The Use and Abuse of Biblical Archeology -- By: Merrill Frederick Unger

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 105:419 (Jul 1948)
Article: The Use and Abuse of Biblical Archeology
Author: Merrill Frederick Unger

The Use and Abuse of Biblical Archeology

Merrill F. Unger

Biblical archeology as a science based on the excavation, decipherment and critical evaluation of ancient records is comparatively recent. Egyptian antiquity was not opened up until Napoleon’s expedition in 1798. The excavations of Botta, Layard and Rassam about the middle of the nineteenth century opened up the treasures of Assyria and Babylonia. Important discoveries such as the Moabite Stone in 1868 created great interest in the past of Palestine and Syria. However, many of the most notable discoveries affecting the Bible have not been made until within the last forty or fifty years, such as the Code of Hammurabit (1901), the Elaphantine Papyri (1904+), the Hittite discoveries at Boghaz-Keui (1906+) the tomb of Tutankamon (1922), the sarcophagus of Ahiram (1923), the famous Ras Shamra texts (1929–1935), and the Chester Beatty papyri (1930), the Mari Letters (1933–1938), and the Lachish Ostraca (1935–1939).

Despite the fact that amazing discoveries have been made, and are being constantly made, the field is so vast, that Biblical archeology may still be said to be in its beginnings, and in some respects still in its infancy. As a comparatively young science, many of its present conclusions and interpretations are consequently immature and incomplete, if not in some cases at least actually misleading and erroneous. This we may confidently believe is the case, especially where archeological findings and interpretations are in conflict with Biblical statements.

The Bible, which has in numberless cases been proved to

be correct by further advanced scientific excavations at a given spot, may reasonably be expected to be vindicated as research advances, new discoveries are made, and a more complete array of data becomes available, rendering more mature and accurate deductions and conclusions possible. As the situation now stands, the formidable problems and seemingly outright contradictions between the Bible and modern archeology (and such definitely exist) may be expected to be cleared up as results once considered strictly scientific and accurate are shown to rest on partial evidence or demonstrated to be mere interpretations based in favor of some theory. This leads to an important phase of our discussion, namely,

I. The Abuse of Biblical Archeology

In this connection Biblical archeology suffers gross mistreatment at the hands of both friends and foes of the Bible viewed as divinely-inspired truth. Well-meaning but over-enthusiastic conservative writers have adduced a great mass of material from archeology in support of the authenticity of the Scriptures. However, when this popularized ...

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