From  the  book  by  the  same  name 

Where Do the Stones Lead You?

Faith  and  Archeology

To one who believes in the historical mission of Palestine, its archaeology possesses a value which raises it far above the level of the artifacts with which it must constantly deal, into a region where history and theology share a common faith in the eternal realities of existence. 1

—W.F. Albright

There are facts that develop faith, and then there are "facts" that depend on faith. For an example of the latter, consider the tabloid headline that read, "Adam and Eve's Tomb Found in Israel."2 The article went on to tell of the discovery of a pair of 300,000-year-old skeletons near Jerusalem. Identifying them as the first couple was a scroll found beside the bodies. According to the article, the French archaeologists who made the amazing find confirmed that the male skeleton had lost a rib while the female had an extra one! This, of course, is nonsense journalism, designed to entertain rather than educate. With every archaeological report we hear we should exercise some restraint until we examine the facts.

Facing the Facts

For example, in 1980 a family tomb was excavated in East Talpiot, a suburb of Jerusalem. Ossuaries with inscriptions bearing the names of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were discovered. Many Christians jumped to the conclusion that this was the "holy family," including a BBC film crew in 1992. But this could not be the family of Jesus, and of course, not Jesus Himself. For one, the Jesus in this tomb had a son! (This, by the way, was not the first ossuary to be discovered with the name Jesus on it.) For another, Joseph's tomb has been traditionally located in Nazareth, where the family lived through Jesus' lifetime. The names Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were all quite common names for their time (as in fact they still are today). Thus we cannot jump to a conclusion about the family tomb in East Talpiot because the names on the ossuaries were the same as that of a well-known family in the Bible.

Then there is the matter of faith and interpretation. The Shroud of Turin is a prime example. Despite all the extraordinary claims and tests, there is not yet a definitive evaluation on the shroud. Some scholars claim it is genuine and evidence of the resurrection. Others of equal caliber and faith commitment claim it is a forgery or at best an actual ancient burial cloth that became identified with Jesus and revered as a religious relic. How do we decide? We might never be able to make a determination based on scientific analysis, and all the faith in the world will not make it Jesus' cloth if in fact it is not. In this case it is better to reserve our judgment. After all, the resurrection of Jesus does not depend on the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin!


The Facts of Faith

Yet well educated people often do believe unfounded reports. This may be simply because they want to, or they lack specific knowledge or the ability to confirm a claim, or because an authority figure has related it to them. Even so, such faith is not real faith; biblical faith always has a believable basis, for a person is able to accept as truth only something that can be true. This, of course, assumes that we have an objective (absolute standard of truth) rather than subjective (you have your truth and I have mine) view of truth. Theologians who say that facts don't matter are leading people to have faith in their faith. But it is not faith itself that makes the difference; rather, it's the object of faith. If the thing in which we believe is trustworthy, if it can perform what it promises, then our faith rests in something that is worthwhile. Yet two problems exist in the modern mindset that prevent the possibility of faith: one is the assumption of a non-faith perspective, and the other is the assumption of errors in the only source for faith—the Bible.

The Assumption of a Non-Faith Perspective

One of the problems facing today's generation—as well as upcoming generations—-is that they generally have not inherited a biblical worldview from their society or culture. In its place has been taught, or assumed, in every field of thought, an evolutionary process. To be sure, this evolutionary worldview is completely incompatible with a biblical worldview. But it is also incompatible with the world as known by the ancients and revealed by the modern spade. How did primitive society evolve so quickly from Neolithic Neanderthals scribbling on cave walls to Bronze Age civilizations with architectural structures and literary compositions rivalling those of our modern age? From the earliest archaeological records, civilization erupts into history fully able to achieve and communicate in an advanced manner. The evolutionary worldview as espoused by Darwin did two things: 1) it showed that evolution was a fact contradicting literal interpretations of scriptural legends of creation, and 2) it showed that its cause, natural selection, was automatic-—-with no room for divine guidance or design.3 Evolutionists themselves understand this fact, as noted recently by a newspaper reporter:

Religious conservatives see evolution as a symbol, the cornerstone of a society increasingly indifferent to human life and right and wrong. It has to do with Jesus, not with Genesis. Evolution tends to make the Adam and Eve story irrelevant. If there's no Adam and Eve and no fall from grace, and no original sin, then there's no reason for Jesus Christ to make things right again by dying on the cross.4

If we are to find facts that are indeed in harmony with faith, we must approach the Bible on its own terms, without the imposition of an evolutionary presupposition. We must come to the Bible as inerrant, not subject to our "superior" judgment as to what truth it contains.


The Assumption of Errors in the Bible

The concept of an inerrant Scripture is alien to the contemporary theological scene. Many archaeologists tend to focus on the yet unsolved problems between archaeology and the biblical text: The early history of a patriarchal period appears to be largely missing thus far from the archaeological record. Neither Joseph nor Moses appear in the Egyptian hieroglyphic texts, nor do finds in the ancient land of Canaan reveal anything of the Exodus. Silence from all sources except the Bible has led many biblical archaeologists and scholars to conclude that they never existed. The model of a military conquest has been challenged in light of the settlement patterns revealed in the archaeological excavations, and evidence for the glory of the Solomonic empire has faded faster than it has been found. Yet the problem here is not what is not seen, but what is not yet seen. To illustrate, let's consider an experience a young man named William Dembski had with his father. His father challenged him to solve the problem of joining, in a continuous fashion, nine dots arranged in three parallel rows in the form of a square. He was allowed to draw only four continuous line segments.

Although William tried every possible combination, he needed five lines, from his point of view, to correctly complete the puzzle. After a while he began to doubt that it could be done. Finally, he concluded that five was the only possible answer and four was an erroneous answer. He figured either his dad was trying to trick him or else had himself committed an error in thinking that he could solve the problem with only four lines. Then his dad showed him the straightforward solution:

The problem for young Dembski was that he had assumed that his continuous line segments could not go outside the dots. This limited perspective prevented him from making the proper solution. In later thinking about this attitude toward the problem he drew this conclusion:

Given my assumption, I was perfectly correct in attributing error to my dad. But my assumption was itself ill-conceived. I myself was in error for holding an assumption that was not required, and that prevented me from solving the problem in the way my dad had set out only when I became willing to relinquish this faulty assumption could I understand the solution my dad had intended. Error is thus a two-edged sword. In attributing it we may be committing it ourselves.5

In applying this conclusion to the question of error in Scripture, if we likewise make the assumption of error simply because we cannot at present understand the solution to a perplexing problem in Scripture, or because we cannot resolve it according to our method, we may find that we or our methods are in error, and that our lack of trust in the Father who works "outside the lines" of our limited understanding will forever prevent us from solving it. The answer, as young Dembski learned, was to ask his father. This is the essence of faith-—-a trust in One who is trustworthy whether or not we fully understand, and an acceptance that there is a solution beyond our limited perspective. With this we can live life confidently, looking for an answer to our puzzles, yet not being puzzled without one.

Faith versus Facts

Even when we discard our old presuppositions and take the Bible on its own terms, we must be careful when viewing it within an archaeological context to not let "facts" become the opponent of faith. We do so when we expect too much from archaeology and too little from the Bible. Viewing archaeology as history and the Bible as theology, some people have been able to stay at a safe distance from those convicting parts of Scripture by saying to themselves, "After all, they are just stories!" To an extent this is true. Although the Bible is historical, its history has been selected to fit a theological agenda.

Archaeology, on the other hand, is even more selective, revealing only the history of a particular part of a specific place chosen by a single archaeologist. The general direction of information from the Bible and archaeology is parallel, not perpendicular. It is more complementary rather than confirmatory. Therefore, the intersection of the Bible and archaeology should not be expected often. However, some rare intersections do occur (as this book illustrates), and when they do, "safe" skeptics may find themselves caught against the light in the traffic of convictions. If some people want to believe the Bible holds truth yet is a cracked vessel, they may do so. But by adopting such a view, they can never be certain whether or not some measure of truth has leaked out or if some contamination has seeped in. We should instead recognize that archaeology is a handmaiden to the Bible and must be kept in its proper place, as Keith Schoville advises:

I think, at least for myself, my approach is to treat the Bible as historically accurate and to give it its due. We must leave open the possibility when there seems to be some conflict between archaeological information and biblical information that all the information is not yet in. We cannot yet make a definitive statement about these problems and that in time more information may come that will help us resolve them. So, I think we have to realize that archaeology does not always have final and specific answers to the questions that we would like to have answered.6

With this kind of understanding, we are able to accept the changes that frequent archaeological interpretation and to use it to an advantage in the exposition of the unchanging truths of the Bible.

The Shifting Sands of Archaeology

The shifting sands of scholarship toward the Bible in relation to archaeology concerns the interpretation of the archaeological data and not the data itself. For this reason, one generation may find that archaeological data weighs conclusively in favor of the Bible, while the next may find that the same data is inconclusive at best or contradictory at worst. We can hope that what we are seeing on the horizon at the present time is a shift toward a positive integration of archaeology and the Bible. There is a renewed popular interest in how archaeology reveals the Bible, and some scholars are again catching the vision of what archaeology can offer to biblical studies. For example, consider the recent enthusiastic words of James Charlesworth, one of the leading New Testament scholars of today:

Now thanks to archaeology, we can hold a coin similar to the one Jesus used when He said, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's." And the face on the coin in our hands is that of Caesar, a man now dead and gone. We can also now hold in our hands a Herodian lamp and comprehend more deeply Jesus' story of the foolish virgins who did not bring enough oil to refill their tiny lamps. Moreover, through various other additional archaeological finds from first-century Palestinian Jews, we can begin to imagine what the man Jesus must have been like. Then we are freed from the perennial temptation to make him a model man in our own image. Most excitingly, we are freed from the cancer of Docetism and the false belief that Jesus only appeared to be human. If that is the only service archaeology can help render to faith, it will have been one that saves the body of faith. In brief, archaeology cannot form faith, but it can help inform faith.7

Faith Before Facts

The early Church Father Tertullian correctly observed the proper order between faith and facts when he stated, "I do not understand in order to believe, I believe in order to understand." As we have seen in the previous chapter, archaeology can take us only so far in arriving at the facts of a matter, and much less in helping us toward faith. Bryant Wood, the executive director of the Associates for Biblical Research, puts well the priority of faith when he says:

Many people have the idea that archaeology can prove the Bible. Well, that is true to a certain extent. Archaeology can help to verify certain historical events that have taken place in the past but archaeology can only go so far in that archaeology can perhaps demonstrate the truth of some historical event, but it certainly cannot verify the truth of the miraculous. So we get to a point where we have to accept the message of the Bible on faith and we can't depend upon archaeology for that. So archaeology is a wonderful tool for helping us to understand our Bible, the world of the Bible, the antiquity, and so on, but when it comes to the spiritual message of the Bible, that is a matter of personal faith.8

Therefore, such a use of archaeology poses a threat for the person who has safely maintained a distance from God or has felt comfortable in his denial of the Bible's integrity. For while archaeology can lessen the doubt of the unbeliever in the historicity and trustworthiness of the Bible, it can conversely increase his doubt in his ability to meet the demands of righteousness revealed. For this one must come by faith alone, but not with a faith that is alone—it is a faith informed by facts.

Facts Catch Up to Faith

When I lived in Jerusalem as an archaeology student, I was firmly told that there was no archaeological evidence to support the existence of Jesus. But in the two decades that have followed, so much incidental evidence has been discovered throughout the Land—and especially in Jerusalem—-that such statements are no longer voiced by anyone in the archaeological community. Gordon Franz, an archaeologist and teacher of historical geography in the Holy Land, states the proper perspective to adopt in spite of evidence that still remains outstanding:

When all of the evidence is in, and has been properly understood, archaeology will confirm what the Bible has already stated to be true.9

The important words in this statement are "all of the evidence" and "properly understood." As we know, not all the evidence is in. As Edwin Yamauchi has said, "It may take 8,000 more years of excavation, but eventually archaeology will prove the Bible to be true." This is a faith position based on the facts that have already been confirmed as an indicator of those yet to be confirmed. However, for many people, facts have not been confirmed because they have not been properly understood. For this reason the person who desires to understand must make an effort to study the available resources in order to know what can be known. There are many avenues for such self-education (see appendix), and the next best thing to knowing is knowing where to find out. A good place to begin is your local library!

In the final analysis, if your faith is in archaeology, it is in the wrong place. If you wait for archaeological proof of the Bible before you're willing to begin considering the Bible as trustworthy, you will wait beyond your lifetime. There are indeed a number of unsolved biblical issues between archaeology and theology, but in the end, the facts finally will catch up with faith.

Where the Search Leads

Though archaeology is more than a century old, compared with the history it has yet to uncover, it is still very much in its beginnings. But what a propitious start it has had, for to it applies the motto on the Great Seal of the United States (printed on the back of a dollar bill): annuit coeptis-—"He [God] smiles on our beginnings." Archaeology has had a good beginning and it promises a great future. But that future depends much on whether or not we who live in the present truly value the past. The world was shocked on October 22, 1996 when the headlines of the London Times announced: "Lost Forever: A Nation's Heritage Looted by Its Own People." On that day in war-torn Afghanistan, the country's National Museum in Kabul was reduced to rubble by Mujahidin rebels as they forced their way into what was once one of the world's foremost collections of multicultural antiquities. As one commentator on the incident reported:

Rebels blasted into vaults and shattered display cases, looted the relics, and sold them here and there around the world for quick cash. Rockets slammed into the museum's roof, burying ancient bronzes under tons of debris. Pottery from prehistory was thrown into bags like cheap china. The Bagram collection, one of the greatest archaeological finds of the 20th century, disappeared. Nearly 40,000 coins, some of the world's oldest, vanished. The museum, once a repository for Afghan history, became a military post, and the storied past has now been ruined by the unbridled present.10

As a result, the Afghan nation lost its history, but more than this, it also lost its birthright for coming generations, for without a heritage from the past there can be no legacy for the future. This tragedy of our modern day may be repeated on a lesser scale if we devalue our past. While not physically destructive, neglect of these treasures bequeathed to us by time severs us from knowledge vital to who we are and where we have been. Such an abandonment is socially destructive, consigning us to generations whose only frame of reference will be themselves.

Archaeology, then, is for all of us. It is our means of connecting with a forgotten past so that we can build upon its triumphs and tragedies and make better memories for the future. The past of biblical archaeology, however, is not forgotten, but enshrined within a greater history that points to the most promising future of all within the purpose of God.

So our journey with biblical archaeology down the ancient path of remains and relics ultimately brings us back full circle to where it all begins—-the Bible, whose truth the stones will always shout. Within these pages you have heard the stones; where do they lead you? In this book I have attempted to pass on part of the heritage of the past to you. Such material confirmation of long-recorded but unseen events calls us to confirm its ancient message in our modern lives. The reality of these rocks, which touch upon the divine drama, challenges us to add a new reality to our present faith. As a result, we will ourselves find that timeless legacy that is the foundation for our future (see 1 Timothy 6:17-19). It is my prayer that in your own search you will follow the stone-lined trail that leads always to Him whose Word is truth.

We search the world for truth. 

We cull the good, the true, the beautiful 

From graven stone and written scroll, 

And all old flower-beds of the soul; 

And, weary seekers of the best, 

We come back laden from our quest, 

To find all the sages said 

Is in the Book our mothers read.11



Keith Hunt