Tuesday, January 17, 2017

ARCHEOLOGY AND THE BIBLE: Where Science and Faith Collide . . .

  First of all, a quick follow up to last week's blog post:  my friend David finished getting my new gaming PC all set up for me and I beat DARK SOULS 3 the same night, and my shout of triumph was heard throughout the land!  That done, I immediately set about playing through the game again - just so I could experience it at the speed it was meant to be enjoyed, and also so I could finally enjoy co-op play!

  Now, on to tonight's topic . . . Saturday afternoon I was invited to appear on the Parker J. Cole show, broadcast on BlogTalk Radio, and discuss a topic near and dear to my heart - archeology and the Bible.  I'll include a link to the show below, in case anyone would like to go back and listen to the podcast.  But what I thought I would do is hit on some of the highlights that we covered in this week's blog post.

   First of all, what exactly is archeology?  There are lots of misperceptions out there.  Archeologists don't dig up dinosaurs (that's paleontology), nor do they run through Amazon temples dodging giant boulders rolling after them.  They don't generally care about mammoths or sabretooth cats (unless those remains showed evidence of human interaction).  Archeologists study the physical remnants of past human cultures, in order to better understand how ancient (and sometimes not so ancient) peoples lived.

   There are two broad divisions of archeology.  Historical archeologists study the remnants of cultures who also left us a written account of their doings; prehistoric archeologists study cultures - like the Celts of Gaul or most North American Indian tribes - that had no written language.  Those peoples can ONLY be understood by the physical relics they left behind, and as a result there are some things about them that we simply may never know - pottery shards and arrowheads cannot resurrect a dead language or tell us the names of their kings, priests, and heroes.

   One of the divisions of historical archeology is Biblical archeology.  This is a discipline that focuses entirely on discoveries from the ancient Middle East that relate to the events narrated in the Old and New Testament.  Discoveries of Biblical artifacts and manuscripts have been found in Israel, of course, but also in Italy, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, and many other areas mentioned in the Bible. 

   It's important to understand that there are some things archeology cannot do and has not done.  Science of any sort cannot confirm the theological claims of the Bible - archeology cannot prove that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God, or that faith in Him is necessary for salvation.  What archeology CAN do, and has done in hundreds of instances, is confirm the historical details of Scripture.  While there are many gaps in the record and many discoveries yet to be made, it is truly astonishing how often archeology has proved the Scriptures to be historically and geographically accurate.

   The Hittites described in the Old Testament were dismissed as legendary for most of the nineteenth century, but then evidence was found that they were indeed a real people who ruled a considerable empire - exactly where and when the Old Testament described it.  John's description of the Pool of Bethesda was dismissed as a fairy tale, since no other ancient source ever mentioned such a place existing in Jerusalem - but then, in the 1950's, excavation of a street in Jerusalem uncovered the pool exactly where John described it - surrounded by five porticoes, near the Sheep Gate.  Ancient graffiti even confirmed John's claim that the pool was believed to have healing powers.  For years, historians disputed the Gospel's claim that Jesus was nailed to the Cross, but then an ossuary (a box for storing human bones after burial) was found in Jerusalem containing the ankle bone of a crucifixion victim, still transfixed by the iron nail that held him to his cross.

   Place names, official titles, and even individuals mentioned in the Old and New Testaments have been confirmed through archeology.  While there are some significant gaps - no hard evidence has been found of the Exodus yet, for example - it is also worth noting that not a single discovery has been made disproving any detail of the New Testament.   When you stack the evidence confirming the historical claims of the Christian Scriptures against those of other faiths, one thing becomes clear - the Christian faith is rooted in real, historical events, not in myth and legend like the other Middle Eastern "mystery cults" Christianity is often compared with.

   During my trip to Israel last year (has it been that long?  I suppose it has), I saw the flagstones of Simon Peter's house in Capernaum, a fishing boat from the lifetime of Jesus recovered from the muddy bottom of the Sea of Galilee, a "high place" built by King Jeroboam II, the gates of the ancient Israelite city of Dan, the oldest inscription referencing King David, and the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were recovered, and dozens of other archeological sites and artifacts from the Old and New Testament era. (See the March 2016 blog posts that I made during the trip for daily descriptions!)  It was a faith-affirming journey buttressed every step of the way by the academic disciplines of history and archeology.

   Want to learn more?  Listen to my recorded broadcast on the Parker J. Cole show at this link:

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/pjcmedia/2017/01/14/archaeology-and-the-bible--the-parker-j-cole-show

   Want to read my novels about (admittedly fictitious) Biblical archeology discoveries?  Find me on Amazon!!

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=dp_byline_sr_book_1?ie=UTF8&text=Lewis+Ben+Smith&search-alias=books&field-author=Lewis+Ben+Smith&sort=relevancerank

    Till next week, be blessed, and, as always, thanks for reading!

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