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Don Stewart :: What Is the Role of Archaeology in Establishing the Reliability of the Bible?

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Don Stewart

One of the tools available for helping to determine the historical reliability of the Bible is the discipline of archaeology. Archeology is the study of ancient debris. From a careful study of the things that societies left behind, we are able to reconstruct much about them.

It Makes Things More Clear

As the geographical area in which the biblical events occurred becomes further studied, the historical details of the Bible become clearer. Through the work of the archaeologist many stories in the Bible, which were once considered false, are now shown to have actually happen. Certain historical details that were once questioned have now shown themselves to be true. In this sense, the science of archaeology has helped confirm some of the details of the Scriptures.

Archaeology Does Not Prove The Bible

However it should be emphasized that archaeology does not "prove the Bible." All archaeology can do is show that the background of biblical stories is consistent with the facts. It can show that the event could have happened but it cannot always show that it actually did happen.

Archaeology Has Its Limitations

In addition, archaeology has its limitations. They include the following.

1. There Were Poor Excavating Techniques In The Beginning

When the discipline of archaeology was first practiced the techniques used for excavating sites were poor. Unfortunately these sites cannot be re-investigated. All the data is forever lost.

2. There Is Conflicting Evidence

There is also the matter of conflicting evidence. Sometimes a site will yield evidence that conflicts with other finds. Consequently more information is needed.

3. The Interpretation Is Subjective

There is much subjective interpretation in archaeological finds. Two people, using the same data, may arrive at different conclusions.

4. There Are Changes In Interpretation

There have been some instances where the original interpretation of what was found was changed. Further investigation has caused a reversal of what was originally thought. This is another reason that archaeological data should be used with great caution. This should give us pause in too readily accepting anyone's findings.

5. There Have Been Hoaxes

There have also been a number of hoaxes in the history of archaeological investigation. While this does not happen that often we should be aware that it has happened in the past and can happen again.

6. There Are Many Issues Unsettled

There are a number of issues in Biblical research that remain unsettled. Consequently we await new data.

Sometimes the new data only makes the issue more confusing. This is another limitation of archaeology.

7. Many Events Are Unprovable

There are a number of biblical events, because of their very nature, that archaeology cannot prove. On other occasions the people living at the time did not leave anything behind. In either case, archaeology cannot comment one way or another on the event.


Archaeology is the study of ancient debris. It can be helpful in demonstrating that certain biblical events did actually occur. However the role of archaeology is limited. There have been poor techniques used in the past. Some of the evidence that has been unearthed is conflicting. There is also a great deal of subjectivity in the interpretation of what is found. Hoaxes have also been an unfortunate part of the story. Many issues remain unsettled while others are unprovable. Therefore, while archaeology can be a benefit to the study of Scripture, there are a number of limitations to its usefulness.


The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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