Recent Archaeological Finds

November 11, 2014
Darrell L. Bock, Gordon H. Johnston, and Steve Ortiz

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Topic Time Codes

00:14
Recent archaeological find that raise questions about the flood
02:58
How can pastors respond to findings which seem to contradict Scripture?
06:58
Understanding the scholarly conversations online to make informed decisions
10:34
Does discovery about camels disprove the biblical narrative?
13:14
Ortiz and Bock’s responses to the media
17:57
What are some of the important recent finds in archaeology?
19:11
Sennacherib's Prism supports the Biblical text
20:14
Tel Dan Inscription verifies an historical David
22:10
The nature of archaeological debate
24:35
How do we date the layers of stratification?
29:50
Archaeological discoveries take long and meticulous study to prevent misinterpretations

Transcript

Darrell Bock
It does raise the question about a huge tradition history, if I can say it, about the flood, which itself is an interesting observation. Why do we have all these different traditions about this kind of a catastrophe out there? That’s an interesting question to ponder, particularly when people say that we’re in a section that some, who are more skeptical about the Bible, would label as “mythic,” that kind of thing.

So, we’ve got some interesting things here, and as we’ve talked about before, what we have in the text is there, but the context for it, and making the interpretation about actually what we’re dealing with, is actually quite complicated.
Gordon Johnston
Well, this is where it gets interesting, because all of the ancient Near-Eastern flood text come from the same basic area, the Tigris-Euphrates flood basin. And there are – there have been excavations at a lot of the sites – Eridu, Ur, Uruk – that are finding multiple floods, local floods, the Tigris and Euphrates flooding over several hundred years.

The biblical text would seem to put it back – mmm – 2500, 2600, 2800 B.C. This is around the same time that you see the archeological evidence in some of these sites, where you’ve got flood levels, flood debris.

The dilemma is, of course, as I’m reading the Bible, it sounds like we’re talking about a universal flood. When you’re looking at the archeology where these texts are found, it looks that we’re looking at more of a universal flood – or a local flood, albeit a large area, and that’s where the rub comes in at this point.
Darrell Bock
And archeology, frankly, can’t solve that problem for us.
Gordon Johnston
It can’t solve that problem.
Steven Ortiz
And this is the problem we started with, this simplistic equation, and the media does – like the media’s not aware that there was this whole tradition of flood accounts in the ancient Near East. And so, this new one supposedly is part of this larger tradition instead of something brand new and spectacular that’s come up.

Christians are the same way. They want this one text in Genesis, and archeologists show a text. And they go, “Okay, the Genesis is, one, a literary account of events in the past, and it’s part of a larger tradition, a recounting of this.” And to me I get excited ’cause that shows that there’s this rich tradition of a flood account, and so let’s focus on that.

And so, it is an important piece of evidence. I’m glad this scholar brought it to the attention, and I’m sure there’s gonna be more Old Testament scholars that are going to do research and –
Gordon Johnston
But again, what you’ve got is the right stuff, in the right place, around the right time.
Steven Ortiz
Yes.
Gordon Johnston
Now the issue shifts in terms of what size boat, what shape boat, how big was the flood. But you’ve got the right stuff in the right place at the right time.
Darrell Bock
Yeah, and this gets tricky. You know, now, this is one I can talk about, having been drawn into, because one of the things that happens to me is that I get calls from media in the minute when these thing happen.

And so, in the case of both this flood text and in the case of the Jesus’ wife text that we mentioned earlier, which, of course, as we said is not an Old Testament text, but it’s an example, the Jesus wife text is an interesting one. I actually was reading The New York Times story in my office when The New York Times called.
Gordon Johnston
And they wanted your reaction.
Darrell Bock
They wanted my – “Have you seen –”
Gordon Johnston
You say, “I haven’t quite finished the article.”
Darrell Bock
They called again. You know, I know the gal on the other end of the phone, and she says, “Are you aware of the story that we broke today?”

And I said, “Well, yes, I’m actually reading it right now. In fact, I’m looking up a word –” it was a Coptic text, “I’m looking up a word in Coptic because I have a suspicion about what this word is, and I just wanted to see if my memory about the way this word works is correct.”

And so, I was actually turning to pull out the Coptic lexicon in my office as she was calling. And so, we get into this conversation. And what I find myself doing with these initial reactions when this happens is, almost consistently – and this is what I would say to pastors if you’re hearing this, and you’re thinking about – someone comes to you and says – your comment is, “The first thing you’ve got to do is figure out exactly what you have.”

I mean what do you have? Where did it come from? In the case of the inscription at the Talpiot Tombs, the question was, “Was there a patina layer that helped you to date it, or does this – what actually is the evidence that you’re dealing with?”

And then the second thing that you have to do, particularly when it’s a more hyped find, and you don’t – and you’re suspicious that it hasn’t been properly vetted yet or released in an academic way, in which several people have looked at it, is to simply say, “This is the first take on what we have, and there are –” and then begin to think through – if I’m on the phone, I’m thinking through, “What questions would I want to ask about this find, having heard about it for the first time. What are the additional questions we need to ask to kinda get our hands around what the context is?”

And if you’re a pastor, talking to people, I think you just say, “This is the first part of what is probably going to be a long conversation,” again using the Jesus’ wife text as the example. The original find is now – what? – 18 months or more old it was originally announced. The actual tests on the papyrus were just published a couple of weeks ago, 18 months later, and now we’re finally in a position where we are really more formally vetting the find and getting our hands around exactly what it is we may be dealing with here.

And even after all that, we’re still left with, “I’ve got a little piece. It’s got eight lines. I have no context, and there’s just flat not much that can be said about it, even if we assume its authenticity, which some people are challenging.” So, it stacks up like that. That’s the way it works. Right?
Steven Ortiz
That’s correct.
Gordon Johnston
And our reaction is, when something new comes along, the focus gets put on that, and it gets sensationalized. And everybody wants to weigh in and wants to know –
Darrell Bock
And they want a conclusion, yeah.
Gordon Johnston
– an opinion, that’s right. And you have to – pastors and people in Christian organizations really have to discipline themselves to say, “We need to wait. We need to wait. Let’s wait until the dust settles, and let’s hear what people say.” Because otherwise, we weigh in too soon. The lines get drawn, and then oftentimes, and I’ve seen this before, and now it becomes a political issue, and instead of being able to have a reasoned discussion, we’re fighting on lines
Darrell Bock
And I do think it’s fair to say that if you – and this is perhaps both the benefit and the curse of the net, if I can say it that way, is – again, I’ll use the Jesus’ wife text as an example here – what you have going on is, is a conversation among scholars taking place on the net?

And so, there are a good half-dozen, I would say, quality blogs, if I can say it that way, coming from people who know what they’re talking about, and they’re staking their positions and making their case. It’s this – it may be CSI, but we may have three units working on this that each have their own theory and hypothesis about what this is. And you watch that conversation take place. Now, that’s a genuine, if I can say it, scholarly dialogue about what it is that you have.
Gordon Johnston
And sometimes the fact that it’s been hyped is good because it drives them to –
Darrell Bock
The people to blog about it, and to take a look at it, and take a look at it as scholars and that kind of thing. And that can be a very helpful process. So, what I find myself doing, when I blog on these kinds of things periodically, is I will collect what I think are the best three, four, five, six sites and say, “If you really want to get into this and know what’s going on, here are the places to go. They’re giving you the conversation that’s really taking place that deals with the substantive elements of what’s going on here.”
Steven Ortiz
And I’ve been also called to interview on these things, and I remember when the James Ossuary was found. I probably have six quotes in press releases where I said, “It’s authentic.” “It’s not authentic.” “It’s authentic.” “It’s not authentic.”

And they’re just – and I’d be like – you know, the reporter calls you and asks you to be part of the story, “I need a five-second thing.”

You go like, “Well, based on the content from what I read, it appears – it seems this way, but until I actually see it, until I look, until I investigate it, it’s still gonna be ‘maybe.’ It could be this.”
Darrell Bock
I was asked the same thing with regard to the James Ossuary, and I remember the first question I had when I got the first reports from the reporter was, “Well, I would need to have a report about the condition of this inscription.” That’s the first thing – and I said, “The first question I would ask is, ‘Is there – was it tested for, and is there any evidence of a patina layer where the inscription lies on the box?’” that kind of – I mean I’m asking the questions out loud that I’m not naturally thinking about in thinking about dealing with this.

And from what I read, I may or may not have that information. If I find it later, “Oh, yes, they looked at it, and there was a patina layer over it, so that suggests to you, unless that can be somehow artificially reconstructed, that you are dealing with an older inscription.” Okay, that’s one question answered.

And so as you get more information that’s circulating in the public, because you’re not actually doing the study yourself, then you’re rendering the judgment according to more and more facts that you have. But again, it shows that you’re subject to the amount of information that you get access to as well when you comment on this, which just means you have to be careful about what’s said, and you have to be aware of how much we do and don’t know in any particular find.
Steven Ortiz
It’s like anything. In a course case you hear one side, you go like, “That makes sense.” And then you hear the other side. I have two kids. I hear one, “I think you are the correct one.” Then I hear the other one, “No, no, you –” [laughter covers speaker] Now I need to start collecting the facts. You know?
Darrell Bock
Yeah. Very, very – well, that’s the ark one. The second one that I wanted to be sure and cover is the one on camels. Now, this one came with some – what I would now regard as some real hype attached to it. And here’s what I mean. The story broke about camels being found in a certain area, and what they dated back to and that kind of thing. And then the case was made, “And this proves that the patriarchal narratives about domesticated camels in Israel really is wrong.” That’s what the headlines basically said.

So, let’s deal with this particular case. First of all, what did we find? And secondly, what did or didn’t it prove?
Steven Ortiz
Well, we found camel bones that date to the Iron Age period – let’s say tenth century.
Darrell Bock
And that don’t come with –
Steven Ortiz
In the Negev, where Beersheba is located, where the patriarchs – Abraham had his tent.
Darrell Bock
Okay, and here’s what blows me away. Those bones don’t come with a little sign on them that says, “These are the oldest bones of a domesticated camel.” There’s no tag on it – right?
Steven Ortiz
No.
Darrell Bock
They’re just bones.
Gordon Johnston
They were the oldest bones found in that area up to that point, but that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing yet to be found, at a earlier site, at a different location.
Darrell Bock
Exactly. And so if they had said, “These are the earliest bones we have yet to find; we have yet to have corroborated the existence of domesticated camels in Israel earlier than this,” that would – could have been a fair statement. But that isn’t what was hyped.
Steven Ortiz
That’s right.
Gordon Johnston
And the thing that makes it misleading is we have mentioned – direct mention of the use of camels in earlier texts, albeit outside of Israel, but still in the Fertile Crescent, going back to the time of Nuzi. So, we’re looking at 1500-1800 B.C. We’ve got old Babylonian texts that mention camels. So, it’s not as if camels were not there in the ancient Near East.
Darrell Bock
And we have to remember that the patriarchs themselves started out in that part of the world, as opposed to being in Israel. So, that’s another dimension of the interpretation that gets slighted by, when this kind of a statement is made, and it’s not brought into consideration about what it is that we’re looking at.
Steven Ortiz
When this first came out, a reporter called me to report on it, and I was like, “There are so many things wrong with it I cannot” – it’s –
Darrell Bock
Where do I start?
Steven Ortiz
You’re asking me – if somebody asks you, “Can you prove you don’t beat your wife,” I go, “How can I prove...” It’s such a poorly formulated interpretation that no archeologist would say that. I don’t – when I find pottery, I don’t say, “Well, this proves that this only occurs at this time.” And when you’re – you’re talking about a needle in a haystack. When you look at the osteological evidence on an archeological site –
Darrell Bock
Osteological means?
Steven Ortiz
Bones.
Darrell Bock
All right. [Laughs]
Steven Ortiz
It’s very small. We’re dealing with statistics. We don’t find fish bones. Now, that’s because fish bones very rarely survive the archeological process. You find – if you have wet sieving, and you have a micromesh – but then you’re literally spending $200,000.00 to find fish bones on a site.
Gordon Johnston
And think about this, where are most digs being conducted? On tells where there were cities, and you’re typically digging in houses and buildings.

When a camel dies, are you gonna bury your camel inside of your house? So, just in terms of where you’re expecting to find these things. Even if they’re eating the camel meat and things like that, you still don’t find – they don’t pile up their bones within their house.
Darrell Bock
And yet, you find some surprising things happen with something like this. I also responded to this in public, and not just on a blog; I actually approached a blog to be sure that what I said wouldn’t just be on my own site.

And what triggered me on this one was there was a professor of Old Testament from a well-known university. If I said the name, everyone would immediately know it. It’s located somewhere in the Northeast; that’s all I’m gonna say. And I’m sitting here saying, “How can someone who understands a little bit of the discipline actually make these kinds of statements?” And what it tells you is that sometimes you literally are dealing with spin.

And that was actually the point of my blog response was to say, “What you’re getting here is not just the reporting of the archeology. You’re actually getting a spin on it that’s important to be aware of as well.” And I was trying to point out what that was and why that was.
Gordon Johnston
Well, and even the thing with the camels, that’s been something that’s been an issue since – what? – the 1960s and 1970s. And there have been articles and research done to show that you do have camels in an early, early period in ancient Near East, but they were a limited number of articles, had a limited audience, and so people are specialized in their disciplines. They’re not always aware of –

________.
Darrell Bock
Yeah, in fact, in the midst of doing my own work on this, I found that there was a – there had been a dissertation written in German, in Germany, that had gone through this ground pretty, pretty carefully and had done pretty good work. And some of the people who were aware of those discussions were surfacing this research in the midst of responding to some of what’s going on.

Now, no reporter, I don’t care how good they are, is probably going to dig that deep unless someone tips them off about the level of research that is taking place. So, that’s another thing that you have to be aware of.

But the point of the examples is simply to say that when you get these kinds of stories, the thing I habitually say in my blog is, everyone just needs to take a deep breath, step back, and let some time pass, and let the – pun intended – dust settle. [Laughs] And in that process we’ll do a better job of perhaps getting our hands around what’s going on.
Gordon Johnston
Well, when you and I were conversing about this, a number of weeks ago, one of expressions we used was that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. You’re looking for a needle in a haystack. Only about ten percent of all the sites that existed in the ancient Near East have been identified and dug. Of those that get dug, only ten percent get dug in any generation. Of the material that’s found, only ten percent of it surfaces on a popular level. So, you really are, as far as what’s out there –
Darrell Bock
You have very partial remains of what actually existed, and it’s very, very important to always remember. Okay, well, we’ve got a little bit of time left. Let me ask you this question. What are some other famous – and I think we can just list them. If it’s worth going into a little detail, we’ll stop, but what are some of the other key finds – this is a horrible question – that exist that show the value and limits of the area of archeology? I know there have been some recent texts and inscriptions and that kind of thing do this for us. What are some of the more important ones that people should be aware of?
Gordon Johnston
Are you asking about texts or material artifacts? Sites?
Darrell Bock
It’s a wide-open question. Just take us to wherever you feel like – I mean there are all kinds of texts. I think I’m more interested – there could be some texts that are very, very important for some disputes.

For example, I’ll go ahead and set this up a little bit, there are claims that any text that predates – well, depending on how minimalist you are as an interpreter – anything that predates the Exilic Period is automatically questionable. We just don’t know the history before the Exilic Period of Israel. That’s a radical position.
Gordon Johnston
Well, we’ve got all sorts of texts, and if we go outside the land of Israel, we’ve got what’s called the Sennacherib Prism, written by King Sennacherib in the fourth year of his reign, where he says that he came and invaded Judah, took down 46 fortress cities, and then besieged the city of Jerusalem.

And that event is mentioned in 2 Kings 18 and 19. The story ends differently. Sennacherib was besieging Jerusalem, and in his account he called off the siege and took an IOU from Hezekiah and went back to his capitol without any loot. The biblical text tells that that was because Yahweh smoked Sennacherib’s army, and so he went back empty handed.

Herodotus tells us that there was a bubonic plague that hit Sennacherib’s army. So, you’ve got – so, there’s a text that’s really interesting. It’s the – talking about the same event, but you’ve got three different versions that are giving you different interpretations, but the ending is essentially the same. But it’s how it’s being spun.

You’ve got the Tel Dan Inscription that was found –
Darrell Bock
Okay, let’s talk about that one.
Gordon Johnston
It’s very important. It was found end of the 1990s by Biran in Tel Dan. It dates to about 850 B.C. It’s an Aramaic text. Dan is the northern most city in ancient Israel. It’s an Aramaic victory stela.
Darrell Bock
Now, “stela” is a –
Gordon Johnston
Okay, an inscription.
Darrell Bock
Okay.
Gordon Johnston
It was put up to – set up to commemorate the victory of the king of Aram over a coalition of Israel and Judean forces. And he mentions – although the names are broken, he mentions the two kings of Israel that he fought against, and he refers to the king of Judah as being from the House of David. Now, this is not from the time of David; it’s about 150 years after David. But still the king of Judah is mentioned as –
Darrell Bock
Talking Davidic dynasty.
Gordon Johnston
Davidic dynasty. Ironically enough, it wasn’t shortly too long before this that a minimalist said, “If there was a David, and I’m not sure that there was one, he was nothing more than a petty chieftain over a small cow town.” And then a couple of years later, you have the Tel Dan Inscription. And it’s interesting ’cause it’s a foreign king that’s referring to the king of Judah as from the House of David. So, that tells you that the Davidic dynasty couldn’t have just been small potatoes. It was well enough known even 150 years later by a foreign king to refer to it as the Davidic dynasty.
Darrell Bock
And just to piggyback on that, we not only have the Tel Dan stela, but haven’t we recently uncovered areas that show fortifications in parts of Israel that show that whatever the expanse of the rule was, it’s not a petty – we’re not talking about a petty king?
Steven Ortiz
The recent Khirbet Qeiyafa excavations illustrate this. But this leads – you know, when we’re talking about this – like the David question, this is a good illustration of how archeologists debate. We come to the biblical text, or any historical event, with a laundry list. Critical scholars, those who want to prove the Bible’s not true, those who want to prove the Bible is true.

We say, “If David and Solomon existed, we should find,” and we say, “Well, they’re kings. We should find a crown. We should fine texts. There has to be bureaucracy; there has to be etcetera, etcetera. If he was a great king, shouldn’t we find one inscription with his name on it? We find inscriptions for all the other Judean kings.”

Recent – a couple of issues of the Biblical Archeology Review have just a two-page, over 50 historical names found outside the Bible that are mentioned in the Bible. So, we know the Bible’s recording this history. We don’t have it for David and Solomon.

And there’s many reasons we don’t. One, the nature of the archeological record, we only find a minimal viewpoint. The interpretations. We don’t find – you know, there wasn’t anything that said, “Solomon was here.” It’d be nice if we had graffiti. They just didn’t do much graffiti. You know, “Solomon was here.” David –
Darrell Bock
Or if they did, we lost it.
Steven Ortiz
Yes. Just even something to say, “I hate David; he’s taxing me too much.”
Steven Ortiz
You know, we don’t find this text. And even students assume that. They come out to a dig, and they think they’re gonna pick up something that – like, you know, we have “Made in China.” “Made by Solomon.” And it’s like we don’t. We have the interpretation, and that’s the issue here. We don’t have many evangelical archeologists who can control the interpretation. It all comes to pottery.
Gordon Johnston
And even royal seals.
Steven Ortiz
Yes.
Gordon Johnston
Israel didn’t start adopting the practice of having them till about – what? – 850-800? So, the practice was later. So, you’ve got other kings that are documented because of these seals. But early Israel kings, so the united monarchy, it was too early for them to even have been doing that.
Darrell Bock
That actually raises a question about digs that we didn’t ask at the time, that I had in the back of my head, but I forgot to ask it, and that is, how do we actually date what layer we’re on? Is it by a combination of things that we find, like coins or seals or things like that that tell us – you know, I found a dime, and it says 1960? You know, that kinda thing?
Steven Ortiz
Yeah, the main thing is the transition or the change or the evolution of material culture. For example, you have an iPad here. We can tell when iPads came and we start using them. Before iPads, we had MP3 players. Before MP3 players, we had Blu-ray Discs, all the way to – Gordon still uses eight-track tapes.
Darrell Bock
That’s exactly right.
Steven Ortiz
But we can tell, based on our material culture, eight-track tapes become cassette tapes, become CDs, and within a short period of time, we know the history.

Now, one of the issues is you might have a house that is still using cassette tapes and CDs. It’s a transitional period. You might have one holdout where, “All my music’s on eight-track. I’m not gonna change it; I’m keeping my eight-track tape.” And so, you come to a neighborhood, and you look at each house, and what they have in their contents, and you get a relative dating.

Well, we don’t have any CDs in this household, so this has to predate when CDs were popular.
Darrell Bock
And it’s really better – we don’t have CDs, but we do have eight tracks.
Steven Ortiz
Well, we don’t have any CDs in this household, so this has to predate when CDs were popular.
Darrell Bock
And it’s really better – we don’t have CDs, but we do have eight tracks.
Steven Ortiz
Yeah, and then you come to another one, where you see both occurring. And you go, “Okay, this is either the eight-track error, where the new technologies coming in or not.” And then you have other variables. You have some technology it’s expensive when it comes out. So, only the elite would have that technology. And then it becomes more popular and you find it throughout different social strata. And so, archeologists have to account for all these variables when we see these changes.
Gordon Johnston
And, of course, Steve is not finding eight tracks and CDs, but he’s got different types of pottery. And there are some types of pottery that have got a continuity all throughout the ages, don’t change very much, and there’s other types that change dramatically.
Steven Ortiz
Well, like the bone boxes that we were talking about in relation to Talpiot Tomb. We know that that particular habit of taking the bones that remain and putting them in a bone box is limited to a certain period, based upon the finds that we have. And so, we know the moment we find this kind of a bone box, we’re in this kind of a date range. That’s exactly how it works.
Gordon Johnston
And that’s like the camel bone example, somebody will find and say, “This type of pottery only exists in the tenth century.” And you go, “Okay, that’s true. But you have another type that occurs in the tenth and the ninth century. You have one that occurs in the 11th and 10th century. And you have to develop these different histograms of types, and you have to look at the complete assembly.
Darrell Bock
That’s why you have to be careful about what you dig.
Steven Ortiz
Yes. And you need enough data to be able to make a statement. And so if I only dug one house in that example I gave with the neighborhood, that’s not enough statistical patterning to date that house. If I dig ten houses, and I find out they all have eight tracks, I can date this neighborhood now. And that’s what we’re doing to the cities.

Does this date to the time of David or Solomon? Well, I need to dig enough pottery to see if I have that representative sample. And that’s why Qeiyafa is so important. This is a new site found west of Jerusalem. It was unknown before, and it’s a one-period site. It only occurs in the end of the 11th, beginning of the 10th century. So, it kinda gives us a window. And the pottery fits a certain time period, and you have a fortified site.

And so now we have a good question, like, “Well, who built this fortified site of the tenth century?” Well, the only logical one was David or Solomon. So, that’s why the excavator, Yosi Garfinkel, says, “I found an unknown fortified site of David.”

Now, I tell my students this, this site isn’t in the Bible. It’s not even a biblical site, but it dates to this time period. And the Bible doesn’t record every single site that David fortified or built. We do know he was fighting the Philistines. We do know they were on the border, and this site fits on the border.

And that’s where these pieces come together for historical plausibility, where you go like, “There must have been some kingdom with the capitol of Jerusalem that was protecting it.” And we found a fort. And so, perhaps we’re gonna find other chance finds. There might be other forts there. We might find a string of forts. But we have that pattern. And also we can find, “Here’s a border based on where the forts are.”
Gordon Johnston
And what’s fascinating about that site, too, is that there’s an ostraca, a piece of pottery with writing on it that mentions a king, the Melek, king.
Darrell Bock
Well, and that – this explains something else that sometimes people don’t understand. Sometimes people will say, “Well, why don’t we hear about – why does it take an archeologist –” and I’m gonna shake my finger at you, “– so long to produce what it is that they’ve found.” And it’s because – and this is a very meticulous process that we’re talking about, and so, it takes a long time to collect the data, and to write it up, and to present it. It’s not something that’s done overnight. To get enough context to be able to say what it is you’ve found in this square.
Gordon Johnston
And correct me, Steve, if I’m wrong, it’s about a dozen years, isn’t it, to – that you start an excavation and end it? Some excavations go for decades, and you have to wait until the final report, where everything’s there. And if you found something that’s sensational, the third or fourth year, you don’t want to come out too quickly because you have to make sure that you have all data in place so that when you have our final publication, it’s gonna be solid.
Steven Ortiz
Well, I’ll give you an example. Our first year of Gezer, we found a seal. And I don’t think this is published yet, so, this is – you’re –
Darrell Bock
Okay, breaking news, breaking news on The Table podcast. This is the first time it’s happened. Go ahead.
Steven Ortiz
We’ve mentioned it in scholarly meetings. And when it first came out, everybody said, “Wow, this is the proof.” Now, Siamun was an Egyptian pharaoh, and based on historical reckoning, this must be the pharaoh that gave Solomon Gezer.

Now you can go read in your biblical texts, Gezer was still a Canaanite city. And it just mentions 1 Kings 9; pharaoh conquered Gezer and gave it to Solomon as a dowry for his daughter. And so, that’s all we know about it.

And so, some Egyptian pharaoh, dating Solomon we go – Siamun was the pharaoh. And there was an article written in 1948 about this connection. Well, so, every scholar said, “He got the connection here.” Well, okay, but we just found it in a fill. It looks like a destruction fill. There is ash in it, and it’s beneath the casemate wall, which the casemate dates to the time of Solomon.

And so, they go, “You have Siamun destruction, the pharaoh who gave Solomon, and then you have a Solomonic building. What better biblical text do you have?”

And Sam Wolfe, my co-director and I just said, “Yeah, but this is sensational. We have to excavate a complete area.” Well, after three or four years, we excavated, and that seal is not actually in a destruction layer. It’s in a destruction fill beneath the casemate, but it’s this whole complex of just that history of that one seal that we can say from Siamun.

Now, I believe that it was conquered by a pharaoh. I believe it was given to Solomon. But I’m not going to use that one seal and change things.
Darrell Bock
You’re being careful.
Steven Ortiz
Yeah. Now, it’d be nice for a funding. It’d be nice to put on a T-shirt and say, “We proved Solomon,” but I’m going to beyond the evidence.
Gordon Johnston
And if we push too hard, and you’ve often said, Darrell, “Sometimes less is more, and sometimes more is less.” If you push too hard, and you say, “Look, we just proved that Siamun destroyed Gezer, and therefore the biblical text has been proved,” a minimalist could come along and say, “Well, wait a minute. It doesn’t prove that much.” And then we end up being on the retreat, and people that have stuck their – staked their faith now on that, their faith would end up being destroyed because we pushed too far.
Darrell Bock
Well, actually, one of the reasons for doing this, and our time is gone now, but one of the reasons for doing this is to make sure that we don’t make too much of archeology, that we put it in its proper place, that we don’t create expectations that are misdirected because we’ve misunderstood the way the discipline works, and how we have to think about the discipline. So, I really –
Steven Ortiz
At the same time, we don’t want to make too little of archeology.

_______.
Darrell Bock
That’s exactly right. You want to put it in its proper place, and you want to have a sense of what it is you should be looking for, and how do you know that a report is giving you all that you need, or is giving you enough context. Or when you see the debate, understand, “This is why this is being debated, because we’re dealing with partial material and interpretations about how to put the pieces together.” These finds don’t come with tags on ’em, telling us what they are. And so, that’s a very, very important feature.

Well, I’m sure we’ll have you all back in the future to discuss the next round of hype –
Darrell Bock
– in relationship to the Old Testament. So, I appreciate you coming in to talk with us about how archeology works in relationship to Old Testament, and we talked a little bit about the New Testament, too, so I feel like that Testament’s been honored appropriately as well.

And we thank you for joining us on The Table, where we discuss issues of God and culture, and hope that you’ll be back with us soon.

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