Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 11, 1968

Archaeology — Its Meaning And Value

Irvin Himmel

Bible students find the science known as "archaeology" a most fascinating branch of study! The word archaeology is a compound word. Archaios means "ancient," logos means "discourse" or "communication." Putting the two together we have, "ancient communication." Archaeology, therefore, is the study of ancient human life and activities, based on inscriptions, monuments, relics, and other remains of ancient peoples.

Unlike other sciences, archaeology does not theorize and speculate; it digs, delves, and demonstrates. The archaeologist does not spade up earth to prove his hypothesis; he searches caves, tombs, buried cities, etc., to find facts — whatever facts he may chance to uncover. His discoveries can hardly be slanted to fit his personal opinions, but his own convictions may well be changed by his discoveries.

Thousands of archaelogical finds having bearing on the Bible have been made in Babylon, Ninevah, Syria, Palestine, Asia Minor, and Egypt. It is interesting that most of these discoveries have been in comparatively modern times — the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. And the relics continue to pour into the museums all over the world! No one knows what amazing evidences may be unearthed in the next few years.

Halley gives the following interesting account of how entire cities have been buried, lost, and forgotten: "The Euphrates Valley is the place where the earth's earliest inhabitants lived, and where the Bible story begins. It is now dotted with mounds which are the ruins of ancient cities, including the first cities ever built. These cities were built of rock. Refuse was thrown into the streets or dumped over the walls. Houses when repaired would be brought up to street level. When abandoned, or destroyed in war, afterwards re-occupied, the ruins, instead of being cleared away, would be leveled off as a base for a new city. Being composed of brick, which would be partly broken and disintegrated, it would form quite a firm base of the city above. The new city would thus bury beneath itself the rubbish and relics of the previous occupation. Thus the mounds grew higher and wider, city on top of city. When finally abandoned, the brick, beaten by the rains, disintegrated: a coating of earth formed; and, covered by the sandstorms of the desert, these mounds have concealed within their bosoms the secrets of the life and civilization of the people who successively inhabited them..." (Pocket Bible Handbook, p. 42)

Archaeology's value to the Bible may be summed up in two words: confirmation and illumination. Modern discoveries in Bible lands furnish three kinds of confirmatory evidence: (1) possible — that which places Bible facts in the realm of possibility, to say the least; (2) corroborative — that which makes Bible facts more certain; and, (3) positive — that which definitely proves Bible facts.

The following are some of the general headings under which the Bible is confirmed by archaeology:

1. The geographical trustworthiness of the record.

2. The historicity of the account.

3. The authenticity of the text.

4. The accuracy of the Bible in details.

5. The divine inspiration of the whole.

In an age of increasing skepticism and unbelief Christians very readily see the value of archaeology as it brings forth a never-ending supply of fresh evidence. Then, too, numerous discoveries throw light on the text itself. Take the prophecies of the Old Testament, for example. Rimmer correctly observes, "There is an illumination that brightens the meaning of the Sacred Text when read in the light of collateral events that can come no other way." He remarks, speaking of the background furnished for a better understanding of the Old Testament prophets and their messages, "It is not too much to say...that in our present possession there is sufficient knowledge derived from the monuments and records of antiquity to authenticate every prophecy that Isaiah made concerning Egypt, Israel, Syria, and Assyria. Thus the text of the Old Testament is illumined, and a floodlight of understanding thrown upon its prophetic utterance by the findings in this field." (Dead Men Tell Tales, pp. 15-21)

Obviously enough, there are some Bible facts that we can never expect archaeology to verify, For instance, we would scarcely expect a relic to be unearthed which would prove conclusively that Peter walked on the water, or that demons entered into swine. Notwithstanding, every piece of evidence that confirms any part of the text increases our faith in the whole of the Bible; and every discovery that tends to broaden our understanding of the Living Word deepens our faith.

George L. Robinson, former director of the American School of Oriental Research in Jerusalem, stated, "No explicit contradiction of Scripture of any moment whatever has been found. More and more scholars are coming to recognize the substantial verity of the Bible; and less and less do archaeologist endorse the evolutionary hypothesis of higher criticism to explain the growth of law and religion in Israel." (Bearing of Archaeology on the Old Testament, p. 12)

Archaeology and the Bible are friends. Each tells its story of the ancient past in its own way, but because each tells the truth, one is not at variance with the other. — Evidence Quarterly