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Note on Methodology

Much is made by a certain group of pseudo-intellectuals today of a supposed “lack of evidence” for statements made in the Bible regarding creation and the history of the earth’s early ages. To understand the rationale of these critics we must acquaint ourselves with that of their precursors in the nineteenth century. Hyper-criticism, particularly the form popular in German seminaries in the mid 1800s, was proved erroneous by archaeological discoveries in the Near East in the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These confirmed in a very remarkable manner many of the claims of the Bible which had been attacked by the German seminarians. A new critique of the historical veracity of the Word of God was required if the resurgence of a more fundamentalist approach to the Bible was to be rebutted (the Albright school epitomizing that resurgence in academic circles, though Albright himself was far from being a fundamentalist), and one such came into vogue after World War II. This aimed to turn the fundamentalists’ own archaeological weapons against them. It based itself on an alleged “lack of archaeological evidence” for whole swathes of Biblical history, or, alternatively, for this and that isolated historical assertion made in the Bible. If archaeological evidence was produced to prove any given statement true, the battle promptly moved on to some other “unsubstantiated” statement, and thus, by shifting ground, the emphasis was always made to rest on “the lack of evidence.” Such a method of procedure is, of course, unprincipled, even scurrilous. On one level, it is illogical, since it amounts to nothing more than an “argument from silence.” On another, it presumes archaeology can do what it is usually unable to do, namely to provide undisputed proof of historical events. History is different from archaeology. Something might be an established historical fact, and yet have left no archaeological evidence whatsoever. If history needed archaeological support for all its statements, there would be no history of the world at all. The claims made in this study are historical claims. They are based, in other words, on accounts left by human witnesses or transmitted to us by reliable authorities, or obtained by a process of sifting out from unreliable sources a reliable historical kernel. Where archaeology, or other scientific disciplines used to assess the worth of material remains, supply supporting evidence, that is included in the appraisal. Another point which must be made is that the Bible believer approaches history from a completely different standpoint to that of the secular intellectual. The latter relies on knowledge, the former on faith. The Bible believer believes the Bible is the Word of God. It is his Absolute. The secular intellectual claims to believe only what he sees or is otherwise apprised of by his senses (except of course, when it comes to creation, in which case he resorts to a very particular or limited theory of evolution, which has never, and can never, establish that life arose by spontaneous generation, or that one basic life-form of the past developed by mutation into another). The Bible believer demands of the secular intellectual, at the least, consistency, that is, that he refrain from presenting theory as fact; and, if he wishes to undermine the faith, or, as he would prefer to see it, the credulity, of the fundamentalist, the merest of requirements: that he provide one, single, irrefutable, piece of evidence that the Bible is wrong on a point of fact. That surely is little to ask, in view of the antiquity and broadness of scope of the Biblical text, and in view of the huge amount of historical and material data that has been accumulated since the Renaissance. The utter inability of the secular critic, on the one hand, to come up with this minimum requirement, and, on the other, the growing mountain of contrary evidence establishing the correctness of the Bible on numerous points of fact, once disputed or unsubstantiated, speak volumes in favor of the supreme, indeed, of the absolute, historical authority of the Word of God.

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