The Value Of Archaeology In My Faith Walk -- By: Gary A. Byers
BSpade 26:3 (Summer 2013) p. 75
The Value Of Archaeology In My Faith Walk
Growing up on the east coast of the United States, my father instilled in me a love of American history. He regularly took me to historic battlefields and famous forts where I could often imagine myself in that place at the time important events occurred there. After my own spiritual awakening during my first year of college, my interest in American history shifted to an interest in the world of the Bible. Results of archaeological excavations in the Holy Land fascinated me. From the beginning of my spiritual walk, God used archaeology to encourage my faith.
What I found most meaningful was how archaeology illuminated Scripture. I would read about an event and then I could actually see the place where it happened. I would read about things—structures, weapons, tools, even food and clothing—and could then see exactly what they looked like. The Bible came alive to me and I felt like it had meaning in my world.
The Christmas story is a good example of how this worked for me. The Gospel of Luke (chapter Lu 22) provides us the basics elements of the birth of Jesus. But a careful reading of the text coupled with insights from archaeological research, offer a different take on the story than that with which most of us are familiar (see Away in a Manger, but Not in a Barn, www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2009/10/26/Away-In-a-Manger-But-Not-In-a-Barn.aspx). I found this new way to look at the birth narrative to be both insightful and empowering. God really did cool stuff in antiquity and He used that to do meaningful things in my heart and life today.
Over the past decade, my ministry responsibilities have given me the opportunity to interact with men right off the street, all of whom have also spent years struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. Coming from Christian, Moslem, Jewish, agnostic and even atheistic backgrounds, everyone has lots of questions and opinions. Class time is seldom dull.
But my 12 years as a public high school track coach and my ongoing work as a field archaeologist, with some 20 seasons excavating in Israel and Jordan, gives me just enough “street cred” to earn an honest hearing with these guys. We talk openly about their different religious views (or lack thereof), their intellectual struggles with the Bible and science and even their struggles of faith. We wrestle with scientific concepts and Bible passages, and frequently have to agree to disagree. But it has been my joy to share my own faith walk with them and encourage them to try it, too. And I am very happy to report that many have responded and are well on their way in their own spiritual journey today.
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