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Do Archaeologist Try to Prove or Disprove the Bible?

Archaeology is irrelevant to the notion of truth and false with respect to scripture.  The truths in the Bible are whether God did what is claimed God did in the Bible, and those cannot be proved true or false by any material means.

Those are matters of belief.  Now there’s another kind of side issue to that about whether the historicity of certain texts can be authenticated by archeological research, and in some sense that is a possible question, but again, that assumes that the Bible is a history book just as history books are that are produced today, which is wasn’t.  Our modern notion of history writing is just that.  It’s a product of the last few centuries.  And the narratives and the texts that we have in scripture were never intended to be a factual record of the past.

So all kinds of liberties were taken in preserving historical memories of events where people knew that they were changing, distorting in order to get a point across.  So trying to authenticate them is to misunderstand really what the nature of Biblical literature is all about.  And even if we do find a destruction level that we can say relates to the description of a destruction in the Bible, so what?  Of course there’s some authentic parts of scripture that can be kind of recovered through archeology.  But using archeology for that is really kind of passé.

And archeology now is part of a burgeoning enterprise in the social sciences that lead us not to specific political or historical events, but rather to much wider cultural questions.  What was life like in the biblical past?  Why did things change?  Why did cities grow up?  Why did people fight with each other?  What were the resources involved?  What were the dynamics within households?  What did women do?  What did men do?  How did they get along with each other?  How did they divide up responsibilities?

These are the kinds of questions now that archeology is addressing, which takes us quite far away from the beginnings of “biblical archaeology,” which to a certain extent was motivated by trying to find evidence in the ground of what people read in the text. 

  • meyers-carol

    Carol Meyers is the Mary Grace Wilson Emerita Professor of Religion at Duke University. An archaeologist as well as a biblical scholar with a special interest in gender in the biblical world, she has served as a consultant for many media productions dealing with the Bible. Her hundreds of publications include: commentaries on Exodus and on several biblical prophets; an edited reference work, Women in Scripture: A Dictionary of Named and Unnamed Women in the Hebrew Bible, the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books, and the New Testament (Eerdmans, 2000); and Rediscovering Eve: Ancient Israelite Women in Context (Oxford University Press, 2013).