Beneath The Surface An Editorial Comment -- By: Bryant G. Wood
Beneath The Surface
An Editorial Comment
In this issue we feature a few examples from archaeology that demonstrate the historical accuracy of the Bible. There are many more such discoveries, as we have been sharing in the pages of Bible and Spade for nearly 30 years. But in scholarly discussions of the historical reliability of the Bible this evidence is rarely mentioned. Instead, the focus is on the absence of evidence to verify particular Bible personalities or events. The attitude among scholars is that if a Bible personality or event cannot be demonstrated from outside the Bible, then the personality or event is considered to be non-historical.
The basis for this reasoning is that the Bible is a “religious” book, and therefore it is presumed that its authors fabricated or embellished information in order to promote their religious message. In other words, the Bible is assumed “guilty until proven innocent.” This is a double standard, since other ancient documents are taken to be authentic unless there is evidence that would prove otherwise. They are “innocent until proven guilty.” Ancient documents, however, are almost always religious in nature, since in nearly every case the authors refer to their gods.
It is unrealistic to expect to find evidence to support every character and event in the Bible. This is especially true for the earlier periods of Bible history before Israel became a political entity in ca. 1050 BC. Prior to this time, the Bible relates the history of tribes, families and individuals. Their history was recorded and preserved in the Bible. But would we expect verification of this history from other records outside the Bible? Hardly! We are fortunate to recover a few scraps of evidence for the rulers of the great political powers of the day, let alone the activities of individual citizens. Exceptions to this might be persons who rose to prominence in a nation where records were kept, such as Joseph or Moses in Egypt. But, for the periods when Joseph and Moses were in Egypt, there are few surviving records that would pertain to them. New discoveries could change that at any time, however.
Concerning extra-Biblical evidence from Canaan for the existence of the Patriarchs, Kenneth Kitchen has stated the matter very well in a recent article:
It is often said that we have no mention of the patriarchs in the extrabiblical record, so we cannot believe they once existed. However, this kind of reasoning betrays a failure to look at the basic facts about Canaan before 1350 BC. Before that date (3000–1350 BC), we have no written archives from Canaan. From the scores of ancient towns of the Middle and Late Bronze Age, we have almost no written evidence for the names of any of the thousands of people who lived and died in Canaan during t...
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