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Contemporary Issues

Commentary on recent archaeological discoveries, current issues bearing on the historical reliability of Scripture and other relevant news concerning the Bible.

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Archaeology has an air of mystery about it. Whenever the subject is brought up, many people instinctively think of the iconic Indiana Jones and his adventures on the silver screen. Others think of buried treasure or exotic locations. In the early days of archaeology, European travelers could be seen out in the field in Victorian garb, sitting under lace umbrellas and sipping tea from fine china. The wealthy traveled with all the fineries of home, surveying the scene while native workers toiled under the hot Middle Eastern Sun. There was much less of the scientific rigor of modern archaeology. It was sometimes little more than glorified treasure hunting. Today there is much more to the discipline than romantic visions of danger, intrigue, and golden fortunes.

At many Bible colleges and seminaries today, students are told to understand the book of Genesis as typical ancient Near Eastern (ANE) literature, sharing many features in common with them. Representative of scholars teaching this view is John H. Walton of Wheaton College. He proposes that, following a pattern scholars detect in ANE literature, Genesis 1 presents a cosmology that bypasses entirely the creation of the initial raw materials of the universe. Instead, it, regards them as preexistent, with their origin never addressed.

In recent days, my mind has been preoccupied with the plight of Western society, and specifically, the state of the Church at large in America. Several events have initiated this preoccupation and now converge to instigate this writing of this article. Within a period of just ten days, I had the following four experiences: 

At the beginning of this Christmas season (2010), I was going into New York City to do some research at the New York Public Library. As usual, I took public transportation into the city (it's less stressful than driving and you don't have to worry about parking). As we were approaching the Palisades in the bus lane to the Lincoln Tunnel, I saw out the left-hand side of the bus a billboard that caught my attention. It had what looked like a scene from a Christmas card. I thought to myself: 'That's nice; somebody is wishing us a joyous Christmas.' As the bus got closer, I saw the three wise men riding their camels in the starlit night toward an open-sided shelter with a gabled thatched roof next to a couple of palm trees; a donkey was tied to the stall, a bright star overhead, and Mary and Joseph watching over the new-born Baby Jesus. Then I saw the words: 'You KNOW it's a Myth. This Season, Celebrate REASON!' It was signed by the American Atheists and said they were 'Reasonable since 1963.' Their web address was also given.

I often take the spiritual pulse of my congregation and Christian colleagues and friends to help me gain a sense of the spiritual warfare being waged against believers in America. I add to that extensive reading on the sociological movements and philosophical perspectives in American culture and their impact on the Church of Jesus Christ. Trends emerge from these studies and conversations that occasionally encourage me but most often disappoint me. Fundamentally, American Christians are held in the cultural grips of post-modernism, with its openness to spiritual 'things' but its resistance and distrust of anything that smacks of institutionalism. So the openness we see sometimes quickly closes when Jesus is brought into a conversation, since He is seen as part and parcel of the institution called 'church.' Post-moderns are profoundly disappointed in how the institutions around them have let them down and ripped them off: Government, Schools, Parents, and the Church. They have seen and continue to watch played out in front of them how these institutions fail in their self-absorbed greed and lust for power and their patent abandonment of the responsibilities under their charge. Every day they see another husband abandon his wife and children, they see another church leader fall in scandal, they read of a teacher shamelessly abuse their position of trust to feed their own personal lusts and desires. Children growing up in America see decadence all around them; those telling them how to walk the path are compromising and abusing their God-entrusted roles of authority.

Many pastors, writers, and even seminary professors rely on the 'JEDP Documentary Hypothesis' to explain how the book of Genesis was originally written. This concept says that for many centuries the stories were passed down orally, usually with embellishments or deletions, and were not committed to writing until much later than the events they describe. Naturally, this idea doesn't tend to inspire confidence in the literal accuracy of the account. Thus it's favored by theologians of a liberal bent. In contrast, the 'Tablet Theory' suggests that portions of Genesis were originally written on clay tablets by men who personally experienced the events described. The tablets were later compiled by Moses. Since the original writers were said to be eye-witnesses, their accounts should be historically accurate. This article briefly describes the development and implications of these two theories.

Students of Bible prophecy have generally overlooked an important tool for understanding this chapter; mainly, the archaeologist's spade. Archaeology has a direct bearing on this passage from two different angles. First, there are ancient inscriptions that give first hand accounts, or historical reflections, of the fall of Babylon in 689 BC. Second, there is confirmation of this destruction by the German excavation at the beginning of the 20th century. With this, let us turn our attention to Isaiah 21.

In the July/August 2010 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, a disturbing and highly prejudicial, anti-Christian column was published. The main thrust of this article aims directly and antagonistically at Christian scholars who hold to any form of orthodoxy.

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ABRT 28 | 8/1/2019