Tuesday, December 1, 2009

LHP Review: Intermediate Biblical Archaelogy

Hoerth, Alfred J. Archaeology & the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1998, 2009. 447 Pages. Paper. $42.99. http://www.bakeracademic.com/  (LHP)

McRay, John. Archaeology and the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1991. 432 Pages. Paper. $39.99. http://www.bakeracademic.com/  (LHP)

Two years ago in QBR 2.1 we presented a text by two authors that I consider to be an introduction to the topic before us, Baker Publishing House's Bible Archaeology (2005). Once you've passed 101, you're ready for 201 and 201. Hoerth and McRay return to the pages of QBR to show us the strength of their previous scholarship.

"Archaeological discoveries can shed a flood of light on the biblical text, and this heavily illustrated resource offers comprehensive and illuminating archaeological information related to the Old Testament.

"The most important contributions of archaeology to biblical studies, according to Hoerth, are the various ways it illuminates the cultural and historical setting for the Bible, adds to our knowledge of the people, places, things, and events in the Bible, and its aid to translation and exegesis of biblical passages.

"Hoerth surveys the entire Old Testament, pointing out the relevant archaeological material and explaining how it enriches biblical studies. In an attempt to bridge the Old and New Testament worlds, the author devotes the final chapter to examining the intertestamental period.

"Hoerth's volume presents the results of scholarly research, including archaeological discoveries, yet it remains readable and accessible. It boasts over 250 illustrative items--charts, photographs, line drawings, and maps. In addition, it includes a helpful index and bibliography" (publisher's website).

Bible archaeology serves the Biblical text. It cannot create faith, but it can be a way to remove weeds and stones from a field to remove misconceptions and misunderstandings (pre-evangelism) in preparation for the seed of the Word. We walk as Christians by faith alone, but it is wonderful to point to solid fact in the form of an indisputable artifiact when we engage in apologetics (defense of the Christian faith).
This text is not boring at all. Illustrations take the form of black and white photographs, drawings, charts, timelines and maps. They are clear, concise and bring more life to the printed text.

I particularly appreciated evidence for a comprehensive, worldwide Noahic flood (189ff). Later in the book (366), Hoerth's description of the probable fate of the Ark of the Covenant is unfortunately relegated to a footnote. Sorry, Indiana Jones had nothing to do with it!

Most readers of Archaeology & the Old Testament will be students reading chapter by chapter or pastors and Christian laity consulting it as a reference. It read well as a whole and was fascinating.

"Veteran archaeologist John McRay sheds light on the biblical text by examining archaeological discoveries in Archeology and the New Testament. As he tours sites associated with the ministry of Jesus, the journey of Paul, and the seven churches of Revelation, he shows the pervasive influence of society, architecture, and religion on the peoples of the first century and on the New Testament. The book includes numerous maps, charts, diagrams, a glossary of terms, and more than 150 photographs that help the ancient world come alive. Now in paper" (publisher's website).

Consider Archaeology & the New Testament as a stand-alone work or as a worthy companion to the other work in this review.

I resonated with the reality of the horror of how Christians met their martyrdom under Nero and other Roman emperors (62). The history of structures used fro Christian worship (72 et al) was particularly interesting. I wanted to hear more from the author on "the location of the Temple" (112ff). Reconstructions of Roman inscriptions (204) and positions of crucifixion (205) will serve me well in Bible Classes.

One of the most heartening aspects about Biblical archaeology is the simple fact that new discoveries are found everyday. This proves to be a challenge to scholars as well as publishers. Both books would benefit from an update in the next ten years. In future editions of these two volumes, I would encourage the use of color photography and/or the inclusion of photo CD-Roms and companion websites. Vibrant visuals would only add to such solid foundations as provided by Wheaton College collegues John McRay and Alfred Hoerth courtesy of Baker Academic.

The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.