Archaeology and the Bible

Today I read a book called Archaeology and the Bible written by John C. H. Laughlin.  I have decided that Laughlin should change the name of his Book from Archaeology and the Bible to Archaeology that changes the Bible.  That is really what he is proposing in this book.  It is obvious that he is a huge supporter of some of the biggest Biblical critics when it comes to Archaeology, such as Dever.  It seems he also supports the idea that Archaeology and Biblical Studies should be seperate disciplines that simply talk together.  People should be trained in both disciplines to reach a wider group of people, in Laughlin’s opinion.

He believes that anyone who is entering into professional ministry of the church should be trained in Archaeology, as do I, but the reasons for his belief is staunchly different than mine. Laughlin thinks students of the Bible should be trained in Archaeology because of the “latest evaluation of the history and culture out of which the Bible came” (2000:12). This new evaluation that he speaks of is the idea that recent Archaeological discoveries have essentially proved that the Bible does not contain inerrant history and that sometimes the claims of the Bible must be rejected in view of Archaeological evidence. He is making the claim that if true Biblical students studied Archaeology, and if they are “honest thinkers” (2000:15), they will reject many of the biblical accounts of history.

Laughlin approaches this subject with the idea that in regards to Archaeology and the Bible, sometimes you have to either modify your belief or reject things all together when new evidence arises. He understands that Archaeology is not an exact science and that there are many limitations to it’s usefulness and yet at the same time he tends to always choose the Archaeological evidence over the Biblical account. He claims that Archaeology does not prove or disprove the Bible and on the same page he says that Archaeology makes it “crystal clear” that the bible is not a book of inerrant history or science (2000:15). Apparently Archaeology has something to prove after all!

Archaeology is not an inerrant science. In fact, time and time again Archaeologist have drawn conclusions that have later been proven false. Assumptions are made from little evidence and Archaeology happens to be a human process which is practiced by fallible humans who are bound to mess something up. Laughlin takes this fallible evidence and uses it as if it is exact science to prove (though he wouldn’t use that term) that what the Bible says is incorrect. He warns Christians to not rewrite the history of the Near East to fit their preconceptions of the bible, when he is actually using inconclusive evidence of the past to rewrite the bible to fit his own preconceptions. Isn’t it ironic that he uses this quote from Joseph Callaway “we need to be careful lest we make up in imagination what we lack in knowledge.”

While I disagree with Laughlin on many theological levels, one of my biggest problem with his book is his over-generalized statements of supposed fact that he brings out of no where without proof or any substantial evidence whatsoever. He claims that “it is now known that human beings lived in Palestine over a million years ago in what is called the ‘paleolithic’ period” (2000:33). He doesn’t give any proof or any clue as to where the statement comes from, he simply declares it as fact.

Archaeology and the Bible is a book written for beginners. The history of Archaeology, the description of fieldwork, and the explanation of the different ages of civilization are detailed and helpful to anyone with the desire to learn more about Archaeology. Unfortunately this book is filled with more than a simple overview of the history, methods, and implications of Archaeological discoveries. It comes complete with an agenda set forth by the author to disconnect Biblical truth from Archaeology.