Archeology and Biblical Criticism Part II: Archeology and the Historical Accuracy of Scripture -- By: Joseph P. Free

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 113:451 (Jul 1956)
Article: Archeology and Biblical Criticism Part II: Archeology and the Historical Accuracy of Scripture
Author: Joseph P. Free

Archeology and Biblical Criticism
Part II:
Archeology and the Historical Accuracy of Scripture

Joseph P. Free

[Joseph P. Free is Fred McManus Professor of Bible Archeology and Department Chairman at Wheaton (Illinois) College, Director of the Wheaton College Bible Lands Cruise, and Director of the archeological excavations at Dothan. This article continues his series on “Archeology and Biblical Criticism,” which he presented as Lecturer for 1955 in the W. H. Griffith Thomas Memorial Lectureship.]

The first of the tenets of Biblical criticism which we noted in our previous article was a skepticism toward the documents giving the history of ancient Israel. In earlier days one often found an extreme form of this view, as in Schultz’s statement, noted in our last article, that the Book of Genesis was “a book of sacred legend with a mythical introduction,” and that it gives “no historical knowledge of the patriarchs” (Old Testament Theology, p. 31). Archeological discoveries have caused the liberal critic to be more cautious in making such statements, but one still finds a similar attitude, as exemplified in the mid-twentieth century statement of Pfeiffer that the Old Testament narratives “present all the gradations between pure fiction (as in the stories about Adam, Noah, and Samson) and genuine history (as in the ancient biography of David and the Memoirs of Nehemiah” (Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 27).

In recent years Henry Sloane Coffin stated that “the authors and compilers of the biblical books often had a variety of traditions, legends, and writings before them, and they edited these for their purpose which was not primarily to convey historical information but to declare God’s message….” As a result, said Coffin, that which is written in the Bible may “not give an accurate account, according to modern historical-perspective” (article on “The Scriptures” in Liberal Christianity, pp. 231,34,36). Reference has been made to the presidential address at the national meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in 1953, at which

S. Vernon McCasland spoke on “The Unity of the Scriptures,” and dealt with several phases of modern theological development. In addition to the statement noted previously, he also added later: “It is quite possible that many legendary elements have thus crept into the Bible” (Journal of Biblical Literature, 73:9, March, 1954).

When we turn from statements and attitudes which express a skepticism concerning the historicity of much of the Old Testament, and look at the archeological discoveries, do we find a confirmation of the records of the Scriptures? Le...

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