|By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©2003|
|The authors explain that carelessness and bias on the part of the archaeologist can negatively impact the conclusions drawn from a site. Regardless, they say, even with all the problems that can occur, archaeology has repeatedly confirmed the accuracy of the biblical record!|
There are also problems with the methodologies involved in excavation. When you crack an egg for breakfast you have to live with it—so if you want it “over easy” and not scrambled you have to be careful. Every archaeological site is unique, and once part of a site is disturbed, that experiment can never be redone. This underscores why the methodological approach of the archaeologist is so important. To illustrate, problems have arisen not only from lack of proper techniques but from the archaeologist’s own methodological idiosyncrasies. For example, a good number of major excavations were conducted before 1936, prior to the development of the more sophisticated techniques currently employed. As a result,
Archaeologists themselves can sometimes be the source of the problem, either by nature or nurture:
Further, the archaeologist is
Besides those issues there are also problems associated with recording of the data:
To cite an example, the importance of pottery analysis as a key to chronology is still evolving as a method. Thus, “only occasionally are shurds profiled by cutting them with a ceramic saw so that a clean, sharp surface is observed and recorded.” And there are
additional problems associated with photography, recording of ecological data, and many other important details.
Finally, there is the issue of properly interpreting the data one uncovers. Although some archaeologists avoid interpretation and merely present the evidence from their excavations, leaving the interpretative task to other specialists, most archaeologists seek to interpret the meaning of their finds in their publications and lectures. Despite the necessity of interpretation, this is one of the most problematic aspects of archaeological research, because of the
Finally, it is crucial to remember that
The above discussion gives one an idea of the problems inherent to archaeological work. However, this should never cause us to conclude that archaeology is an unimportant or impossible endeavor. To the contrary, a large number of important discoveries and legitimate conclusions continue to be made from modern archaeological work. One only need think of the law code of Hammurabi, king of Babylon, the Egyptian Rosetta Stone and the Behistun inscription, the Mesha Stone, the Amarna Letters from Egypt, the Elephantine papyri, the Hittite clay tablets from Boghazkoy, the religious texts from Ras Shamra in Syria, the Nuzi tablets and the Mari texts, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Nag Hammadi, the fascinating search for Noah’s Ark, 600,000 Babylonian clay tablets, 25,000 Ebla fragments (Tell Mardikh), and other magnificent finds. All this and more helps us to understand how truly important archaeology is and how great a debt we owe to archaeologists for the many sacrifices involved in their painstaking work.
The problems inherent to archaeological work mean only that findings must be viewed cautiously and critically until all the data are in. One often hears of the “assured results” of archaeological research and yet such assured results often turn out to be fragile. “These limitations indicate the importance of the idea of ‘the present level of information.’ There must always be an open-ended quality to archaeological research which permits and encourages whatever changes in the understanding of old data the new data may require.”
Regardless, what is most satisfying about biblical archaeology is that, even with all the problems, archaeology has repeatedly confirmed the accuracy of the biblical record. Archaeological work has confirmed a great deal of both the Old Testament and the New Testament, and even theological liberals and Bible skeptics are forced to admit this. Archaeology has consistently refuted higher critical views of the Bible and corrected claims of alleged errors in Scripture.