By David Catchpoole
Archaeology can sure raise passions. It seems that the hottest debates are to be had when archaeology is in line with the Bible's account of history.
For example: "There is no evidence that a town or village called 'Nazareth' existed before the 4th century AD" say the skeptics. Wrong, say archaeologists, who in late 2009 announced that they had unearthed a dwelling in Nazareth they say dates back to the time of Jesus.1
Archaeologist Yardena Alexandre, excavations director at the Israel Antiquities Authority, said that the dwelling, along with older discoveries of nearby tombs in burial caves, suggests that Nazareth was an out-of-the-way hamlet. There were around 50 houses on a patch of about 1.6 hectares (4 acres).
Now, we would caution against relying absolutely upon any 'dating' assessments made by people in the present about remnants from the past (whether they be fossils or archaeological artefacts). But it is perfectly legitimate to seek evidence of places the Bible talks about. And it should not be a surprise to anyone when such evidence is found.
However, such is the hostility against the Bible, even theologians who should know better have fallen for the notion that the biblical texts are merely stories cleverly told as uplifting literature. So when archaeologists make discoveries endorsing the Bible's history, the astonishment, angst and even anger from some quarters can be very great indeed.
For example, when the actual pool of Siloam (John 9:7; fed by Hezekiah's tunnel—2 Chronicles 32:30) was unearthed in the Old City of Jerusalem a few years ago, it was a huge surprise to some. "Scholars have said that there wasn't a pool of Siloam and that John was using a religious conceit" (to illustrate a point) said James H. Charlesworth of Princeton Theological Seminary. "Now we have found the pool of Siloam ... exactly where John said it was." A gospel that was thought to be "pure theology is now shown to be grounded in history."2
Genesis, too, is grounded in history — it is not a metaphor, or poetry, nor 'religious conceit', but actual history. This history sets the scene for Jesus' redemptive death on the Cross. A history that can't be undone, no matter how much angst it arouses.
1. Uncovered days before Christmas: Is this the Nazareth home where Jesus prayed?, www.dailymail.co.uk, 22 December 2009.
2. Maugh, T., Biblical pool uncovered in Jerusalem, www.latimes.com, 9 August 2005.