>Ben-Tor, Archaeology, and the Bible

>In an article published in NewsMax.com, archaeologist Amnon Ben-Tor gives his views on archaeology, the Bible, and the controversy between maximalists and minimalists. The following is an excerpt taken from the article:

On one side are the so-called biblical minimalists, who argue that the Bible is simply a series of narratives with an agenda and is no basis for history. On the other side are the maximalists, closely allied with creationists, who take the Bible as literal and irrefutable historical fact.

Most archaeologists, however, fall somewhere in between these two extremes, including even those who use the Bible as a historical guidebook for their excavations, such as Israel’s leading archaeologist, Amnon Ben-Tor.

“The two claims of the biblical minimalists, that ‘there is no way of knowing’ and that the Bible represents an agenda, do not explain anything,” says Ben-Tor, who holds the chair of renowned Israeli archaeologist Yigael Yadin at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

“Records were kept, which were studied by historians of their time, which often paralleled the biblical narrative.”

For one thing, many of the events, names of monarchs, and identification of places in the Bible are confirmed by nonbiblical Iron Age sources — texts found through archaeological surveys and excavations within the area of historical Judah and Israel, and in excavations in neighboring states. But materials dating to the previous Bronze Age are rare.

Archaeologists such as Ben-Tor and Cooley operate under the assumption that “absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence.” In other words, while the Bible tends to be considered guilty until proven innocent as a historical record of ancient events, these biblical scholars estimate that only about 2 percent of the potential archaeological material has been found and worked on.

“The biblical minimalists have suddenly ‘discovered’ that … the Bible has a theological agenda, which supposedly makes the Bible a basis that cannot be used as a historiography reference,” says Ben-Tor.

“The best way to refute the contention of biblical nonobjectivity is that there is no such thing as objective historiography. All historiography has an agenda. Read 10 books about Vietnam and you will get 10 versions of what happened. The issue at hand is to use the Bible as a reference, and to compare it with all other evidence available.”

It is a good article. Read the article in its entirety by clicking here.

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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