Anyways... below is a response article that I wrote about a reading we had in class by Frank S. Frick called "An Illuminating Side Trip." The idea of the article... well first off, let me say that this is my class on The Emergence of Biblical Israel ;-)... so the idea of the article is trying to depict whether or not biblical archaeology should be something that we put our effort towards or not. Considering there has been "very little evidence" in comparison to archaeology, let's say, from Egypt. So the article, trying to remain as unbiased as possible continues on talking about the methods of archeology and how we use those methods to determine the historical information hidden within the artifacts. Unfortunately, I believe it is unfair to say that we should study and support data collected such as "when" something was created when the percentage of accuracy fluctuates so excessively. Anyways, in the end, I appreciated the author wrapping up with the fact that, “Ultimately the belief that God exists, or the belief that God does not exist, is a matter of faith and not subject to proof of any kind, archaeological or otherwise.”
But now I am just giving away the article... here it is. ;-)
Response to “An Illuminating Side Trip”
Question… or Answer. Which comes first? For many scholars, such a ridiculous statement would neither be admired nor thought about. Obviously the question is the cause and the answer is the effect. But in some worlds, asking whether the one comes before the other, it is as complex as whether the chicken came before the egg, or likewise. Such is the case for modern Palestinian Archeology.
Upon looking at our past, we can see many great efforts in Palestine of attempted coalition between archaeology and the Bible. This biblical archaeology can be seen starting with the Palestine Exploration Fund in 1865 as well as the American Palestine Exploration Society of 1870. The latter, being from the U.S., wanted to go further than it’s prior British counterpart in declaring their research as “For the illustration and defense of the Bible,” rather than just the illustration. But what did it come to?
Although almost every effort to unify a biblical archaeology proved mostly unsuccessful, leading to the separation of the two, we are left with a few highlights. One of those we find in the contributions of Syro-Palestinian Archaeology. In such archaeology, we find evidence that supports the Bible, but does not prove it. A few examples would be: the unknown Hebrew word “pim” which was found in the Bible as well as on various small stone balance weights, the evidence of the fall of King Lachish and his city, and finally the material environment that is displayed equally in the two. Beyond subtle anomalies such as these, biblical archaeology dwindled due to it’s inability to neither prove nor deny the contents of the Bible.
As years have passed, archaeology itself has gone through an extensive development. From the new excavation ideas such as the “architectural” approach and the “Wheeler-Kenyon” method to analyzing the data using everyone from statisticians and ceramicists to architects and paleographers, whatever information an artifact will give us, we will find. Except for one very large question…time.
In modern times we have three techniques of dating an object: Radiocarbon Dating, Tree-Ring Dating, and Thermoluminescence Dating. The problem, however, is that each of these can have quite a bit of room for error, sometimes being hundreds of years. So the question is… If in biblical archaeology we cannot find exact answers, is it okay to establish answers for dates of artifacts when any number of the samples could be contaminated?
Which brings us back to the question of the chicken or the egg. Should we also drop modern archaeology? How do we support something when we have no concrete answers? Should we continue biblical archaeology? I believe yes, but not in the same way as it was previously performed. I believe that the addition of a Biblical Scholar to the already combined teams of Palestinian Archaeologists would allow us to stop asking the questions… and start finding the answers. Just as we don’t deny any artifact’s existence due to its undeterminable date of creation, we should equally not discount biblical archeology due to its inability to answer the questions that we ask. Because questions assume. Questions can form bias. And bias can sway you from seeing what the artifact is truly saying.
So in the end, I would say that yes, sometimes it is better for the answer to come before the question. When speaking about religion, it must be simply that, something we believe, not something we prove. We can be involved in archaeology, but we cannot drive it. Because, “Ultimately the belief that God exists, or the belief that God does not exist, is a matter of faith and not subject to proof of any kind, archaeological or otherwise.”
And there you are! ;-) Hope you all are doing great, I start spring break on Wednesday!;-)