What does biblical archaeology teach us? (wild card)

As my husband chose to go into biblical archaeology, I had grand visions of finding the ark of the covenant (or at least the bones of Balaam’s donkey). Indiana Jones knew dozens of languages, was able to make earth-shattering discoveries in civilizations from the Mayans, to Israelites, to remote Indian civilizations. This was going to be an exciting life!

The reality of biblical archaeology has been exciting, but in a very different way. I have learned to find joy from uncovering a water channel in a dusty, remote part of Jordan, where a dig on that site has continued for more than 20 years, and to let go of my need for sensational finds.

In the “glory days” of biblical archaeology in the 19th century, large finds that were spectacular were the goal of a dig. The University of Chicago Museum (http://oi.uchicago.edu/museum) holds monstrously large and impressive finds from the ancient Near East culled from the rubble of that era of archaeology. But in the desire to find the spectacular, they missed much of what we are learning from archaeology today.

Critics of the early pioneers of Biblical Archaeology complained that men like Albright went to the holy land with “a Bible in one hand and a trowel in another”. (See the works of Bill Dever, for example.) Many of the early pioneers were men of faith, hoping in some sense to “prove the Bible”. Even if we can’t do that with archaeology (see the subsequent arguments over the dating of the sight of Jericho done by Kenyon), what can we, as Christians learn from archaeology?

One thing archaeology can do is make your study of the Bible much richer. If you look at a work like Dr. Fiensy’s, Jesus, the Galilean , he explains insights about the world of Jesus that are very valuable to Christians. What did the average man in Galilee eat, do, wear, worry about, fear, get sick from? Who were the people living in the first century? What was Jesus’ human experience and perspective? Archaeology helps to provide an clearer historical picture of a particular culture and time period that makes Jesus’ teachings and the words of the apostles more meaningful.

Even if the ark is not found, an archaeologist who will delight at exploring the remains of a first century sewer (Dr. Fiensy), can give us valuable insight and information that can make our understanding of the Bible much richer.

PS If you are in Chicago, the Oriental Institute at the Univ of Chicago is amazing!



One Response

  1. I have always thought that it would be interesting to do an archeological dig in a biblical place. Even if like you said all we found was a water channel. I think it just puts a whole new understanding into light about what took place and how things happened in biblical times. I got the opportunity to go to Rome and that was a great experience. I got to put myself in the place of some of the great men of the New Testament and it gave me a whole new appreciation for the stories and teachings they wrote.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: