Academic journal article Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

Archaeology and Ot Theology: Their Interface and Reciprocal Usefulness

Academic journal article Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

Archaeology and Ot Theology: Their Interface and Reciprocal Usefulness

Article excerpt


This essay originated as a lecture delivered at Southern Adventist University in 2014 for the annual Gerhard F. Hasel Lectureship. This was to me an unusual honor and privilege since I have long known and admired the respected scholar and churchman for whom the series is named. I began teaching OT theology at Dallas Theological Seminary in 1977 and recognized very early on that if I were to have any grounding at all in the discipline as it evolved and found expression at that time there was a sine qua non without which I could not dispense. That, of course, was Gerhard Hasel's OT Theology: Basic Issues in the Current Debate, at that time in its second edition. From 1977 until my retirement from the Seminary in the spring of 2013 I leaned so heavily on that edition and the two that followed that I nearly wore them out. When I received the sad news of his untimely decease over ten years ago, one of my first thoughts was: Who will pick up the mantle of the great prophet and keep us informed concerning the field of study we both loved so much?

Professor Hasel had a great interest in both biblical archaeology and biblical theology, especially the latter, and thus it was not difficult for me to pick a topic by which the two disciplines could be reexamined, particularly in their relationship the one to the other. A further impetus to my choice of topic was my awareness that his gifted son Michael is on the faculty of this fine institution and in his own right is gaining wide recognition for excellence as a scholar in the area of archaeology, recently at Khirbet Qeiyafa and now at Tell es-Safi (Gath?). Between them they bridge the disciplines about which I am writing here, namely archaeology and biblical theology. The following offering pays tribute to Hasel the elder, a man beloved, admired, and sorely missed by his colleagues near and far for the example he set in life and ministry.


I wish first to deal with biblical theology, which is made distinctive by the adjective "biblical." Hasel astutely observed with regard to biblical theology's relationship to systematic theology, in particular, that "the Biblical theologian draws his categories, themes, motifs, and concepts from the Biblical text itself," as compared to the systematic theologian who "endeavors to use current philosophies as the basis for his primary categories or themes."1 This definition was not intended as a trivializing subordination of systematic theology; for Hasel goes on to say in the same context, "the Biblical and systematic theologians do not compete with each other. Their function is complementary. Both need to work side by side, profiting from each other."2

A possibly useful metaphorical analogy from the mining of precious metals or stones is that biblical theology provides the raw materials from the mine of biblical truth with which systematic theologians can create beautiful and perfectly shaped theological presuppositions. However, they must never exceed the limits to which the materials can be exploited nor, on the other hand, they must never fail to make fullest use of their potentials. Or again to speak analogically, biblical theology is the seedbed from which grows the full fruition of biblical revelation organized in a systematic, non-contradictory, and understandable manner. For the conservative theologian of either kind, the Scriptures of the Hebrew and Greek Bibles are the inerrant Word of God, a revelation to be trusted in whatever it intends to say, whether about history, science, philosophy, sociology, or any other discipline. This includes biblical archaeology, which, after all, is an attempt to discover all the evidences possible of the fields of study just suggested and to discern how these evidences comport with the testimony of the OT and NT

Archaeology of the Levant was first undertaken by persons closely connected to the church and the Scriptures who in some instances had the clear agenda of "proving" the Bible by their discoveries. …

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