The Value and Limitations of Archaeology (Part 7) (The Covenant & the Cross #12)

We always like to start out with the Word of God, and today’s passage of Scripture is John 1:1 which reads: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Today’s quote about the Bible is from Leonard Ravenhill. He said: “One of these days some simple soul will pick up the Book of God, read it, and believe it. Then the rest of us will be embarrassed.”

Today, we are going to continue our overview of some topics that will help us as we study the Bible throughout future episodes.

Our topic for today is titled: “The Value and Limitations of Archaeology (Part 5)” from the book, “The Promise and the Blessing” by Michael A. Harbin.

Today, let’s consider The Development of Writing

All writing began as pictograms, in which the writer used pictures to convey concepts. As different cultures used different media, these pictures became more abstract. In Mesopotamia, where they used clay as a primary writing material, the pictures became a collection of wedge marks called cuneiform. In Egypt, where they mainly used papyrus, the pictures became stylized drawings that we know as hieroglyphs.

The earliest documents were primarily economic. However, by the middle of the third millennium BC (2700-2400), a few tablets appear containing parts of some of the myths and legends of the time. Some of these are earlier versions of accounts that we have in later form from Babylon and Assyria.

By the time of Sar-gon II (about 2300 BC), who built a large empire around the city of Akkad, we find a number of documents that relate history and mythology as well as the mundane affairs of everyday life. Over the past 150 years, several archives have been discovered in a variety of cities. The most recent major find was in the mid-1970s in modern Syria. The site, Tell Mardikh, contains the remains of an ancient city called Ebla. The library there appears to date from the time of Abraham, covering the period from just before Sar-gon to a few centuries afterward (about 1500 BC).

What does this mean for biblical studies? It suggests two very important things. First, the patriarchs would not only have been familiar with writing, but they also could have been literate. If our dating of Abraham is correct, he lived in approximately 2000 BC. By his time, writing was very common. Moses lived about five hundred years later and most likely was able to read and write. In fact, Moses may well have used three different languages — Egyptian, Akkadian (the lingua franca of the day), and Hebrew.

Second, the early use of writing lends credence to the position that the Old Testament documents are indeed what they claim to be: eyewitness accounts written down by people who observed the events. That does not require that the writer of each book saw all of the events he wrote about. The Bible contains a number of citations of other books — books we no longer have today — that were used as source documents. But this is the same way we write history today.

If the Lord tarries his coming and we live, our next broadcast will be our final episode on “The Value and Limitations of Archaeology.”

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