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Meditation 1065
Archaeologists Undermining Archaeology's Credentials as a Science.

by: John Tyrrell

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One of the claims we hear from Christian apologists is that archaeology has provided us with factual evidence to support the historicity of the Bible, and it continues to do so. But when the claims are examined, we find that while there are archaeological discoveries which support the existence of some of the places and some of the peoples referred to in the Bible, such discoveries provide very little support for significant biblical events and characters.

Let's look for example at the so-called St Peter's House - so called because two archaeologists who wrote a paper on it claimed to have found graffiti which included the name Peter; graffiti which other archaeologists before and after were unable to find. According to BiblicalArchaeology.org, St. Peter's House in Capernaum is one of the top ten Biblical archaeology discoveries.

... archaeologists discovered a simple first-century A.D. home in Capernaum that may have been inhabited by Jesus during his Galilean ministry. According to the excavated material remains, the function of the house appears to have changed dramatically, becoming a place for communal gatherings, possibly even Christian gatherings. (emphasis added)

We see a logical jump from some questionable graffiti interpreted as mentioning Peter to attributing the house to St. Peter. Then there's the logical jump Jesus might have lived there. And then, the fact that the house was apparently turned into a courtyard midway through the first century is used to claim that it was for communal meetings - which might have been Christian. In the end, there is no tangible link of "St. Peter's House" to the Bible. We just have the fertile imaginations of a couple of archaeologists And this site is one of BiblicalArchaeology.org's top 10. And that may indicate just how weak any archaeological discoveries outside the top ten must be in supporting the Bible.

In the past couple of weeks, publicity seeking archaeologists have announced two more discoveries supposedly supporting the Bible: a fragment of the True Cross in an ancient Turkish church; and one of King David's palaces.

There you have it - proof of Jesus's existence and crucifixion, and proof that King David actually existed! Or not.

Apparently a stone chest was found while excavating the Balatlar Church, built in 660 AD in Turkey near the Black Sea. The chest had crosses carved into it. Inside was a piece of wood. Based on this, the head archaeologist at the site announced:

We have found a holy thing in a chest. It is a piece of a cross, and we think it was [part of the cross on which Jesus was crucified]. This stone chest is very important to us. It has a history and is the most important artifact we have unearthed so far.

Here we have an item with no provenance other than being found in a seventh century church. There is no evidence linking the wood fragment to an event which, if it occurred, occurred over 600 years earlier. What we have is a unjustified leap to a conclusion which ensures maximum publicity.

Dealing with more ancient elements of the bible, we have the excavation of a palace at Khirbet Qeiyafa — an fortified hilltop about 30 kilometers southwest of Jerusalem. It has been carbon dated to about 1000 BC; about the time David is supposed to have ruled. Until now, there has been no generally accepted archaeological evidence that David existed except for inscriptions on a couple of stelae referring to the House of David, dated to about 850BC - or 150 years later. So does this new palace establish David's existence? No - they've discovered nothing that links it to King David. All we have is a palace which existed at the time David is supposed to have existed. Attributing specifically to David as opposed to some other regional chieftain is an unjustified leap. But it gets maximum publicity.

Why? Is it to generate grants for further exploration? Is it to generate tourism? Is it (in the case of the palace) to line up support for Israel's claims to exist?  Is it just archaeologist seeking publicity?

There are two negative effects to these claims:

  1. Believers remember them, and not the debunking. Believers end up with their beliefs reinforced and know with even more certainty archaeology has established the truth of the Bible.
  2. Anyone who looks at these claims realizes that at least some archaeologists jump to unjustified conclusions on the skimpiest of evidence. Each archaeologist who does this undermines the credibility of archaeology as a science. In essence, they are destroying their profession's credentials. 

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