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Archeology, Biblical


Meaning and Scope.

The term archeology has become current through the work of Josephus bearing that name (Gk. Archaiologia; Lat. Antiquitates),—a presentation of Hebrew and Jewish history from the Creation to the time of Nero. Before Josephus, Dionysius of Halicarnassus (i. 4; iv. 1) and others applied the name to ancient histories and mythologies. Biblical archeology in this sense should treat Biblical history in all its relations. The term is now restricted, however, to a certain section of Biblical history, and means the scientific description of the relations, institutions, and customs of the civil and religious life of Israel in Bible times. The science is thus distinguished from Biblical history in the common sense, from Biblical theology, and from Christian archeology and church history. It would be more exact to speak of Hebrew-Jewish archeology based on Biblical sources; but the old name is too firmly established to be superseded.

Aim, Method, and Subdivisions.

The science is one of the most important helps to the understanding of the Old Testament and such parts of the New as have a Jewish background; it acquaints both the scholar and the Bible-reader with the conditions which must be known if the events recorded and the religious views set forth are to be rightly appreciated. But its aim can only be attained when sought in the right way. The method must be historical and the study must begin with a critical examination of the sources; the customs and institutions described can not be considered isolated phenomena, but must be treated as parts of the organic whole of world history; their historical development must be traced. It may here be remarked that in the present state of knowledge of the history of Hebrew literature many points of archeology do not admit of a final decision. A topical arrangement on the whole seems preferable to an attempt to present the matter chronologically. The most natural subdivision draws the line between religious and secular things. The former division will include the holy places (the ark of the covenant, the tabernacle, high places, the temple, synagogues), holy actions (sacrifice, prayer, vows, oracles, purification), holy seasons (Sabbath, new moon, festivals), and holy persons (priests, Levites, seers, prophets, Nazirites, hierodules, etc.). The latter head subdivides into things of public and private life, and includes arts and sciences, weights, measures, divisions of time, and the like. A description of land and people forms a fitting introduction.


Of the sources of Biblical archeology, the most important are, of course, monuments, inscriptions, and coins. As to monuments, Palestine is well known to be poorer than most other lands of civilized antiquity. The most important now known are certain remains of buildings, walls, and aqueducts in Jerusalem. Here and there graves have been opened which throw some light upon burial customs. Pottery and weights may be mentioned here, though specimens are few. The triumphal arch of Titus in Rome has sculptures of articles of temple furniture, and various Assyrian, Egyptian, and Phenician monuments and sculptures illustrate Israelitic architecture (temples, palaces, altars, etc.), explain Israelitic customs (dress, war, etc.), or furnish pictures of Israelitic things or persons. Inscriptions relating to Hebrew and Jewish history are also surprisingly few. The only important ones thus far found are the Moabite Stone, the Siloam inscription, and the tablet on the temple of Herod. Certain Phenician inscriptions (such as the sarcophagus inscription of Eshmunezer and the votive tablet of Massilia), and some Greek and Latin inscriptions from Palestine touch upon Jewish history. The Assyrian and Egyptian inscriptions and those of Nearer Asia in general, as well as all monuments of these peoples, now and then furnish material of more or less importance (see Inscriptions). Such coins as we have belong to Maccabean and later times. The written sources are: (1) The books of the Old and New Testaments and the Old Testament apocrypha; (2) the writings of Josephus, especially the Bellum Judaicum, the Antiquitates, and the Contra Apionem, which are not altogether free from partizanship; (3) Philo’s great allegorical commentary on the Pentateuch, which likewise has an apologetic tendency and betrays the fact that the author did not know Hebrew; (4) the rabbinic writings, Midrash, Targums, and Talmud, which are obscure and in their present form are hardly older than the second Christian century. Lastly, owing to the tenacity with which nomad Bedouins hold to their customs and religious conceptions for centuries, the accounts of travelers in Palestine and neighboring lands from the Middle Ages to the present time, as well as the descriptions of pre-Islamic Arabia, furnish an important source and one which has only lately begun to receive the attention which it deserves.

(R. Kittel.)

Certain Distinctions.

The definition given above may be better appreciated if certain distinctions are pointed out and explained: (1) The distinction between Biblical history and Biblical archeology. The archeology of a country or a people is an essential preparation for the intelligent study of its history. But archeology also includes a related branch of historical study, namely the history and antiquities of the related peoples, and neither the beginnings nor progress of Hebrew history can be understood without a good knowledge of the older and of the contemporary Semites out of whom Israel grew, by whom its fortunes were determined, and whose genius influenced vitally its religious and social character. For example, in the first order of value for Biblical study must be placed the history and religion of Babylonia and Assyria, and the religious and social institutions of the ancient Arabians and Arameans. (2) The distinction between the relevant and the irrelevant in the history and antiquities of the related or neighboring peoples. Here the vaguest notions are encouraged by a loose application of the term archeology. For example, Egypt is constantly looked to for illustration of the Bible and for confirmation of its records, and a large part of the material published 262 by the Society of Biblical Archeology, and the greater portion of many separate works upon the same theme are devoted to Egyptian research, which has yielded very little for the understanding of Biblical history, and virtually nothing for the illustration of the religious and social life of the Hebrews. The reason therefor lies partly in the unique and unsympathetic character of Egyptian culture, partly in the fact that Egypt had very seldom any controlling influence on Palestine during the formative period of Israel, and partly in the circumstance that the Egyptian records are not so businesslike and accurate as, for example, those of Assyria and Babylonia, which form an indispensable supplement to Biblical history. (3) The distinction between ancient and modern conditions. It is a common error to suppose that the study of Bible lands and the manners and customs of their present habitants furnish Biblical archeology accurately reproduced. As a matter of fact such a study is informing only along the line of external resemblance. The outward life of the Semitic peoples has remained in many respects like its ancient past because of a similarity of occupation and the slow march of civilization. Occasional Bible texts here and there are illumined by a reference to modern customs. But there is a world-wide difference in the Nearer East, as elsewhere, between the life and spirit of the past and the present. The Bible itself, regarded in the light of its own political, social, and religious atmosphere, is the great handbook of Biblical archeology, whose primary elements, moreover, are not so much facts as conditions and principles, such as the inseparable relation between God and his people, between the people and the land, and between God and the land; the immediate and direct action of the Deity in all events and in all phenomena; the unity and actual identity of what are called the sacred and the secular, of religion and life, or of religion and morals; the solidarity of the community as the basis of the State and the ground of the responsibility of the individual; and a world-consciousness without abstract ideas and to which even God himself was the most concrete of realities.

J. F. M.

Bibliography: Of works on Biblical archeology or useful as sources, the more important of ancient time are: Eusebius, “On the Names of places in the Holy Scripture,” commonly called the Onomasticon, translated into Latin by Jerome, with title, De situ et nominibus locorum Hebraicorum, both in P. de Lagarde, Onomastica sacra, Göttingen, 1870, 1887; Epiphanius, “On Weights and Measures,” ed. Lagarde, Symmicta, ii. 149-216, Göttingen, 1880. More modern works: C. Sigonius, De republica Hebraica, Bologna, 1582; B. Arias Montanus, Antiquitates Judaicæ, Leyden, 1593; T. Godwin, Moses et Aaron, Oxford, 1616; ed. J. H. Hottinger, Frankfort, 1710; P. Cunæus, De republica Hebraica, Lyons, 1617; J. Spencer, De legibus Hebræorum ritualibus, Cambridge, 1685; rev. ed. by L. Chappelow, 1727, by C. M. Pfaff, Tübingen, 1732; J. Lund, Die alten jüdischen Heiligthümer, Gottesdienste, und Gewohnheiten, Hamburg, 1695; M. Leydekker, De republica Hebræorurn, Amsterdam, 1704; A. Reland, Palæstina ex monumentis veteribus illustrata, Utrecht, 1714; A. G. Wähner, Antiquitates Ebræorum, Göttingen, 1743; J. D. Michaelis, Mosaisches Recht, Frankfort, 1771-75, Biehl, 1777, Eng. transl., London, 1814; H. E. Warnekros, Entwurf der hebräischen Alterthümer, Weimar, 1782, 1794, 1832. Most of the works which had appeared at the time were collected by B. Ugolino in his Thesaurus antiquitatum sacrarum, 34 vols., Venice, 1744-69. From this time on there are numerous works, such as those of G. L. Baur, Gottesdienstliche Verfassung, Leipsic, 1805; J. Jahn, Vienna, 1817-25, Eng. transl., Andover, 1827; W. M. L. de Wette, 4th ed. by F. J. Räbiger, Leipsic, 1864; J. H. Pareau, Utrecht, 1817; J. M. A. Scholz, Bonn, 1834; E. W. Hengstenberg, Bücher Mose’s und Ægypten, Berlin, 1841, Eng. transl. by R. D. C. Robbins, Andover, 1843; C. Von Lengerke, Kenaan, Königsberg, 1844; H. Ewald, Appendix to vol. ii. of Geschichte des Volkes Israel, Göttingen, 1848, 1866, Eng. transl. by H. S. Solly, London, 1876; J. L. Saalschütz, Mosaisches Recht, Berlin, 1853; idem, Archäologie, Königsberg, 1855-56; K. F. Keil, Frankfort, 1858-59, 1875, Eng. transl., Edinburgh, 1887-88; D. B. von Haneberg, Munich, 1869; H. J. Van Lennep, Bible Lands; their modern Customs and Manners illustrative of Scripture, New York, 1875. The latest works are E. C. Bissell, Biblical Antiquities, Philadelphia, 1888 (conservative); E. Babelon, Manual of Oriental Antiquities . . . Chaldæa, Assyria, Persia, Syria, Judæa, Phœnicia, and Carthage, London, 1889, new ed., 1906 (valuable for purposes of comparison); J. T. de Visser, Hebreeuwsche Archæologie, 2 vols., Utrecht, 1891-98; J. Benzinger, Hebräische Archäologie, Freiburg, 1894 (an excellent handbook); W. Nowack, Hebräische Archäologie, Freiburg, 1894 (goes well with Benzinger); C. Clermont-Ganneau, Recueil des monuments inédits ou peu connus, art, archéologie, epigraphie, 3 vols., Paris, 1897-1900; Recent Research in Bible Lands, ed. H. V. Hilprecht, Philadelphia, 1898; T. Nicol, Recent Archœology and the Bible, London, 1899; a useful book is H. V. Hilprecht, Explorations in Bible Lands, Philadelphia, 1903; the various histories of Israel by Wellhausen, Stade, Kittel, and others are also important. For Arabian Antiquities see under Arabia, and for Egypt and Asia Minor see those articles. For the medieval itineraries and modern works of travel, consult R. Röhricht, Bibliotheca geographica Palæstinæ, Berlin, 1890; a useful bibliography will be found in J. F. Hurst, Literature of Theology, 118-130, New York, 1896.

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