The following Christianity Today editorial originally appeared in Oct. 23, 1995, issue of the magazine.
Christians and Jews owe a lot to biblical archaeology. Over the past century, archaeologists have repeatedly confirmed and illuminated the historicity of the biblical record. Although, as Calvin taught us, we trust the Bible because of the inner witness of the Spirit, having physical evidence that confirms the historical context of God's saving acts bolsters our faith.
But will biblical archaeology survive? An acerbic essay entitled "The Death of a Discipline," published recently in the lively Biblical Archaeology Review, decries the trend in American universities to downgrade or eliminate programs in biblical and Middle East archaeology. According to the author, William Dever of the University of Arizona, the secular academic institutions that have been leaders in this field (Arizona, Chicago, UCLA, and Harvard, among others) have failed to keep their programs fully operational. In Dever's case, his institution has decided to cancel their program. Likewise, writes Dever, religious schools have cut back their commitments to biblical archaeology. (Counter to Dever's argument, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary has made a strong commitment to biblical archaeology and continues to educate specialists at the master's level.) The picture Dever paints is bleak. Other archaeologists interviewed by Christianity Today quickly noted Dever's gift for hyperbole, but they joined him in sounding the alarm: the situation is indeed serious.
Alarums and ExcavationsWe urge evangelical Christian institutions to stand in the gap, to create academic programs and cooperate in field archaeology ("digs") and to promote the importance of biblical ...