Reasoning from Archaeology

“Archaeology cannot prove that the Bible is God’s written word to us. However, archaeology can (and does) substantiate the Bible’s historical accuracy. Archaeologists have consistently discovered the names of government officials, kings, cities, and festivals mentioned in the Bible — sometimes when historians didn’t think such people or places existed. For example, the Gospel of John tells of Jesus healing a cripple next to the Pool of Bethesda. The text even describes the five porticoes (walkways) leading to the pool. Scholars didn’t think the pool existed, until archaeologists found it forty feet below ground, complete with the five porticoes” [from the Everystudent.com website, 2016].

In yesterday’s post, I told about some of my historical “stuff” and how “stuff” is “stuff”. It does not speak.  It cannot tell the tale of its existence.  That’s how archaeology is.  I was watching a very good video called “Underground Jerusalem” and a professionally trained archaeologist said “What can you get from a mute stone?”

This simple sentence makes a strong point. Mute stones don’t talk and archaeologists [who regard themselves as scientists to a certain degree] don’t want to interpret.  They want the evidence they unearth to be just that—evidence.

Yet how do we reason from the evidence of archaeology to the interpretation that the Bible is correct? I would say we use reasoning by analogy.  It works like this.  If something happened in the real world and an archaeologist finds evidence, then it could have happened in Bible times.

Let’s explain one example from Paul Little’s book and maybe it will make sense.

In the 1930’s a party of Arabs found a stone statue in the Euphrates River. After they found it, archaeologists came to the area and began to find more statues and eventually unearthed an “elaborate palace” covering more than six acres, with 260 rooms, courtyards and passages.  The palace had spacious rooms fit for a king and his family and more cramped quarters for officials and servants.  They discovered a bearded statue of a king inscribed “King of Mari”.

Twenty thousand cuneiform tables were found in the royal archives with records of grain, vegetables and other provisions brought into the palace. Letters to the king, musical instruments and gold were also found.  There were even letters with messages from prophets to gods.

Let’s stop.

What does this mean for the study of the Bible?

Who lived in this time? How does all this relate to the Bible story?

One word…Abraham.

All of this buried treasure dates the archaeological find to 2,500 B.C. and Abraham is thought to have lived in this same era.

Let’s reason by analogy.

The situation that Abraham found himself in with no heir from his wife and an heir from a servant is mentioned in tablets in this archaeological dig. These tablets [call the Nuzi tablets] detail a law code saying that the barren woman must provide a handmaiden for the patriarch to have an heir.

What does this mean? Well one can say if this law was in place in Abraham’s time then he and Sarah were following the code and their actions were not out of the ordinary.

Little says the information found at Mari provides a view into the urban lifestyle of Abraham’s time-frame and a sharp contrast to the pastoral life that Abraham led. The records uncovered provide a look at the “business, politics, government and the arts.”  The analogical reasoning of the archaeologist is that all these artifacts provide a parallel to other things happening in this time-frame.

Abraham was not living in a vacuum. He was living in a culture that could be represented by the findings in this world, “stuff”, mute stones…

The archaeologists find the evidence, trying to fill in the blanks about how people lived. Abraham was a man living in this culture.

Do his actions make sense because of this culture? Yes or no…

You decide.

 

 

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