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International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
Archaeology and Criticism
Scope of Article
Criticism, the art of scrutiny, is here limited mainly, though not exclusively, to the literary criticism of the Bible, now, following Eichhorn, commonly called the Higher Criticism. Thus "Archaeology and Criticism," the title of this article, is meant to designate the bearing of the archaeology of Bible lands upon the criticism, especially the Higher Criticism, of the Bible. The subject as thus defined calls for the discussion of, I. What archaeology can do in the case - the powers, rights and authority, that is to say, the Function of archaeology in criticism; and II. What archaeology has done in the case, the resulting effects of such archaeological evidence, that is to say, the History of the bearing of archaeology upon the criticism of the Bible.
The function of archaeology in criticism has only recently been given much attention and the opinions thereon have varied greatly.
(A) Ignored by Encyclopaedists
Biblical encyclopaedists generally, until the most recent, have not given this subject a place at all (Hastings Dictionary of the Bible , Encyclopedia Biblica , Smith, Dictionary of the Bible , Kitto, Encyclopedia of Biblical Literature , Hamburger, See Hauck-Herzog, Realencyklopadie fur protestantische Theologie und Kirche , Eadie, Biblical Encyclopedia ). McClintock and Strong's Encyclopedia Biblical and Ecclesiastical Literature has an article on "Biblical Archeology" consisting entirely of bibliography , also an article of a general character under "Sac. Ant." The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge Encyclopedia has an article, The Catholic Encyclopedia , 1907, has an article under the title "Biblical Antiquities," and the Jewish Encyclopedia , 1902, has an article of five pages on "Biblical Archeology" But on the function of archaeology in criticism there is almost nothing anywhere.
(B) Variously Estimated by Critics
Critics have varied much in their estimate of the value of archaeology in criticism, according to their individual predilections and their critical theories, but until very recently archaeology has not generally been given a commanding, or even a prominent, place in criticism. Wellhausen seems to declare for the dominance of archaeology in criticism in the beginning of his History of Israel , though he very much ignores it in the pages that follow (History of Israel , 12). Driver (Authority and Archaeology , 143-50), thinks "testimony of archaeology sometimes determines the question decisively," but is "often strangely misunderstood," and the defeats of criticism at the hands of archaeology are often "purely imaginary" (LOT , 1897, 4). Orr thinks "archaeology bids fair before long to control both criticism and history" (POT , 305-435). Eerdmans, successor to Kuenen at Leyden, definitely and absolutely breaks with the Wellhausen school of criticism, chiefly on the ground that archaeology has discredited their viewpoint and the historical atmosphere with which they have surrounded the Old Testament. Wiener, the most prominent of recent Jewish critics, also believes that a proper apprehension of the nature of ancient institutions, customs, documents and codes, i.e. archaeology, and especially the archaeology of the Bible itself, is clearly decisive in its influence on the issue raised by the Wellhausen school (BS , 1908-10).
(C) Urged by Archaeologists
Archaeologists generally for a long time have been putting forward the superior claims of their science in the critical controversy (Brugsch, Egypt under the Pharaohs; Naville, Recueil de Travaux , IV, N.S.; Petrie, Hyksos and Israelite Cities , chapters i-iv; Researches in Sinai, 188-223; Spiegelberg, Aufenthalt Israels in Aegypten; Steindorf, Explorations in Bible Lands (Hilprecht), 623-90; Sayce, Higher Criticism and the Monuments; Hommel, Ancient Hebrew Tradition , xi; Jeremias, Das alte Testament im Lichte des alten Orients ).
The function of archaeology in criticism, as fully brought to light by recent discussion, is as follows:
1. Historical Setting
Archaeology furnishes the true historical setting of Scripture. In the criticism of a painting, it is of the utmost importance to hang the picture aright before criticism begins. It is not greatly different in the criticism of literature, and especially Biblical literature. The patriarchs and prophets and psalmists are the "old masters" of spirituality and of religious literature; their productions were brought forth under certain social, political, moral and religious conditions, and within certain surroundings of influences, enemies, opportunities, temptations and spiritual privileges. It is only archaeology that can hang their pictures aright, and it is only when thus hung that true criticism is ready to begin. The critic is only then a critic when he has seen how archaeology has hung the picture (BST , 1906, 366).
2. Guidance to Methods
Archaeology gives guidance to the methods of criticism. This it does; (a ) Presuppositions:
With regard to presuppositions . Presuppositions are inevitable from our mental constitutions, and necessary to the consideration of any subject, since all subjects cannot be considered at once. But our presuppositions are naturally, to a large extent, those induced by our own experience and environment, until we are otherwise instructed. As it is only archaeology that is able to instruct us concerning the exact circumstances of certain portions of the Bible it is evident that, in those portions, without the instruction which archaeology can give, we cannot be assured of correct presuppositions in the critic.
(b ) Canons:
Archaeology gives guidance concerning the canons of criticism. It is of the utmost importance that a literature should be judged only by the canons followed by its own literati. The innumerable literary remains of Egypt and Babylonia reveal methods and standards very different from each other, and still more different from those of modern western literature, but exhibiting to a marked degree the literary peculiarities of the Old Testament. In Babylonian literature, much attention is paid to epochal chronology. In Egyptian literature, comparatively little attention is given to chronology, and what chronology there is, is seldom epochal, but either synchronistic or merely historianic. In the Old Testament there is a mixture of all these kinds of chronology. Again, in Babylonian literature, there is carefulness and some degree of accuracy; in Egyptian literature, carelessness, slovenliness and inaccuracy are provokingly frequent. The Scriptures of the Old Testament are, in this respect, in striking contrast to these other literatures, ye t nowhere in ancient oriental literature is there the mathematical rigidity of statement demanded in occidental literature today; on the other hand there is frequently a brevity and abruptness of literary method which, to western minds, appears to be fragmentariness of documents. The attempt to elucidate oriental literature in the Bible and out of it by applying thereto the tests and standards of western literature is not less disastrous than would be the attempt to judge western literature by these oriental peculiarities.
(c ) Literary Form:
Archaeology gives guidance concerning literary form . Much of the definiteness and unity of modern literature is due to the arts of printing and book-binding. All archaeological literature of Bible lands, lacking, as it does, the influence of these arts, is, in form, indefinite, or fragmentary, or both. These peculiarities in form and the causes of the same, archaeology makes very plain by abundant illustration. It makes clear, also, that fragmentariness and indefiniteness in oriental literature, in so far as it arises from the literary form and not from partial destruction of documents, in no wise militates against integrity.
(d ) Interpretation:
Archaeology gives guidance concerning interpretation . Archaeology admonishes us of the truism, too often overlooked, that a language or literature means only what it is understood to mean by those from whom it comes, so that the etymological, syntactical and speculative methods of interpretation employed in criticism, in order to be reliable, must have the support of the historical method. In the absence of this support, more especially if contemporary history as revealed by archaeology be antagonistic, interpretation, though supported by all the other methods of criticism, is very precarious. The interpretation of a rubric by the etymological and analytical methods may be partly or completely overthrown by a single picture or a brief description of the priest at the altar. For instance, it is very disquieting to compare the remarks of commentators on Bible references to the worship at high places with the facts revealed by the recent discovery of high places and the worship there conducted (Macalister, PEFS , 1903, 23-31; Robinson, BW , January, 1901; January, 1908, 219-25, 317-18; Vincent, Canaan , 144). Archaeology must guide in the interpretation of ancient literature, whether that which has just been dug up, as the recent finds of manuscripts and monuments, or that which has never been lost, as in the Bible itself.
3. Facts to Test Theories
Archaeology supplies facts wherewith to test theories.
Facts and Correct Criticism Agree:
There can be no real antagonism between the facts of archaeology and a correct literary criticism of trustworthy documents. But who or what is to determine when the criticism is correct? If there is conflict between the facts of archaeology and the conclusions of criticism, which must give way? To ask the question is to answer it. Theory must always give way to facts. "Where the testimony of archaeology is direct, it is of the highest possible value, and, as a rule, determines a question decisively; even where it is indirect, if it is sufficiently circumstantial and precise, it may make a settlement highly probable" (Driver, Authority and Archaeology , 143).
This prerogative of archaeological facts in the testing of critical theories must, then, of necessity be given wide and positive recognition.
(a) Theories Need Attestation
No theory is to be finally accepted and made applicable to faith and life until tested and attested by facts; if it be a theory in the field of Nature, by the facts of Nature; if in the field of experience, by facts of experience; if in the field of history, byfacts of history. The Master brings even revelation to this test when He says, "If any man willeth to do his will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or whether I speak from myself" ( John 7:17 ). Anything in the Bible may be discredited by theory; as everything in heaven and earth may be - indeed, has been - discredited by theory. One might as safely abandon the beaten track for the most alluring but unconfirmed appearance of an eastern desert, as turn one's life aside to a theory unattested by fact. However perfect the appearance, it may, after all, be only the mirage, and the disappointed pilgrim may never get back to the safe road. Let theory first be confirmed by fact; then it may be received into the life.
(b) Success not Attestation
Even a theory which meets all the known conditions of the case in hand is not by that fact proved to be true, and therefore to be received into the life. The most alluring danger to which criticism is subject is the contrary assumption that a theory which meets all the known conditions of the case in hand is thereby proved to be true. This is not the case. Such a theory must, in addition, be corroborated by facts independently brought to light, or by mysteries unlocked; and even if mysteries be unlocked, the theory is not necessarily an entirely correct theory - the key that turns the lock must be something like the key that belongs to it, but may after all, be a false key. There must, in any case, whether of mysteries unlocked or of facts otherwise brought to light, be independent, genuine evidence in addition to the adaptability of theory to all the known conditions of the case in hand. And furthermore, a theory must not only be able to meet the test of some additional facts, but the test of all the conditions imposed by any additional facts brought to light, and be able, also, to incorporate these new facts as naturally as those upon which theory was originally constructed.
(1) Theory in Life
The problem is not to determine one or several of the ways in which an event might have taken place, but the one way in which it did take place. A theory which meets all the conditions of the case in hand may be one of the several ways in which the event might have taken place, but only by independent, genuine, corroborative evidence is any theory to be attested as the way in which the event actually did take place. That this statement of the case is correct in the experiences of life , we have abundant evidence in the proceedings of courts of law. The most careful procedure does not wholly prevent false convictions. The prosecutor presents a theory of the commission of a crime which meets all the conditions of the case as made out by the evidence, convinces twelve jurymen, and secures a conviction. Yet sometimes afterward it is found out that another person committed the crime in an entirely different way. That the dictum under discussion is inapplicable to literature is equally well established.
Sir Peter LePage Renouf argued with great acuteness and force that it is possible to assign significations to an unknown script, give meanings to the words thus formed, construct a grammar and translate inscriptions as historical statements and make good sense, though not a single sign, or word, or construction, or thought be correct (Life-work , I, 6, 7). He says of such a method: "It is not difficult to make out the Ten Commandments, the Psalms of David, the Homeric Poems, or the Irish Melodies, on any ancient or modern monument whatever, and in any language you please."
(2) Theory in Literature
Actual examples in fulfillment of Renouf's warning thesis are not wanting. The grotesque, yet confident, efforts at the decipherment of the Egyptian hieroglyphs before the discovery of the Rosetta Stone are not forgotten. Dr. Budge says (The Mummy , 124): "In more modern times the first writer at any length on hieroglyphics was Athanasius Kircher, the author of some ponderous works in which he pretended to have found the key to the hieroglyphic inscriptions, and to translate them. Though a man of great learning, it must be plainly said that, judged by scholars of today, he would be considered an impostor." Joseph de Guignes (1770) maintained that China was settled by Egyptians, and the Chinese characters only degenerate Egyptian hieroglyphs. Similar failures in the attempt to decipher the Hittite hieroglyphs and translate the Hittite inscriptions must form painful recollections to distinguished scholars yet living, whose efforts, extending in some cases not only to lists of signs but to syllabaries, vocabularies, grammars and translations, are now, in part, and in some cases, in toto , rejected by the whole learned world. However successful present or future efforts of these scholars may prove to be, they have, in part at least, themselves repudiated their former work. The most plausible theory of a literature, though it seem to embrace every detail, may, after all, be found to be, as in one or two of the instances referred to above, wholly false when tested by the principles of philology and the facts of contemporary history.
(3) Theory in History
The dangers of unconfirmed theory in life and literature are even greater in history , which, in its present-day form, is but life written down, human experiences given over to all the accidents and conventionalities of literature. The warnings here from Egyptian and classical history and literature are not to be disregarded. Menes and other early kings of Egypt were declared by critics to be mere mythological characters; likewise Minos of Crete; and the stories of Troy and her heroes were said to belong to "cloudland." But the spades of Petrie at Abydos (Royal Tombs ), of Evans at Knossos (Quarterly Review , October, 1904, 374-95), and of Schliemann at Troy (Ilios: City and Country of the Trojans ), have shown the "cloudland" as solid earth, and the ghostly heroes to be substantial men of flesh and blood. If we are to learn anything from experience, certainly no theory of either sacred or profane history is to be accepted as final until tested and attested by facts.
(c) Source of the Needed Facts
Only archaeology is bringing forth any new facts on the questions raised by criticism. Criticism produces only theories; it combines facts, but produces none. Exegetes and commentators rarely, if ever, now bring to light new facts any more than present-day philosophers give the world new thoughts. A flood of light is, indeed, pouring across the page of the exegete and the commentator in these latter days which makes their work inestimably more helpful for interpretation, but the source of that light is neither criticism nor exegesis, but archaeology. Archaeology it is which sets alongside the Bible history the facts of contemporary life and thus illustrates Biblical literature and literary methods by contemporary literature and the methods of contemporary literati, and which makes the purity, sanctity and divinity of the things of revelation stand out in their own glorious light by setting round about them the shadows of contemporary ritual and morality and superstition.
(d) Scope of Function
Hence, no critical theory of the Bible is to be finally accepted and made a part of our faith until tested and attested by archaeological facts. Even Wellhausen, however far he departs from this principle in the course of his criticism, seems to lay it down as fundamental in the beginning of his History of Israel , when he says: "From the place where the conflagration was first kindled the fire men keep away; I mean the domain of religious antiquities and dominant religious ideas - that whole region as Vatke in his Biblical Theology has marked it out. But only here, where the conflict was kindled, can it be brought to a definite conclusion" (History of Israel , 12). G. A. Smith quotes also with approval these words from Napoleon (Campagnes d'Egypte et de Syrie dictées par Napoléon lui-même , II): "When camping upon the ruins of the ancient cities, someone read the Bible aloud every evening in the tent of the General-in-Chief. The verisimilitude and the truthfulness of the descriptions were striking. They are still suited to the land after all the ages and the vicissitudes." But Dr. Smith adds, "This is not more than true, yet it does not carry us very far.... All that geography can do is to show whether or not the situations are possible at the time to which they are assigned; even this is a task often beyond our resources" (HGHL , 108). Thus critics, while here and there acknowledging the proper function of archaeology in criticism, have not heretofore allowed it much scope in the exercise of that function.
Limitations of Discussion
The history of archaeology in criticism to be set forth here has mainly to do with the testing of critical theories by archaeological facts. The contributions of archaeology to the furnishing of the historical setting of the Biblical narratives make up a large part of this and every dictionary of the Bible. The history of the guidance of critical methods by archaeological information is in the making. There can hardly as yet be said to be any to record.
A Wide Field
The field opened up for the testing of critical theories by the results of archaeological research is so varied and so extended that only an outline can be given here. Extravagant claims concerning the outcome of this testing have been made both by some critics and by some of their opponents; as when Dr. Driver says, after except the points upon which the evidence of archaeology is neutral, "On all other points the facts of archaeology, so far as they are at present known, harmonize entirely with the position generally adopted by the critics" ( Authority and Archaeology , 145); or as when the astronomer, C. Piazzi Smyth, thought that the great pyramid proved the "wisdom of the Egyptians" to have included some of the abstruse problems of higher mathematics; and Dr. Seiss, in his Miracle in Stone , was confident that the same colossal monument of Egypt definitely portrayed some of the extreme positions of the premillennial theology.
Some of the instances of the testing of critical theories concerning the Scriptures by the facts of archaeology, for which unquestionable historical proofs can be offered, are here presented.
1. Theories Not Affecting Historicity or Integrity
Many critical theories, notably those not affecting the historicity or the integrity of the Scriptures, i.e. accordant with the face value of Scripture, have been corroborated and others discredited.
(A) Theories Corroborated
(1) Geography and Topography
The theory of the geographical and topographical trustworthiness of Scripture, i.e. that the peoples, places and events of Scripture are to be found just where the Bible places them. Attempts to belittle the importance of this geographical and topographical corroboration of the trustworthiness of the Scriptures have been made (Driver, Authority and Archaeology , 148; also LOT , xi; Smith, HGHL , 108), but such attempts are not satisfying. The theory of the correctness of the Biblical statements has been of well-nigh universal acceptance; archaeologists have fitted out expensive expeditions in accordance with it, exegesis has allowed it to enter into its conclusions, discussion has proceeded upon the assumption of its correctness, the whole body of identifications which make up Biblical geography and topography attest it, and the whole list of sacred geographies, uniform in every essential particular, are in evidence in support of this theory, even the works of those writers who have spoken disparagingly of it.
(2) Story of the Nations
The theory of the ethnographical correctness of Scripture. That the relation between peoples as indicated in Scripture is correct, has been a working theory for all general purposes and only departed from for special ends. Kautzsch says ( Die bleibende Bedeutung des Alttestaments , 17): "The so-called Table of Nations remains, according to all the results of monumental exploration, an ethnographic original document of the first rank, which nothing can replace." The progress of archaeological research has confirmed this general working theory and every year adds new confirmation with regard to particular items which, for some special end, have been represented as against theory. That the general theory of the correctness of the tribal relationships in Scripture has been, and is being, sustained, is indisputable (Hommel, Ancient Hebrew Tradition; Gunkel, Israel und Babylonien , chapter vi; Sayce, Patriarchal Palestine , chapter ii; Winckler, OLZ , December 15, 1906; Budge, History of Egypt , I; Orr, POT , 400-401, 529-30). See TABLE OF NATIONS .
(3) Accuracy of Scripture
The theory of the accuracy of Scripture in both the originals and the copies. Every theory of inspiration postulates this in greater or less degree, and the most prevalent analytical theory put forth by criticism, with its lists of words indicating, as it is asserted, authorship, demands, for its very life, a degree of accuracy and invariableness in the use of words in both the writing of originals and the transmission of them by copyists greater than that demanded by any the most exacting theory of inspiration. Wherever it has been possible to test the statements of Scripture in its multitudinous historical notices and references, archaeology has found it correct to a remarkable degree, and that in its present form and even in minute peculiarities of statement (Brugsch, Broderick edition, Egypt under the Pharaohs , chapters v-vi; Sayce, Patriarchal Palestine; Naville, Recueil de Travaux , IV, N.S.; Petrie, Tahpanhes; Tompkins, The Age of Abraham; Clay, Light on the Old Testament from Babel ).
(4) Bible Imagery
The theory of the correctness of the imagery of the Bible. This is another of the fundamental and universal working theories of criticism which is, however, sometimes forgotten. Whatever theory of the authorship and the origin of the various books of the Bible, there is always, with only a few special exceptions, the underlying assumption on the part of the critics of the correctness of the imagery reflecting the topography, the flora and the fauna, the seasons and the customs. Indeed, upon the trustworthiness of the imagery, as upon the exactness in the use of words, criticism depends. And this underlying assumption of criticism of every hue has been confirmed indisputably in its general features, and is being corroborated year by year in its minutest details, and even in those very special instances where it has been disputed. To this end testify the whole company of oriental residents, intelligent travelers and scientific investigators (Thomson; Van Lennap; Robinson; Stanley; Palmer, Desert of the Exodus; Trumbull, Kadesh Barnea; Clermont-Ganneau, Archaeological Researches; Van Dyke, Out of Doors in the Holy Land ).
Besides these theories of a general character, some concerning particulars may be noticed:
(5) Garden of Eden
The theory of the location of the Garden of Eden somewhere in the Euphrates Valley. This theory has been all but universally held and, while it is not yet definitely of substantiated, is receiving cumulative corroboration along ethnological lines. Wherever it is possible to trace back the lines of emigration of the early nations mentioned in the Bible, it is always found that the ultimate direction is toward a certain comparatively small area in western Asia.
(6) The Flood
The geological theory concerning the flood of Noah as the last great change in land levels is being most exactly confirmed, not only by investigations into glacial history, but by examination of the records of the cataclysm left upon the mountains and valleys of central and western Asia (Wright, The Ice Age in North America; and Scientific Confirmations of Old Testament History , chapters vii-xi). See
(7) Sodom and Gomorrah
The geological theory of the destruction of the Cities of the Plain has been exactly confirmed by the examination of the strata; a bituminous region, a great stratum of rock-salt capped by sulphur-bearing marls and conglomerates cemented by bitumen, an explosion of pent-up gases, which collect in such geological formations, blowing the burning brimstone high in the air, and the waters of the Jordan coming down to dissolve the salt of the ruptured rock-salt stratum - all this provides for exactly what the Bible describes and for the conditions found there today; the pillar of smoke rising up to heaven, the rain of fire and brimstone falling back from the blowing-off crater, the catching of Lot's wife in the edge of the cataclysm and her encrustation with salt (Wright, Scientific Confirmations of Old Testament History , 144; Blankenkorn, ZDPV ,
(8) Hyksos and Patriarchs
It has long been thought that there might be some relationship between the mysterious Hyksos kings of Egypt and the Patriarchs to account for the favorable reception, even royal distinction, given the latter. This theory of relationship has been very fully established by the discoveries of Petrie at Tell el-Yehudiyeh (Petrie, Hyksos and Israelite Cities , 1-16). He has not shown to what race the Hyksos belonged, but he has shown their tribal character, that they were, as their name indicates, "Bedouin princes," leaders of the nomadic or semi-nomadic tribes of Upper and Lower Ruthen, i.e. Syria and Palestine, and northern and western Arabia, as were the Patriarchs, so that the latter were shown by the former the consideration of one "Bedouin prince" for another.
(B) Theories Discredited
(1) Uncivilized Canaan
The interesting picture which was wont to be drawn of Abraham leaving all his friends and civilization behind him to become a pioneer in a barbarous land has become dim and dimmer and at last faded out completely in the ever-increasing light of contemporary history revealed by Babylonian and Palestinian discoveries (Vincent, Canaan , chapters i-ii).
(2) Concerning Melchizedek
Concerning Melchizedek, "without father and without mother" (Hebrews 7:3 ), Tell el-Amarna Letters , while not wholly affording the needed information, have put to flight a host of imaginings of old commentators, and pointed toward Melchizedek's place in a line of kings at Jerusalem of unique title disclaiming any hereditary rights in the crown. "It was not my father and it was not my mother who established me in this position, but it was the mighty arm of the king himself who made me master of the lands and possessions of my father." This title, over the correct translation of which there has been much controversy, occurs not once only, but seems to have been required at every formal mention of the sovereignty of the king (Budge, History of Egypt , IV, 231-35).
(3) Oriental Chronology
The theory of the chronology of the early portions of the Old Testament, which made it to be so exactly on the principle of the system of chronology in vogue in our western world today, which, indeed, assumed that there could be no other system of chronology, and which was universally held as a working hypothesis by all classes of critics and commentators until very recently, has been greatly modified, if not utterly discredited, by both archaeological and ethnological research. Whatever may have been the system and method of chronology in use in early Biblical history, it certainly was not the same as our epochal chronology based upon exact astronomical time. The early chronologies of the Orient were usually historianic, oftentimes synchronistic, but very seldom epochal. The first, and usually the only, intent of present-day chronology is to chronicle the flight of time; the ancient systems of the East often introduced a moral element; events, rather than time, were chronicled, and the time in which nothing took place and the man who accomplished nothing were apt to be passed over in silence. Sometimes chronicles were arranged symmetrically, and again the visional conception of time found in all prophecy seems sometimes to have prevailed in the writing of history. Certain it is that ancient oriental thought regarded man's relation to life as of far greater importance than his relation to time - a more deeply moral conception of chronology than our own (Green, BS , April, 1890, 285-303).
2. Theories Affecting the Integrity or Historicity of Scripture
Many critical theories attacking the integrity or historicity of Scripture, i.e. reconstructive theories, have been utterly discredited by archaeological evidence, and, in some cases, abandoned by those who held them (compare Driver, Genesis , addenda, 7th edition, xx).
(A) Ignorance of Patriarchal Age
The ignorance of the patriarchal age was once a frontier fortress which threatened away all literary pretensions beyond that limit. This ignorance, though never held by all advocates of a reconstructing criticism, was held by some. Von Bohlen scoffed at the idea of the "undisciplined horde" possessing knowledge of laws ( Gen , 29-41; compare Reuss, Gesch des Altes Testament , 96; Dillmann, Nu and Josh , 594). Dr. Driver says, indeed, "It is not denied that the patriarchs possessed the art of writing," but thinks the possession of a literature by them a mere hypothesis, for the truth of which no positive ground can be alleged (Gen , xlii-xliii; also Orr, POT , 375). That this theory is absolutely abandoned by everyone hardly needs to be stated. The discovery of evidence of a postal system in Canaan in the days of Naram Sin (Sayce, Archaeology of the Cuneiform Inscriptions , 143; Heuzey, Revue d'Assyriologie , 1897, 1-12), the strict conformity of many of the patriarchal customs and events to written law, as revealed by DeMorgan's discovery of the Code of
(B) Religious Ideas in Canaan
The theory of the nomadic , semi-barbarous condition of Palestine and of the impossibility of high religious ideas among the patriarchs before the Exodus (Kuenen, Rel of Israel , I, 108-109), though most closely connected with the preceding, demands separate notice. This theory is essential to the current evolutionary view of Israel's history and has been definitely espoused by nearly all holding that view (G. A. Smith, The Expositor , 1908, 254-72; compare POT , 60). This theory, though less important to ot her schools of critics, has in fact been held by nearly all commentators. But the discovery of the earliest wall- and cistern-work at Taanach (Sellin), and the engineering feats on the defenses and the water-works at Gezer (Macalister and Vincent, PEFS ), and the 40-ft. city wall pictured in Egyptian illustration of Canaanite war (Petrie, Deshasha , plural IV), as well as the list of richest booty taken by Thothmes
(C) Evolutionary History
The theory of the evolution of Israel's history chiefly from a Palestinian origin and environment (Budde, Hist of Israel before the Exile , especially 77; Kuenen, Hist of Israel , 225; Wellhausen, Hist of Israel , 462). Palestine estinian discoveries show a contrast between the unique religion of the Hebrews and the religion of the surrounding peoples of Canaan as marked as it may well be. The evidence is not at all of a purer religion growing up out of the vile culture of Palestine, but of a purer re ligion coming down and overwhelming it (PEFS , 1902-9; G. A. Smith, Mod. Crit. and the Preaching of the Old Testament , chapter iv, especially 142; PEFS , 1905, 287-88).
Descending now to a few of the great mass of particulars, we may mention:
(D) Mythology and Bible
The theory of the legendary character of the four kings of Gen 14, and of the Hittites; and theory of the generally mythological character of the early portions of the Bible. The four kings have been called "petty sheiks of the desert," and their names "etymological inventions." The historical character of the account of these kings has been utterly discredited by many. Nöldeke in his Untersuchungen arrives at the result that the history (Gen 14) is throughout a "free creation," and the person of Melchizedek a "poetical figure." And Wellhausen thinks Nöldeke gave the "death-blow" to the historicity of the story (Wellhausen, Comp. of the Hexateuch , 311-12). Ed. Meyer is of the same opinion as Nöldeke, but expresses himself in a still more unfavorable manner (Gesch , 136). Hitzig, however, goes to the extreme of depreciation when he sees in the expedition of Chedorlaomer only an adumbration of the invasion by Sennacherib (2 Kings 19:13 ). Delitzsch gives a very comprehensive review of those critics who have regarded this narrative of the kings as legend of small or no historical basis (Gen , I, 396-99; compare Dillmann, Gen , II, 32-33). In addition, the mythological character of the early portions of the Bible generally has had ardent advocates (Stade, Gesch , 129-30; Schultz, Old Testament Theology , I, 31; Wellhausen, Gesch Israels , 317-20).
(1) Chedorlaomer and Allies
But the four kings have appeared in archaeological discoveries. While there is still some dispute about the identification of certain of them, the confederacy has appeared in Babylonia and also the Babylonian suzerainty over Palestine in the age called for by the narrative, and, indeed, the whole historical setting into which the narrative fits with perfect naturalness (Jeremias, Das alte Testament im Lichte des alten Orients; Hommel, Hebrew Tradition , chapter v; Clay, Light on the Old Testament from Babel , chapter vi). But myths do not receive archaeological confirmation such as has not only been given to the narrative of the confederacy of the four kings, but which is rapidly bringing out the features of the whole early Old Testament history (Gunkel, Gen , 263; Ladd, Doct of Sac Scrip , I, 737).
(2) The Hittites
Then grave doubts in the past have been raised concerning the Hittites . Occasionally it has been boldly said that "no such people ever existed" (compare Newman, Hebrew Monarchy , 184-85; Budge, Hist of Egypt , IV, 136). But in addition to the treaty of Rameses
(E) The Theory of Anachronisms
Aside from the general application of this theory by many critics to the traditional view of Scripture and the assertion of the systematic representation of earlier events in the light of much later times (Robertson, Early Religion , 30; Frip, Comp. of Gen ), many special instances of anachronisms have been alleged. Edom has been said to be mentioned too early in the narrative (De Wette, Int , II, 71, Parker's note; also Gunkel, Gen, 61). But an officer of Seti Meremptah II, about the time of the Exodus, in an official report, mentions the people of Edom as desiring to pasture their flocks in Goshen. They had thus early found their way clear across the Sinai peninsula (Müller, Asien und Europa , 135; compare Papyrus Anastasia). Then Moab, long unidentified, has had doubt cast on its existence at so early a time as its first mention; but it also occurs in an inscription of Rameses
3. Theories Now Challenged
Several critical theories are just now challenged in the name of archaeological discovery; whether or not the challenges will ultimately be sustained remains to be determined. A few only are mentioned here, but they are of such a character as, if ultimately sustained, will have a far-reaching effect upon criticism.
(A) Semitic Origins
The theory, long established and almost universally held, of the Babylonian origin and westward course of early Semitic culture , especially of religious traditions (Barton, Semitic Origins , chapter i; also "Tiamat," JAOS ,
(B) Invasion of Canaan
The theory of the gradual invasion of Palestine instead of the conquest is now for the first time challenged by evidence other than the record in Joshua. Such Palestinian researches and the collection of such evidence have but begun within a few years, and from the very breadth of the question the process is necessarily slow. So far, however, as the excavations have gone, the evidence is of a decided change in the culture even at such towns as Gezer, without, however, the Canaanite culture coming fully under Israelite influence and succumbing to it; exactly, in fact, as is represented in the Biblical narrative ( PEFS , 1903, 49, Macalister; ib, 1908, Macalister, 17; Vincent, 228).
(C) ad Date of Hermetic Writings
The post-Christian view of the Hermetic Writings . These Egyptian documents in the Greek tongue have been thought to reflect early Christian thought in Egypt, chiefly because of a certain "unholy resemblance" to gospel language found in them. A recent critical examination of these writings has established, it is claimed, by archaeological evidence gathered from the writings themselves, that the "unholy resemblance" to gospel expressions arose not from the reflection of Christian teaching, but from the appropriation by the evangelists of current expressions of Alexandrian Greek in use in pre-Christian theological language. This view of the Hermetic Writings, if finally established, cannot but have a far-reaching effect upon New Testament study (Petrie, Personal Religion in Egypt before Christianity ).
4. Reconstructive Criticism Not Confirmed
(A) The Claims of Some Critics
Not a single critical theory still maintained, either generally or by prominent individual critics, which proposes to take Scripture at other than its face value, has been sustained by archaeology. The assertion that is otherwise, that "on all other (controverted) points, the facts of archaeology, so far as they are at present known, harmonize entirely with the positions generally advocated by the critics" (Driver, Authority and Archaeology , 145; LOT (1897), Pref, xviii; Gen, addenda to 7th edition,
It is stated by Professor Sayce expressly, and by Dr. Orr and Professor A. T. Clay, by implication, that Nöldeke's arguments against the historical character of the narrative of Gen 14 have been refuted by archaeology. The statement supplies such an object-lesson of the methods on which the opponents of criticism not infrequently rely, that it may be worth while to explain here the grounds upon which it rests. Here are Professor Sayce's words (Monumental Facts , 1904, 54; cf, though without Nöldeke's name, Monuments , 161 f): "In 1869 the great Semitic scholar, Professor Nöldeke, published a treatise on the Unhistorical Character of Gen 14. He declared that 'criticism' had forever disproved its claim to be historical. The political situation presupposed by it was incredible and impossible; at so distant a date Babylonian armies could not have marched to Canaan, much less could Canaan have been a subject province of Babylonia. The whole story, in fact, was a fiction based upon the Assyrian conquest of Palestine in later days. The names of the princes commemorated in it were etymological inventions: eminent Semitic scholars had already explained those of Chedorlaomer and his allies from Sanskrit, and those of the Canaanite princes were derived from the events in which they were supposed to have borne a part." And then he goes on to declare triumphantly (55) how the progress of archaeology has refuted aH these statements....
It will probably surprise the reader to be told that, of the series of arguments thus attributed to Professor Nöldeke, while the one about the names is attributed to him with partial correctness (though in so far as it is stated correctly, it has not been refuted by archaeology), the other arguments were never used by him at all ... (xxxv). The one grain of truth in Professor Sayce's long indictment is that of the names of the five Canaanite kings, which are given, Bera and Birsha (suggesting the idea o f "evil" and "wickedness"), and perhaps Shinab and Shemeber as well, are formed artificially; but this (NB) is not asserted of the name of any of the four kings from the East.... The fact is, Nöldeke's arguments on Gen 14 have not been refuted, or even touched, by archaeology.... Professor Sayce has simply not mentioned Nöldeke's real arguments at all. Nor are they mentioned by Dr. Orr or Professor Clay.... Archaeology has met the arguments which Nöldeke did not use; it has not met the arguments which he did use. Nöldeke never questioned, as Professor Sayce declares that he did, the general possibility at this time of an expedition being sent from the far East into Palestine: his argument consisted in pointing out various historical improbabilities attaching to the details of a particular expedition; and archaeology can overthrow this argument only by producing evidence that this expedition, with the details as stated in Gen 14, actually took place. And this up to the present time (June, 1909) archaeology has not done.
(B) Nöldeke's Assertions
Compare with these declarations of Driver, one by one, though in somewhat different order, Nöldeke's own words. He says (Untersuchungen , 157-60):
The chapter begins with an imposing enumeration of kings, in whose time the narrated event is alleged to have occurred.... Of what use is the dating according to kings, the time of whose reign is perfectly unknown to us?... so that the dating is wholly superfluous and tells us nothing.
Bern and Birsha are said to be
quite decidedly unhistorical.... The alliterative pairing also of these names speaks more for their fictitious than for their historical origin. It is striking that for the single historical city of Zoar, no name of the king is given.... Besides, we are bound to no time, for the event recounted could quite as well have taken place in the year 4000 as 2000; the artificial chronology of Gen is for us no rule.... Whence the narrator got the names of the hostile kings we cannot say. They may really have been handed down to him, perhaps quite in another connection. However that may be, the utmost we can admit is that he has employed a few correct names intermingled with false or invented ones, and the appearance of historicity thus produced can as little permanently deceive us as the proper names and dates in the book of Esther.... Concede provisionally the correctness of the names of the kings and test the narrative further.
Here in a long paragraph, Nöldeke follows the reductio ad absurdum arguing that, from a historical standpoint, the provisional supposition is incredible and impossible, and concludes (163), "Now this whole expedition is historically improbable to the same extent that it is adapted to the production of a striking effect; the usual sign that it is fictitious.... Does not the manifest improbability of the narrative lie precisely in the details which give it the appearance of historicity?"
Concerning the story of Abram's pursuit of the kings and the rescue of Lot, he says (165): "If that is possible, then is nothing impossible. It may be replied that the number of Abram's servants was in reality much greater; but everything depends upon it, and the number belongs again to the very things which spread over the narrative the deceptive shimmer of historicity."
Of Melchizedek and the Amorite allies of Abram, he says (168): "So do the proofs pile up, that our narrative has no historical worth.... Even if the rest of the chapter were historical we would still hold Melchizedek a poetical figure." He sums up the argument in the following words (170-71): "In accordance with what has been said, it is very improbable that the composer in the chief matters rested upon a real tradition of the people, but we must accept as a fact that it is a free creation throughout."
On the same subject, in reply to some of his critics (Zeitschrift fur W. Theol , 1870, 218-19), he says:
I sum up once more the general points: (1) Of the names mentioned in Gen 14, several are unhistorical (the name of Sodom and Gomorrah, the three Amorites, Melchizedek; in my view, also, Abram and Lot, and probably the four overwhelmed cities). (2) The expedition of the kings cannot have taken place as narrated ... even through the very clearness of the narrative are we made to know that we have here to do with a romantic expedition, the course of which is determined by aim at sharper effect, and which has for itself no historical probability. (3) The small number of the host, in whose complete victory over the army of the four kings the story at last comes to a climax, is contrary to sense, while yet it designates about the utmost number which, as his own fighting men, a private citizen could put in the field.
Whoever now throughout all of this will hold to an historical kernel may do so; he must then admit that at some perfectly uncertain time in great antiquity a king of Elam ruled over the Jordan land and made a warlike expedition thither. But that would be the utmost concession I could make. Everything more precise, as numbers, names, etc., and also exactly that which produces the appearance of careful tradition and trustworthiness is partly false, partly quite unreliable ... more especially, beyond the conquest itself nothing whatever could be known. But to me it still seems much more probable, in view of the consistent, and for the aim of the narrator, exceedingly well ordered, but still, in reality, impossible course of the narrative, out from which there cannot be separated any single things as bare exaggeration of the tradition, that we have here a conscious fiction in which only a few historical names have been used.
(C) The Facts of Archaeology
Now, recalling to mind the facts of archaeology in this case (compare above) it becomes evident that they are very far from "harmonizing entirely" with the opinion advanced by Nöldeke and reiterated by Driver, and the method of advocating such "harmonizing" appears very clearly. Moreover, what is true of this particular theory of Nöldeke and Driver is equally true of other radical critical theories at present held. Of the current reconstructive theories of criticism - the patriarchs not individuals but personifications; the rude, nomadic, semi-barbarous condition of Palestine in the patriarchal age; the desert; Egypt; the comparative unimportance of Moses as a lawgiver; the gradual invasion of Palestine; the naturalistic origin of Israel's religion from astral myths; and the late authorship of the Pentateuch - not one is being sustained. In fact, however much archaeological evidence there may be that is negative in character or that is not definitely against the reconstructive theories of criticism, no one can point to a single definite particular of archaeological evidence whereby any one of these theories is positively sustained and corroborated.
5. The Present State of the Discussion
The present stage of progress of the testing of critical theories by archaeological evidence may briefly be stated. The Bible at its face value is being corroborated wherever archaeology immediately and definitely touches it. To illustrate this statement fully would be to cite every definite piece of archaeological evidence in the Biblical field of scientific research during the last one hundred years.
But views of Scripture must finally square with the results of archaeology, i.e. with contemporaneous history, and, just as archaeological research makes that contemporaneous history to appear, critical theories at variance therewith are of necessity giving way; so that, as far as the process has been carried to the present time, archaeology is bringing criticism into harmony with the face value of Scripture, and is not definitely and unequivocally encouraging attempts at literary reconstruction of any portion of the Bible, although sometimes asked to render such service.
The bibliography of the discussion has appeared in the references fully given throughout this article. The bibliography on the subject of this article, "Archaeology and Criticism," is, as indicated above, exceedingly meager, since the importance of the subject has but recently come to the front and been generally recognized. The following may be cited: Driver, in Authority and Archaeology (Hogarth), chapter i; Eerdmans, Hibbert Journal , July, 1909; also Alttestamentliche Studien; Orr, The Problem of the Old Testament , chapter xi; Bennett, Contemporary Review , 1906, 518.
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Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Archaeology and Criticism'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/isb/a/archaeology-and-criticism.html. 1915.
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27