Biblical Archaeology Background

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Skepticism of the Bible

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Page numbers from "Pharaohs and Kings" by David Rohl

It is common today that there is skepticism regarding the historicity of the Old Testament, especially Genesis through the early sections of Chronicles. (pg i, 7) However, in his book "Pharaohs and Kings," David Rohl demonstrates that the Old Testament historical narratives are supported with archaeological evidence. (pg 8, i, iii)

I will give a brief overview from David Rohl's book describing how scholars, archaeologists and historians came to be skeptical about the historicity of the Old Testament.

The root cause is that fundamental mistakes in the currently accepted chronology were made in the formative years of ancient world studies. (pg 9) The early archaeologists in the 1800's in their zeal to find archaeological proof of the biblical narratives applied their new discipline to Egypt. Having discovered how to decipher the Egyptian hieroglyphs in 1822 they set about to produce a structured history of the ancient Egyptian civilization. (pg 112, 113)

As an illustration that the purpose of many of these archaeological missions was to 'find' the Bible in Egypt we need only to read the objectives of the Egypt Exploration Fund which was founded in 1891. It states that the Fund's objectives should include the promotion of surveys, explorations and excavation work which would be for the purpose of elucidating or illustrating the Old Testament narrative. (pg 112, 113)

Since there was so little archeological evidence in Palestine in comparison with the ancient palaces, temples and tombs in Egypt it was natural that there would be attempts to cross-reference discoveries in Egypt with the biblical history. The first premise of ancient world chronology was that Ramesses II was the Pharaoh of the Oppression in whose time the Israelites were under the lash of slavery in Egypt. (pg 113) The second premise was that Shoshenk I should be identified with the biblical Shishak, king of Egypt. [1 Ki 14:25-26] (pg 122) But this identification was based only on the name similarity. (pg 163)

Further archaeological discoveries were then fit into this chronological framework and this became the conventional chronology. However, as more discoveries were made in the 1900's it became clear the biblical narrative did not match the conventional chronology. As a result, scholars and historians concluded that the Old Testament stories are a fictional composition written in the second century BC and that it would be a complete waste of time for anyone to attempt to confirm those stories through archaeology. They declared that the Old Testament has no value as an historical source. (pg 7)

Archaeologist David Rohl, in looking in detail at the assembled jigsaw which Professor Kenneth Kitchen presented in his book "The Third Intermediate Period in Egypt" (TIP), began to find pieces which simply did not fit together (other researchers were coming to similar conclusions). David also discovered a number of fundamental assumptions about the structure of the TIP which, in his view, were not based on sound historical methods. (pg 10) The evidence suggested that the time-span of the orthodox chronology was far too long. (pg 137)

In his book, David Rohl demonstrates that when the key archaeological links are corrected that the biblical text is factual, trustworthy and true. When David referred directly to the archaeological evidence without being burdened with the assumptions of the conventional chronology he discovered that there is a framework which produced clear links between the Bible and archaeology. (pg 327) All events and persons described in his book then fit neatly into the timeframes readily accepted by evangelical scholars. (pg 38)

David's conclusion is that the narratives contained in the Old Testament are consistent with the general cultural setting revealed through Egyptian and Levantine archaeology — once the correct chronology is applied. (pg 38)

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Historical Writing

Page numbers from "Pharaohs and Kings" by David Rohl

David Rohl defines the requirements for analyzing historical writing:

The criterion of acceptance of any historical writing is whether it combines interpretations of evidence into a narrative consistent with our perceptions of the past. (pg 38)

It should not require the existence of people or events for which there is no evidence. (pg 38)

We should be willing to accept that the Old Testament narratives are as valid a source for ancient history as any other ancient document. (pg 38)

The only way a historian can judge the validity of any 'historical' statement contained in any historical document is by crosschecking the details of the statement against other independent documentation or archaeological evidence. If a particular interpretation of the statement is shown to be consistent with the overall pattern of evidence, then it becomes 'historical fact.' (pg 38)

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Methodology for these pages

I have no affiliation whatever with David Rohl or his organization. I choose to highlight his book because I am convinced that he got it right.

I have chosen not to specify whether a reference from David Rohl's book is a direct quotation or merely a paraphrase. Instead I reference the page number with the intention that the reader can look for himself to see exactly what David's words are. I have attempted to be accurate in stating only what David has stated and not to put words in his mouth.

As a Bible-believing Christian I am using David Rohl's book to support the idea that the Bible can be trusted to be the inerrant word of God. However, I should mention that it was not David Rohl's intention to demonstrate this — his purpose is merely to demonstrate that when the proper chronology is applied the Old Testament is a historically reliable document.

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 Revised: Nov 10, 2000