Archeology and Biblical Criticism Part III: Archeology and Liberalism -- By: Joseph P. Free

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 113:452 (Oct 1956)
Article: Archeology and Biblical Criticism Part III: Archeology and Liberalism
Author: Joseph P. Free


Archeology and Biblical Criticism
Part III:
Archeology and Liberalism

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. His article is third in the series of his 1955 W. H. Griffith Thomas Memorial Lectureship at Dallas Theological Seminary on “Archeology and Biblical Criticism.”]

To the liberal, the Bible is not the Word of God in a unique sense, but is rather a human religious book which contains a mixture of myth, legend, history, and spiritual lessons (J. P. Free, Archaeology and Bible History, fourth edition, p. 341). The liberal regularly accepts the “assured results of criticism,” and by that he means rationalistic Biblical criticism.

We have already seen that the liberal position, which includes rationalistic criticism, entertains a skepticism toward the historical accuracy of the Bible. We have also noted that at point after point where the Bible seemed to be in error, according to the rationalistic critical view, it was specifically confirmed by archeological evidence.

What else has been included in liberal skepticism beside a skepticism toward the historical accuracy of the Bible? It includes a belief that parts of the Bible are mythological, that Israel’s religion is not supernatural but a natural development with a borrowing from the religions of surrounding peoples, that parts of the Bible are late and unhistorical in their background, particularly the patriarchal narratives, that the history and the religion of the Bible are to be explained as an evolutionary development, and that the laws of the Bible assigned to the time of Moses are to a great degree late in the history of Israel.

Let us examine each of these and see what light archeology sheds on them.

Myths and Legends

The idea that there are myths and legends incorporated in the Bible was clearly stated in an earlier day by Schultz in his summary statement, noted earlier, that “the book of Genesis was a book of sacred legend with a mythological introduction” (Old Testament Theology, p. 31). In more recent days Pfeiffer left room not only for myths and legends but for “pure fiction” as well (R. H. Pfeiffer, Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 27).

Ti 'amat. What myths and legends does one find in the Bible according to the liberal view? Certain liberals have held that in the very first chapter of the Bible one has reworked myths and legends. The second verse of the Bib...

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