This is probably the most important post in this series as it will focus on two points only. One from lecture 7 and one from lecture 8. In both lectures at the end, Dr. Dever made some personal closing remarks that show us that archaeology can actually be a very vital tool in shoring up our Christian faith and see God and how unique his involvement in the world is.
I have listened to this series several times and this was the first time I can remember hearing these remarks. I imagine that I was focused more on seeing what evidence I could glean from his presentation and was not focused on his personal views which would explain why I missed them and never wrote about them. Evidence is easily manipulated and someone once said that if you know enough about a topic you can confuse just about anyone. Dr. Dever does both quite well but when he drops the academic front and speaks on a personal level then you get to see how valuable archaeology can be.
The first quote is found at the end of lecture 7 and as usual, I try to get his exact words as best I can:
#1. The institution of prophecy is found only in Israel. There is no other ancient civilization that possesses this institution.
This is remarkable and sets Israel apart from everyone else, showing us that God is real and that he does not copy from others. Dr. Dever made the remark that no nation has any prophets like Nathan who are courageous enough to stand before the King and say-Thou art the man. You can read the account in 2 Samuel 12. He wishes that there such men today but if you look at his words concerning the Bible, Dr. Dever may want such a man but he does not want the God behind that man nor the words of the Bible that God wrote. he also does not want the moral standard of that God.
Archaeology can help us identify such unique facets of Israeli life so we can see God more clearly. History is a vital topic for the believer because our faith’s foundation lie in history and to see God act back then means we can have faith to see God act in our lives today. History also shows us that God is serious about his standard of sin and morality.
Secular archaeologists & scholars may mock the Bible, try to alter its words or deny their validity but archaeological research helps fight such attempts to hide the truth. This is what we will see in the next quote from lecture 8:
#2. Until about the 19th century AD Babylon and Assyria were almost forgotten. Israel was never forgotten. The Bible is the only surviving intact literary work from antiquity that has never been lost. All the classical works were lost and rediscovered . The Hebrew Bible has never been lost. it never had to be excavated or dug up. It survived almost intact, copied by generation after generation…
This is another poignant observation by someone who does not believe the Bible, who has let down his guard and become honest about God’s word. God promised to preserve his word and here we have extra-biblical confirmation of the keeping of that promise. But it is the uniqueness that sets the Bible apart. We have rediscovered the Nag Hammadi library buried for 2,000 years, and the reason it was buried was because those books were not of God and do not contain the truth.
If you read FF Bruce and other Christian scholars, you will find a whole list of classical works that have extant copies but those copies are from hundreds of years after the original work. Some exist only in fragments, while the NT alone has over 5,000 copies. You will have to look up Daniel Wallace on YouTube to get an exact figure of how many complete and fragmented copies we have of the Bible.
Then we have the Dead Sea Scrolls which show us that the Bible has not changed for over 2,000 years. We cannot say the same for those classical works because we do not have a literary record maintained throughout the ages for them like the Bible has enjoyed.
This uniqueness points to a powerful and living God, not some pretender alternative believers, archaeologists and scholars claims to exist. Someone who cannot communicate the truth to his creation and insults them by having unbelievers discover the ‘truth’ thousands of years after millions of his followers have died not knowing the ‘real truth.’
This uniqueness should be quieting such people and drive them to mourning their decisions that have led them away from God, bringing them to repentance. Archaeology does illuminate God if the people handling the information are honest enough to pass on what archaeology is truly saying. You may have wondered over the years why I have taken the time to immerse myself in archaeology, genetic and astronomy research and studies when few people do so today. Well it is to find the evidence God placed their for all people to see and use to bolster their faith and help their walk with God
What I have learned from those studies about God is immense and one of those lessons is that God knew people would be digging up the past, searching the microscopic world and scanning the universe for clues to their existence, his existence and so on. So he placed evidence in all of those areas for men to find. Evidence that would lead clear the darkness from their eyes and let them see God. As the Psalmist says
They have mouths, but they do not speak; They have eyes, but they do not see; (Ps. 135:16 NASB)
They do not see because, like Dr. Dever, they no longer or never have believed and they are being deceived. They also do not see because we do not have enough people truly praying for them to really see what they observe.
If you want to seek God, he can be found even in archaeology