THE RECENT TESTIMONY OF ARCHAEOLOGY
TO THE SCRIPTURES
M. G. KYLE, D. D., L. L. D.,
Egyptologist. Professor Of Biblical Archaeology, Xenia Theological Seminary.
Consulting Editor Of The Records Of The Past, Washington, D.C.
“Recent” is a dangerously capacious word to entrust to an archaeologist. Anything this side of the Day of Pentecost is “recent” in biblical archaeology. For this review, however, anything since 1904 is accepted to be, in a general way, the meaning of the word “recent.” “Recent testimony of archaeology” may be either the testimony of recent discoveries or recent testimony of former discoveries. A new interpretation, if it be established to be a true interpretation, is a discovery. For to uncover is not always to discover; indeed, the real value of a discovery is not its emergence, but its significance, and the discovery of its real significance is the real discovery.
The most important testimony to the Scriptures of this five-year archaeological period admits of some classification:
1. THE HISTORICAL SETTING OF THE PATRIARCHAL RECEPTION IN EGYPT.
The reception in Egypt accorded to Abraham and to Jacob and his sons (Genesis 12:10-20; 13:1; 47:1-12) and the elevation of Joseph there(Genesis 41:14-46 ) peremptorily demand either the acknowledgment of a mythical element in the stories, or the belief in a suitable historical setting thereof. Obscure, insignificant, private citizens are not accorded such recognition at a foreign and unfriendly court. While some have been conceding a mythical element in the stories (Orr, “The Problem of the Old Testament,” pp. 57-58, quoting Schultz, Wellhausen, Kuenen, W. R. Smith, G. B. Gray, H. P. Smith, F. H. Woods. ), archaeology has uncovered to view such appropriate historical setting that the patriarchs are seen not to have been obscure, insignificant, private citizens, nor Zoan a foreign and unfriendly court.
The presence of the Semitic tongue in Hyksos’ territory has long been known (Brugsch, “Egypt under the Pharaohs,” Broderick edition, Chap. VI. ); from still earlier than patriarchal times until much later, the Phoenicians, first cousins of the Hebrews, did the foreign business of the Egyptians (Ibid.), as the English, the Germans, and the French do the foreign business of the Chinese of today; and some familiarity, even sympathy, with Semitic religion has been strongly suspected from the interview of the Hyksos kings with the patriarchs (Genesis 41:25-39); but the discovery in 1906 (Petrie, “Hyksos and Israelite Cities.”), by Petrie, of the great fortified camp at Tel-el-Yehudiyeh set at rest, in the main, the biblical question of the relation between the patriarchs and the Hyksos. The abundance of Hyksos scarabs and the almost total absence of all others mark the camp as certainly a Hyksos camp (Ibid, pp. 3 and 10, Plate IX ); the original character of the
fortifications, before the Hyksos learned the builders’ craft from the Egyptians, shows them to have depended upon the bow for defense (Ibid, pp. 5-9. Plates II, III, IV); and, finally, the name Hyksos, in the Egyptian Haq Shashu (Budge, “History of Egypt,” Vol. III, pp. 137-138) “Bedouin princes,” brings out, sharp and clear, the harmonious picture of which we have had glimpses for a long time, of the Hyksos as wandering tribes of the desert, of “Upper and Lower Ruthen” (Kyle, Recueil de Travaux, Vol. XXX, “Geographic and Ethnic Lists of Rameses II.”) i.e., Syria and Palestine, northern and western Arabia, “Bow people” (Muller, “Asien und Europa.” 2tes Kapitel), as the Egyptians called them, their traditional enemies as far back as pyramid times (Ibid)
Why, then, should not the patriarchs have had a royal reception in Egypt? They were themselves also the heads of wandering tribes of “Upper and Lower Ruthen,” in the tongue of the Egyptians, Haq Shashu, “Bedouin princes”; and among princes, a prince is a prince, however small his principality. So Abraham, the Bedouin prince, was accorded princely consideration at the Bedouin court in Egypt; Joseph, the Bedouin slave, became again the Bedouin prince when the wisdom of God with him and his rank by birth became known. And Jacob and his other sons were welcome, with all their followers and their wealth, as a valuable acquisition to the court party, always harassed by the restive and rebellious native Egyptians. This does not prove racial identity between the Hyksos and the patriarchs, but very close tribal relationship. And thus every suspicion of a mythical element in the narrative of the reception accorded the patriarchs in Egypt disappears when archaeology has testified to the true historical setting.
2. THE HITTITE VINDICATION
A second recent testimony of archaeology gives us the great Hittite vindication. The Hittites have been, in one respect, the Trojans of Bible history; indeed, the inhabitants of old Troy were scarcely more in need of a Schliemann to vindicate their claim to reality than the Hittites of a Winckler.
In 1904 one of the foremost archaeologists of Europe said to me: “I do not believe there ever were such people as the Hittites, and I do not believe ‘Kheta’ in the Egyptian inscriptions was meant for the name Hittites.” We will allow that archaeologist to be nameless now. But the ruins of Troy vindicated the right of her people to a place in real history, and the ruins of Boghatz-Koi bid fair to afford a more striking vindication of the Bible representation of the Hittites.
Only the preliminary announcement of Winckler’s great treasury of documents from Boghatz-Koi has yet been made (Winckler, O. L. Z., December 15, 1906). The complete unfolding of a long-eclipsed great national history is still awaited impatiently. But enough has been published to redeem this people completely from their half-mythical plight, and give them a firm place in sober history greater than imagination had ever fancied for them under the stimulus of any hint contained in the Bible.
There has been brought to light a Hittite empire (Ibid) in Asia Minor, with central power and vassal dependencies round about and with treaty rights on equal terms with the greatest nations of antiquity, thus making the Hittite power a third great power with Babylonia and Egypt, as was, indeed, foreshadowed in the great treaty of the Hittites with Rameses II., inscribed on the projecting wing of the south wall of the Temple of Amon at Karnak (Bouriant, Recueil de Travaux, Vol. XIII, pp. 15 ff.; Budge, “History of Egypt,” Vol. V, pp. 48 ff.; Good- win, “Records of the Past,” 1st Series, Vol. IV, pp. 25 ff.), though Rameses tried so hard to obscure the fact. The ruins at the village of Boghatz-Koi are shown also to mark the location of the Hittite capital (Mitteilungen der Vorderasiatischen Gesselschaft: 1902, p. 5. Muller, Recueil de Travaux, Vol. VIII, 126 ff. Budge, “History of Egypt,” V, 30 ff.), and the unknown language on the cuneiform tablets recovered there to be the Hittite tongue (Winckler, O. L. Z., December 15, 1906. (Sonderabzug, p. 15).), while the cuneiform method of writing, as already upon the Amarna tablets (Ibid. (Sonderabzug, p. 22)), so still more clearly here, is seen to have been the diplomatic script, and in good measure the Babylonian to have been the diplomatic language of the Orient in that age (Conder. “Tel Amarna Tablets.” Budge, “History of Egypt,” Vol. IV, pp.184-241.). And the large admixture of Babylonian words and forms in these Hittite inscriptions opens the way for the real decipherment of the Hittite language (Winckler, O. L. Z., December 15, 1906. Sonderabzug.), and imagination can scarcely promise too much to our hopes for the light which such a decipherment will throw upon the historical and cultural background of the Bible.
Only one important point remains to be cleared up, the relation between the Hittite language of these cuneiform tablets and the language of the Hittite hieroglyphic inscription (Messersmidt, Mitteilungen der Vorderasiatischen Ges-selchaft; Corpus, Unscrip. Het. — 1902). That these were identical is probable; that the hieroglyphic inscriptions represent an older form of the language, a kind of “Hieratic,” is possible; that it was essentially different from the language of these tablets is improbable. There has been the Hittite vindication; the complete illumination of Hittite history is not likely to be long delayed.
3. THE PALESTINIAN CIVILIZATION
Other recent testimony of archaeology brings before us the Palestinian civilization of the conquest period. Palestinian explorations within the last few years have yielded a startling array of “finds” illustrating things mentioned in the Bible, finds of the same things, finds of like things, and finds in harmony with things (Vincent, “Canaan.”) Individual mention of them all is here neither possible nor desirable. Of incomparably greater importance than these individually interesting relics of Canaanite antiquity is the answer afforded by recent research to two questions:
1. First in order, Does the Canaanite culture as revealed by the excavations accord with the story of Israel at the conquest as related in the Bible? How much of a break in culture is required by the Bible account, and how much is revealed by the excavations? For answer, we must find a standpoint somewhere between that of the dilettante traveler in the land of the microscopic scientist thousands of miles away. The careful excavator in the field occupies that sane and safe middle point of view. Petrie (Petrie, “Lachish.”), Bliss (Bliss, “A Mound of Many Cities.”), Macalister (Macalister, “Bible Side Lights from the Mound of Gezer.”), Schumacker (Schumacker, “Excavations at Megiddo.”) and Sellin (Sellin, Tel-Taannek, “Denkschriften der Kaiserlichen Akademie in Wien.”)— these are the men with whom
to stand. And for light on the early civilization of Palestine, the great work of Macalister at Gezer stands easily first.
HISTORICAL VALUE OF POTTERY
In determining this question of culture, too much importance has been allowed to that estimate of time and chronological order which is gained exclusively from the study of pottery. The pottery remains are not to be undervalued, and neither are they to be overvalued. Time is only one thing that shows itself in similarity or dissimilarity in pottery. Different stages of civilization at different places at the same time, and adaptation to an end either at the same time or at widely different times, show themselves in pottery, and render very uncertain any chronological deduction. And, still more, available material may result in the production of similar pots. Pottery in two very different civilizations arising one thousand years or more apart. This civilization of pots, as a deciding criterion, is not quite adequate, and is safe as a criterion at all only when carefully compared with the testimony of location, intertribal relations, governmental domination, and literary attainments.
These are the things, in addition to the pots, which help to determine — indeed, which do determine how much of a break in culture is required by the Bible account of the Conquest, and how much is shown by excavations. Since the Israelites occupied the cities and towns and vineyards and olive orchards of the Canaanites, and their “houses full of all good things” (Deuteronomy 6:10-11; Joshua 24:13; Nehemiah 9:25.), had the same materials and in the main the same purposes for pottery and would adopt methods of cooking suited to the country, spoke the “language of Canaan” (Isaiah 19:18.), and were of the same race as many of the people of Canaan, intermarried, though against their law (Ezekiel 16:44-46; Deuteronomy 7:3.), with the people of the land, and were continually chided for lapses into the idolatry and superstitious practices of the Canaanites (Judges 2:11-15; 3:7; 8:33-35; 18:30-31.), and, in short, were greatly different from them only in religion, it is evident that the only marked, immediate change to be expected at the Conquest is a change in religion, and that any other break in culture occasioned by the devastation of war will be only a break in continuance of the same kind of culture, evidence of demolition, spoliation, and reconstruction. Exactly such change in religion and interruption in culture at the Conquest period excavations show.
RELIGION AND CULTURE
(a) The rubbish at Gezer shows history in distinct layers, and the layers themselves are in distinct groups (Macalister, Q. S., 1903, pp, 8-9,49.). At the bottom are layers Canaanite, not Semitic; above these, layers Semitic, Amorite giving place to Jewish; and higher still, layers of Jewish culture of the monarchy and later times.
(b) The closing up of the great tunnel to the spring within the fortifications at Gezer is placed by the layers of history in the rubbish heaps at the period of the Conquest (Macalister, Q. S., 1908, p. 17.) But when a great fortification is so ruined and the power it represents so destroyed that it loses sight of its water-supply, surely the culture of the time has had an interruption, though it be not much changed. Then this tunnel, as a great engineering feat, is remarkable testimony to the
advanced state of civilization at the time of its construction; but the more remarkable the civilization it represents, the more terrible must have been the disturbance of the culture which caused it to be lost and forgotten (Vincent, in Q. S., 1908, p. 228.).
(c) Again, there is apparent an enlargement of the populated area of the city of Gezer by encroaching upon the Temple area at the period of the Conquest (Macalister, Q. S., 1903, p. 49.), showing at once the crowding into the city of the Israelites without the destruction of the Canaanites, as stated in the Bible, and a
corresponding decline in reverence for the sacred enclosure of the High Place. While, at a time corresponding to the early period of the Monarchy ( Ibid.), there is a sudden decrease of the populated area corresponding to the destruction of the Canaanites in the city by the father of Solomon’s Egyptian wife (1 Kings 9:16.).
(d) Of startling significance, the hypothetical Musri Egypt in North Arabia, concerning which it has been said (Winckler, Orientalistische Forschungen, Series I, pp. 24-41.)the patriarchs descended thereto, the Israelites escaped from there, and a princess thereof Solomon married, has been finally and definitely discredited. For Gezer was a marriage dower of that princess whom Solomon married (1 Kings 9:16.), a portion of her father’s dominion, and so a part of the supposed Musri, if it ever existed, and if so, at Gezer, then, we should find some evidence of this people and their civilization. Of such there is not a trace. But, instead, we find from very early times, but especially at this time, Egyptian remains in great abundance (Macalister, Q. S., 1903, p. 309.).
(e) Indeed, even Egyptian refinement and luxuries were not incongruous in the Palestine of the Conquest period. The great rock-hewn, and rock-built cisterns at Taannek (Sellin, “Tel-Taannek,” p. 92.), the remarkable engineering on the tunnel at Gezer (Macalister, Q. S., 1908, Jan.-Apr.), the great forty-foot city wall in an Egyptian picture of Canaanite war (Petrie, “Deshasha,” Plate IV.), the list of richest Canaanite booty given by Thothmes III (Birch, “Records of the Past,” 1st Series, Vol. II, pp. 35-52, “Battle of Megiddo.” Also Lepsius, “Denkmaler.” Abth. III. B1. 32, 31st, 30th, 30B, “Auswahl,” XII, L. 42-45.), the fine ceramic and bronze utensils and weapons recovered from nearly every Palestinian excavation (Macalister-Vincent, Q. S., 1898-08.), and the literary revelations of the Amarna tablets ( Budge, “History of Egypt,” Vol. IV, pp. 184-241.), together with the reign of law seen by a comparison of the scriptural account with the Code of Hammurabi, show (Genesis 21-38. King, “Code of Hammurabi.”) Canaanite civilization of that period to be fully equal to that of Egypt.
(f) Then the Bible glimpses of Canaanite practices and the products of Canaanite religion now uncovered exactly agree. The mystery of the High Place of the Bible narrative, with its sacred caves, lies bare at Gezer and Taannek. The sacrifice of infants, probably first-born, and the foundation and other sacrifices of children, either infant or partly grown, appear in all their ghastliness in various places at Gezer and “practically all over the hill” at Taannek (Macalister, Q. S., 1903, ff., and “Bible Side Lights,” Chap. III. Also Sellin, “Tel-Taannek,” pp. 96-97.).
(g) But the most remarkable testimony of archaeology of this period is to the Scripture representations of the spiritual monotheism of Israel in its conflict with the horrible idolatrous polytheism of the Canaanites, the final overthrow of the latter and the ultimate triumph of the former. The history of that conflict is as plainly written at Gezer in the gradual decline of the High Place and giving way of the revolting sacrifice of children to the bowl and lamp deposit as it is in the inspired account of Joshua, Judges and Samuel. And the line that marks off the territory of divine revelation in religion from the impinging heathenism round about is as distinct as that line off the coast of Newfoundland where the cold waters of the North beat against the warm life-giving flow of the Gulf Stream. The revelation of the spade in Palestine is making to stand out every day more clearly the revelation that God made. There is no evidence of a purer religion growing up out of that vile culture, but rather of a purer religion coming down and overwhelming it.
2. Another and still more important question concerning Palestine civilization is, What was the source and course of the dominant civilization and especially the religious culture reflected in the Bible account of the millennium preceding and the millennium succeeding the birth of Abraham? Was it from without toward Canaan or from Canaan outward? Did Palestine in her civilization and culture of those days, in much or in all, but reflect Babylonia, or was she a luminary?
PALESTINE AND BABYLONIA
The revision of views concerning Palestinian civilization forced by recent excavations at once puts a bold interrogation point to the opinion long accepted by many of the source and course of religious influence during this formative period of patriarchal history, and the time of the working out of the principles of Israel’s religion into the practices of Israel’s life. If the Palestinian civilization during this period was equal to that of Egypt, and so certainly not inferior to that of Babylonia, then the opinion that the flow of religious influence was then from Babylonia to Palestine must stand for its defense. Here arises the newest problem of biblical archaeology.
And one of the most expert cuneiform scholars of the day, Albert T.Clay (Clay, “Amurru, The Home of the Northern Semites.”), has essayed this problem and announces a revolutionary solution of it by a new interpretation of well-known material as well as the interpretation of newly acquired material. The solution is nothing less, indeed, than that instead of the source of religious influence being Babylonia, and its early course from Babylonia into Palestine, exactly the reverse is true, “That the Semitic Babylonian religion is an importation from Syria and Palestine (Amurru), that the creation, deluge, antediluvian patriarchs, etc., of the Babylonian Came from Amurru, instead of the Hebraic stories having Come from Babylonia, as held by nearly all Semitic scholars.”
This is startling and far reaching in its consequences. Clay’s work must be put to the test; and so it will be, before it can be finally accepted. It has, however, this initial advantage, that it is in accord with the apparent self consciousness of the Scripture writers and, as we have seen, exactly in the direction in which recent discoveries in Palestinian civilization point.
4. PALESTINE AND EGYPT
Again archaeology has of late furnished illumination of certain special questions of both Old and New Testament criticism.
1. “Light from Babylonia” by L. W. King (King, “Chronology of the First Three Babylonian Dynasties.”) of the British Museum on the chronology of the first three dynasties helps to determine the date of Hammurabi, and so of Abraham’s call and of the Exodus, and, indeed, has introduced a corrective element into the chronology of all subsequent history down to the time of David and exerts a far-reaching influence upon many critical questions in which the chronological element is vital.
SACRIFICE IN EGYPT
2. The entire absence from the offerings of old Egyptian religion of any of the great Pentateuchal ideas of sacrifice, substitution, atonement, dedication, fellowship, and, indeed, of almost every essential idea of real sacrifice, as clearly established by recent very exhaustive examination of the offering scenes (Kyle, Recueil de Travaux. “Egyptian Sacrifices.” Vol. XXVII, “Further Observations,” Vol. XXXI. Bibliotheca Sacra, Apr., 1905, pp. 323-336.), makes for the element of revelation in the Mosaic system by delimiting the field of rationalistic speculation on the Egyptian side. Egypt gave nothing to that system, for she had nothing to give.
THE FUTURE LIFE IN THE PENTATEUCH
3. Then the grossly materialistic character of the Egyptian conception of the other world and of the future life, and the fact, every day becoming clearer, that the so-called and so-much-talked-about resurrection in the belief of the Egyptians was not a resurrection at all, but a resuscitation to the same old life on “oxen, geese, bread, wine, beer, and all good things,” is furnishing a most complete solution of the problem of the obscurity of the idea of the resurrection in the Pentateuchal documents. For, whether they came from Moses when he had just come from Egypt or are by some later author attributed to Moses, when he had just come from Egypt; the problem is the same: Why is the idea of the resurrection so obscure in the Pentateuch? Now to have put forth in revelation the idea of the resurrection at that time, before the growth of spiritual ideas of God and of worship here, of the other world and the future life there, and before the people under the influence of these new ideas had outgrown their Egyptian training, would have carried over into Israel’s religious thinking all the low, degrading materialism of Egyptian belief on this subject. The Mosaic system made no use of Egyptian belief concerning the future life because it was not by it usable, and it kept away from open presentation of the subject altogether, because that was the only way to get the people away from Egypt’s conception of the subject.
4. The discovery of the Aramaic papyri at Syene (Margoliouth, “Expository Times,” December, 1907. Josephus, “Antiquities,” 11:7; Deadorus Siculus: Sec. 3; 17-35. Nehemiah 13:28; 12:22; 2 Esdras 5:14.) made possible a new chapter in Old Testament criticism, raised to a high pitch hopes for contemporary testimony on Old Testament history which hitherto hardly dared raise their heads, and contributed positive evidence on a number of important points. Tolerable, though not perfect, identifications are made out for Bagoas, Governor of the Jews; of Josephus and Diodorus; Sanballat, of Nehemiah and Josephus; and Jochanan, of Nehemiah and Josephus. But more important than all these identifications is the information that the Jews had, at that period, built a temple and offered sacrifice far from Jerusalem. Wellhausen (Wellhausen, Ency. Brit., Vol. 18, p. 509.) lays down the first stone of the foundation of his Pentateuchal criticism in these words: “The returning exiles were thoroughly imbued with the ideas of Josiah’s reformation and had no thought of worshiping except in Jerusalem. It cost them no sacrifice of their feelings to leave the ruined High Places un-rebuilt. From this date, all Jews understood, as a matter of course, that the one God had only one sanctuary.” So much Wellhausen. But here is this petition of the Jews at Syene in the year 407 B.C. after Nehemiah’s return declaring that they had built a temple there and established a system of worship and of sacrifices, and evidencing also that they expected the approval of the Jews at Jerusalem in rebuilding that temple and re-establishing that sacrificial worship, and, what is more, received from the governor of the Jews permission so to do, a thing which, had it been opposed by the Jews at Jerusalem was utterly inconsistent with the Jewish policy of the Persian Empire in the days of Nehemiah.
NEW TESTAMENT GREEK
5. Then the re-dating of the Hermetic writings (Petrie, “Personal Religion in Egypt Before Christianity.”) whereby they are thrown back from the Christian era to 500-300 B.C. opens up a completely new source of critical material for tracing the rise and progress of theological terms in the Alexandrian Greek of the New Testament. In a recent letter from Petrie, who has written a little book on the subject, he sums up the whole case, as he sees it, in these words: “My position simply is that the current religious phrases and ideas of the B.C. age must be grasped in order to understand the usages of religious language in which the New Testament is written. And we Can never know the real motive of New Testament writings until we know how much is new thought and how much is current theology in terms of which the Euangelos is expressed.”
Whether or not all the new dates for the writings shall be permitted to stand, and Petrie’s point of view be justified, a discussion of the dates and a critical examination of the Hermetic writings from the standpoint of their corrected dates alone can determine; but it is certain that the products of the examination cannot but be far-reaching in their influence and in the illumination of the teachings of Christ and the Apostles.
Last and more generally, of recent testimony from archaeology to Scripture we must consider the identification of places, peoples, and events of the Bible narrative. For many years archaeologists looked up helplessly at the pinholes in the pediment of the Parthenon, vainly speculating about what might have been the important announcement in bronze once fastened at those pinholes. At last an ingenious young American student carefully copied the pinholes; and from a study of the collocation divined at last the whole imperial Roman decree once fastened there. So, isolated identification of peoples, places, and events in the Bible may not mean so much; however startling their character, they may be, after all, only pinholes in the mosaic of Bible history, but the collocation of these identifications, when many of them have been found, indicates at last the whole pattern of the mosaic.
Now the progress of important identifications has of late been very rapid. It will suffice only to mention those which we have already studied for their intrinsic importance together with the long list of others within recent years. In 1874, Clermont-Ganneau discovered one of the boundary stones of Gezer (Clermont-Ganneau in “Bible Side Lights,” p. 22.) , at which place now for six years Mr. R. A. Stewart Macalister has been uncovering the treasures of history of that Levitical city (Macalister, “Bible Side Lights.” Also Q. S., 1902-09.); in 1906, Winckler discovered the Hittites at their capital city; in 1904-1905, Schumacker explored Megiddo; in 1900-1902, Sellin, Taannek; Jericho has now been accurately located by Sellin and the foundations of her walls laid bare; the Edomites, long denied existence in patriarchal times, have been given historical place in the time of Meremptah by the papyrus Anastasia (Muller, “Asien und Europa.”); Moab, for some time past in dispute, I identified beyond further controversy at Luxor in 1908, in an inscription of Rameses II., before the time of the Exodus (Kyle, Recueil de Travaux, Vol. XXX. “Ethnic and Geographical Lists of Rameses II.”); while Hilprecht at Nippur (Hilprecht, “Explorations in Babylonia.”), Glaser in Arabia (Weber, Forschungsreisen — Edouard Glaser; also “Studien zur Sudarabischen Altertumskunde,” Weber.), Petrie at Maghereh and along the route of the Exodus (Petrie, “Researches in Sinai.”), and Reisner at Samaria have been adding a multitude of geographical, ethnographical and historical identifications.
The completion of the whole list of identifications is rapidly approaching, and the collocation of these identifications has given us anew, from entirely independent testimony of archaeology, the whole outline of the biblical narrative and its surroundings, at once the necessary material for the historical imagination and the surest foundation of apologetics. Fancy for a moment that the peoples, places and events of the wanderings of Ulysses should be identified: all the strange route of travel followed; the remarkable lands visited and described, the curious creatures, half human and half monstrous, and even unmistakable traces of strange events, found, all just as the poet imagined, what a transformation in our views of Homer’s great epic must take place! Henceforth that romance would be history. Let us reverse the process and fancy that the peoples, places, and events of the Bible story were as little known from independent sources as the wanderings of Ulysses; the intellectual temper of this age would unhesitatingly put the Bible story in the same mythical category in which have always been the romances of Homer. If it were possible to blot out biblical geography, biblical ethnology, and biblical history from the realm of exact knowledge, so would we put out the eyes of faith, henceforth our religion would be blind, stone blind.
Thus the value of the rapid progress of identifications appears. It is the identifications which differentiate history from myth, geography from the “land of nowhere,” the record of events from tales of “never was,” Scripture from folk-lore, and the Gospel of the Saviour of the world from the delusions of hope. Every identification limits by so much the field of historical criticism. When the progress of identification shall reach completion, the work of historical criticism will be finished.
The present status of the testimony from archaeology to Scripture, as these latest discoveries make it to be, may be pointed out in a few words.
1. The history of civilization as everywhere illuminated is found to be only partially that of the evolutionary theory of early Israelite history, but very exactly that of the biblical narrative; that is to say, this history, like all history sacred or profane, shows at times, for even a century or two, steady progress, but the regular, orderly progress from the most primitive state of society toward the highest degree of civilization, which the evolutionary theory imperatively demands, if it fulfill its intended mission, fails utterly.
The best ancient work at Taannek is the earliest. From the cave dwellers to the city builders at Gezer is no long, gentle evolution; the early Amorite civilization leaps with rapid strides to the great engineering feats on the defenses and the water-works. Wherever it has been possible to institute comparison between Palestine and Egypt, the Canaanite civilization in handicraft, art, engineering, architecture, and education has been found to suffer only by that which climate, materials and location impose; in genius and in practical execution it is equal to that of Egypt, and only eclipsed, before Graeco-Roman times, by the brief glory of the Solomonic period.
2. When we come to look more narrowly at the details of archaeological testimony, the historical setting thus afforded for the events of the Bible narrative is seen to be exactly in harmony with the narrative. This is very significant of the final outcome of research in early Bible history. Because views of Scripture must finally square with the results of archaeology; that is to say, with contemporaneous history, and the archaeological testimony of these past five years well indicates the present trend toward the final conclusion. The Bible narrative plainly interpreted at its face value is everywhere being sustained, while, of the great critical theories proposing to take Scripture recording events of that age at other than the face value, as the illiteracy of early Western Semitic people, the rude nomadic barbarity of Palestine and the Desert in the patriarchal age, the patriarchs not individuals but personifications, the Desert “Egypt,” the gradual invasion of Palestine, the naturalistic origin of Israel’s religion, the inconsequence of Moses as a law-giver, the late authorship of the Pentateuch, and a dozen others, not a single One is being definitely supported by the results of archaeological research. Indeed, reconstructing criticism hardly finds it worth while, for the most part, to look to archaeology for support.
The recent testimony of archaeology to Scripture, like all such testimony that has gone before, is definitely and uniformly favorable to the Scriptures at their face value, and not to the Scriptures as reconstructed by criticism.