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Readers of Christianity Today are by now familiar with the debate surrounding the authenticity of the so-called "James Ossuary" and the Jehoash inscription. In the last few months, the Israel Antiquities Authority and a number of preeminent scholars in paleography (the science/art of reading scripts) have determined that both the James ossuary and the Jehoash inscription are modern forgeries. Discussion will no doubt continue, since many scholars such as Ben Witherington III still believe that the James ossuary is indeed genuine. But if these two examples are a guide, it might seem to some that the only archeological "discoveries" that support the Bible are ones that have been forged.

Before we become too morose, however, we should note that just last week Israeli scientists announced that they had confirmed through radiocarbon-dating that the tunnel commonly referred to as "Hezekiah's Tunnel"—widely believed to date to the time of King Hezekiah (727-698 B.C.) and the events described in 2 Kings 20:20—indeed dated to the eighth century B.C. So the pendulum swings again, and we can once more shout "Hurrah!" as science and archaeology prove the Bible.

But should we really be so concerned with what portions of the Bible archaeology seems to confirm or deny? What should be the importance of archaeology for faithful Christians and Jews?

Archaeology is a unique enticement for Christians of our era. We are called to live by faith, yet we also want tangible proof of that which we believe. The result is that we are eager to find evidence of David's kingdom, and are leery of those who claim that archaeology has disproved the Bible. The challenge is to read all our sources critically, whether it is the Bible or an archaeologist's report. ...

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September 2003

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