Aug 21, 2009

The Limitations of Archaeology

Regular readers of this blog know of my interests in archaeology and the Bible. But it is also important to keep in mind the inherent limitations of archaeology as it relates to biblical studies. Victor Matthews provides the following helpful list of the limitations of archaeology:

-The material remains uncovered by archaeologists are always incomplete.
-Interpretation of artifacts and excavation sites, like interpretation of the biblical text, involves subjective judgements that are vulnerable to revision or being discredited.
-Archaeology cannot prove or disprove the truth of the biblical narrative or its theological statements.
-Archaeological evidence cannot and should not be the only data used to interpret the Bible or the world of ancient Israel.
-Because scientific methods are constantly being improved, archaeological data is subject to reexamination. But even this is not always possible if previous excavators have destroyed data by trying to "get down" to biblical levels or have failed to adequately record and publish the results of their work.

Victor H. Matthews, Studying the Ancient Israelites: A Guide to Sources and Methods (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007), 90.

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