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Archaeology and the Bible

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Archaeology in Palestine and Israel has undergone a major change since World War II. Prior to that time, many, if not most, archaeologists working there were Christians or Jews with at least some theological training. Many were motivated by a desire to find evidence that confirmed the accuracy of the Bible. In recent decades, many archaeologists have taken a secular stance and have approached the evidence without prior religious assumptions. As a result, skilled, intelligent, devoted and thoughtful archaeologists have adopted mutually exclusive, opposing beliefs about the accuracy of the Bible.

bullet Religious conservatives make statements affirming the accuracy of the Bible, like:

bullet Nelson Glueck: "It is worth emphasizing that, in all this work, no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a single, properly understood biblical statement.1

bullet W.F. Albright: "Discovery after discovery has established the accuracy of innumerable details [in the Bible], and has brought increasing recognition to the value of the Bible as a source of history." 2

bullet Linda Harvey, founder and president of Mission America: "Numerous archaeological finds have confirmed the Bible solely on its historical merit. It records many prophecies that were later fulfilled. Its authority was meant to rest on both its spiritual guidance and its historical validity." 3
bullet Religious liberals and secularists make statements discounting the value of the Bible as a source of historical information. Examples are:

bullet Philip Davies: "The gap between the Biblical Israel and the historical Israel as we derive it from archaeology is huge. We have almost two entirely different societies. Beyond the name 'Israel' and the same geographical location, they have almost nothing in common."  4

bullet David Ord & Robert Coote: "Many biblical stories are like Animal Farm. They are true, though not historically accurate or factual. They are concerned with proclaiming a message, not with providing us with a chronology of events from the history of Israel or the life of Jesus of Nazareth. We must learn to read them not as history but as message." 5

bullet Garnett H. Reid, a supporter of the traditional orthodox view, speaks of the secularist "minimalist" school of biblical archeology: "If minimalists are correct, the Bible has nothing to say as a historiographic document. Biblical data regarding history is therefore nondata, or pseudodata, and is of no value anyway because whatever past it attests was itself unreal. Even if the reader could derive facts about the past, they would not be normative for today." 6

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Topics covered in this section:

bullet Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament)
bullet Overview of archaeology
bullet Conflicts of religion & science over cosmology
bullet Christian Scriptures (New Testament)
bullet Important archaeological discoveries with links to the Christian Scriptures

bullet James' ossuary

bullet The Jehoash inscription

bullet The Shroud of Turin
bullet John the Baptist's cave
bullet Documents of the Mormon church:
bullet The Book of Mormon's teachings on Native American origins

bullet DNA studies

bullet The book of Abraham

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  1. Quoted in Josh McDowell, "The best of Josh McDowell: A ready defense," Here's Life Publishers, (1990), Page 93. Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store
  2. W.F. Albright, "The Archaeology of Palestine, Rev. ed.," Pelican books, (1960), Page 127 - 128. Out of print. However, may be able to get a used copy
  3. Linda Harvey, "Postmodernism: Postmodern language and Alternative Theology," at:
  4. Philip Davies, "What separates a Minimalist from a Maximalist? Not much," Bible archaeology Review, 2000-MAR/APR Vol. 26, #2, Pages 24 to 27; 72, & 73.
  5. David Robert Ord & Robert B Coote, "Is the Bible Really True?" Orbis, (1994)
  6. Garnett H. Reid, "Minimalism and Biblical History," Bibliothca Sacra 155: 620 (1998): Pages 394-410.

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Copyright 2001 to 2018 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2001-OCT-21
Latest update: 2018-FEB-22
Author: B.A. Robinson

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