Archaeology Verifies the Bible as God's Word
A Christian Skeptic
In Ancient Israel
William Foxwell Albright, the son
of missionary parents, as a young man of faith eagerly pursued
his college education. Finally, he received the coveted
Ph.D.—but at great cost. His faith had been destroyed by the
19th century German school of higher criticism. The leading
exponents of this school of higher criticism, Wellhausen and
Delitzach, were out to prove that the Old Testament history of
the Bible was mere fiction. Why? Wellhausen and Delitzsach were
known as anti Semitic.
What is Old Testament history but
the history of the Jewish people and their glorious
nation—Israel. It is not a coincident that anti-Semitics would
attempt to destroy the history of the Jewish people as a nation
raised up by God. They did this by teaching that most of the
books of the Bible were fiction written long after the
Babylonian exile, or even in the Hellenistic Period. This
treacherous ploy effectively wiped Israel out of the annals of
history as a significant independent nation. The Old Testament
Jewish record of a wonderful Jewish State was allegedly a
fictitious propaganda tool concocted to create a false sense of
pride and achievement that would inspire an aggressive Jewish
people to dominate others. Fortunately, Albright, almost
single-handedly, would destroy this ploy. But first, his
William Foxwell Albright,
considered the dean of 20th century archaeology, was a legend in
his time. He earned the nickname “the great authenticator”
because of his ability to quickly date archaeological artifacts.
During his extraordinarily fruitful life, Albright produced over
1,100 books and articles, was awarded 30 honorary doctorate
degrees, and institutions were named after him. Albright
received his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 1916, where
he mastered Hebrew, Akkadian (Babylonian), Spanish, French,
German, Latin, and Greek. Albright was the leading Orientalist
of his Age.
In 1920, Albright arrived in
Jerusalem and made his home at the American School of Oriental
Research, which was renamed the William Foxwell Albright
Institute of Archaeological Research a year before his death. He
was Director of the American School of Oriental Research in
Jerusalem from 1922-1929 and 1933-1936. During this time
Albright also took a professorship at John Hopkins in 1927 and
was W. W. Spence Professor of Semitic Languages from 1930-1958.
Albright held many other
significant organizational positions, such as the presidency of:
Palestinian Exploration Society (1921- 1922, 1934-1935);
American Oriental Society (1935-1936); Society of Biblical
Literature (1938-1939); and the International Organization of
Old Testament Scholars (1956-1957). He served on various
committees of the American Philosophical Society, in particular
the Research Committee, and was a recognized authority on the
Qumrân (Dead Sea) Scrolls. Albright did significant
archaeological work, excavating such sites in Palestine as
Gibeah (Tell el Fűl, 1922), Tell Beit Mirsim (1933- 1936), and
the Timna expedition in South Arabia (1950-1951).
Will the Real God Stand Up?
Albright’s excavations dealt with
the ancient nations in the Land of Canaan that later became the
Land of Israel. He unearthed the religious practices of the
Canaanite nations, who worshiped both gods and goddesses. He
found their deities lied, they stole, they murdered, and
committed adultery. To a skeptic like Albright, god was nothing
more than the figment of man’s imagination, a reflection of
himself. Man steals, lies, murders, and commits
adultery—therefore, his god does the same thing.
But when Albright excavated the
ancient civilization of Israel, he was astonished! Not only was
their social structure different, but he discovered that the
Israelite God did not steal; he did not lie; he did not murder.
The Israelite God was a God of ethics—ethics that were contrary
to man’s passions. The God of Israel was not a figment of the
imagination of the Israelites. They did not make him or create
him. Could Israel’s God be the genuine God—the true and living
God of the universe? Albright the skeptic was becoming Albright
the theist—a believer in the God of Israel.
The impact of the contrast of the
God of Israel versus the false pagan deities drove Albright to
conclude that the God of Israel was a personal God—the pagan
deities were human personalities with all the frailties and
vices of human beings. The God of Israel was always thought of
and represented as a person with the emotions of human beings,
but with none of their frailties.
The Bible—God’s Revelation to
At first Albright had been
determined to use the spade of archaeology to challenge all
aspects of biblical history. After all, Albright had written his
Ph.D. thesis in defense of the German school of higher
criticism, that biblical history was mere fiction. But his
archaeological discoveries turned him into a believer in the
Judaic Bible. Albright concluded:
The excessive skepticism shown
toward the Bible by important historical schools of the 18th and
19th centuries . . . has been progressively discredited.
Discovery after discovery has established the accuracy of
innumerable details, and has brought increased recognition to
the value of the Bible as a source of history.
There can be no doubt that
archaeology has confirmed a substantial historicity of Old
Testament [the Judaic Bible] tradition.
Albright found the biblical
account of the origin of nations unequaled in comparison to the
distorted legends of secular history:
“The Table of Nations” in Genesis
10, according to Albright, “remains an astonishingly accurate
Hebrew national tradition [the
Judaic Bible] excels all others in its clear picture of tribal
and family origins [of other nations]. In
Egypt and Babylonia, in Assyria and Phoenicia, in Greece and
Rome, we look in vain for anything comparable.
There is nothing like it in the tradition of the
Germanic peoples. Neither India
nor China can produce anything similar, since their earliest
historical memories are literary deposits of distorted dynastic
traditions . .
A Powerful and Caring God
Albright was awed with the God of
Israel. Here was a God who was all-powerful, caring, and above
all trustworthy. A God who dared to create man in his
likeness—possessing intelligent, moral values and free will. A
God who could nurture, not coerce, that free will for the
eternal welfare of all. Finally, Albright had found a God to
whom he could entrust his life.
The so-called gods of the ancient
nations were tribal or ethnic in dominion. Yahweh, the God of
the universe, was concerned with the welfare of all humankind.
True, He had chosen to reveal Himself for the most part through
Israel. But, far from showing partiality, the Jewish people were
held to greater responsibility commensurate with their greater
enlightenment and blessings. God’s severe chastening on Israel
was part of how God was revealing His character and purposes to
both the Jewish people and to humankind.
Down through history few nations
have suffered as Israel. Yet, God preserved them. No ancient
polity has been destroyed, its people scattered to the ends of
the earth, then, nearly 2,000 years later regathered to their
ancestral homeland to be reborn as a nation. What a miracle of
history! The details of this national destruction, dispersion,
centuries’ sojourn in diaspora, regathering and rebirth were all
predicted in Scripture.
Albright could no longer consider
the Laws of Israel as the evolutionary accumulation of the
wisdom of man codified by the sages of Israel. The Laws of
Israel were not man-made. They were Divine. The shaking,
thunder, lightning and trumpet of Mt. Sinai were not a myth.
Indeed, this phenomenon testified to the presence of God. The
spectacular excitement, demonstrations and fireworks
accompanying the 4th of July, the Chinese New Year, May Day,
etc., fade into insignificance compared to one of the greatest
celebrations in human history—God giving His Laws to the people
of Israel through the mediation of Moses. God’s Law was not only
to guide Israel, it proved to be a beacon light for all
humankind. To the degree that nations heeded God’s Law, they
were the better for it. How could such an awesome occasion occur
without Divine spectaculars?
Albright’s conviction that the
Laws of Israel defy crafting by finite man—that they are the
crafting of an infinite God—still stands. This was the God
Albright discovered by confirming the authenticity of the Judaic
Bible with the spade of archaeology.
Albright’s quest for truth was
only equaled by his objectivity. Few scholars have attained such
objectivity in research.
“...My initially rather skeptical
attitude toward the accuracy of Israelite historical tradition,”
Albright recalled, “had suffered repeated jolts as discovery
after discovery confirmed the historicity of details which might
reasonably have been considered legendary.”
F. C. Moore concurred when he
wrote, “More than any scholar of his generation, I believe,
Albright has been open to change and to novelty . . . openness
and flexibility are hallmarks of his scholarly faculties.”
Y. Yadin wrote: “Few indeed are the scholars who are as ready as
he [Albright] is to modify or reject their personal theories in
the light of new finds or justified criticism. It is this rare
quality which had enabled Albright to absorb successive waves of
new information and thus remain in the vanguard of research and
learning . . . nor is he reluctant to abandon his own theories,
even if this leads to the collapse of an entire section of his