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Posted on Tuesday, November 27 - 2007

" Copyright © Deseret Morning NewsContrary to the quest of many biblical archaeologists in years past, today's "new image" of excavating ancient Near Eastern sites isn't focused on proving that the Bible is an ancient historical document. Yet there's no reason to shy away from c..."

The Bible

Copyright © Deseret Morning News

Contrary to the quest of many biblical archaeologists in years past, today's "new image" of excavating ancient Near Eastern sites isn't focused on proving that the Bible is an ancient historical document. Yet there's no reason to shy away from comparing scientific findings to biblical text, either, says a longtime archaeologist.The challenge is to use caution, rather than leaping to what seem to be "logical conclusions" about findings that go well beyond the actual science involved with high-profile finds, some of which turn out to be forgeries.That is according to Aren Maeir, chairman of the department of archaeology and Landof Israel Studies at Bar Ilan University in Tel Aviv.

Rather than trying to "verify beliefs according to archaeological remains," Maeir said archaeologists driven by science are leaving those kinds of discussions to theologians. Archaeologists seek to provide information on what they find in the ground, when they believe it originated and how it may or may not play into theological discussions. The current spate of Near Eastern excavations began not as a way to "prove" the Bible as a historical text, but as a 19th century project by the British army to update its topographical maps. Maeir recently told students at Brigham Young University that geopolitical considerations played a large role in early excavations shortly after the state of Israel was formed in 1948. Many archaeologists were looking specificallyto help establish the ancient legitimacy of Jewish claims to the land of Palestine, which had been occupied by the Turks for centuries before World War I. That approach has "come under a lot of criticism, mostly among 99.9 percent of Israeli archaeologists, but here and there it still exists, usually from very specific groups within the political spectrum in Israel." Today, there is a move in some quarters of the profession to "dump the whole premise of biblical archaeology and just look at sites from a clearly archaeological perspective, rather than enmesh it with an ideological, religious or nationalistic perspective," he said. Some are looking to abandon the term "biblical archaeology" in favor of "Near Eastern archaeology." Yet that approach is espoused "by those who have avery......

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