When I did my undergrad at StFX University, one of the courses that had the biggest impact on me was a class called “Archaeology of the Ancient Near East.” The prof was a former Catholic priest, Dr. Burton Macdonald, who left the priesthood earlier in his life to pursue a career in archaeology. He told us wonderful stories of many of the important digs he was a part of – excavations in Egypt, Canaan, and so on that revealed amazing information about the ancient world of the Bible.
One of the archaeological digs we studied was that of “Jericho” – a city that is mentioned in the Bible and in the Bible alone. This was the site, supposedly, where Joshua and the Israelites marched around the walls seven times, and then the Lord made the walls come crashing down, after which the Israelites captured the city.
Archaeologists have undisputedly found the location. And over the last hundred years or so, a few major digs were conducted to try and better understand what exactly took place there over the years. I recall Dr. Macdonald explaining the evidence that very clearly shows walls having collapsed at some point in the city’s history – just as the Bible describes! But I also recall him telling us about Kathleen Kenyon, an archaeologist who excavated the city, and dates the destruction of the city to 150 years before the date the Israelites (God, actually) allegedly destroyed it. Her dates, Dr. Macdonald said, show that the Bible cannot always be taken literally.
As a Christian, that burdened me for a long time… if the Bible can’t be trusted in this case, can it be trusted anywhere? I was bothered by it, until I started to “dig” a little deeper in research on the city of Jericho. What I found was that many people, even secular scholars, dispute Kenyon’s dating. In fact, some argue very strongly that a more accurate date for the collapse of the walls is around 1400BC – almost exactly the date that the Bible claims Jericho fell under the power of God at the time of Joshua. WOW!
What had originally shaken my faith, ended up affirming it!
Just today, as I was studying for my sermon on the reliability of the Bible, I stumbled across a great little documentary called “Jericho Unearthed.” If you’d like a faith-in-the-Bible affirming experience, I strongly encourage you to take 30 minutes and watch this program. Here it is: