Why Archaeology does not prove the Authenticity of the Bible

It’s a beloved trope among religious apologists: Citing archaeological findings to prove that the Bible is legit, or even an inspired, holy book.

Some even go so far as to claim that archaeology proves that God must exist because it corroborates one or the other Bible story:

At times archaeological finds have even silenced those who criticized the accuracy of certain events or statements made in the Bible.

For example, this is an argument Jehovah’s Witnesses use in the current issue of The Watchtower when speaking about King David:

There was a time when scholars tried to relegate King David to the realm of myth, but that has become harder to do. Archaeologists have found an ancient inscription that mentions “the house of David.”

Now, while this is true, the archaeology trope misses the point altogether. The problem is that people grounded in faith instead of fact often extrapolate a certain piece of evidence to prove something else altogether, but that’s not how it works.

I’ve been involved in discussions where someone told me Jesus was indeed God’s son because a totally unrelated story had been validated by archaeological findings. Religious people often find encouragement in these kind of discoveries.

But that’s not how evidence-based reasoning works. Take the example of King David for example. The above-mentioned tablet proves only one thing: That a person called David actually existed. That’s it. That is all it proves. We cannot extrapolate from this one find that anything else the Bible writes about him is true.

To be fair: Jehovah’s Witnesses are aware of this fallacy. They even mention it in their literature (obviously fearing future findings which could contradict their doctrine):

Commendably, Biblical archaeology has expanded our understanding of the background of the Bible. Yet, Christians realize that their faith is dependent, not on evidence unearthed by men, but on God’s Word, the Bible.

But it does not stop them from highlighting benign findings when they come across them. And that, in short, is how you build a cultish following. Interestingly, it doesn’t work the other way for Christian apologists: The overwhelming mass of scientific evidence building a compelling case for evolution does not make a difference. Now that’s what I call irony.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s