The Relation of Archaeology to Biblical Criticism -- By: Charles Lee Feinberg

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 104:414 (Apr 1947)
Article: The Relation of Archaeology to Biblical Criticism
Author: Charles Lee Feinberg


The Relation of Archaeology to Biblical Criticism

Charles Lee Feinberg

The statement has been repeatedly made, and with warrant, that archaeology has suffered as much from its friends as from its foes. This has been true because of mistaken notions concerning the exact nature of the evidence to be expected from archaeological findings. Some have asked too much of archaeology; others have expected too little; and still others have asked in the wrong manner. Driver has pointed out that the testimony of archaeology may generally be divided into two large categories: that which is direct and that which is indirect. He notes that where the evidence of archaeology is direct, it is of the greatest possible value and usually determines the points in question. When it is indirect and of a precise nature, it makes the suggested solution probable.1

The first step in the understanding of the Bible is to ascertain the exact text written by the authors. Those who have expected archaeologists to bring to light one of Paul’s letters or the roll written by Baruch at the dictation of Jeremiah have not yet been rewarded for their expectations. However, older manuscripts than those extant in libraries and museums have been unearthed again and again. These are important for determining the correct text. An example of such a finding is the discovery of part of the original Hebrew of the non-canonical Ecclesiasticus. It has a tendency to warn us against too great a reliance upon the Septuagint

in the matter of accuracy.2 Assuming that the correct text has been ascertained, the next task is to interpret it. This necessitates a thoroughgoing understanding of the languages in which the text was written. The monuments have shed streams of light on the languages of the Orient which are related to the Hebrew, such as the Babylonian, the Assyrian, that of the Hittites, those of Ras Shamra, and others.

In yet another direction does the evidence of archaeology operate. It aids greatly in explaining difficult details of the Old Testament. The connection between Terah and the idolatrous worship of the moon-god has been much clarified. Much light has been brought to us with regard to mining and smelting in the time of Solomon, the invasion of Palestine by Shishak, the death of Josiah at the hands of Pharaoh Necho, the situation in Judah at the time of Nebuchadnezzar’s second invasion as revealed by the important Lachish letters, and numerous other details. Gaps in the Biblical narrative have been filled in with the histories of great nations hitherto scarcely known. Perhaps the greatest contribution of archaeologic...

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