Good News Magazine
April 1979
Volume: Vol XXVI, No. 4
Issue: ISSN 0432-0816
QR Code

   The managing editor of The Good News has placed before me a remarkable task. In updating our members and co-workers on the Jerusalem excavations, he has asked me to do this accompanying article. I have been requested to touch upon the beginnings of archaeology, how it informs mankind, the accuracy of applicable dating methods and its relevance or relationship to Biblical revelation. And I am to make it highly interesting to you readers!
   That is as challenging as many an archaeological excavation.
   There is one — and only one — means of achieving this major task. I am going to have to show you how to dig for the answers in your own community library, bookshop and museum. You will become knowledgeable armchair archaeologists.
   But first, let us understand a little about what archaeology is and its purpose.
   The word "archaeology" comes from the Greek archaia (meaning "ancient things") and logos (in this case, meaning "theory or science"). Historically, the word has had various shades of meaning. Since the late 1700s, however, it has been defined as a branch of learning that studies the material remains of man's past.
   Excavation often seems to the general public to be the most important and glamorous aspect of archaeology. It is, of course, exciting, and it is a prerequisite to any worthwhile endeavor of this kind. But interpretation of the data collected through excavations is the key to deciphering ancient findings. Making historical judgments, based on the interpretation, is the most important task of an archaeologist. It helps us piece together clues to the lifestyle and traditions of ancient peoples.

How you can understand

   Now that you have a general definition of the purpose of archaeology, let's examine ways that you can become more knowledgeable about this subject.
   I have had the privilege of visiting archaeological excavations in the United States, Britain, Ireland, Germany, Italy, Greece, Cyprus, the Soviet Union, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Iraq, Rhodesia, Thailand and Tonga in the South Pacific. I have participated in excavations in the Gaza Strip and in Syria on the Euphrates. Most of you will never have that opportunity in this life.
   You will have to dig in libraries and museums to discover the treasure of archaeology. That is how I commenced.
   And, in addition" you can search out men and women of understanding in the field of archaeology — such as at a local university. To be a knowledgeable armchair archaeologist you need to read and to listen to and converse with men and women in the field of archaeology and the related sciences. And to make your studies really valuable, read and understand your Bible. Find out how true archaeology and the Bible complement each other.

The Work's participation

   Ambassador College has participated with Hebrew University the past 10 years in the Jerusalem excavations. That contact has provided our students and the leadership of the Church and college with experience and knowledge in archaeology. You can acquire similar experience and knowledge through continuing education and extension programs from colleges and universities near you. The cultures studied may not be Middle Eastern, of course, but the techniques and methods of excavating are fundamentally the same. That is the fastest way to understand the limitations as well as the breadth and depth of archaeology.
   In addition to our 10-year participation in Israel, we have completed three years of cooperation in the Mesopotamia Project with the Institute of Archaeology at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). The Institute is under the direction of Giorgio Buccellati, a personal friend of many years.
   One of the services of the UCLA institute is the preparation of reviews of new books and journals of interest to people in the field of archaeology. A free mimeographed catalog listing all books thus far reviewed is available on request. This is a unique solution of obtaining valuable reviews on archaeological books you may check out from nearby central libraries or on occasion purchase.

Publishing too

   Now that I have mentioned books, let me point out that the Ambassador Foundation, through our own Gateway Publishers, has also assisted Israel's Tel Aviv University Institute of Archaeology in publishing Investigations at Lachtsh: The Sanctuary and the Residency (Lachish V) by Yohanan Aharoni. The volume is addressed primarily to the scholarly world.
   For those of you who know your Bible, Lachish was one of the major cities of Judah. It is mentioned in Joshua 10:13 and 12:11. King Amaziah was slain there (II Kings 14:19).
   Lachish was virtually the second capital of Judah. Lachish V sheds much new light on the city from the end of the Canaanite period throughout the Israelite period.
   Besides the excavation report, this book deals with the history of the city and its most important buildings. The destruction of Stratum III during the campaign of the Assyrian king, Sennacherib, in 701 B.C. is supported by new archaeological and historical investigation. The magnificent building on the top of Tel Lachish, defined by earlier excavators as a Persian residency, is examined and its interpretation as an Assyrian governor's palace is offered by the late Yohanan Aharoni.
   In around-the-world efforts to reach leaders and educators with the good news of the wonderful world tomorrow, Herbert W. Armstrong and his staff have had the privilege of meeting Dr. Abdel-Kader Hatem. He is "a former first deputy prime minister of Egypt and close friend of Egypt's President Anwar Sadat. Dr. Hatem has, since 1962, been minister of culture, information and tourism. Out of mutual respect we had Gateway Publishers copyright in 1976 Dr. Hatem's book, Life in Ancient Egypt, a volume addressed to the lay public.
   We ought to know what the ancient Egyptians thought. The first books of the Bible were written by men who spent major parts of their lives in Egypt. Life in Ancient Egypt reveals from a modern Egyptian's special point of view the art, literature, education and science of the ancient Nile valley. Dr. Hatem also lucidly describes medicine, ethics, religious thought, architecture, sentiment and beauty in the land of the pharaohs. All this background material was locked away from modern man until unlocked by linguists and archaeologists.

Digging through biblical archaeology

   It is important to know where to commence reading. So many volumes are published today, even in the field of archaeology. The logical start is with the city of Jerusalem. And the best volume for a beginner is Jerusalem Revealed: Archaeology in the Holy City 1968-1974. This finely illustrated work (in color and black and white) of the world's most significant city is published by the Israel Exploration Society, with which we have enjoyed splendid cooperation beginning 1968.
   One of the chapters in this volume is "The Archaeological Excavations Near the Temple Mount." It is written by Professor Binyamin Mazar. In a personal footnote on page 25 he writes: "J. [Yosef] Aviram has been of the greatest assistance as administrative director. Special gratitude is expressed to the Ambassador College of Pasadena, California, for considerable assistance in supporting the excavations," Yosef Aviram, a member of the Board of Governors of the Israel Museum, is a loyal friend of Ambassador Foundation.
   "You might follow the previous work with The Mountain of the Lord, another volume by Professor Mazar,. assisted by Gaalyah Cornfeld. It is published by Doubleday. This volume presents an immense time frame from the patriarchs to David to Jesus and into the 20th century. It is readily obtainable in public libraries since it is published outside Israel.
   In its 160 pages of text and 160 pages of exciting photographs, including color plates, this book tells the story for the public of the massive archaeological project that we know as the Jerusalem excavations, in which many of you have indirectly had a part. Shown are dramatic photos of supporting pillars of Herod's royal portico. Each pillar is so thick that three men with arms outstretched could not span them. Also shown is the fallen upper cornerstone of the temple mount on which a priest stood and blew the trumpet to herald the coming of the Sabbath, along with many other exciting photographs.
   As we expand our horizons, the next volume you would find valuable is A History of the Holy Land. It was edited by the late Michael Avi-Yonah and is published by the Macmillan Co. The sweep of •this volume is immense — from pre-Canaanite times through Israelite, Roman, Byzantine, Arabic, Crusader, Ottoman, British and now the Israeli periods.
   This book provides valuable material important to the understanding of the demographic; political and geographic setting of the Bible and to the study of current world history. It provides one of the best visual supports for the ideas that took root and flourished in Palestine, from whence they indelibly influenced the course of Western civilization.
   The contributions (made possible through your help) of the Ambassador Foundation to Israel's Department of Antiquities have helped to support the excavations of Professor Avi-Yonah conducted in Jerusalem in areas away from the temple mount. Before his death Professor Avi-Yonah was a consistent listener to the Jerusalem addresses of Mr. Armstrong.
   Another Israeli friend of the Ambassador Foundation is Yigael Yadin. Professor Yadin is a master of on-site details with an ingenious mind. He is recognized as one of the most able archaeological lecturers anywhere in the world.
   Three of his numerous books, Masada, Bar-Kokhba and Hazor, have gained world recognition for their wealth of facts, their photographic beauty and their significance to the accuracy of Palestinian archaeology. To fail to read at least one of these is to deny yourself the experience of living an almost day-to-day adventure in archaeology.
   Masada is the tragic story of the closing years of the Jews' first revolt against Rome at the time of the destruction of the second temple. BarKokhba is the spectacular account of the rediscovery of the legendary hero of the second Jewish revolt against Rome. Out of a crevice in a canyon near the Dead Sea, where it had lain for over 19 centuries, came a woman's bag. Out of the bag came a fragile batch of papyrus inside which were wrapped four wooden slats. And on these strips of wood the name Bar-Kokhba, guerrilla leader of the revolt against Hadrian's Rome. In addition were a spectacular range of clothes, glass and kitchen utensils of A.D. 132.
   Hazor is the rediscovery of a great citadel of the Canaanites — "for Hazor beforetime was the head of all those kingdoms" (Joshua 11:10). Hazor was found, after excavation, to be the largest city in all Canaan. Professor Yadin's attempt to reconstruct archaeological evidence for Joshua 11 and Judges 4 leads him to invert the order of biblical events. You must always be aware of human reasonings. The foundation of knowledge is the Bible. Apparent conflicts of evidence must be reexamined.
   I would be remiss at this point not to bring to your attention the role of the late Dame Kathleen Kenyon of England, who excavated Jericho and Jerusalem. Her Royal Cities of the Old Testament and Jerusalem: Excavating 3,000 Years of History and Archaeology in the Holy Land present a clear and enthralling description of archaeological evidence as it relates to the Bible.
   To complete our digging into biblical archaeological for this month we need The Archaeology of the New Testament: The Life of Jesus and the Beginning of the Early Church by Jack Finegan. It is published by Princeton University Press. His book is like taking a journey. He first investigates sites connected with John the Baptist, then proceeds through the cities made famous by Jesus' life. Each site is illustrated. The accompanying text contains a bibliography of the most important literature on the subject. You may pursue each area in depth as you have time and energy.
   But, you might ask, why have no figures been given to indicate the cost of each book? Answer: You ought first examine these books in your nearest central library. You will find each book, for you, may differ. One is worth reading; another is worth studying. Only when you plan to use a book as a handy reference again and again should you consider buying it. The best solution to this problem is to consider the paperbacks titled The Biblical Archaeologist Reader, volumes 1, 2 and 3.
   But they are meant to complement, not substitute for the excellently illustrated volumes I have previously mentioned.
   By this time you may think you will have penetrated in depth the subject of biblical archaeology upon reading these 15 books. May I surprise you?
   You have only scratched the surface!
   And I am sure the managing editor of The Good News agrees with that. We have, after all, only looked at the temple mount, the city of Jerusalem and some of the sites in Palestine. We have only made passing reference to Egypt and Mesopotamia at the beginning.
   What of the rest of the world? How did the people inhabiting the distant reaches of Africa, India, China, the Pacific, the vast plains of Russia, distant Ireland and the Americas come to settle where they did? But that is going too far afield from Babel for this one article!
   But by reading the material listed in this article you will be on your way to becoming a competent armchair archaeologist.

Back To Top

Good News MagazineApril 1979Vol XXVI, No. 4ISSN 0432-0816