The Older and Newer Phases of Biblical Archaeology -- By: James L. Kelso

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 093:370 (Apr 1936)
Article: The Older and Newer Phases of Biblical Archaeology
Author: James L. Kelso


The Older and Newer Phases of Biblical Archaeology

James L. Kelso

The outstanding contribution of Biblical Archaeology in its earliest days was essentially apologetic, i.e. it defended the historicity of the Bible against the attacks of the liberals who were trying to show it false. To anyone who said that Moses could not have written the laws and the Pentateuch, since law codes were unknown in his time, archaeology answered by digging up the black diorite stone upon which was inscribed the law code of Hammurabi of Babylon, which code antedated Moses at least seven hundred years.

This phenomenal discovery compelled liberalism to shift its ground and to state then that the Mosaic code was simply a modification of this Hammurabi law code. But that contention could not be maintained for no sooner was this law code studied and compared with the Mosaic code than the contrasted character of the two codes was strikingly evident. The Hammurabi code only occasionally mentions religious matters, whereas the religious motive is the essence of every Mosaic law. The Hebrew democratic conception of a government in which all men are equal and in which every family is a free land owner is in striking contrast to the Hammurabi code with its complicated social scale. An echo of the ethics of the Babylonian social scheme is seen in the fine of a rich man who for a certain crime must repay thirty fold, whereas a poor man repays only ten fold; however, if he could make this ten-fold payment he is put to death.

The Babylonian law has large sections on soldiers and tax collectors but the Mosaic law provides for no military class, and tithes rather than taxes are paid. Babylonia is

a land of irrigation farming but Palestine must depend upon the rain. Naturally their farm laws reflect this contrast. In addition the Mosaic code is designed to keep the small farmer economically independent, but the Babylonian code has no such high ethics. Babylonian law has complicated business sections dealing with manufacturers and their agents, deposits and contracts, building construction and water transportation. The Mosaic code, of course, antedates the manufacturing period in Palestine, which began with Solomon, and the Israelities never amended the Mosaic code to meet the manufacturing legal problems. The Hammurabi code standardizes many wages and fixes many prices, but the Hebrew economic theory knew no such short sighted fallacies. Wherever one goes into the ethical question of the two codes he will find that the Hammurabi code confesses its human frailties but the Mosaic code demonstrates its supernatural origin by its ethical idealism for even our enlightened age. All of this is not to say that there are no similariti...

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