The following article is from *The Skeptical Review*, 1996:
By Farrell Till
I think we can safely assume that Louis Rushmore didn't think very much of the March/April 1995 edition of Biblical Archaeology Review. Before I say anything else about Rushmore's denunciation of modern archaeology, I should explain his comments about the "new hermeneutics." Rushmore is a preacher in the old-guard faction of the Church of Christ that opposes a liberal movement within the denomination to reexamine some of its hardline doctrinal positions that have isolated it from fellowship with other churches. As a first step toward mending the breach that divided the old Campbellite movement into the Church of Christ and the Disciples of Christ, this liberal movement has in particular advocated taking another look at the scriptures on which the Church of Christ has based its exclusion of instrumental music from worship. The old-guard contemptuously refers to this movement as "the *new* hermeneutics."
From what I have read on the subject (and also heard in lectures that were held in conjunction with the Portland, TX, debates I participated in), the old- guard preachers aren't willing even to consider the possibility that their doctrinal beliefs have been based on incorrect interpretations. They simply assume that the "old" way is the right way. They declare the "new hermeneutics" wrong, no ifs, ands, or buts about it.
In Louis Rushmore's article, we see the same attitude toward modern archaeology. Biblical archaeology was begun at a time when the divine inspiration of the Bible was taken for granted. Higher criticism had dared to challenge traditional views of the Bible, but, like all ideas that break with the past, these critical works had not received much attention. Religious institutions had also done their best to keep these liberal ideas from their general membership, so it should not be surprising that the first biblical archaeologists were people who believed in a divinely inspired Bible. Having entered the field with the presupposed opinion that the stories in the Bible were historically accurate, they tended to see what they expected to see. It is understandable, then, that most of their conclusions were influenced by what the Bible said and not necessarily by what the evidence indicated.
With time, that changed. The conclusions of higher criticism gained respect and withstood attempts to discredit them. More and more, archaeologists began to see in their excavations indications that the Bible record wasn't always accurate in what it had reported, until it became rather commonplace to see archaeologists openly disputing biblical accounts that had once been revered as sacred history.
This turnabout is what Mr. Rushmore contemptuously calls the "new" archaeology. An objective person, seeing this turnabout, would advocate juxtaposing the conclusions of both the "old" and the "new" archaeologists and applying scientific methods of analysis to the evidence unearthed by both to see which view is more likely the correct one, but Mr. Rushmore showed no willingness at all to do this. He just summarily pronounced the "new" archaeology wrong. He ridiculed Professor John H. Morison, who had apparently said in Biblical Archaeological Review that he shuddered at certain traditional views of the Bible that some Christians have, but I am not at all embarrassed to say that I shudder to think of what kind of world we would be living in if our human ancestors had tenaciously clung to the old and stubbornly resisted the new. Progress can occur only when some dare to try the new.
If Mr. Rushmore would dare to give the "new" archaeology a chance, he might learn that modern archaeologists have good reasons for challenging the accuracy of some biblical accounts of history. Joseph Callaway had been a conservative Southern Baptist and former professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary before he went to Israel to engage in archaeological work. He excavated the ruins of the ancient city of Ai, whose destruction by Joshua's army is alleged in Joshua 8. According to biblical chronology, the sacking of Ai would have occurred around 1426 B. C., but Callaway's work indicated that the Bible was inaccurate in this claim. Callaway's findings were reported in Mr. Rushmore's favorite publication, Biblical Archaeology Review:
- The evidence from Ai was mainly negative. There was a great walled city there beginning about 3000 B. C., more than 1800 years before Israel's emergence in Canaan. But this city was destroyed about 2400 B. C., after which the site was abandoned.
- Despite extensive excavation, no evidence of a Late Bronze Age (1550- 1200 B. C.) Canaanite city was found. *In short, there was no Canaanite city here for Joshua to conquer* ("Joseph A. Callaway: 1920-1988," November/December 1988, p. 24, emphasis added).
- Archaeology has wiped out the historical credibility of the conquest of Ai as reported in Joshua 7-8. The Joint Expedition to Ai worked nine seasons between 1964 and 1976... only to eliminate the historical underpinning of the Ai account in the Bible (Ibid., p.24).
The matter before us, then, is quite simple. A Southern Baptist professor and archaeologist spent nine years in painstaking excavations at the site of ancient Ai and concluded that the biblical account of Joshua's destruction of this city never happened. Louis Rushmore has spent no time digging at Ai (I venture to say), but he will probably dismiss Callaway's conclusion as nothing but "new archaeology." That's all I need to say about whose opinion in this matter deserves the more serious consideration.
The books of Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy claim that 2.5 to 3 million Israelite slaves left Egypt with pharaoh's army in pursuit, crossed the Red Sea through a path that Moses had miraculously cut through the water, and then spent 40 years wandering in the Sinai wilderness before finally entering Canaan. Along the way, ALL of the adults who came out of Egypt died in the wilderness because of a rather petty offense that had angered their god Yahweh. Anyway, that's the story... according to the Bible. If there is any truth to it, one would think that archaeologists could rather easily find evidence in the Sinai that 2.5 million people had spent 40 years there camping, breaking camp, moving on, making camp again, etc. For one thing, two million Israelites died in the wilderness if this story is true, so surely serious archaeological work would unearth some of their grave sites.
But that has not been the case, even though serious archaeological work has been done in the Sinai region. Eliezer Oren is an Israeli archaeologist who spent 9 years digging in the Sinai for evidence to support the biblical account of the wilderness wanderings. In a lecture at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Canada, he reported that "his efforts at more than 80 sites in the Sinai from 1972 to 1982 had not turned up any support for the historical accuracy of when the exodus was supposed to have occurred" (Barry Brown, News Toronto Bureau, February 27, 1988). Referring to "papyrus notes" he had found that mentioned the sighting of two runaway slaves, Oren said, "They were spotted, [but] 2.5 million people with 600,000 of military age weren't."
To Mr. Rushmore, of course, this is all just "new" archaeology, but I wonder what evidence he can cite from "old" archaeology that would give logical reasons to believe the exodus did happen?