Where “Indiana Jones” Gets Archaeology Wrong

When you imagine an archaeological site, do you see white tents, pith helmets, and sand dunes? Is the dig director a middle-aged man with a thick British accent, bossing around his local workers and charging into newly opened tombs with abandon? That image isn’t too far from the truth of the late-19th- and early-20th-century excavations that sought to find ancient, beautiful objects for national museums and personal collections.

Those first archaeologists were romanticized by writers and inspired some great film characters (Boris Karloff’s The Mummy and Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones leap to mind). They popularized the field, inspired Halloween costumes, and had children like me answering “archaeologist” when asked what they wanted to be when they grew up.

Unfortunately, the linen-clad men and women were mere treasure hunters. Their methods of extraction disconnected their finds from the historical calendar and left spectators to marvel at the items instead of understand who had created them and why.

Archaeology means “the study of ancient history.” It is a branch of anthropology that attempts to reconstruct the lives of ancient people based on what they left behind. The further one goes back in time, the fewer written records remain, so archaeologists study mundane objects and architectural ruins to discover who people were, how they lived, and why they died.

Archaeology has become increasingly scientific in the last century. In the 1930s, William F. Albright invented the first method of dating ancient sites based on the shapes and colors of the ceramics excavated. He found that cities throughout a region could be connected to one another in time based on their styles of pottery. Today archaeologists still do their primary dating based on the pottery, but they can learn even more about artifacts with technological tools such as radiocarbon dating, DNA testing, GPS location, and microbiology.

Within the field of archaeology is biblical archaeology, which was also “created” by William F. Albright. It exists to contextualize Scripture—to come alongside God’s Word and help us better understand it.

Read this description of the water-basin stands that Hiram created for Solomon’s temple in 1 Kings 7:27-30:

And he made ten bases of brass; four cubits was the length of one base, and four cubits the breadth thereof, and three cubits the height of it. And the work of the bases was on this manner: they had borders, and the borders were between the ledges: And on the borders that were between the ledges were lions, oxen, and cherubims: and upon the ledges there was a base above: and beneath the lions and oxen were certain additions made of thin work. And every base had four brasen wheels, and plates of brass: and the four corners thereof had undersetters: under the laver were undersetters molten, at the side of every addition (KJV).

Based on those words, artists and theologians and Sunday School children would draw wildly different versions of the stands because that description is unintelligible unless the object has been seen in real life. But in the 1980s, such a stand was found in Ekron. Informed by that discovery, read how a more recent Bible translation describes the stands:

Each water stand was 6 feet long, 6 feet wide, and 4½ feet high. The stands had side panels and panels between the crossbars. On the panels between the crossbars there were lions, oxen, and winged creatures. There was a pedestal over the crossbars that would support the basin, and there were garlands of ornaments below the lions and oxen. There were 4 bronze wheels and 4 bronze axles for each stand. The 4 legs of each stand also had 4 bases. There were bases with garlands on all sides below the basin (The Voice).

What Trude Dothan and her team found at Ekron helps us to envision what Scripture is describing. Her find may not be exciting, but it helps us to imagine ourselves worshiping at Solomon’s Temple among God’s other followers.

Neither Albright nor Dothan were adventure-seeking, artifact-stealing rogues wearing leather jackets and escaping rivals (or authorities) on motorcycle. They didn’t find the ark of the covenant, but they and their successors have helped Bible readers understand God’s Word just a bit better.

Originally published on the Harvest House Publishers Blog.

Wildfires and Politics

My world is on fire. Literally. Every ridge surrounding our city has a wildfire burning on top of it, and the smoke is settling on the streets of Chattanooga. It’s suffocating and headache-inducing. As I write (and as I dread going back to editing that Greek exegesis waiting on my desk) the pain in and behind my eyes is intense.

Our figurative world is burning these days too. If you found this post because of a social media link, then you’ve also read posts and articles all about how America is going down in flames if Candidate X is elected. Maybe you’ve even shared a few stories, commented on a few others.

My Granny would have been right there with you. Back when there was an alarmingly high number of cable channels–50, as I remember–she watched just CNN. It was on 24 hours a day. She listened to talk radio and wrote letters to our congressmen. She spent hours in AOL politics-themed chat rooms every night. She was the most informed woman I’ve ever known, and some of her passion “caught fire” in me.

So people who have known me longest may be surprised that I’ve stayed out of all the political squabbling. In fact, I’ve been avoiding Facebook and Twitter and everywhere else for the last six months. (Though to be honest, I started to pull away well over a year ago. Social media blurs the lines between opinion and truth, and the older I get the less willing I am to put up with that.)

The election has only fired up the animosity that pervades our society, so once we’ve all cast our votes tomorrow, the arguing won’t end. Why? Because we’re all so selfish.  We vote for who we think will improve our own lives, regardless of how others may be impacted.

If we are all going to live with each other after tomorrow, then we need to stop trying to change others’ opinions and start changing our own actions toward others.

I’ve been spending a lot of time in Luke lately (thanks to that exegesis weighing down my desk right now). In chapter 10, a scholar tries to trick Jesus into contradicting the Hebrew scriptures when he asks how one can attain eternal life. He answers his own question:

You shall love—“love the Eternal One your God with everything you have: all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind”—and “love your neighbor as yourself (v. 27, The Voice).

And who is that “neighbor”? Jesus answers with a story:

This fellow was traveling down from Jerusalem to Jericho when some robbers mugged him. They took his clothes, beat him to a pulp, and left him naked and bleeding and in critical condition. By chance, a priest was going down that same road, and when he saw the wounded man, he crossed over to the other side and passed by. Then a Levite who was on his way to assist in the temple also came and saw the victim lying there, and he too kept his distance. Then a despised Samaritan journeyed by. When he saw the fellow, he felt compassion for him. The Samaritan went over to him, stopped the bleeding, applied some first aid, and put the poor fellow on his donkey. He brought the man to an inn and cared for him through the night.

The next day, the Samaritan took out some money—two days’ wages to be exact—and paid the innkeeper, saying, “Please take care of this fellow, and if this isn’t enough, I’ll repay you next time I pass through.” (Luke 10:30-35, The Voice)

The neighbor is “the one who showed mercy” (v. 37). Not the priest and Levite who were literal neighbors–presumably sharing the victim’s Jewish faith and living in his community–but the Samaritan. He would have believed and worshiped and lived differently than the victim. Regardless of all his social differences, his actions made him the true neighbor. The one we are commanded to love as ourselves.

On Wednesday morning, I hope the election won’t have left you feeling as if you’ve been “mugged” and left “in critical condition”; but it looks like about half the country will feel that way.

It is time for us to start loving each other, regardless of our social differences. It is time for us to stop thinking so highly of ourselves and our own opinions that we can justify our disregard of others, or worse, we can justify attacking and hating others. Not just during election season–when America is on fire–but every day of our lives.

No matter what happens in the next 48 hours, let’s go out into our smoke-filled streets and AOL chat rooms and show some mercy.

I’m Ready to Have a Good Day

It’s been almost 4 months since you’ve heard from me, and there’s a reason for that. The day of my last post, I learned that Barren‘s publisher had decided not to publish more books in the InScribed Collection. This decision has touched me professionally and emotionally. I am wondering how God will use me now. (On bad days, I’m wondering if He even wants to use me.)

The seven books in the collection are different from anything else on the market because of their origins. We 7 authors are truly friends. We were all brought together by Ashley Linne and the publisher’s editorial staff in 2013; and from the moment we met, we “clicked.” Yes, we promote each other’s work, but we tend to be more concerned with each other’s lives. In just 2 years we’ve birthed 3 babies and made 4 cross-country moves. Our Facebook Group page looks more like a family’s daily ramblings than a work site.

The team’s dedication to God and each other over our concerns for our own works made all of our books better. We learned from each other. I would do a theological review for one author while another was teaching me how to blog (or do anything tech-related!). I know this is a unique community experience among authors. I don’t know how to move forward without them going with me. So at the moment, I’m not moving forward. I’m mourning. I’m waiting.

I learned during David’s and my 7 years of fertility treatments that God teaches me the most when I’m not doing anything but listening. But I’m a where-there’s-a-will-there’s-a-way kind of girl. Just ask my parents: Back in 2002 they said, “Sure you can go dig in Israel–if you get a full scholarship to do it.” One week later, I gave them the “good” news. Or ask my husband: This summer he rightly said, “We don’t have the money to get that fig tree removed.” So I sold it instead!

It wasn’t until 5-or-so years ago that I learned, “God helps those who help themselves,” is not a Bible verse. It is an American adage with inherent value, but I tend to live as if it is Scripture. God made me tenacious, but He wants me to doggedly pursue His will and not my own plans.

The Eternal One is good to those who expect Him,
     to those who seek Him wholeheartedly.
It is good to wait quietly
     for the Eternal to make things right again.
It is good to have to deal
     with restraint and burdens when young
(Lamentations 3:25-27, VOICE).

In 586 BC Jerusalem was razed by the Babylonians, and her prominent citizens were exiled to Babylon or other cities within the Empire. The Book of Lamentations was written shortly after the war to the Israelites who remained in Jerusalem; and in this passage, the writer is encouraging his suffering readers to wait patiently but expectantly for God to act.

Verse 27 points out that the burden of suffering is best experienced when one is young. Two things result from suffering in youth: one learns that affliction is temporary while God’s mercy is permanent, and someone who survives suffering at an early age is less likely to be consumed by it when she is older.

So I’m learning. I know that when disaster and loss come, God is faithful and has a will and a plan that supersede my circumstances.

I’m waiting. I’m reading the Bible and praying. I’m asking advice from friends and colleagues, but I’m keeping myself from pursuing a new goal until God makes clear where He intends for me to go next.

And I’m sad that I can’t return to the nurturing community of authors and editors I enjoyed as Barren was published, but I am encouraged that God is somehow preparing me to better work for His Kingdom.

That confidence in Him makes today a good day.