Combining religion and science is impossible unless you’re willing to get err… creative? Not quite true: although they might quarrel about the details, archaeologists and the scriptures do quite agree on major historical facts such as the destruction of Jericho, the rule of Herod the Great as well as King David’s. Archaeology can help determine the lifestyle and practices of people living in biblical times and such shed light upon the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament. The biblical archaeology school focusses on doing exactly this, and Professor Don Benjamin in his book ‘Stones and Stories: An Introduction to Archaeology and the Bible‘ presents an overview of what archaeology has shown us regarding the worlds of the Bible. From the introduction of the book:
Archaeology is not the plunder of the treasures of ancient cultures, nor proving that the Bibles descriptions of people and events are historically accurate, nor a legal remedy for determining which people today have a legal right to the land.
Archaeology in the world of the Bible does not prove the Bible wrong, anymore than biblical archaeology proves the Bible right. Archaeology offers new ways of defining the Bible in relationship with its own world, and using it more effectively in the world today. Archaeology provides different perspectives on the way the people of ancient Israel responded to their experiences, and consequently provides models for responding differently to experience today.
Culture is the tool that humans use to understand and respond to their experiences good and bad. Every stone tells a story about how a now gone people looked at their world, and responded to their experiences. Archaeologists are the curators of this amazing legacy.
The book describes how archaeologists listen to the stories that stones – like architecture, art, pottery, jewellery, weapons and tools – have to tell, what they are hearing, and what a difference it makes for understanding the Bible. In his introduction Don Benjamin also teaches about both the ‘minimalistic’ and ‘maximalistic’ approaches to how much ‘historical truth’ the Bible holds, touches on practical examples from the field such as the excavations at Qumran and clearly sketches the history and current practices of the biblical archaeology school as well as makes predictions for the future of biblical archaeology.
Biblical scholar Jim West has a great review of the book and on his website doncbenjamin.com the Professor offers a some large excerpts from the publication, for those who of you who want to sample before they buy.