Bible And Archeology

Dec 17, 2022 | Bible Archeology | 0 comments

Why So Much Importance Is Attached To Biblical Archeology

Dr. Johnson C. Philip

Of all the religions and faiths in the world, the Christian faith is different and unique in its historical component. While all the other religions and faiths “contain” histories, the Christian faith is “based” upon history. Even if the historical content of all other faiths is removed, their basic philosophy or substance is not affected. But this cannot be done with the Bible. Remove the historical content, and the Christian faith [and the Jewish faith] comes to a naught.

All Eastern religions are based in philosophy, and whatever history they contain [real or mythological] is only an irrelevant adjunct to the narration, or an aid to understanding the underlying philosophy. Remove the seeming historical content, and the philosophy is still there, totally independent of history. Western religions also fall into the same pattern, with the Bible-based faith being the only exception. And here lies the importance of Biblical Archeology.

Judeo-Christian believers of all the generations have understood the importance of history in Bible, and this is why teaching Bible-stories has been part of their cultural and social life. However, most of them never looked at it from a critical or destructive angle. For them this history was a given fact of their spiritual life and heritage. Radical critics of the Bible were the first to realize the depth and breadth to which the Judeo-Christian faith depended upon history, and it is they who realized for the first time that secular history and archeology can become a powerful tool of destruction in their hands. And the moment they realized this, they began to use all the available secular historical resources to attack the Bible.  And it is this anit-christian lobby to which we should be thankful for opening our eyes to the possibilities of history and archeology.

Attempts To Attack The Bible In Early Christian Era: with the rise of Greek philosophy in the few centuries preceding the Christian Era. Since the Greek philosophies spanned the full spectrum from theism to atheism, the atheistic thinkers influenced by the more rational stream of the Greek philosophy found the claims of Jewish Religion [and the Christian faith that followed] distasteful to their philosophy. The immediate reaction was to dismantle the Christian faith using the best of philosophy and rational information available at that time.

Both Jewish as well as Christian apologists rose to the task in the first three centuries of the Christian Era. Among the Jews the most well-known is Flavius Josephus, who wrote the famous “Contra Apion” [Against Apion] and several substantial volumes, almost all of which are available today. Among the Church Fathers most of them had to contend against heretics, many of whom wrote against the Bible from what can be called

One of the persons who systematically attacked the Christian faith in early centuries was the Roman pagan Porphyry, who wrote his 15-volume “Against Christians” around AD 280. He used all the historical and philosophical information that were at his disposal to attack the faith, forcing the Church Fathers also to investigate all the available secular information to defend the Christian faith. One can see references to many established points of ancient history. Here one can trace the way secular historical and archeological information was used in a rudimentary for to defend the Bible against attacks emanating from the same fields. However, archeology as a developed science did not exist then, and perhaps that was providential as people in the nineteenth century onwards had a greater need for it than those who preceded them.

From AD 400 to 1500 the Christian faith was challenged, but only occasionally and in subdued form. Thus there was no need for history-based apologetics, and perhaps in divine providence Archeology [secular or Biblical] did not see any substantial development.

Attempts During The Rise Of Radicalism: The rise of theological Radicalism in Germany, other European countries and the USA brought in the period of intensified attacks against the Bible, based upon historical sciences. Since archeology is a prime tool for the discovery of historical information, they began to press archeology more and more into their service.

The radical criticism of the 1700s to the early 1900s was more a blend of humanism, evolutionism, and rationalism and less of the hard facts of science. Soon the evangelical Christian pointed this out, and this made the radicals all the more determined to find support from the discoveries of archeology. Some of them had an unusual confidence, unbecoming of scholars, that the future discoveries would totally dismantle the historical component of the Bible.

The Christian Response:  In the face of this challenge, an increasing number of Christian [trained as well as untrained] took to primary or secondary archeology. Primary work was done by people who actually went into the field. Secondary work was done by those who used these discoveries to reconstruct ancient history. And then thousands of men trained in various branches of theology and apologetics used this information for examining the allegation of radicals and defending the Bible.

The results were almost always in favour of the Bible. There were doubts in some cases, but in the long run these turned out to be the consequence of gaps in discoveries. As they kept discovering yet new artifacts and inscriptions, the missing gaps were filled and Bible was vindicated.

The Twenty First Century:  Throughout the 1900s the radical thinkers waged sort of a political war to control the world of archeology. Contrary to popular thinking, the world of science and scholarship is not always made up of objective and truth-seeking men. The world of science, in addition to knowledge, is also a world of power, position, prestige and money. And this induces many to manipulate people for their own vested interests.

A good example is the discovery and publication of the Dead-sea scrolls. Though discovered around 1947 to 48, many scholars did not publish original documents in their possession till even 1990. Nor did they give access or permission to others to publish this material. The in 1990 there was a hue and cry from scholars around the world, but it took much for some of this information to be released to public. Such is often the world of science and archeology.

In spite of the ongoing attempt by many to control information, what is already available related to the Bible is enormous. Scores of standard journals, and hundreds of magazines, and thousands of websites now carry information related to Bible and Archeology today. This trend will only increase because the demand to show the trustworthiness of the Bible is on the increase.

A quick acceptance of anything published against the Bible and its historical accuracy is on the increase. Books that question the historicity of Lord Jesus Christ, howsoever absurd their thesis might be, quickly become bestsellers. A good example is “Christ and Krishna” written by Joseph Edamaruku, a prominent Indian Atheist. Within two decades of first publication, this book has undergone more than 10 editions in two languages. In comparison, most books die after the first edition, and less than ten percent indian books go into a second edition. The book, due to its persuasive style, and large distribution created quite a confusion among young Christians in India. Similar results are seen when books attacking any other aspect of the Christian faith are published. However, the Christian community has been rising to the occasion and answering all allegations.

Summary:  The Christian faith and its fundamental principles are so closely intermingled with history in Bible that they cannot be separated in any way. Destroy the history, and the theology is undone automatically. As a consequence, a large number of radical theologians have been attacking the historical content of the Bible. In truth this has undermined the faith of many, and challenged that of many more.

Biblical archeology examines archeology and history as it applies to the Bible, and helps in the defense of the Christian faith. Biblical archeology helps in many other ways too, and that is examined in other parts of this work.

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