Abraham As Archaeology Knows Him Part I — Abraham the Caravaneer -- By: James L. Kelso
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Abraham As Archaeology Knows Him
Part I — Abraham the Caravaneer
[Dr. James L. Kelso is Emeritus Professor of Old Testament History and Biblical Archaeology at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. His wide experience as an Old Testament scholar and archaeologist includes serving as staff member of expeditions at Tell Beit Mirsim, (1926, 1930, 1932) and as leader of excavations at Tubal Abu el Alayiq and Mitla, Jordan (1950), and Bethel (1954, 1957, 1960). He is author of a number of books on archaeological and Biblical subjects. Now in his eighty-first year, Dr. Kelso continues to be active in preparing manuscripts, teaching, and carrying on research.]
The following article first appeared in Perspective, Vol. XIII, No. 1, Winter 1972, and is reprinted here with permission. As you read this fascinating article, we suggest that you do so with your Bible opened to the book of Genesis. — Ed.
IN this article I have, as a professional field archaeologist, summarized in brief form for the benefit of the busy pastor, the picture that the archaeologist sees in the Bible story of Abraham. The historical matrix into which Abraham fits with uncanny accuracy is what the archaeologist calls Middle Bronze I and is usually dated approximately 2000 to 1900 B.C. or slightly later. Here and only here in all of Near East history can Abraham be dated; but here in Middle Bronze I, he is as much at home as is Abraham Lincoln in the Civil War period of the U.S.A.
Archaeology is essentially a detective science in which every possible clue should be traced down so as to secure as accurate a solution as possible to the problem under investigation. This is what has been done with Abraham.
An archaeologist usually begins with geography, for this is the first clue as to whether he is dealing with fact or fiction. In the Abraham story we are on familiar terrain, concentrating on such well-known key cities as Ur, Haran and Damascus, plus the land of Palestine with emphasis on (1) the mountain-ridge
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area from Shechem south to Hebron, (2) the Negeb and the area from Kadesh-barnea to Shur, (3) episodes in Egypt and Transjordan.
In the study of the geographic references in the Abraham story, the Kadesh-Shur area instantly arouses the archaeologist’s interest for this area was occupied in Middle Bronze I, c. 2000-1900 B.C., or slightly later, and then completely abandoned as a settled area until Nabatean times. Now if we understand Abraham’s presence here at some time in Middle Bronze I, then Abraham will become a genuine historical character whose...
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