Teachers are often reluctant to introduce archaeology into their classes for kids and teens. It seems like such a difficult topic to add to an already overloaded class time. Adding to that, you must sort through the information written by atheist and agnostic archaeologists and try to discern how much of their anti-religious bias has played a role in their findings.
As an undergraduate I attended a university that was one big archaeological dig. Every time shovel hit dirt almost anywhere in town, something was found. Large digs often scattered across our campus. I loved it and even took a couple of archaeology classes. I was able to spend time in the field digging and in the lab processing finds. These experiences helped me better understand the value and limitations of archaeology and how they can help your students.
The most important thing to communicate to your students is that just because something has yet to be found doesn’t mean it didn’t exist or an event didn’t happen. This week I saw an article which proves this beautifully. For years skeptics have said the Exodus could not have occurred. The Roman Emperor Constantine had sent his mother to the Holy Land to find all of the sites in the Bible. She depended upon what locals told her and many churches were built on those spots. Personally, I have always assumed some people took advantage of the situation and declared certain places were what she wanted knowing full well they were tricking her.
Regardless of how it happened, the Mt. Sinai most tourists are shown is in a very desolate area of the Sinai Peninsula. Skeptics have said this area couldn’t support twenty people for forty years, much less the huge numbers given in the Bible. In their minds, the Exodus was a myth and archaeology seemed to back them up for a time – nothing was found anywhere people looked suggesting large numbers of people had ever lived there.
Yet, I had heard rumblings amongst Christian scholars for years that the wrong area had been identified. These people had looked carefully at the Bible and matched what was described with other areas and found a great match in Saudi Arabia. Skeptics ignored them until just recently, when a dig proved the Bible scholars are probably right. They found evidence matching areas described in the Bible – the missing cities the Bible describes the Israelites having passed.
The fun, faith-building news for your students is that a lot of things have been found. Often they are found in the remains of the other countries mentioned in the Bible. These people, who often considered the Israelites enemies, have records and artifacts confirming things in the Bible. The most recent find I saw was the find of two bullae or seals (used to stamp documents as authentically from the person on the seal). The names mentioned on the seals are the same Judahite officials mentioned in Jeremiah 37:3 and 38:1. (Note: Things are often found years before the finds are made known to the general public. Processing takes a lot of time and money and is often delayed.)
You may wonder why a find like this matters to your students. They will have many teachers who will try to convince them the Bible is full of myths. Knowing that these people who had disappeared in history except for the Bible were recently discovered to be real from these finds, underscores how careful the writers of the Bible were to get details correct. It also helps confirm the books were written when the authors said they were (a theology issue I will discuss in a later post), because even a few years later these men would have been forgotten.
Other finds help students understand what objects in the Bible looked like or how they were used. I am a very visual learner, so it was often difficult for me to understand descriptions of things – especially things I had never seen before. Going to our local museum (Michael C. Carlos Museum on the campus of Emory University in Atlanta has some great items.) and seeing an actual idol of Baal for example, helped me better understand the stories involving the idol.
In our lesson plans, we try to share any significant finds in archaeology which we believe will help your students understand the historocity of the Bible. As I read of new finds, I will try to begin sharing them on the Teach One Reach One Facebook page. These are great little nuggets of information to toss to your students while you start class or when they are working on a project.
Archaeology is not an exact science, nor does it carry the weight of scripture. It can however build the faith of your students or help them better understand what they read in the Bible. It’s worth adding it to your Bible classes. Watch the Teach One Reach One website. In a few months, we hope to add yet another new free resource that will combine archaeology and the Bible and will be easy to use in your classroom.