In Regard to the Authorship of the Mosaic Writings: Does Archaeological Discoveries Strengthen or Weaken the Negative Position of Naturalistic Old Testament Scholars?

By Billy A. Honeycutt, Jr.

“Archaeology has been speaking so loudly of late that it is causing a decided reaction toward the conservative view.” 1

 

This observation made by Henry H. Halley in his book entitled, Halley’s Bible Handbook captures in essence the subject matter that will be treated in this work. The intention of the writer is to provide an answer to the question: “Does Archaeological Discoveries Strengthen or Weaken the Negative Position of Naturalistic Old Testament Scholars in regard to the authorship of the Mosaic Writings?”

 

In order to orient the reader with the issue at hand, two initial questions should be addressed: What is Archaeology? and What is a Naturalistic scholar? The answer to the first question according to H.I. Hester, late Vice-President and Professor of Bible at William Jewel College, is “that science which deals with the discovery, evaluation and interpretation of materials or relics such as pottery, ornaments, cutlery, sculptures, implements of war, written documents on stone, clay tablets, papyrus and other objects which belong to some period of the past which we are interested in studying,” 2 The second question pertains to a philosophy embraced when approaching the study of the Bible. It appears that modernism and Naturalistic scholarship are interchangeable terms and Edward F. Hills shows how they relate when defining a modernist. He says that “a modernist, by definition, is a person who studies the Bible in a completely naturalistic way.” 3

 

The position held by Naturalistic scholars, that the Bible is to be studied like any other literary work and that it should be approached as fictional, mythological and even non-historical was a widely accepted view entrenched in the minds of unbelieving scholarship prior to the time when Archaeology was developed into a system of study that had credentials officially recognized by academia. Naturalistic scholars contended that if there are no external evidences to substantiate places or happenings recorded in the Bible, then there is no cause for a person to embrace the records as factual.

 

Concerning this approach to the Bible, Edward F. Hills proposes a logical conclusion by asserting that, “those who deny the authenticity of the Old Testament ought to substantiate their negative position with conclusive proof, and so far no such proof had been produced.” 4

 

The development of Archaeology as a science is of enormous importance because of the posture taken by negative critics towards the validity of the contents of the Mosaic Writings and towards the genuineness of their authorship. Archaeology was once viewed as a type of treasure hunting, but as Charles Pfeifer points out, “modern Archaeology …has developed scientific techniques which remove it from the realm of the “treasure hunt” of former years.” 5 Although the science of Archaeology when compared to other fields of science is relatively new, this type of research has become recognized among scholars as a source of credible external evidence. This credibility that emanates from an accumulation of literally thousands of archaeological discoveries has become a vigorous agent in changing the views of honest critics from that of thinking that the Biblical record is simply legend into that of embracing these records as authentic and accurate. According to H.I. Hester, “the exploration of Bible lands had its real beginning under Napoleon. In 1798 he entered Egypt, taking something less than one hundred scholars to study the ancient monuments there.” 6 It is therefore, evident that Biblical Archaeology was birthed as a system of study during this period in history.

 

While archaeological finds have been made on a global scale, the nature of this study requires us, as Napoleon did, to focus on the discoveries made in countries connected with the Bible. Naturally, Biblical Archaeology will be linked with the lands mentioned in the Scriptures with particular emphasis being placed on the region nominated the “Cradle of Civilization” or “the Fertile Crescent”. This encompasses an expansive area of land that runs from the Tigris/Euphrates Valley to Syria down to the Sinai Peninsula. This territory touches five countries, including Egypt, Israel, Iraq, Iran and Syria. The discoveries in these five countries have contributed immensely to the value of Archaeology in relation to the narratives found in the Old Testament and to the authenticity of Moses as their author.  Pfeifer highlights the energy being expended in this field of research when he declares that “never has there been more activity in Palestinian Archaeology than at the present time.” 7

 

Prior to the development of Archaeology to its present stage, practically all the knowledge of early Near Eastern culture was derived from the Bible. With this being true, Naturalistic scholars used the argument that there are no “external evidences” to mask their unbelief. Their critical perspective was that unless they could demonstrate by known facts independent of statements in Scripture that an event documented in the Bible happened, there was no reason to embrace it as having occurred. Nonetheless, the many references that have been called into question by critics have with the continual findings of Archaeology been verified with pinpoint accuracy. Emory Bancroft declares this in his volume of Elemental Theology by affirming that “archaeological discoveries prove that the people, places and events mentioned in Scriptures are found just where the Scripture locates them, in the exact locality and under the exact geographical circumstances in the Bible8.”

 

 Pertaining especially to the Mosaic Writings, two examples will suffice to illustrate this precision. First, it was once argued by Naturalistic critics that neither Moses nor any of the people before him could have written the Pentateuch because they were illiterate. However, discoveries have been made in a variety of fields such as government, business, religion, warfare, tools, transportation, coinage, medical, prisons, stables and graves and as a result of these discoveries scholars and scientist have been brought into contact with a range of subjects running from anthropology to zoology. Included in these finds are writings dating from these time periods. These writings engraved in stone,  have been perfectly preserved and now serve as witnesses to the literary capabilities of humanity during the time periods in question. For example, a book engraved in stone from Abraham’s day known as The Code of Hammurabi was discovered at Babylon in 1901. Digging up this stone was one of the most significant discoveries in the field of archaeology. The reason that this finding is so notable is because “here is a book, written on stone, not a copy, but the original autograph book itself, made in Abraham’s day, still in existence, bearing testimony to a well developed system of jurisprudence but also to the fact that as early as Abraham’s time literary skill had reached a remarkably advanced stage.” 9  So, these “new discoveries in all parts of the world are…revealing that early man was a highly skilled technologist in many fields at dates far earlier than imagined by evolutionist only a few years ago.” 10

 

Secondly, regarding an ethnic group called the Hittites, who were contemporary with Abraham and played a prominent role in Old Testament history as late as Solomon’s era, many critics contend that these individuals were an invention of Biblical writers. Between 1870 and 1910 British scholar A. H. Sayce and German Archaeologist Hugo Winckler made key discoveries in modern day Turkey related to this group of people. Sayce found inscriptions carved in rocks which he suspected to be evidence of the Hittite nation. Winckler became interested in these discoveries being made and started his own exploration which produced extraordinary results in confirming the existence of the race of people known as the Hittites. Temples, fortresses and clay tablets were unearthed, all of which contain evidences that verify the facts included in the Scriptures in relation to the reality of the Hittite nation.

 

Now these are only two instances out of literally thousands of finds that not only strengthens the attestation of Scriptures, but weakens the position of Naturalistic scholars who once argued that no external evidences existed to validate the facts spoken of in the Scriptures. W.A. Criswell, long-time pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas summarizes succinctly the whole matter by vowing that “archaeology has confirmed the antiquity of writing, the historicity of the account of the campaign of the kings of Genesis 14, the puzzling story of Sarah and Hagar, the Egypt of Joseph and Moses, the historicity of Sargon and Belshazzar, the nature of the Aramaic language of David and Ezra, and a thousand other things all of which at one time and in other days the higher critics had scoffed.” 11

 

Though not all archaeological discoveries relate to the Bible, researchers have two predominant uses for the Bible in their work. Many archaeological expeditions have used the Bible as a guide to determine where to make an excavation and draw upon it as a literary source to aid in deciphering the meaning of their discoveries. So in addition to confirming the authenticity and authorship of the Mosaic Writings, major archaeological finds also corroborate the historical events recorded in the Bible.  This accepted practice proves that Archaeology and History are not identical, but that they are interwoven and consistent with the Old Testament testimony. Ancient cities were destroyed as a result of earthquakes, volcanic activity, floods, military campaigns and sometimes abandonment. Therefore, the excavation of these places provides modern man with a measure of understanding of history and how it coincides with what has been unearthed.  After all, the object or design of archaeology is to aid the student in apprehending the culture of the people who existed in a specific time period and open a window into their way of life.

 

Concluding with reference to the purpose of this paper, Archaeology and its discoveries confirm the authenticity and authorship of the Biblical narratives (especially the Mosaic Writings) as well as the people and places referenced within. In confirming authenticity and authorship, archaeological research has also disproved the assertions of Naturalistic scholars who have assailed the Bible with their skeptical criticism and liberal theological leanings. Lewis Sperry Chafer adequately articulates this when he says that, “research and archaeology have strengthened the claims of the opposer at no point, but have served in every case to confirm the teachings of the Scriptures.”12   Also Robert T. Boyd, who is widely recognized for his knowledge of Biblical archaeology, in his work entitled, Pictorial Guide to Biblical Archaeology, confers concisely with Pfeifer when he asserts,  “ In all the discoveries and developments of this science up to the present moment, not a single thing has been brought to light which contradicts the word of God.” 13  Given that archaeological discoveries are legitimate external evidences of Biblical accuracy, the reliability of the Scriptures in no way lies solely upon the foundation of Archaeological finds. These findings are not what we point to as proof of the validity of the Bible. The Bible itself, stands alone. It is true and accurate, independent of any other evidences and should be approached and read with this mindset. The Lord Jesus Christ, God manifest in the flesh, believed that Moses was the human author of the Pentateuch and demonstrates this belief when questioning the Jews attending the temple service for the feast of tabernacles, “Did not Moses give you the law?” 14. Also, while debating in the temple at Jerusalem, he stated that “Moses…wrote of me.”15   Edward F.Hills, Th.D author of Believing Bible Study encourages the Bible believer and reiterates the sentiments of the author of this paper when he unequivocally contends that “for conclusive proof that Moses did write the Pentateuch and that all other books of the Old Testament are also authentic, the believing Bible student relies not on archaeology, important though this science is, but on the testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ.”16  After all, he is the author of all Scripture and his testimony concerning their human authorship is absolutely authoritative.

 

Obviously, Naturalistic Old Testament scholars still deny Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch and the authenticity of other Old Testament events, but when the facts of archaeology and the records of the Bible are laid beside of each other for comparison, one salient truth arises: The Negative Position of Naturalistic Old Testament Scholars is Definitely Weakened and should provoke them to re-examine the results of their research.

 

Notes

1 - Halley, Henry H. Halley’s Bible Handbook-An Abbreviated Bible Commentary, 24th Edition 1962. Regency Reference Library Zondervan Publishing House Grand Rapids, Michigan p.56

 

2- Hester, H.I. The Heart of Hebrew History-A Study of the Old Testament, Copyrighted 1949, The William Jewel Press, Liberty, Missouri 2nd Edition 5th Printing  p.35

 

3 -  Hills, Edward F. Believing Bible Study. 3rd Edition 1991. The Christian Research Press, P.O. Box 2013 Des Moines, Iowa 50310   p.219

 

4 – Ibid., p.5

 

5 - Pfeiffer, Charles F.  Baker’s Bible Atlas, Revised Edition. Consulting Editor E. Leslie Carlson, Old Testament; Martin H. Scharlemann, New Testament 11th Edition Copyright 1961,73,79  Baker Book House Grand Rapids, Michigan 49056  p.250

 

6 – Hester, p.39

 

7 – Pfeifer, p.260

 

8 - Bancroft, Emory H., Elemental Theology, Editor Ronald B. Mayers, Academie Books, Grand Rapids, Michigan Zondervan Publishing House 4th Edition Copyright 1977 Baptist Bible College.  p.27

 

9 – Halley, p.50

 

10 - Morris, Henry M., editor (president, Institutes for Creation Research) Scientific Creationism General Edition Master Books copyright 1974 Second Edition 1985 Master Books El Cajon, California  p.204

 

 11 - Criswell, W.A.,  Why I Preach That The Bible Is Literally True, Broadman Press Nashville, Tennessee 1969 Third Printing  p.38

 

12 - Chafer, Lewis Sperry. Systematic Theology  8 vols. in 4, Kregel Publications 1993 Grand Rapids, Michigan 49501 p.66

 

13 - Boyd, Robert T., A Pictorial Guide to Biblical Archaeology.  Harvest House Publishers, Eugene Oregon 97402, Copyright 1969 by Baker Book House Co., formerly published under title, Tells, Tombs and Treasure. , reprinted 1981 by Harvest House Publishers  p.65

 

14 – John 7:19a

 

15 – John 5:46c

 

16 – Hills, p.5

 

 

Bibliography

Bancroft, Emory H., Elemental Theology, Editor Ronald B. Mayers, Academie Books, Grand Rapids, Michigan Zondervan Publishing House 4th Edition Copyright 1977 Baptist Bible College.

 

Beale, David O., In Pursuit of Purity: American Fundamentalism Since 1850, Unusual Publications 1996 Greenville, S.C. 29614

 

Blair, Edward P., Abington Bible Handbook. Copyright 1975 5th printing 1987 by Abington Press, Nashville, Tennessee

 

Boyd, Robert T., A Pictorial Guide to Biblical Archaeology.  Harvest House Publishers, Eugene Oregon 97402, Copyright 1969 by Baker Book House Co., formerly published under title, Tells, Tombs and Treasure. , reprinted 1981 by Harvest House Publishers

 

Carter, Mickey P. Things That Are Different Are Not The Same, 1993. Printed by Landmark Baptist Press 2222 East Hinson Ave. Haines City Florida 33844-4902

 

Chafer, Lewis Sperry. Systematic Theology  8 vols. in 4, Kregel Publications 1993 Grand Rapids, Michigan 49501

 

Criswell, W.A.,  Why I Preach That The Bible Is Literally True, Broadman Press Nashville, Tennessee 1969 Third Printing

 

Halley, Henry H. Halley’s Bible Handbook-An Abbreviated Bible Commentary, 24th Edition 1962. Regency Reference Library Zondervan Publishing House Grand Rapids, Michigan

 

Hester, H.I. The Heart of Hebrew History-A Study of the Old Testament, Copyrighted 1949, The William Jewel Press, Liberty, Missouri 2nd Edition 5th Printing

 

Hills, Edward F. Believing Bible Study. 3rd Edition 1991. The Christian Research Press, P.O. Box 2013 Des Moines, Iowa 50310

 

Library of Curious and Unusual Facts. Feats and Wisdom of the Ancients, by editor of Time-Life Books, Time-Life Books, Alexandria, Virginia

 

May, Herbert G., editor Oxford Bible Atlas Oxford University Press, New York Toronto 3rd edition 1984

 

Moorman, Jack, editor Forever Settled 1985 B.F.T. #1428 Johannesburg, South Africa October 1985

 

Morris, Henry M., editor (president, Institutes for Creation Research) Scientific Creationism General Edition Master Books copyright 1974 Second Edition 1985 Master Books El Cajon, California

 

----- The Defenders Study Bible KJV World Publishing, Inc. 1995 Grand Rapids, Michigan 49418

 

Mears, Henrietta C., editor-in-chief Survey of the Bible Gospel Light Publications Glendale, California. Mound, Minnesota copyright 1953,1954,1960 by Henrietta C. Mears

 

McClintock, John and James Strong, “Archeology” Vol. 1, A-B Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature Baker Book House Brand Rapids, Michigan 49506 reprint 1981

 

----- “Natural Theology” Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature Vol. VI Me-Ner Baker Book House Grand Rapids, Michigan 49506 reprint 1981

 

Pfeiffer, Charles F., Jerusalem through the Ages Baker Book House 1967 Grand Rapids, Michigan

 

---- Baker’s Bible Atlas, Revised Edition. Consulting Editor E. Leslie Carlson, Old Testament; Martin H. Scharlemann, New Testament 11th Edition Copyright 1961,73,79  Baker Book House Grand Rapids, Michigan 49056

 

Strobel, Lee, The Case For Faith, Copyright 2000 Zondervan Grand Rapids, Michigan

 

Wilson, Clifford, Archaeology …the Bible and Christ, 1995 Used by permission for the Online Bible