Archaeology and the Bible researcher 1/4

Knowing what happened in previous times

For the Bible researcher it is important to know what happened in the time when the Books of the Bible were written. He is interested in the logos (the word but also the “theory or science”) from the ancient times. As such Achaia (from the Greek meaning “ancient things) the branch of learning that studies the material remains of man’s past, archaeology or archaeology taking account of the widening incidence of its raw material and the sources of its evidence from earlier times, is a major tool to help him understand that past.

Flavius Josephus: Opera omnia ad Graecorum exe...

Flavius Josephus: Opera omnia ad Graecorum exemplarium fidem recognita emendataq[ue], printed by the Froben workshop (officina Frobeniana), Basel 1582 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Studying the material remains of man’s past, including man’s artefacts, from the very earliest stone tools, of perhaps 2,000,000 years ago, to the man-made objects that are buried or thrown away at the present day: everything made by human beings-from simple tools to complex machines, from the earliest houses and temples and tombs to palaces, cathedrals, and pyramids can help to come to a better understanding of Biblical times and of humankind.

Archaeology is that branch of knowledge which takes cognizance of past civilizations and investigates their history in all fields, by means of the remains of art, architecture, monuments, inscriptions, literature, language, customs, and all other examples which have survived. With the years more archaeologists helped the contemporary world to learn to read the record in the soil.

Early period

Before archaeological research transformed the situation, supplementary sources for the history contained in the Old Testament and New Testament, and the only non-biblical sources for the early history of the lands concerned, were four:

  1. Herodotus, the “father of history,” the brilliant and widely travelled Greek who lived from 484 to 420 B.CE, introduced his story of the Persian assault on Greece, which was finally repulsed a few years before his birth, with two or three informative books on Babylon, Egypt, and the Middle East, lands which he visited and summarily investigated.
  2. Secondly, comes the fragmentary history of Berosus, a Babylonian priest who lived between 330 and 250 B.CE. and who wrote a history of Babylon in Greek.
  3. Thirdly, Manetho, an Egyptian priest of the same period, wrote for Ptolemy II a history of Egyptin Greek, of which some portions survive.

    English: Stylized portraits of Ptolemy Philade...

    English: Stylized portraits of Ptolemy Philadelphus and Arsinoe. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  4. Finally there was Flavius Josephus, the Jewish priest and guerrilla leader who became secretary to Vespasian, and who wrote, in the last decades of the 1st century, two large volumes on the history of the Jews right up to his own time. He brought us an invaluable record, uncritical and turgid in style. This is the sum total of extraneous aid to understanding before the rise of archaeology.


Continued on: Archaeology and the Bible researcher 2/4

Bibliography: Archaeology and the Bible researcher 4/4


  • Judah in the Neo-Babylonian Period: The Archaeology of Desolation, by Avraham Faust (
    The Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.E. was a watershed event in the history of Judah, the end of the monarchy and the beginning of the exilic period, during which many of the biblical texts were probably written. The conquest left clear archaeological marks on many sites in Judah, including Jerusalem, and the Bible records it as a traumatic event for the population.
  • Byzantine Archaeology and the Archaeology of Greece (
    A better understanding of both urban and rural housing allows us to begin to unravel the complexities associated with Byzantine settlement.
    Most surveys of Byzantine archaeology – as much as such things exist – regard Greece as somehow peripheral to the Byzantine heartland and part of a larger discussion of “provincial” architecture, archaeology, and traditions. Bintliff’s book offers almost no hint of this provincializing discourse and locates southern and central Greece at the center of his discussion of  archaeology.
  • CJ Online Review: Roisman and Worthington, A Companion to Ancient Macedonia( Roisman and Ian Worthington, the editors of this Companion, set out to demonstrate this vitality by including a wide range of topics all written for readers who are new to the field, whether as students or general readers. They have succeeded in assembling a large helping of the current state of the field and have drawn on an international array of authors. However, the omission of any discussion of archaeology is even more surprising than the failure to include a single chapter by a Greek or other Balkan scholar. As a result of these gaps, readers who want more comprehensive coverage of the field should supplement this volume with several other surveys and Companions.
  • Early Christian Archaeology (
    The past few weeks I’ve worked on a top secret Early Christian Archaeology project (which is not particularly related to this past from several years ago). As part of that project, my collaborator and I began to think about the term Early Christian Christian archaeology in an Anglo-American academic context, and we both came to the conclusion that, while common the scholarship elsewhere in the world, it is relatively rare among English speaking scholars. Indeed, looking at a Google Ngram for the term, we can see that it is not only rare, but has only begun to appear quite recently.
  • Christian Archaeology (
    We also learned how the science had been warped by various religious bodies to make statements that were not born out by the archaeological data from the field. Christianity is paramount in this effort to warp the facts to fit the myths. Christianity and Archaeology have long been rival cousins in an estranged family. Archaeology strives to learn what really transpired at sites that are excavated, and Christians try to make these findings into a testimony for the Christian viewpoint. Not infrequently, archaeology is done by Christian organizations which just skews the results since validating the Biblical accounts is the primary if not only concern of such endeavors.
  • Old Testament Archaeology and History Part 3 ( + Old Testament Archaeology and History Part 2
    Nobody in Moses time would try to make up a credible-sounding history of confederacies of kings, because monolithic Empires predominated. For someone to mention confederacies like this shows that he had an accurate knowledge of that time-period. See Evidence for Faith p.157-164 for more info. According to Montgomery, a letter found at Mari mentions coalitions of ten, fifteen, and twenty kings. In addition, at least five other confederacies are known.
  • digipubarch Conference Video- Not All Archaeology is Equal (
    Within Public Archaeology in the UK, there has been a critical cultural shift towards awareness of the benefit of public engagement through the Internet. Recent developments have seen these media used for contributions of publicly-provided archaeological content; to foster online community identity, situated around the topic of archaeology and wider heritage issues; to crowd-source knowledge, and elicit financial support.
  • The Politics of Israel’s Past: The Bible, Archaeology and Nation-Building (
    It is not uncommon that historical images—presented as simply given, self-evident and even indisputable—are employed in political readings of the past and used as a legitimizing tool.
  • 2013 Archaeology Awards – Cast Your Vote Now! (
    The nominees for the 5th Annual Archaeology Awards, run by Current Archaeology magazine have now been announced, and voting is now open.

14 thoughts on “Archaeology and the Bible researcher 1/4

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