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Mr. Climer is a member of the Hope Protestant Reformed Church of Redlands, California.

Returning to archaeological excavations in the lands of the Bible, let us review the case of Joshua and the battle of Jericho. The current secular view is that no battle took place there, and no walls existed. The proof is in the pottery, so to speak. But the final word is not in, and it never will come in. This is not the conclusion of a religious fanatic defending Scripture, this is the method of the science of archaeology, as demonstrated in the search for Troy, and it has nothing to do with Christianity or any other religion. The skeptic may think that I am merely playing with word meanings in reaching this conclusion. Perhaps he would say that the present theory of “no walls at Jericho” is substantially true, and that later excavations in the area will “fine tune” it.

The skeptic would be wrong. In archaeology any theory, no matter how well established, can be turned on its head by the next shovel full of dirt at the next excavation. The Timei article provides us with just such an example.

Many secular archaeologists questioned the existence of King David, because there are no extant manuscripts by or about him dating from the time of his rule (traditional dates 1025-985 BC). As with Joshua and the conquest of Canaan, these scientists, speculate that the legend of David may have been added by a scribe recopying documents at a much later date, trying to “imrove” the history of Israel. But in modern Israe1 in 1993 an inscription in stone dating from about 900 BC was found containing the phrases “House of David,” and “King of Israel.” That one inscription was enough to turn skeptical opinion around now it is generally accepted that David really existed.

A monument and inscription from 1200 BC commemorating Joshua’s victory at the mighty walls of Jericho would similarly turn the archaeological world’s theory of the Hebrew conquest of Canaan on its head. Does such a monument exist? I have no idea. But I am certain that the archaeological truth about Joshua and Jericho will not be the same fifty years from now as it is today, just as today’s theories differ from the conclusions of fifty years ago.

The reader may wonder at my phrasing in saying that the truth of a past event is going to change every fifty years. How does the truth of the past change? Obviously, it never does.

We have an account in writing of Joshua and the Israelites conquering the walled city of Jericho. Now that event either took place or it did not take place. The same can be said for any recorded event. The Greeks sailed to Troy to get Helen, or they did not. David reigned in Jerusalem, or he did not. The theorizing of modern day archaeologists does not change one jot or tittle of history, because it has already occurred; it is out of our grasp, we can never re-live or recall those events. Even if an archaeologist constructed a theory that was absolutely accurate in explaining the Trojan War, or Joshua and the battle of Jericho, no one would ever know it was absolutely accurate, because we cannot go back in time and test the theory against the reality.

This may all seem very basic, but it demonstrates that archaeological research fails to give us historical truth not just occasionally, but consistently. No theory of history based upon archaeological research has ever been true. New theories will continue to pour out of the excavation pits, but none of them will ever be true either. Naturally this conclusion includes written records also. We do not know if those indestructible clay tablets of the Assyrians or Hittites are true or not, and we never will. The same can be said for the Egyptian Hieroglyphs and even for our friend Homer. He tells a wonderful story, but we will never know if Achilles and Hector really fought outside the walls of golden Troy.

Biblical Truth

Scientifically, we do not now know if the Bible is true, and we never will. But by faith every believer knows that it is completely true.

Scripture teaches that from eternity past God predetermined everything, everyone, every action, and every moment. By His Spirit and His Word He executed His eternal plan and brought the universe and time itself into existence. Since He precedes creation, including time, He stands outside of it and is therefore unchanging. When He inspired the prophets and apostles to write down that portion of His eternal plan which He chose to reveal to us He directed them to write His unchanging Word describing His unchanging plan. When it comes to the past, how could anyone possibly imagine a more authoritative history than the Word of the One who determined that history and then brought it to pass?

Revisiting Joshua and Jericho one last time, let us pose the same question to the biblical narrative that we did to the archaeological theory. How do you know that the scriptural account of the battle of Jericho is true? Because the Bible says so. No theory here, just truth, from the God of truth, who not only observed the events at Jericho, but predestined them before creation itself. To doubt the veracity of any historical event in Scripture is to doubt the very nature of God Himself.

The “moderate majority” will discount this argument as an evasion, circular reasoning, and double talk. It is simply unscientific to believe that the Bible speaks truthfully on: historical matters because it says, it does. It must be checked, or “‘verified.” But what can Scripture be checked with? Archeological methods of research can provide us with mountains of information about the type of pottery and spears used in ancient Israel, and we should respect that information and the scientists who work so diligently to extract and study the artifacts they find. But any theory they come up with concerning any part of biblical history is by definition false, and one cannot verify any narrative with a false theory. The “moderate majority” can’t test biblical history with scientific methodology, and I do not see that they have any other candidates to verify it with, so they must either receive it in faith or reject it for no good reason.

The reader may wonder why I have confined my discussion of archaeology and the Bible to the Old Testament, and why I have not considered the subject of miracles. Aside from time and space constraints, there are two main reasons that I have limited the evaluation: 1) The New Testament manuscripts are now generally accepted, even among skeptics. (A few generations ago they were not accepted as genuine, but someone came up with a new theory and now they are. The skeptics do not believe what the manuscripts say, but they do accept them as dating from the apostolic age. 2) Archaeological methods of research cannot give us even one true theory of any period of history that does not speak of miracles. Given that failure, how can archaeologists even begin to comment with any credibility upon a part of Bible history that does contain miracles?

“Fact vs. Faith”

The notion of “fact vs. faith,” as Time puts it, now can be seen in all of its silliness and absurdity. To test any scriptural historical account by means of any theory of archaeology is to test that which cannot be false by means of that which cannot be true. It is the height of nonsense.

The Bible is the means by which God reveals His plan of redemption to His people. As such, it is primarily concerned with spiritual matters, and when we read it we should also be primarily concerned with the spiritual knowledge it contains. But the great drama of redemption .is being played out upon the stage of the physical universe and history. We cannot fully appreciate the scope and grandeur of God’s plan of salvation if we neglect the platform upon which it is presented. We must not take lightly the denial of the accuracy of biblical history by modern archaeology. If we do not proclaim the truth about Joshua and Jericho or King David or any other historical narrative in Scripture we are guilty of not proclaiming “the whole counsel of God.” We are in a battle for truth, and we must look to the heroes of the faith for patience and courage to see our way though it.

When the youthful David visited his brothers on the battlefield, he heard Goliath taunting Israel. He was indignant, declaring “… for who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (I Sam. 17:26). He immediately volunteered to face Goliath in combat, and slew that blasphemer. David had to battle the enemies of Israel physically. Our war with the enemies of the church is spiritual and intellectual in nature, but it is just as real, and just as deadly.

As Christians, let our posture be one of righteous indignation against this giant of skeptical archaeology that slurs the history of the church of Almighty God. Who are these archaeologists who think they can disprove Scripture with a piece of broken pottery dug out of the mud? What is the “moderate majority” that dares tell us what parts of the Bible are “reasonable” to believe in? The battle is joined. Let Reformed believers step forward and speak the truth, in love.