This is a turn on Dr. Wm. Dever’s lecture series for Biblical Archaeology Society titled, How Archaeology Illuminates The Bible. It is an 8 part series but I will not be doing an 8 part analysis because I want to focus on the more important things Dr. Dever says. Lecture #4 is about Solomon and though I disagree with some of what he said, he really didn’t say that much that was needing rebuttal. he focused more on evidence and I may be able to fold that lecture into #3.
The only order to the quotes will be my trying to take the more important comments and talking about them first then moving on to lesser inflammatory statements. 2 keys to listening to Dr. Dever is to know that he will not be objective. In fact, in his book, Did God Have A Wife, he openly states he is not trying to be objective and that sentiment has carried on throughout his speeches and other work.
The second key is that he is not going to be honest in how he uses archaeology to speak against the biblical record. He will skip over difficult aspects of that field in order to make his point that most of the Bible is exaggerated or out-and-out tall tales with a kernel of truth underlying their retelling. You can also catch him in many biblical mistakes as he confuses the Israelite short sojourn at Kadesh Bernina with their desert wandering. He has them staying in one locale for 38 years when the Israelites were actually going through the desert. Then he says since there is no archaeological remains at that city then the Exodus did not take place. This is the sort of mistakes and dishonesty you will get from Dr. Dever.
There will be no time stamps for the quotes, it was enough just trying to get the words down as accurately as possible.
#1. Archaeology is an independent witness… Archaeology can take either a complimentary or contradictory view of the Bible and it is a primary source for history writing…Archaeology is an eyewitness as artifacts have not been touched or edited by anyone for thousands of years. It is a pristine source.
This is Dr. Dever’s view on what archaeology is and he is very wrong. The problem with his view is that it is based upon the assumption that the artifacts, buildings etc., were actually untouched for thousands of years and that their remnants were left as the archaeologist thinks. There is no way to say what happened to the buildings and artifacts over the generations, if they have been touched or moved or not. We cannot know if they are lying in a position they were originally left in so this unedited witness is more wishful thinking than fact.
Archaeology is not an independent witness simply because it is vulnerable to the different views, opinions, and beliefs of those who partake in the field. Their bias distorts what archaeology may actually be saying and make it far more difficult to get to the truth. Then with the incomplete amount of evidence uncovered, archaeology really isn’t really offering us much.
If you read any Kenneth A. Kitchen’s books, you need to read the first chapter of his The Bible In Its World because it gives you a true picture of archaeology and its limitations. Many sites are lost to erosion, etc. that archaeology cannot be a real eyewitness to the past but simply offer up a very sparse look at the ancient world without being able to contradict anything. Archaeology is a depends field. It depends upon how much is found and who is doing the analysis
#2. Biblical Archaeology is dead and no one is interested in it anymore
Of course, that is news to me and to a whole host of Biblical Archaeologists. One thing you need to be careful of with Dr. Dever is his sweeping generalizations. When he mentions all scholars and archaeologists, he is usually referring to himself and those people who do not agree with the Bible. he i snot speaking for the entire membership of the field.
He also states that archaeologists are not doing biblical archaeology anymore but again, that is his viewpoint and not the opinion of many others. He can say this because he is not interested in the truth of the Bible and there are many professional archaeologists and biblical scholars who share that opinion. But that does not mean that biblical archaeology is dead or useless. It means that it will be much more difficult to reach the truth as there are far too many voices muddying the waters with their dissent.
#3. In taking a broken pot, he can tell where it was made, how it was made, when it was made and who made it. Then he can tell how it was broken and how it ended up in the garbage heap even though he does not know the name of the potter who made it.
I put this in because it shows how pompous he really is. He is making a statement of fact without taking into account the many mitigating factors that would change the information surrounding the pot. He may be able to say it is , for example, a Sumerian pot, because of the design but that pot may have been a knock-off, a replica, or simply a test piece to see if the kiln was hot enough. Those type of factors will have the pot bring different information than what Dr. Dever says it brings.
He cannot be sure of the history of the pot because too many depends get in his way.
#3a. Biblical archaeology died in the 1970s as the movement was weak and amateurish with a biased agenda. He said it failed in proving the Bible true.
He is very wrong here as well as archaeology has verified much of the biblical record, what the secular archaeologist does with that information is the problem. They get the evidence to say a different story than the one it actually says. For example, the influx of Israelis into the Promised land is well documented by I. Finkelstein but he does not credit the Exodus but says these new people came from other parts of Canaan. So it isn’t the evidence that is at fault, it is the person handling the evidence.
Biblical archaeology is alive and well, it is just that the people involved in archaeology do not want to hear what it has to say. The irony of his biased agenda statement makes me laugh as he refuses to be objective yet demands that biblical people put aside their beliefs and miss out on information because he demands it. The double standard is one of the biggest problems for the biblical archaeologist. They can be perfect in all of their recording and research but because they say the evidence supports the Bible, they are suddenly biased and have a religious agenda which ruins their conclusions.
Under this pressure it is a wonder the truth ever gets out.
#4. Archaeology was originally thought to be capable of proving the Bible true…What is it that Archaeology can do? It can give context to the Bible
Dr. Dever says no but in all honesty, it is a yes and no purpose. Archaeology may not be able to prove that Jacob fought with an angel but it can prove that biblical civilizations, cities, names, and other activities were all recorded correctly in the Bible and we have that accomplished today. Archaeology will not be able to prove there was a garden of Eden but it can provide evidence for the flood and it has done so.
There are limits on what we can prove with the use of archaeology and there are limits on what kind of context archaeology can provide. Yes it can show that Abraham followed the laws and customs of his time when he adopted a slave, married a slave and so on but that does not mean Abraham was secular or disobeying God. We have to follow certain customs of culture today but that does not mean we are not Christians. it means that God has allowed governments a little leeway on producing rules to govern daily life and we must follow the laws of the land to some extent.
The Patriarchs obedience to God and government doe snot mean that the biblical writers borrowed their accounts from secular events. It means that they show Abraham doing what God wanted him to do and lived as God wanted him to live.
#5. Archaeology is about ordinary people and real life while the Biblical authors weren’t interested in either and hadn’t met any of them.
This is Dr. Dever’s personal view of the Bible as he feels that the Bible was written by a bunch of elitists who wanted to manipulate and control the masses. The Bible is not written by such people for such a purpose. If it were, Judaism, would not have made it out of the 15th c. BC and Christianity out of the 1st c. AD. Without supernatural help or permission such efforts would be tossed as soon as the people in charge died off or were removed from power.
No one follows the philosophies of Genghis Kahn or Attila the Hun today or others like them. Their motivational words have all been replaced by other doctrines and ideologies.
#6. We have learned to ask the right questions… Big questions– How do we know the past? Do we know anything reliable about the past? Who owns the past? What do we learn from the past?
I do not think those are big questions nor even the right ones as they do not allow for the truth to come out. I think the big question is, ‘What is the truth?’ We need this question answered because there are so many people out there who disbelieve the Bible that they will say anything to discredit it and we need the truth to fight those false allegations.
To answer ‘who owns the past?’ it is all people because we all learn from the information uncovered. The past does not belong to a few secular scholars and archaeologists who want to censor the truth and replace it with their own version of events. We can learn a lot from the past, especially from ancient civilizations’ mistakes and how not to repeat them. We can also learn that false ideologies, evolution, are not true and have no historical foundation supporting them. The past can help us a lot if we let the truth come to the forefront.
#7. Can’t turn the clock back to a pre-modern understanding of the Bible…Unless we can make the Bible relevant with a real sense and a real history no one will read it in 25 years…Read the bible in light of all the information of archaeology
In other words, Dr. Dever is saying do not follow the HS to the truth nor read the Bible the way God wants but do it his way and distort what you find in God’s word. We do need to turn the clock back so that we can get to the truth instead of having to address the endless mind-numbing pointless theories presented by unbelievers about the Bible and the past.
The Bible has a real sense and a real history the problem is Dr. Dever and others just do not want that history or sense., They want their own ideas. That is why Dr. Dever and others say that the biblical writers embellished and invented their stories. They want the Bible to be false so they can feel good about their rejection of it. Just because we cannot find archaeological evidence for certain events does not mean they did not happen or that the biblical writers lied, it just means that those who oppose the Bible do not have nor want any faith.
Dr. Dever and others elevate the field of archaeology to a position of superiority and authority but archaeology does not have the qualifications nor the credentials to occupy such a lofty position. It is far too limited and cannot recover destroyed or lost remains to provide a clear picture of history. It is also too vulnerable to unscrupulous people who want to reinvent the past to fit their ideas instead of being honest about it.
The real people who have a real agenda are those who oppose the Bible because they do not want the truth.