Matthieu Richelle - "The Bible and Archaeology"
10:54PM Jul 6, 2020
Today it's our pleasure to host Dr. Matthieu Richelle. Dr. Richelle is a professor of Old Testament at the Faculty Labor Day to Luigi evangel leak in Vasa sand France. He's published several books in French as well as scholarly articles and French and English related to the Hebrew Bible archaeology and ancient inscriptions. His first book in English is the subject of today's talk, The Bible and Archaeology. Dr. Richelle. It's a great privilege to be speaking with you today.
It's my pleasure. Thank you.
this is a very interesting book in in the beginning you've staked the claim that your purpose is to move beyond the sensationalist claims Sometimes produced by archaeology. Obviously, many of us have heard those claims. But what prompted you to write a book specifically to deal with this problem
was similar reasons. First, I did a lot of research on accuracy for my PhD. It was about the story of ancient Israel. So I had all these things in my mind. And at the same time, I noticed that many Christians were struggling to understand what archaeology can tell them about the Bible. And you had opposite opposite trends. Some books are claiming that accurately confirms the Bible. It was a title of a book in French lack eulogy confirmed by babe and on the other hand, there were books like the Bible announced by itself in cash Stein, which is a very good book, but that was saying other things And people had difficulty to know how what how they could sing about the Russian ship between the Bible and theology. So what I wanted to do, it was not just to present a list of illustrations of the Bible, thanks to accurately, but to understand what is going on and how we can think about this relationship.
Hmm. And you really get into that in your first chapter after the introduction you talk about what sort of methods archaeologists use and what kind of data they seek, seek to collect. So just to put the question to you, being this is your specialty, how can a correct understanding of the role and the methods of archaeology and richer reading of the Bible for laypeople
so there would be a lot to say but two sounds on the one hand,
People do not always realize
how bad is a spectrum
of data provided by activity. So many people do not assess correctly. So the breadth of things that we learn things to accurately, for instance, that would be a temptation to sings that accurately is all about finding places of treasures, palaces, King David, ballets and things like that tempers and methodology is far more wide is wider than that it's about annexing all the past to the extent that it was preserved. So technologies for instance are interested in daily life in what I'm showing is highlights. Eight what the add ins are food in their drinking, how they lived. Realize, and I could release are asking themselves questions like, oh, what what was it about living in, in a house what the Bible does not tell you how. And it highlights house looked like it is accurate tell us this kind of scene. So on the one hand, people should be aware that archaeology provides vast amount of data of different kinds. And this is what I get so many examples in my first chapter. But on the other hand, some people are not aware that archaeology also as limits. So I've got a chapter about that. Because it is sometimes impressive when an archaeologist say, Oh, I have found this building and it dates from this century. And it confirms what the Bible say, says on the continent. It undermines it a few weeks ago, as I was a conference, and I met an oncologist, specialist of Jordan, and he told me, you know, when ergonomist tells you that he, when he speaks in terms of centrally, you should not believe in its border barrier period. So there are many limits to archaeology, and that's normal, but you should be aware of them. And it's a balance. On the one hand accurately, it's fascinating is probably more fascinating that people realize, on the other hand, it doesn't meet. So you have to balance to two facts.
And one of those sets of really fascinating data that archaeology can unearth for us and something you've worked quite a bit on is ancient inscriptions, and people get very excited about ancient inscriptions, as you well know. And you mentioned in the book What ways, just a few examples have inscriptions really enhanced our reading of the Bible other than those sensational kind of claims of proving or disproving the Bible.
So firstly, discussion would be the Misha stell. A few weeks ago there was an exhibition in Paris to celebrate as a discovery of this theory. And the discovery discovery was made when on what 50 years ago, but it is still the most impressive example of ancient inscriptions that we have in Southern Vermont. So you may have heard about King Misha, which is mentioned is mentioned in the Bible, in the salon books of Book of Kings. So he was the king of a small kingdom to the east of that scene, Jonathan today. And it was a sell to us functions is hell, so do not sound Kingdom until we bend So the Bible mentions his rebellion. And then the fact that it's high that King led the military campaign to punish Misha. And in the Bible, it is a story of victories until it highlights which is the capital of mob. And Kim Misha makes the sacrifice of his own son. And his highlights go back to that country. That's a bit Miss Daniels but what is speaking it is a story of a victory of a sigh and interrupted victory. And then bid wins in Java and found a steel, which is more than one meter high. It's quite impressive. It has more than 34 lines of script. And it is to give you an idea, it's almost a biblical chapter, chapter in the Bible of subject versus something like that. It's quite impressive. In this tale, you hear the voice of King Misha himself, who gives his own version of the story. So it tells us that yes, you will be banned. It was his country was oppressed by his height. But then he says that his own good as a God of mohab kamlesh helped me and him to, to be saved from Israel. And he says that it is time it's time for either. So this is this is where the propaganda of course, but a lot more data in this a lot of lot more information is still and he says that in, he felt was against values places in the territories that was controlled by Israel, and then imbued new tempers or he built structures all over the country and this provides you tentative account about the same period. And it's fantastic because imagine that most of the time, what we have is voice or the biblical authors and withdrawals. And it is very rare to be able to compare to what other people would have said, because we do not, don't have the Bible, so to speak. So action transcriptions enable you to, to compare different versions of the same events. That's, that's really interesting. And they come from the earth and they come from a period we are speaking of, we can not long after the events. So that's fascinating. And it requires a sophisticated approach because as we saw, just just eat, sometimes it contains propaganda. So it's not because it is an entity it should be believed without Critical mind without the critical mind. So that's an example. But there are many others example of function descriptions that are relevant. And most of the time what people find in excavations, it's just shelves
as written with ink, or in or incised, and they contain daily life messages, sometimes literals sometimes on the lists of people of commodities. And thanks to these inscriptions, we can look at what it was to leave in nonscience is hired and sometimes I mentioned events to, for instance, our last track on that mentioned the perfect it was it was a day life message between soldiers and they said oh, the perforated said is that very interesting prophets were constructed in our champions. So just just two examples, but compassion To the storms. So buildings that I could just find an F inscriptions contain walls, and you hear suddenly option people speaking. And it's very exciting when you're waiting for the first time messages texts that were in the house for 2500. Yes, and so nobody has waves on this time. It's very exciting to rediscover
that. And you've done a lot of work with a pig Rafi and dealing with ancient inscriptions, and you address several of the issues kind of in approaching and the difficulties, and one that I kind of want to highlight that you speak about is the issue of forgery. So from a specialist perspective, could you explain for us what problems forgeries present, and how if at all, the public can combat the spread of forgeries
Yeah, it's a big issue today in scholarly circles because many inscriptions, especially inscriptions that have been found, not always nice division, but in the Antiquities markets are suspicious. Interesting that it is a shame to discover that maybes are fakes, and as always been forgeries, even antiquity. So it's a widespread phenomenon. And it raises several issues besides a scientific issue. For instance, a few years ago, there was a manuscript of the Bible segment of digital Jerusalem. Deuteronomy 27, very interesting. He speaks about the place where Israel as we build Manta, and it mentions mount journalism, get ism. It's very interesting. It's it covers to wet somebody times have in their own backyard. And there is a whole discussion debate among schools about what was the point of the Petter check what was he not sure i mean you know it's very mysterious should his highlights beauty Manta and the temple, which mainly in Jerusalem, which is not mentioned in repetitive or a mon garrison, as you know, Samaritans believes who gnosis thanks to notice thanks to john chapter four as a distinction between Jesus and the Samaritan woman woman. So it's very exciting to find the fragment of Deuteronomy which mentions guys, but it was not found you and excavations. So should we use it? Enough scientific discussion? are not such a big problem. It's not just a scientific problem. But there is an ethical problem too. Because it's not just the function of the sector. The worry, it's all of the improvement items and subscriptions that are without provenance. We do not know where they come from. It's our suspicions, our claims made by integrity, or details, but it's very difficult to know where does it come in reality, so it involves forgeries. Sometimes it involves, involves authentic inscriptions too. But it also involves inscriptions that come from plundering of museums in Iraq, by ISIS, for instance. And all the plenty of archaeological sites, you know, people are doing excavations illegally. And with bad missiles, the ns that use tablets and USAID. So this is a big issue from an ethical point of view. So today's graphs are reacting, they're playing to improve things. And policies that have been designed to avoid making too much publicity to photos or to an advanced items. So it's very, very, very complicated issues because sometimes the authentics inscriptions or something inscriptions that are settled by antiquities dealers, so we do not want to miss out on the past. So we'll get to the public because that's your question. I think people should be more demanding when they hear news announcement made by you know, just all by myself. by scholars who claim that they have fun and the scripture was accurate succession of inscription, and they should be aware of that when it was not found in proper excavations, there is some suspicion. And you often have to wait a few weeks, a few months before signal opinions by other scholars are published. And there is some suspicion. So that's a big issue a few a few days ago, you may have heard in the media on the internet about the Museum of the Bible in Washington was announced that five of the fragments of manuscripts, although that's just words, so to speak, as that they were fakes. So it's a progress the acid but it gives you an idea of the problem because it was solved at quite high prices.
It's a very lucrative problem. Oh, yes.
Most most girls.
Yes, yes. Not first scholars. Yes.
So in the chapter, the Bible in archaeology, what kind of relationship you really getting get into the meat of the question behind what kind of relationship we should have as Bible readers with archaeology. And you begin by giving an overview of the approaches. And if you could just for our audience, give a little outline of the approaches, and how they developed historically in the field and where we are now.
Yes, because it's very interesting because it's, it tells a lot about the way people relate to activity and schoolhouses. dition so in the beginning,
century and still today, for some people
Z OS good as it sounds that akal g was all about finding things that are mentioned in the Bible. And accurate it was just a means of conformance a Bible. So some people still think in these terms, but soon schoolhouse realized that it was not correct, because accuracy is not just about conformance by birth sometimes our problems too. And what they find when they excavate sites is far wider than just sinks mentioned in the Bible. You have insights that are not mentioned in the Bible and that very interesting you excavate Christian cities that are mentioned in the bible when but where you find periods of not mentioned Bible, later periods, perhaps from the Byzantine are Muslim times. So it's far more, more it's broader than just comparing things to the Bible. And it was his first expectation, because you cannot expect to find a person that mentioned the Bible, and when you do not be disappointed, so it was a simplistic approach. So people moved on, and that was a big field that was named biblical archaeology. But as a technical term, it was represented by William or white, important school as a 20th century influential, quite impressive man. And, as I did not necessarily try to confirm the claims of the Bible through accuracy, but there's still other positive approach observations between them. accuracy. And it I am only speaking. But when it comes to comparing by by accuracy, if the correlation can be made, is that enough to make it as Oh yes, because it points to what is mentioned in the Bible. But then some schools realize that it was still a westwick to approach. But sometimes it was awesome, of course, because it's not just biblical archaeology that people are doing. It can be activity of the Canaanites, for instance, or other people. Fantastic discoveries were made in Newgate, as it is an assumption Syria is a movement, fantastic discoveries. And it's not his highlights. It's another civilization. Because it's really to them simplistic witnesses, and as a civilization but it's a future look and feel to that should be compared to what is in beta, but that's minutes to be studied for itself. No, people are quite often speaking of sable, Palestinian archaeology, these two geographical terms, and they say, Oh, we are studying everything you can find in CMC in Syria and in Palestine as a geographical diameter political term. And, yes, that way to, to get the field archaeology as an independent field, independent from the Bible, it's a progress because if you say, Oh, yes, I know that I would find this because it is mentioned in the Bible, and then you find it through excavations, that is a waste of sacred reasonings. And you will say, Oh, I have found it, it confirms the Bible, that you use the Bible in the first step of your reasoning. So it's better to to have excavations that are made without the Bible. And then perhaps we can compare things. And that's a very common approach today. And since then there are more ways you can approach it. Some people were claiming at some point that archaeology should be the only historical source. The Bible was just fiction relates fiction. But it's not very, very plausible approach because the Bible does contain historical realities. It mentions things that have been verified. So it is simplistic and the Bible was not written just very late. It's It was written during centuries. And more recently, and it is about changing. People have said that accurately it should have a premium when
when historians try to reconstruct the history of functions, Because since I found in the US, they come from the time we are speaking about, and they are they were not submitted to successive elections as a Bible. And it's not ideological people did not swell sing in society just wait for people to find out and be influenced by what they see. No, it just people find what they have when they find when to excavate, but there's a tension here because energy is not a purely objective. Discipline sort of limits, a lot of interpretation is involved. And it is the same as in biblical exegesis, a lot of interpretation is involved. So what I think is that we should make the most of both approaches, studying the Bible for itself, studying accurately called find find installed in cells and then comparing them in the group way. So today, as the main question is, what should have priority and evaluated? It is still it simplistic because the Bible has to be studied critically and logically to get to. So yes, it's a debate today.
So very complex question. But you try to you you show the way that archaeology and the Bible can coexist when you give these test cases at the end of your book, and I think it would be a great opportunity to talk about the benefits of the debate over in your your example your test case, the archaeology of the Davidic and Solomonic kingdoms. It's something that's been called into question recently, but you seem to take the take the perspective that The critical debate is ultimately for the best for understanding the history of the Bible and the methods of archaeology. If you could just take a moment to explain how you see this debate, and what you think those great benefits are.
Yeah, for years, people
with activities, were saying that they had found buildings, places or fortifications, is in some key archaeological sites in Israel that corresponded to solo Solomon's kingdom. So as I said, Oh, yes, Solomon as built Megiddo is a saw, and in Jerusalem, he made buildings and we have found some of them and income streams, that the Bible is right is correct. Solomon was a Greek King and he come tomorrow, the next day. See extensive kingdom. And it was a big deal. And so, yes, that was your portfolio. Yes. And then in the 90s, in the 1990s. scholars were beginning to say, Oh, it's not complicated. And that, because you cannot just say, Oh, this building dates from the 10th century to time of Solomon. Some of the buildings could date to the ninth century as well. And we have no means to decide. So actually is a faster way to challenge the traditional view. And the famous and grid activities is helping catch time and was the main proponent of the views that was the buildings that have been found they did to the ninth century. And so they were actually it's quite two kings of nutshell Nelson is highlight aka he had And actually in the time of cinnamon, when gels lm Megiddo, Giza and so on, we have not that developed, the effort of the remains were not that difficult. So there was a lot of resistance in scarily seconds, because we could mean you have to just say no, there are problems with his new view. And so it's a problem, a chronology, 10th century of 19th century, and there was a lot of debate a lot of sometimes a humanist debate. And it does now be maybe it's not settled today, but even people who disagree with Frankenstein's view, it is still a minority view in scholarly circles. But it is held by a very important graph. Even people did disagree with him. And I've accepted the notion that it is not that easy to say that viewed things based on the 10th century Maybe that's a proper reason, most important view most most widespread view among schools today, maybe maybe we should just accept the fact that we cannot decide between the 10th and the ninth century, when it comes to date buildings, simply because you know, the main means we have to date buildings is supposed to be ceramics, because it has evolved two times. So you're just able to say, oh, it is more or less late. But they're not able to say whether it comes from the 10th or ninth century, it does not evolve fast enough to for us to be able to distinguish. So that's a problem. And what I find remarkable is that it is a technical issue. But if you ever bored you of the debate, you see that even people who disagree with you can change Admit that he was right, in saying that things are more complicated. We should be more modest. And also, it is not a waiver to say that we are going from certainty to uncertainty in debate. It is scientifically better to admit that that is our uncertainties. So, yeah, it's, it is progress for me as a schooler to, to to know, that we are not sure. And I think it would be very important, and this is was one of the reasons that I've wanted book, it is important to say to the general public, that schools have not reached absolute conviction. And that's important, because quite often, you know, just claims that they have pouncing that date things and they're quite sure of themselves. And it's better for publicity to say, Oh, yeah, I'm sure I will. So some of them are very
make quite strong assumptions. And the reality, if you look behind the popular books, beyond the announcements on the internet, is that there is good debate and it is very healthy to just accept this fact. Maybe it will be settled in a few years. Some people in this had good schoolhouse from Tel Aviv. Well, Dhoni doing a lot of radiocarbon dating, and maybe it was something wrong. I don't know. We'll see.
Well, yes, we definitely will see something that enters into this debate about David and Solomon. The history of Israel that I know you have particular interest in is the literacy and writing in the ancient world. And this is the subject of your last chapter. And you mentioned that a lot of critical debate has attempted to lower the dates for the biblical texts on the basis of the lack of epigraphic material that we have from the earlier periods. And I just wanted to give you the opportunity to expound on your own work that you've done with ancient inscriptions and ancient papayas.
And to just
explain to us why we should be skeptical, skeptical of some of the presuppositions and some of the evidences that people have used to lower the dates for the biblical text.
Yeah, so first of all, I'm not trying to say that Moses was a pathetic or that we are sure that they said that difficult books are very early, that were written the earlier we do not know now that but I was a bit annoyed as an ethnographer, too, to read in many papers, a biblical story. koalas were a second that because of the lack of descriptions from the 10th century or ninth century, and because of the poor accuracy requirements found for this diet, it was sure, it was clear that biblical books of sources or with sections of the Bible could not have been made in Judah or not some inside before the eighth century
You can read that in many papers and books, these highlights also people from Jerusalem, that a book able to write long texts before, for instance, a time of Kalia 700 BCE and with colleagues were Specialists of ancient inscriptions. It was almost a joke to say that no, it's you cannot say that. So I looked into the evidence and I tried to shows that the quantitative approach, which is that, yes, for the 10th, and ninth century, VCs are not meaning inscriptions. It's not, it's not really relevant here, because for any period, except for the disease that is called, which is really an exception. For many funds, it tends to maybe the first century BCE, we do not have impressive inscriptions actually further wire as Mauna Kea in Ashanti style, so it's false centrally. We only have one papaya for entrepreneurs function is one papaya. And we know that made by barrels, and we know that otherwise, we have written because we find scenes that were used to seal them and we know that many of them existed. So what we find interesting A very small, small amount compared to what existed. And even so that says a question period. So it's busy from the end of the sixth century, to the last century. Must be because Kula says that many books were copied and written at that time in ancient in Judah, but we do not find any substantive substantial text, long text. In excavations. It does not, it does not happen. So why because papayas was a matter of the disappearance through time, even in Egypt, many papaya disappeared because of the UDT. So this was a quantitative approach to say, Oh, it's, it's not impressive, we find on your fuel spycraft two times and nice and sweet. It's not a good question. Because what we find working when we can expect to find in real life institutions know which we have written on Osaka, for instance of storms. But we cannot expect to find long text by definitions that were written on media that disappeared. So that's one of the some of the points in the debate. Another point was that people unschoolers quite often a set that you need to have a high level of development in a country
for people to be able to put use literature. And I think it is a bit simplistic. First of all, we are not always able to assess what is a live event or development of societies. It's quite a complicated issue. And it depends on on the archaeology of find some general And 10s and 19th century, and it is a hotly debated among scholars. You know, some scholars believe they found the place of King David was I say, say no, it's it's later just buildings are late and the debate, so, we cannot accept that it is clear that Jensen was well developed, if it means something is attentively or whether it was was that it was not developed at all, it was just a tiny town and we do not know that it is some people believe they know, but the reality is that there is a debate and it's not settled today. So, even if we assume that there is a correlation between the level of development of function societies and the rise of literature, which I do not really believe, even if we assume that, then we have to not such a debate is not true But Jonathan. So I think it is not possible sense to accurately to say that there was no literature no people reach out to people because a century. And actually I'm not claiming that biblical books were necessarily produced because that that's a whole distribution. Maybe there were other texts about bar and Asha and other gods, also stories that were produced by scribes. Why not? Maybe the Bible is not all that work was produced in agriculture, the notion is, so it's more complicated than what many scholars believe. And I was troubled and was perplexed when I saw maybe biblical scholars who use archaeology, for to solve the issue of literacy in our beside it is more complicated than that. So, yeah, I just wanted to, to look into the evidence and to say that Oh, it's more complicated. Maybe some of text origins a tense into in the ninth century, it would be more complicated in a single Millenium. Because the script was probably not the same. It evolves to time. It was not normalized in previous centuries. Well, no, it was normalized maybe is the 18th century. And we found that it was the Arabic script was not used in the same way as during the first million young BCE. So that was the issue.
Huh? Yes. Well, thank you so much for being with us today. And just one final question. At unit sauce feed a one of our passions is for seeing the church Globally united. And so I'd like to ask you a question. We've asked you several of our authors. What would it mean for the church to be united? How would Christians recognize this unity? And what can we do as Christians to pursue the Unity for which Jesus prayed in john 17?
Yeah, maybe what I can tell you that might be useful. Helpful is what I leave what I see my life as a scholar. And what I see is that people who studies Bible, whether they're Catholics or Protestants, or orthodox, because they go along quite well, because they have something in common, it's a Bible. And biblical scholars are sometimes quite amazed, at least in my country in France, to see that there is almost no difference when they study the Bible between them. religious convictions does not prevent them to walk together and To play together. A few weeks ago, we had a meeting in Paris, of a castle big network of schools. And it is a national network of schools. It was Catholic in the beginning but no, Domini Protestants as myself in this association. And we work together. We studies Bible together. And sometimes there is no difference between two Protestants. So between the Protestant Catholic and it is a scholarly enterprise but at the same time, as the same time we, I enjoy it, enjoy at least the fact that I am regarded as a brother by my kids get to be colleagues, and we had an ecumenical celebration. So we pray together with we sang together, we were texts from the Bible together. And our I am quite quite impressed by the fact that students Bible which is something we have in common, and enable us to to spend time together and to, to share sometimes very spiritual selves. So that's encouraging to me because a lot of so ethical issues in discussions in a convenient ecumenism, but in a concrete as a very concrete level of discussions between schoolhouse and obey, but yet it seems that we don't quite well, but miles outside is that the form this kind of thing to happen and this is one of the ways that unity is manifested, walk into disaster in the Bible to get a plan together. For this to happen you have to to have deep convictions about other Christians. If you don't accept, accept them or suspicions if you have doubts about Got the purity of the face or something like that. If you think that you are the only one to to own the truth, then you can't really do see so you better to to think these things through before and if you have convictions about that and he had typed a lot my conviction would be is that God is working with different churches and he's doing impressive and fantasies fantastic things with scarcity with also dogs with pedestrians. And yeah, he's got these lenses. He's a state Spirit of God is able to work with all these different people will probably want to work with many issues. Nobody's perfect, and probably one on many issues. If God is ready to work with them, why should I not be ready to work with them? So I'm very interested in what God is doing at the concrete level with people and I can see the Catholic Catholic Church in my town where the priest is really preaching the gospel and lives of gems. And for me, it's intuitive. So just accepting the fact that God is doing fantastic things in different churches, escapes me a lot.
Well, thank you for that wisdom. And I just want to thank you one more time for being with us.