Update On New Testament Archaeology -- By: D. Brent Sandy

Journal: Bible and Spade (First Run)
Volume: BSP 12:3 (Summer 1983)
Article: Update On New Testament Archaeology
Author: D. Brent Sandy


Update On New Testament Archaeology

D. Brent Sandy

[Dr. Sandy is Associate Professor of Greek at Grace Theological Seminary, Winona Lake, Indiana.]

Current Status

It is only in the last two decades that Palestinian archaeologists have begun to give proper attention to the remains of the New Testament period. Archaeology as a careful scientific discipline has been at work in Palestine some three-quarters of a century and has contributed much to historical research. Even so, as the major twentieth-century leaders in Biblical archaeology were interested almost exclusively in Old Testament remains, the Hellenistic and later periods were passed over quickly. But broader interests have surfaced and with recent sophisticated and more precise methods of archaeology, every piece of antiquity regardless of age is now studied to reconstruct everything possible about the history and culture of the people. Thus the evidence needed to analyze the New Testament period is becoming more readily available.

A shift in New Testament studies is also underway which encourages the work of the archaeologist. A tendency common among New Testament scholars has involved an attempt to understand the New Testament from a theological perspective without due consideration of the historical, geographical, literary, and cultural setting. However, in many circles a new awareness is evident that the historical context, in many ways presupposed by the

authors of the New Testament, is indeed an important element in a proper understanding of the text. This means that the need is growing faster for more information from New Testament archaeology and other background studies.

New Testament archaeology requires the examination of especially diverse and scattered antiquities; it does not focus only on one race of people or on one specific area of the world. It is rather the story of a world movement and must encompass parts of the Near East and much of the Greek and Roman world, from Galilee and Judea, to Qumran and the Decapolis; from Tyre and Caesarea to Gaza and Egypt; from Antioch in Syria, to many of the cities of Asia Minor; from Athens, Corinth, and Macedonia, to the capital of the empire, Rome. It must also encompass a variety of evidences; the debris of occupied sites, human remains, synagogues, tombs, churches, pottery, implements, architecture, catacombs, inscriptions, scrolls, papyri, coins, etc. New Testament archaeology then tends to be piecemeal, as it must be sifted from a large accumulation of data in various forms, from numerous locations, and representing varied cultures.

Fortunately, some recent books are filling the gap of our lim...

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