Here’s the perfect book for either pastors or Bible students to get a clear overview of the connection between Bible and archaeology. This book succeeds because it strikes the perfect balance between archaeological detail and basic understanding. In other words, you will not drown in the minutia of archaeology, but you will have an informed grasp of both the value and limitations of archaeology in your Bible studies.
Matthieu Richelle, a respected professor of Old Testament, has a nice list of credentials to be able to produce this work on archaeology. I appreciated his respect of the Bible, his academic integrity, and his civility toward other archaeologists with whom he might disagree. In the same vein, while I might disagree with him on a few points myself, I respect greatly what he has produced here. To take something as complex as archaeological methodology and make it accessible to a popular audience is a gift. It’s a gift that’s present in this book. He will walk you through some subjects you might normally dodge, but he will guide you in a way that you can both learn and easily comprehend.
In the introduction, he describes his disdain for sensationalists and his desire to give us the tools to understand the clearly divisive controversies of biblical archaeology. Chapter 1 explains what archaeologists are looking for, or at least what they usually find. He guides us through archaeological sites, he explains what a “Tell” is, and uses some popular Bible sites to explain. He explains why these “Tells” have developed the way that they have and why they make it possible for archaeological discoveries. He explains the important difference between relative and absolute chronology and commonly accepted archaeological periods. He describes the main tools that archaeologists use to make their conclusions. Further, he explains what they tell us about the people, the architecture of the time, and what can be learned about life in ancient Israel.
Since chapter 1 only took us through what can be learned about life in general, the rest of the book must take us into the things that archaeologists discover that help with the more critical subjects of dating and verification of historical information. You will learn about the principal types of inscriptions and the difficulties of epigraphy. He doesn’t hide the dark side of the archaeological world that includes things like forgeries and other unscrupulous behavior.
Chapter 3 is outstanding and proves his balance. In this chapter, he discusses the limits of archaeology. He confesses the lack of certainty that exists, how that sometimes we can only say what is possible and not what is proven, and that there is much interpretation of the findings that can truly be biased. He talks about other natural limitations like the fact that what is excavated is ruins in the first place.
Chapter 4 finally broaches the subject of the Bible and archaeology. He is very gentle in this chapter and explains some of what I would call the more radical beliefs in the archaeological world. Those radical theories show a true bias to the Bible. He’s almost fair to them than seems reasonable, but he lays out the information so kindly that you will be able to come to the right conclusion. Chapter 5 is a case study involving David and Solomon. Because of their centrality to the story of Israel, their historicity is commonly attacked. Chapter 6 is a little more technical in that it describes writing in the times of David and Solomon and how that might help arrive at dating. The conclusion is short and to the point yet is reasonable. There’s a final listing for further reading if you’re interested in extending your studies.
This book is a complete success in what it sets out to do. Not only is it a perfect book for pastors and Bible students, but I imagine for most of them it will be all they want or need.
I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.