30 Nov 2020

The Wonderful World of Archaeology

Let’s take a break from politics this week and talk about the fascinating field of archaeology.

For some reason, I’ve always been more interested in Ancient Near East sites, particularly those from the Old Testament. Still, there is much to discover in the Land of Israel that speaks to the New Testament.

Now comes word that perhaps the boyhood home of Jesus has been discovered in Nazareth.

British professor Ken Dark has made some preliminary investigations of a site underneath a convent; the ruins appear to be of Roman era.

“He told the BBC that his work revealed that the building was carved into the rocks of a hillside and that the original house was built by someone who was a master at stone working. Joseph was called a ‘tekton’ in the Bible, which was an ancient word for craftsman or carpenter and it would have made sense that he could have carved the stone.”

As we will see, it’s very difficult to identify a site with certainty, unless it’s the Temple Mount or some such. Yet the Nazareth site is compelling. We know from Scripture that Jesus grew up in the town, after being born in Bethlehem and temporarily living in Egypt (He traveled abroad!).

Archaeologists in Israel are world-class, meticulous in their research. Dark acknowledges that further study is needed.

“The possibility of dating the building remains with certainty was impeded by the fact that the site was dug in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by the resident nuns, and not as a scientific excavation, preventing a reliable affiliation of the pottery remains, essential for dating, with the specific building remains. Thus, whereas the cave is Roman (by style), the building remains could possibly be earlier, or even later. It is unlikely that the simple Jewish village population lived in a house on top, or underneath, a Jewish burial cave.

“Speaking to CBS News, Dark said he understood that while there is much evidence to support his theory, ‘[It’s] by no means a conclusive case. On the one hand, we can put forward a totally plausible case that this was Jesus’s childhood home. But on the other hand, actually proving that is beyond the scope of the evidence. It’s debatable whether it would ever be possible to prove that.’”

Many times, I’ve walked around Jerusalem or even near Tel Aviv and seen archaeologists’ sites in the middle of a street, or off the street. Every inch of the Holy Land contains some memory of the past. On the north side of Jerusalem’s Old City, several years ago a tunnel was built so that one could drive around and head east. I’ve often wondered what was found as they worked! And even now, amazing finds from biblical times are almost routinely found around the Old City. You can walk around the walls and realize that only steps away might lay some great treasure.

I’ll write in more detail one of these days about my friend Zak, a Palestinian Christian antiquities dealer in the Old City. He is authorized by the Israel Antiquities Authority, and I’ve bought several items from him. Always a pleasure to work with, he has affordable things, and also things that would break the bank, if you so decided! You can be assured that what he sells you is legit.

For example, you can obtain a water pitcher, or bowl from the time of Jesus, for a modest price.

In the larger sense, archaeology in Israel is vitally important when and where it confirms the Bible.

Years ago, I visited the fabled Albright Institute in east Jerusalem. W.F. Albright was an archaeologist a century ago that made famous the phrase “digging with one hand on the spade and the other holding a Bible.” From the website:

“While the Albright originally emerged from the need for an on-the-ground research center for Biblical Studies, the Institute has dramatically expanded its disciplinary and temporal range of supported studies in its mission over the last century. As an epicenter of cultural, historical, philological, archaeological, and art historical research in Israel and Palestine, its research base has broadened to include all aspects of Near Eastern studies, as well as expanding chronologically in both directions, into the prehistoric periods, Greco-Roman, Byzantine, early Islamic, and Medieval periods. The Albright places high priority on keeping up with the evolution and demands of the disciplines in the region.”

Albright was a wonderful defender of the integrity of the Bible. In this age of moral relativism and skepticism, it’s more important than ever to point out the marvelous evidences that the Bible is true.