in helping us to partially overcome these obstacles. Modern archaeology allows us to gather new and objective information about these cultures, which we encounter in the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament. Archaeology can make the Bible and its story more “real” because it becomes more “tangible”, a real story about real people in a real time and place thus giving us the ability to examine and understand the it messages.
Although biblical studies and archaeology are two distinct and separate disciplines it is evident that archaeology can play a major role in two areas of biblical studies. The function of archaeology as it relates to biblical studies is to provide new and additional information regarding the peoples and cultures written about in the Bible. The information provides us the ability to test the historicity of the Bible and also helps to partially overcome obstacles to our interpretation and understanding of the message of the Bible.
THE BIBLE AND ARCHAEOLOGY