What is the role of “biblical archaeology?” Some are of the opinion that archaeology proves the Bible, especially the historical narratives are are called into question by a growing number in scholarship. Others feel it is used to illuminate the Bible. Still others feel archaeology is simply a science that functions independently of the Bible. This means it can offer credibility to the Bible in some cases, while it also has the potential to discredit the Bible.
I love what Dr. Bryant Wood has said in reference to what was found and not found Biblical sites – “The absence of evidence does not necessarily mean the evidence of absence.” This means that just because something mentioned in the Bible has not yet been found doesn’t mean the Bible is not trustworthy. Some feel it should work the other way as well, namely, just because something mentioned in the Bible is found doesn’t necessarily means the Bible is historically accurate. Of this later perspective, I do not agree.
I do not agree on the basis that the Bible is historically accurate. This is our starting point. It must be our starting point as evangelicals. This means that if archaeology seemingly suggests the Bible as not historically accurate in regard to a minor point of history, one can only then conclude that we therefore cannot trust the major points of biblical history (e.g. the miracles or resurrection of Jesus). It’s a slippery slope to conclude that the Bible cannot be completely trusted when it comes to history just because archaeology says so.
A similar quote by Dr. Wood is even better. He said, “In every instance where the findings of archaeology pertain to the Biblical record, the archaeological evidence confirms, sometimes in detailed fashion, the historical accuracy of Scripture. In those instances where the archaeological findings seem to be at variance with the Bible, the discrepancy lies with the archaeological evidence, i.e., improper interpretation, lack of evidence, etc.—not with the Bible.” (Dr. Bryant C. Wood, archaeologist, Associates for Biblical Research). Three cheers for this perspective!
Having excavated at three sites now (two back in the 80s, and one site just this past July), I have an appreciation for archaeology. I believe it does not need to prove the Bible since the Bible stands on its own. What it does do is reveal the Bi ble in “3-D color.” While the interpretation of the facts is one of the most difficult part of the science of archaeology , one needs to acknowledge that one’s interpretations can be easily influenced by whether you think the Bible is historically accurate or not. It’s also dangerous to approach a site with the aim of “finding an Old Testament wall because the Bible says one should be here.” This subjective approach can equally overshadow the objectivity that is needed. Again, the Bible’s history stands on its own, but the danger of “finding something that you are looking for” can potentially skew one’s interpretation.
So let’s allow archaeology continue to play its important role in revealing the wonders of the Bible!