Gordon Clark on archaeology

“In recent years the magnificent development of archaeology has been claimed by Christians as demonstrative of their position. For example, the now antiquated Wellhausen theory (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wellhausen) affirmed that the Pentateuch, instaed of having been written by Moses, was a production of the Babylonian captivity and contained nothing historical value relative to the time of the patriarchs. Genesis was an historical novel, uncritically composed, and could throw light, an indrect light, only on the age of the prophets in which it was written. In particular, the war of the five kings recorded in the fourteenth chapter of Genesis is pure myth as is seen by the fact that the east side of the Jordan, down which the armies are said to have marched, was never of any military importance; all the invasions of Palestine from the north and east came down the west side of the Jordan. So argued the proponents of the Wellhausen criticism. But in 1929, in the buried cities of Ham and Ashteroth, on the east side of the Jordan, archaeologists discovered military fortifications dating from the time of Abraham. This and countless other fragments of information, when pieced together, have effectually disposed of the contention that Genesis reflects Palestine from the viewpoint of a Babylonian captive. Where the narrative has been tested, it has been found true; and Christians have th right to cast into the teeth of their adversaries the challenge to produce some definite and tangible evidence of the falsity of any historical statement in the Bible.

On the other hand, while it is true that non-Christian critics have made sweeping claims without evidence, even denying that the Hittite nation ever existed, Christians too have sometimes used arguments that cannot strictly be justified. The fallacy of some Christian applications of archaeological data becomes apparent when all the detail is summed up in a single premise and the form of the inference is bared to examination. Because the Bible has been shown to be true in these hundred and one cases, as some unwary Christians like to state the general argument, it follows that the Bible is therefore true in a thousand other cases not yet tested. Obviously this does not follow; and the fallacy is all the more glaring in that the points examined are matters of history where shards, weapons, and artifacts are legitimate evidence, whereas the other thousand contain a great deal of doctrinal or theoretical material which is not susceptible of archaeological verification. How can pieces of pottery prove the doctrine of justification by faith alone?


When a Christian attempts to force the data of archaeology beyond the limits of logical validity, he is playing into the hands of the enemy. Archaeology is extremely valuable and deserves support, but it does not prove that the Bible is true, much less does it prove the existence of God… Suppose Jesus did rise from the grave. This only proves that his body resumed its activities for a while after his crucifixion; it does not prove that he died for our sins or that he was the Son of God.

-Gordon Clark : A Christian Philosophy of Education

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