Significantly, even liberal theologians, secular academics, and
critics generally cannot deny that archaeology has confirmed the
biblical record at many points. Rationalistic detractors of the Bible
can attack it all day long, but they cannot dispute archaeological
facts. Consider the weekly PBS series "Mysteries of the Bible."
Despite some shortcomings, such as the theologically liberal experts
and non-Christian commentators, this program has offered example after
example, week after week, of the archaeological reliability of the
To further illustrate, probably the three greatest American
archaeologists of the twentieth century each had their liberal
training modified by their archaeological work. W. F. Albright, Nelson
Glueck, and George Ernest Wright all "received training in the liberal
scholarship of the day, which had resulted from the earlier and
continuing critical study of the Bible, predominantly by German
scholars."1 Despite their liberal
training, it was archaeological research that bolstered their
confidence in the biblical text:
Albright said of himself, "I must admit that I tried to be
rational and empirical in my approach [but] we all have
presuppositions of a philosophical order." The same statement could
be applied as easily to Gleuck and Wright, for all three were deeply
imbued with the theological perceptions which infused their work.
Albright, the son of a Methodist missionary, came to see that much
of German critical thought was established upon a philosophical base
that could not be sustained in the light of archaeological
discoveries.... Nelson Glueck was Albright’s student. In his own
explorations in Trans-Jordan and the Negev and in his excavations,
Glueck worked with the Bible in hand. He trusted what he called "the
remarkable phenomenon of historical memory in the Bible." He was the
president of the prestigious Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute
of Religion and an ordained Rabbi. Wright went from the faculty of
the McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago to a position in the
Harvard Divinity School which he retained until his death. He, too,
was a student of Albright.2
Glueck forthrightly declared, "As a matter of fact, however, it may
be clearly stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has
ever controverted a single biblical reference. Scores of
archaeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline
or exact details historical statements in the Bible."3
In fact, "Much of the credit for this relatively new assessment of
the patriarchal tradition must go to the ‘Albright school.’ Albright
himself pointed out years ago that apart from ‘a few diehards among
older scholars’ there is hardly a single biblical historian who is not
at least impressed with the rapid accumulation of data supporting the
‘substantial historicity’ of patriarchal tradition."4
And, in fact, this is true not just for the patriarchal tradition
but the Bible generally. The earlier statement by assyriologist A. H.
Sayce continues to hold true today: "Time after time the most positive
assertions of a skeptical criticism have been disproved by
archaeological discovery, events and personages that were confidently
pronounced to be mythical have been shown to be historical, and the
older [i.e., biblical] writers have turned out to have been better
acquainted with what they were describing than the modern critics who
has flouted them."5
Millar Burrows of Yale points out that, "Archaeology has in many
cases refuted the views of modern critics. It has been shown in a
number of instances that these views rest on false assumptions and
unreal, artificial schemes of historical development...." And, "The
excessive skepticism of many liberal theologians stems not from a
careful evaluation of the available data, but from an enormous
predisposition against the supernatural."6
Many other examples could be given of how firsthand archaeological
work changed the view of a critic. One of the most prominent is that
of Sir William Ramsay. Ramsey’s own archaeological findings convinced
him of the reliability of the Bible and the truth of what it taught.
In his The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of
the New Testament and other books, he shows why he came to
conclude that "Luke’s history is unsurpassed in respect of its
trustworthiness" and that "Luke is a historian of the first rank ...
In short, this author should be placed along with the very greatest of
As part of his secular academic duties, Dr. Clifford Wilson was for
some years required to research and teach higher critical approaches
to the Bible. This gave him a great deal of firsthand exposure and
insight to the assumptions and methodologies that go into these
approaches. Yet his own archaeological research was found to
continually refute such skeptical theories, so much so that he finally
concluded, "It is the steady conviction of this writer that the Bible
is ... the ancient world’s most reliable history textbook...."8
In a personal communication he added the following,
I was not always the "literalist" I am today. I’ve always had a
profound respect for the Bible, but accepted that the use of poetic
forms meant that the record could often be interpreted symbolically
where now I take it literally—though of course there are times when
symbolism is clearly utilized. Thus in later Scriptures "Egypt" can
be a geographic country or a symbolic term.
That liberalism is especially true in relation to Genesis
chapters 1 through 11, often considered allegorical or mythical,
where my researches have led me to the conclusion that this is
profound writing, meant to be taken literally. There was a real
Adam, creation that was contemporaneous for the various life forms
as shown in Genesis chapter 1, and a consistent style of history
writing—such as the outlines given in Genesis one, then zeroing in
on the specifics relating to mankind in Genesis chapter 2; the
history of all the early peoples in Genesis chapter 10, then the
concentration on Abraham and his descendants from Genesis chapter 11
onwards. Early man, "the birth of the lady of the rib," long-living
man, giants in the earth (animals, birds, and men), the flood, the
Tower of Babel—and much more—point to factual, accurate recording of
history in these early chapters of Genesis.
Over 40 years have passed since I first became professionally
involved in biblical archaeology and my commitment to the Bible as
the world’s greatest history book is firmly settled. As Psalm 119:89
states, "Forever O Lord, your word is established in heaven."
Indeed one of the most valuable contributions of modern archaeology
has been its reputation of higher critical views toward scripture.
Consider for example the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls.
J. Randall Price (Ph.D., Middle Eastern Studies) currently working
on a forthcoming apologetic text on biblical archaeology writes,
"Those who expect the [Dead Sea] scrolls to produce a radical revision
of the Bible have been disappointed, for these texts have only
verified the reliability and stability of the Old Testament as it
appears in our modern translations."9
He further points out how the Daniel fragments of the Dead Sea
Scrolls should require scholars to abandon a Maccabean date. The same
kind of evidence forced scholars to abandon Maccabean dates for
Chronicles, Ecclesiastes, and many of the Psalms. But so far, most
scholars refuse to do this for Daniel: "Unfortunately, critical
scholars have not arrived at a similar conclusion for the Book of
Daniel, even though the evidence is identical."10
In fact, according to Old Testament scholar Gerhard Hasel, a date for
Daniel in the sixth or fifth century BC "has more in its favor today
from the point of view of language alone than ever before."11
The Dead Sea Scrolls also provide significant evidence for the unity
and single authorship of the Book of Isaiah. Dr. Price concludes, "The
discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, then, has made a contribution
toward confirming the integrity of the biblical text and its own claim
to predictive prophecy. Rather than support the recent theories of
documentary disunity, the Scrolls have returned scholars to a time
when the Bible’s internal witness to its own consistency and veracity
was fully accepted by its adherents."12
(to be continued)
1 Keith N. Scoville,
Biblical Archeology in Focus (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1978), p.
2 Ibid., p. 163.
3 Norman L. Geisler and Ron
Brooks, When Skeptics Ask: A Handbook on Christian Evidences
(Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1990), p. 179.
4 Eugene H. Merrill, Professor
of Old Testament Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary, "Ebla and
Biblical Historical Inerrancy" in Roy B. Zuck (Genesis ed.),
Vital Apologetic Issues: Examining Reasons and Revelation in
Biblical Perspective (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1995), p. 180.
5 A. H. Sayce, Monument
Facts and Higher Critical Fancies (London: The Religious Tract
Society, 1904), p. 23, Cited in Josh McDowell, More Evidence That
Demands a Verdict (Arrowhead Springs, CA: Campus Crusade for
Christ, 1975), p. 53.
6 As cited in Josh McDowell,
Evidence that Demands a Verdict (Arrowhead Springs, CA:
Campus Crusade for Christ, 1972) p. 66.
7 William M. Ramsay, The
Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New
Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Bookhouse, 1959), p. 91; cf.
William M. Ramsay, Luke the Physician, pp. 177-79, 222 from
F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?
(Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1971), pp. 90-91.
8 Clifford Wilson, Rocks,
Relics and Biblical Reliability (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan/Richardson,
TX: Probe, 1977), p. 126
9 J. Randall Price, Secrets
of the Dead Sea Scrolls (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1996), p.
10 Ibid., p. 159.
11 Ibid., p. 163.
Ibid., p. 164; cf. p. 157.