Atheists and skeptics have waged war against the Bible, with the history of Israel as one of their main targets. Philip R. Davies wrote a book in 1992 titled, In Search of Ancient Israel which is widely quoted by biblical minimalists. The minimalist view of history is that the Bible is a doubtful source for information about ancient Israel. They consider it to be unreliable. In Dr. Davies’ book, he states what he maintains are three possible views of Israel:
There may have been a “historical Israel,” but it is not really accessible to us because the Bible text is largely unreliable.
“Biblical Israel” is only a late construct of the biblical writers.
“Ancient Israel” is a modern scholar’s construct, that is, also not real but fictitious.
The answer to all of these claims is to ask for an unbiased examination of the evidence. Assuming the Bible text is unreliable is a closed-minded approach to the issues involved. We have maintained in this “layman’s journal” for nearly 50 years now that if you look at who wrote the Bible, to whom, and why, it is clear and accurate. We have also shown that there are examples of statements in the Bible that are testable. We deal with that in our video series which is available on DVDs, or you can watch it at no cost on our DoesGodExist.tv website.
Archaeological data supports many of the factual statements of the Bible and new data has become available in the twenty-first century. The picture shows the “City of David” archaeological site in Jerusalem. Language and translation problems are certainly an issue, but to say the Bible is inaccessible or unreliable demeans what scholars can do.
There is plenty of evidence to refute the minimalist view of history. We can trust the Bible, but there are times when we have to dig into what it says to understand what it means.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Archaeological Excavation of a Synagogue in Israel
The May/June issue of Biblical Archaeological Review carried and article with the inflammatory title “Who Tells the Truth: The Bible or Archaeology” written by Dr. William G. Dever. The title is somewhat misleading, because Dever is actually a historical maximalist when it comes to bringing the archaeology and the Bible together. Dr. Dever is the Professor of Near Eastern Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Arizona, and his proposal is that Biblical texts and archaeological data should be studied separately and then students should look for convergences.
There are two approaches to the relationship of archaeology and the Bible. In addition to the “maximalist” position there are also “minimalists.” Biblical minimalism is the view that assumes that archaeology and the Bible are necessarily in conflict because the biblical account is viewed as a myth. Minimalism is the approach of the “Jesus Seminar” group which says if a statement in the Bible is hard to believe or is a miracle, then it can be discarded. Archaeological minimalists assume that things like David and Goliath, Saul and David, Moses and the Exodus, David’s palace, and Solomon’s riches can’t be true and cannot be supported by archaeology. When a find is made that seems to support some of these biblical stories, that interpretation is automatically discarded.
The problem for biblical minimalists is that there is too much evidence that the Bible is true to reasonably discard it. Hershel Shanks, who is the editor of Biblical Archaeological Review wrote about this. The article he wrote was in the July/August 1997 issue titled “Face to Face: Biblical Minimalists Meet Their Challengers.” Christians do not need to be intimidated by claims made that archaeology discredits the Bible. Christians should follow 1 Peter 3:15 and know how to answer these claims. We would encourage our readers to read an article by Lydia Evdoxiadi Verniory that we published in our May/June 2010 issue page 15. Ms. Verniory is a practicing archaeologist and the article is titled “Noisy Books On The Historicity of the Bible–Take Them With A Grain of Salt.”
–John N. Clayton © 2017