On the Misuse of Archaeology for Evangelistic Purposes

If scholars do not counter sensational claims made by religious groups perverting science for their own evangelistic purposes, archaeologists run the risk of having their own research, their own voices, and potentially their entire discipline diluted by these ideologically inspired, nonscientific claims. And that is precisely the goal of religious organizations posing as scientific endeavors: if they can saturate the media with enough junk science to counter each claim made by legitimate archaeologists, the public will not be able to tell the difference between fact and fiction, will get lost in the exchange, and will see the junk science as a remote possibility and therefore just as worthy of consideration as legitimate science.

By Robert R. Cargill
UCLA Center for Digital Humanities
UCLA Qumran Visualization Project
June 2010


The April 2010 declaration by the Hong Kong-based group Noah’s Ark Ministries International (NAMI)1 and their partner, The Media Evangelism Limited, claiming to have discovered Noah’s Ark is only the latest episode in a long history of religious organizations misusing archaeology for evangelistic purposes. Scholars at nearly all points on both the scientific and religious spectra immediately and vociferously rejected NAMI’s claims as the sensational drivel of an overtly evangelical organization seeking to kick off an advertising campaign2 with the hopes of converting people to Christianity,3 and selling DVDs,4 tickets to a theme park,5 and tickets to a “museum” exhibition,6 while deliberately circumventing the scholarly circles they knew would expose their balderdash barge before it ever set sail.

Unfortunately, the academic community’s immediate exposure,7 evisceration,8 and outright rejection9 of NAMI’s unsubstantiated claims have not stopped the group from defending their position.10 And regrettably, the academy’s recent efforts will not stop future groups from “publishing by press conference” and making fantastic claims about finding Noah’s Ark, the Ark of the Covenant, fragments of the “true” cross of Christ, and pimping both archaeology and religion in an attempt to make a few bucks and a few more Christians using plainly deceptive means. For this reason, scholars must continue to counter these outrageous claims with sound logic and hard evidence each and every time they are made.

The persistent use of archaeology for evangelical and moneymaking purposes must be consistently and vigorously countered. It is just as important for archaeologists to counter the pseudoscientific, religiously motivated claims of amateur Ark-seekers immediately and publicly as it is for them to do their own original excavations and research. For in today’s modern media, where far more people watch the History Channel and browse the Internet than read professional journals, if scholars do not counter sensational claims made by religious groups perverting science for their own evangelistic purposes, archaeologists run the risk of having their own research, their own voices, and potentially their entire discipline diluted by these ideologically inspired, nonscientific claims. And that is precisely the goal of religious organizations posing as scientific endeavors: if they can saturate the media with enough junk science to counter each claim made by legitimate archaeologists, the public will not be able to tell the difference between fact and fiction, will get lost in the exchange, and will see the junk science as a remote possibility and therefore just as worthy of consideration as legitimate science. While I applaud the democratization of knowledge and learning that the Internet has empowered, credibility and authority still have a role to play. Scholars must not yield the authority of their rigorous, professional training to amateurs, however zealous and ubiquitous these amateurs may be. For, while all have the freedom of speech, not all archaeological claims are created equal.

Evangelists and junk scientists who abuse science for the purpose of advancing religious claims are counting upon the academy’s reluctance to get involved and combat nonsense. As long as legitimate scholars have “more important things to do,” “other, legitimate articles to write,” and are reticent about getting involved with responding directly to the public about archaeological matters, the amateurs, hacks, and religious hucksters win. These frauds are counting on scholars to remain silent, indifferent, and weary of public interaction; it is from the negligence and apathy of the academy that junk science draws its strength.

Unlike public discourse, archaeology is a science that must follow scientific guidelines, principles, and methodologies. The scientific method cannot be sporadically employed when it is convenient; the scientific method is a principle that all scientists must follow at all times. If one is to employ science in support of one’s claims, it must be done consistently and followed completely regardless of where the data lead. Only when one is willing to submit consistently to the scientific method can one’s scientific conclusions be taken seriously and can a scientist be considered credible. One employing science in their research cannot simply suspend the scientific method when science refutes one’s religious claims.

It is amazing how those who abuse archaeology for their own religious purposes are often quick to abandon the laws of physics, exit the realm of science, and synthesize miraculous explanations in order to rationalize and maintain problematic claims like the Flood and Noah’s Ark, while they simultaneously attempt to appeal to science as authoritative when it potentially supports their religious assertions. These organizations conveniently, yet hypocritically, utilize the very science they dispute because they know science is ultimately the coin of the realm. They couch their claims in scientific terms in an attempt to convince others of the very claims real science has refuted. They disguise their pseudoscientific “discoveries” as actual science and pray that the scientific community does not view their charade as worthy of the effort of scholarly rebuttal. Again, scientific impostors prey on the apathy of scholars.

Therefore, in an effort to practice what I preach, allow me to illustrate the egregious nature of NAMI’s blatant and fraudulent abuse of archaeology for evangelistic purposes. I have already noted that the expedition has taken the self-fulfilling name of Noah’s Ark Ministries International. Its partner in scientific crime is The Media Evangelism Limited, a Hong-Kong based Christian organization “committed to building a Christian media presence by using every modern means of communication to promote the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.”11 Thus, from the outset, the group makes no attempt to hide the fact that it is searching for something specific (Noah’s Ark), that it is a Christian “ministry” of some ilk, and that its sole purpose is proselytization – that is, the creation of more likeminded Christians. Their name alone should arouse suspicions among scholars.

In response to various scholarly critiques,12 NAMI put together a series of video rebuttals.13 In their responses to these legitimate criticisms of their methods and conclusions, NAMI and The Media Evangelism Limited have revealed the true motive behind their mission.

In one of the video responses, Man-Fai Yuen, General Secretary of The Media Evangelism Limited, gives an interview in Chinese. The interview was released as a video entitled, Do We Believe in the Noah’s Ark or the God behind It? and is subtitled in English.14 In the video, Yuen openly explains the evangelical motivation behind their expedition and recent claims of discovery. First, Yuen explicitly states that he became a Christian after a previous bogus Ark discovery claim:

Some decades ago, there was a booklet called “The Ark Found by Satellite Photo”. When we look into the booklet, we know that it talked about a piece of news, which was about a place at the foot of Mt. Ararat that looked like Noah’s Ark. In the end, people believed that it was formed by some lava. It was not Noah’s Ark. Yet because of “The Ark Found by Satellite Photo” I was led to believe in Jesus Christ. So were many other people. Today, when I have climbed Mt. Ararat, and found what the booklet described was not Noah’s Ark. Did it make me drop out of my faith in Jesus Christ? Not at all. The content design of this booklet was to arouse people’s curiosity and interests through the news report. People were encouraged when they read it. By talking about the news, it guided people to know more about God. Once a person is led to God, God will keep revealing himself to that person, such revelations are far more beyond Noah’s Ark.15

Therefore, because Yuen came to be a Christian by what can only be described as bogus means (the Ark claim that piqued his interest was, after all, “not Noah’s Ark”), Yuen feels that it is equally acceptable to use similarly deceptive means to attract others to Christianity.

Yuen goes on to discuss whether NAMI’s claim is actually verifiable. Shockingly (but perhaps not surprisingly), Yuen concludes that as long as people come to know Jesus, it was a worthwhile endeavor.16 Yuen startlingly states:

We can only trust in the Lord. Therefore for us, do we need 100 percent solid evidence? On a spiritual journey, so often we do not have 100 percent solid evidence. On the contrary, we should have 100 faith.17

As for us, we believe that God has led us to climb the mountain; we believe that God has led us to discover the structure. In fact, we had believed it before we found anything, when we thought it might be the place; and when later we found some clues and some traces; till [sic] finally we discovered the structure.18 (italics mine)

But scientific methods have no way to prove that it is indeed Noah’s Ark. So you need to have faith in what the Bible says, that Noah’s Ark and the global Great Flood did exist.19 (italics mine)

Yuen ultimately concedes that their claim of “99.9% certainty”20 regarding their discovery of Noah’s Ark was bogus because “scientific methods have no way to prove that it is indeed Noah’s Ark.”

Perhaps the most flagrant statement from Yuen was his unapologetic admission that NAMI was simply using science in an attempt to make more Christians. At the 5:12 mark in the interview, Yuen concedes:

Therefore as mature Christians, we should be accurate in speaking. When we talk about it from news or scientific aspects, we are just making use of itThe thing itself is not the truth. It is prone to change. Even today when I say that this is 90% sure to be the Ark, assume that one day the 10% rest showed that it is not to be the Ark, even then I don’t think it matters. Because what people believe is not only Noah’s Ark itself, they should believe the God who worked behind Noah’s Ark.21 (italics mine)

The speaker goes on to compare his “discovery” of Noah’s Ark to the claims made about the Shroud of Turin, which he says brought many people to believe in Jesus, despite the fact that it has repeatedly been shown to be a fake. The speaker admits that the publicity and evangelical opportunities generated by both false claims outweigh the fact that the claims were indeed false. For the ethically challenged NAMI “explorers,” the ends apparently justify the deceptive means. This is perhaps the most egregious, premeditated, blatant, and irresponsible misuse of archaeology in recent decades. NAMI appears perfectly comfortable with fooling people into believing in Christianity using what they concede may be a hoax.

Perhaps the most incredulous defense of NAMI’s spurious claims came in a video interview between Panda Lee, a NAMI team member, and Ahmet Ertugru, the Turkish official working with NAMI.22 As a part of an ongoing feud23 between Ark hunters, Ertugru states that a former partner in the search for Noah’s Ark, Dr. Randall Price, Executive Director of Liberty University’s Center of Judaic Studies, is not a “good Christian” because Price doubts the unsubstantiated claims of other Christians, namely NAMI:

And if everything is it to be lie also, Dr. Price, they have to think about if he is Christian. So I don’t think he will be the Christian, as good Christian. Because good Christian they cannot tell to his brother that they are liars.24 [sic]

According to NAMI, merely doubting the specious claims of another Christian - even if the claims are admittedly based upon deception and the sole motivation of making more Christians – makes one a bad Christian.

Ironically, Dr. Price is equally guilty of attempting to use archaeology for evangelistic purposes. In a recent video made available on the TrueLife.org website,25 Dr. Price concludes a survey of archaeological evidence he believes proves the validity of the Bible with an invitation to follow Jesus:

Friends, Jesus was right because he was a prophet. But he was more than a prophet; he was also the Son of God. One of the last words of Jesus as he entered in the city of Jerusalem was that if these keep silent, the stones will cry out. You’ve seen the witness of the archeological record and we know that not one of these archeological discoveries has ever contradicted a biblical fact. In fact, they have only complemented its witness. The archaeological record has shown us that the Bible can be trusted. If the Bible is a reliable archaeological witness, then the message of the Bible can be trusted, and the message of the Bible concerns Jesus. Will you trust him?26

Thus, despite ending his working and financial relationship with the NAMI expedition and rejecting NAMI’s findings,27 Dr. Price still misuses archaeology as an evangelistic tool by weaving together select pieces of archaeological data into a religious “coat of many colors” and calling on viewers to trust Jesus. Price moved from expounding upon archaeological data to making overt religious claims about the divinity of Jesus. This is simply not the role of archaeology.

In the end, Dr. Price’s misuse of archaeology pales in comparison to NAMI’s recent campaign. It has become quite clear that NAMI’s entire mission was a premeditated campaign of deception intended to use false claims about Noah’s Ark to convert people to Christianity. It is utterly unthinkable that any group of Christians would think that this is an acceptable form of evangelism, much less an acceptable form of science.

A standard line of zealous, evangelistic reasoning is regularly exploited to raise money from Christians for similar religious expeditions. The sales pitch argues: “You want people to believe the Bible, don’t you? Well, if we find Noah’s Ark, the world will have to believe.” As a result, many people give to Noah’s Ark expeditions hoping that a discovery will trigger a sequence of events leading to the world believing the claims made in the Bible. Unfortunately, most of these donors end up doing little more than funding free trips to Turkey for a group of amateur tourists. They fly to exotic places on the donors’ dime, go mountain climbing, and get named as honorable citizens at fancy dinners.28 And after enjoying an exciting trip abroad, any remaining money is used to fund the group’s various ministries.

These groups ultimately reach one of two results: they either find nothing or they make sensational claims directly to the press, only later to have their “findings” refuted by the international scholarly community. However, in both of the above scenarios, the organization returns to its donors to ask for still more funding. The organization uses one of two approaches: they will either claim to be victims of religious persecution by “godless” scientists and insist that their claims were refuted in an effort to “suppress the truth of the faith,” or, the organization will ask for more money in order to “finish the job,” exploiting the familiar line: “But we’re so close.” Of course, every year, they get no closer, and every year donors forget that dozens of previous “expeditions” have claimed to discover Noah’s Ark and yet have produced nothing.

Tips for Doing “Biblical Archaeology”

There is a better way to do archaeology that potentially deals with claims made in the Bible. The true archaeologist does not seek the big discovery that changes all we know in one amazing find, but rather gives his or her life to seasons of excavation and discovery, letting the evidence speak for itself until the larger picture of the social, economic, and yes, at times, religious makeup of the society is slowly revealed. So for those seeking to balance faith and archaeology, here are a few tips:

1. Don’t go “looking for things.” Archaeologists dig. We dig and we find what we find. Wherever the evidence leads us, we go. Whatever the evidence says, we report. Archaeologists don’t go looking to “prove the Bible,” because the early methodology of “a spade in one hand and a Bible in the other” is deeply flawed in that one quickly begins to see what one wants to see or hopes to see, rather than what’s really there.

Scholars must follow the data wherever it leads. Sometimes the archaeological data does not align with the text of the Bible. This is true about many sites and many verses. This does not mean that the Bible contains no truth or verifiable facts in other places. In fact, these refuted claims are often quite important; they tell scholars a lot about the author and the particular message the author was attempting to convey. Why would the author of a particular text in the Bible make a claim that isn’t supported by the evidence and doesn’t appear to be historical? Was the author relying on oral tradition? Did the author intentionally fabricate a story and if so why? These points of contention are crucial for any scholar seeking to examine the political and social history of a particular period, as well as the period the story was committed to writing.

2. Follow sound scientific methodology. Sound methodology produces sound results, and sound results will be better received by both scholars and the public. Likewise, sound results based on accepted methodology, transparent excavation, replicable experimentation, and critical analysis will result in increased credibility for an archaeologist and his or her organization. Do not fudge. Take good notes. Log everything, especially if it is contrary to your working hypothesis. Nothing is more impressive and convincing methodologically than a scholar willing to concede that his or her own working hypothesis has been disproved and needs revision, or that it is fundamentally flawed and must be abandoned.

Methodical monotony may be boring, but it is an archaeologist’s friend in the long run because it allows subsequent excavators to retrace each step the prior archaeologist made, so that each bucket of dirt and each decision can be reviewed and confirmed as verifiable. This keeps the subsequent excavators from having to restart each portion of the excavation from scratch. Credibility is earned over a long period of time and not with a single find. But once earned, credibility carries a lot of weight, and it is by the archaeological method one employs that the academy will ultimately judge an archaeologist’s credibility.

3. Understand that not every archaeological object is the same. Each piece of evidence should be judged on a case-by-case basis. Therefore, just because the evidence for Noah’s Ark or the Holy Grail is lacking and these items are most likely legendary, it does not necessarily follow that the ancient Israelites did not march behind a gold-covered, wooden box (the Ark of the Covenant) when they stormed into battle. In fact, the Ark of the Covenant is most likely historical precisely because it would have been highly problematic for a people who were supposedly forbidden from making idols to revere such a prominent, handcrafted cultic object. Each object is unique and should be treated independently from other objects.

4. Archaeologists shouldn’t seek “treasure.” This may have been the case in archaeology’s distant past when it was little more than a hunt for exotic treasure, but today’s archaeologists are more interested in ethnographic studies and settlement patterns than they are in finding a piece of the “true cross.” Walls, pots, inscriptions, and coins are far more important than gold and silver, as they tell us exponentially more in their proper context than do “treasures.”

5. Partner up. It is common practice for archaeological excavations to have multiple partners that usually include a representative from the host government’s archaeological department, the sponsorship of one or more scholars from reputable academic institutions, and hoards of volunteers. Most proper excavations are far too expensive to carry out privately, so most archaeologists take on scholarly partners that lend the dig credibility and more importantly, accountability. Likewise, most archaeologists work their way up through other excavations. Rare is the occasion that an archaeologist strikes out on his own and has immediate success. Archaeology requires substantial fundraising and institutional support, and once one begins asking for funds, scholars justifiably begin to question the archaeologist’s motives. Credible archaeologists are humble, pay their dues, earn their stripes, and only after they have established their credibility and gathered the formal education needed to practice archaeology properly are they considered legitimate.

6. Submit to the peer-review process. Credible archaeologists submit to some form of a peer-review process and allow their findings to be critiqued by other scholars. Some submit formal articles for publication in refereed journals. Others present papers at national conferences. Still others make their findings available immediately online via blogs and websites and invite comments and feedback. Regardless of what method is adopted, good archaeologists welcome criticism and feedback, even when (and especially when) they know some will disagree with their findings. Peer-review and critique is the only way to ensure that your interpretations will gain the traction they need to become an accepted consensus. Remember that ultimately it is not about what you believe, or even what you can prove. Rather, a credible archaeologist or archaeology program is judged by the critical methodology it uses to reach its conclusions. If the science is good, and the results are reviewed by others and published in credible journals, books, and websites, then the program and the scholar will be considered credible.

7. Finally, real archaeologists never, ever search for the Ark of the Covenant, Noah’s Ark, or the Holy Grail. Adventure quests will always bring immediate and well-deserved derision and condemnation from the academic community.

Archaeology should never be used for evangelistic purposes. It is not the role of science to prove claims of divinity. This is because the very nature of the scientific method operates on a system of disproof. The scientific method never proves anything; it can only disprove a proposed hypothesis. One proposes a hypothesis and the scientific method seeks to disprove it. Those hypotheses that are not disproven remain as viable explanations. This is why both scientists and people of faith rightly argue that while one cannot prove the existence of a god, neither can science disprove the existence of a god.

All of this is to say that science cannot prove anything:, it can only disprove. Evidence is never the last word; it is only the best word thus far. And it is no coincidence that the Bible does not operate on a system of evidence and proof. On the occasion that a piece of “evidence” was demanded prior to belief, John 20:24-29 states that “Doubting” Thomas was not as “blessed” as those who did not ask for evidence. In the end, while faith claims may be informed by archaeological context, archaeology never proves the veracity of the claims made in the Bible. That is a matter of faith – a realm where archaeology should not and must not be exploited to say something that it simply cannot.


1 See the Noah’s Ark Ministries International (NAMI) website at http://www.noahsarksearch.net. This organization is not to be confused with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) at http://www.nami.org.

2 The Noah’s Ark Search.net website states, “March 2010: The ‘We Touched Noah’s Ark: The Search for A Carpenter’s Heart’ Campaign was launched. Worldwide press conferences, exhibitions and sharing are carried out.” http://www.noahsarksearch.net/eng/7yrs.php.

3 According to The Media Evangelism Limited’s website, the group’s mission is to build “a Christian media presence by using every modern means of communication to promote the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.” http://www.media.org.hk/main/asp/corporate_web_eng.asp.

4 The Days Of Noah (2005) directed by Yeung Wing-Cheung. http://www.hkflix.com/xq/asp/filmID.534366/qx/details.htm.

5 Noah’s Ark theme park on Park Island (Ma Wan Park), Hong Kong, is operated by The Media Evangelism Limited. http://www.noahsark.com.hk/eng/index.php.

6 A poster for the exhibition entitled, “Lost in the Noah’s Ark” sponsored by The Media Evangelism Limitedd. is available at http://www.media.org.hk/email/427/index427.htm.

7 Kurczy, Stephen, “Doubt cast on Noah's ark found in Turkey,” Christian Science Monitor, April 28, 2010. http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Global-Issues/2010/0428/Doubt-cast-on-No….

8 Cargill, Robert R., “No, No You Didn’t Find Noah’s Ark,” RobertCargill.com, April 28, 2010. http://robertcargill.com/2010/04/28/no-you-didnt-find-noahs-ark/.

9 Cargill, Robert R., “Forget about Noah’s Ark; There Was No Worldwide Flood” Bible and Interpretation, May 2010. http://www.bibleinterp.arizona.edu/articles/flood357903.

10 Kurczy, Stephen, “Chinese explorers stand by claim of Noah's Ark find in Turkey,” Christian Science Monitor, April 30, 2010. http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Global-Issues/2010/0430/Chinese-explorer….

11 See “Vision and Mission” on The Media Evangelism Limited’s website http://www.media.org.hk/main/asp/corporate_web_eng.asp.

12 Several have made strong rebuttals against NAMI’s claims (chronological order):
Bartholomew, Richard, “Hong Kong Evangelists Claim They ‘Ventured inside Wooden Compartments on Mount Ararat’,” Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion, April 27, 2010. http://barthsnotes.wordpress.com/2010/04/27/hong-kong-evangelists-claim….
Heiser, Michael, “Noah’s Ark PaleoBabble Update,” PaleoBabble.com, April 27, 2010. http://michaelsheiser.com/PaleoBabble/2010/04/noahs-ark-paleobabble-upd….
Kurczy, Stephen, “Doubt cast on Noah's ark found in Turkey,” Christian Science Monitor, April 28, 2010. http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Global-Issues/2010/0428/Doubt-cast-on-No….
Cargill, Robert R., “No, No You Didn’t Find Noah’s Ark,” RobertCargill.com, April 28, 2010. http://robertcargill.com/2010/04/28/no-you-didnt-find-noahs-ark/.
ABC News Good Morning America, “Was Noah’s Ark Found?” April 28, 2010. http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/video/noahs-ark-found-10496395.
Fox News, “Where’s the Actual Site?” April 28, 2010. http://video.foxnews.com/v/4171840/wheres-the-actual-site.
Cargill, Robert R., “Busted! Turkey’s Culture Ministry is Now ‘Investigating’ Noah’s Ark Ministries International” RobertCargill.com, April 29, 2010. http://robertcargill.com/2010/04/29/busted-turkeys-culture-ministry-is-….
Tharoor, Ishaan, “Has Noah’s Ark Been Discovered in Turkey?” Time.com, April 29, 2010. http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1985830,00.html.
Boyett, Jason, “Noah's Ark Found! Robert Cargill Debunks!” JasonBoyett.com, April 29, 2010. http://blog.jasonboyett.com/2010/04/noahs-ark-found-robert-cargill-debu….
Cargill, Robert R., “Does This Look Like Styrofoam to You?” RobertCargill.com, May 1, 2010. http://robertcargill.com/2010/05/01/does-this-look-like-styrofoam-to-yo….
Chanan Tigay, “Scholarly Squad Debunks Biblical 'Discoveries’,” AOL News, May 2, 2010. http://www.aolnews.com/nation/article/scholarly-squad-debunks-biblical-….
Cargill, Robert R., “Forget about Noah’s Ark; There Was No Worldwide Flood” Bible and Interpretation, May 2010. http://www.bibleinterp.arizona.edu/articles/flood357903.

15 3:50-5:01 http://www.media.org.hk/noahsarksearch/video.php?id=999. Subtitled English provided by The Media Evangelism Limited.

17 2:52-3:08 in http://www.media.org.hk/noahsarksearch/video.php?id=999. (Subtitled English provided by The Media Evangelism Limited.)

18 3:09-3:28 in http://www.media.org.hk/noahsarksearch/video.php?id=999. (Subtitled English provided by The Media Evangelism Limited.)

19 5:52-5:42 in http://www.media.org.hk/noahsarksearch/video.php?id=999. (Subtitled English provided by The Media Evangelism Limited.)

20 Sheridan, Michael, “‘Noah’s Ark’ found atop Mount Ararat in Turkey, evangelical group claims,” New York Daily News, April 27, 2010. NY Daily News, April 27, 2010.

21 5:12-5:42. http://www.media.org.hk/noahsarksearch/video.php?id=999. (Subtitled English provided by The Media Evangelism Limited.)

23 You can read Randall Price’s response to NAMI’s claims at http://www.worldofthebible.com/news.htm.

25 According to its website, TrueLife.org is “is a unique interdenominational non-profit Christian organization dedicated to showing the world that the Bible is true and reliable.” http://truelife.org/home.

26 See the 11:47-12:28 mark in “Does Archaeology Support the Bible?” http://truelife.org/home/category_video_list_show?status=video&video=99.

27 See Dr. Price’s April 30, 2010 response to NAMI’s announcement at http://www.worldofthebible.com/news.htm.

Comments (11)

Biblical criticism must consider the true spirit of the biblical text. Too many scholars such as Cargill have an agenda to destroy the Bible's authenticity. Christians must understand before one denies events in the scripture that Jesus' words support the Old Testament. Cargill fails to mention that archaeology actually supports most of the biblical text more often than not. Cargill has no idea whether a figure named Noah built a ship to avoid a flood. Most believes of the Bible understand that not every word is to be taken literally, yet Cargill wants to depict believers as stupid and idiotic. Such is the scholarly world.

#1 - Tony Barrett - 07/03/2010 - 18:49


tony, thank you for your response.

you have provided the readers with the typical, anti-intellectual straw man argument for the defense of the historicity of the bible. yet, you have provided no examples and no evidence - not even a scriptural reference. you merely provide a sweeping generalization: 'that archaeology actually supports most of the biblical text more often than not.' i disagree. there are many places where it does not. (for example, see kenyon's work on jericho. or see the claims about a six-day creation and a worldwide flood, which have been completely disproved by modern science.)

what do you mean by 'the true spirit of the biblical text'? those are just words with no meaning. they just sound pretty.

i have no agenda to 'destroy the bible's authenticity.' i do, however, intend to demonstrate those areas where the bible makes mistakes and where it makes claims that are not only *not* supported archaeologically, but are, in fact, disproved by science.

regarding your comment that 'jesus' words support the old testament,' again, what do you mean by that? it is vague and rhetorical. by this do you mean that jesus continues the old testament's commitment to the law? paul might disagree. by this do you mean jesus maintains god's commandments recorded in the hebrew bible to remain separate and pure from gentiles? kosher regulations? the rights of women? financial regulations? again, you make sweeping claims, but provide no evidence, just words.

my intent is not to depict 'believers' as 'idiotic and stupid.' my intent is to ask 'believers' to think critically about their faith and to root all claims in fact, evidence, and reason. and, my point is to call out those 'believers' who egregiously misrepresent and abuse science for the advancement of their evangelistic agenda. my article is not an indictment of christians, it is an indictment of those christians who make false claims with deceptive motives for the purpose of making more 'believers' like them.

#2 - robert cargill - 07/03/2010 - 19:54


Professor Cargill has dredged up the Kenyon Jericho excavation. OK, so the walls of Jericho didn't fall down. That is easy. As I mentioned, not all believers take every word as inerrant. But can the good professor say that there wasn't a battle near the site and that the details were not changed over time? I do think critically and you know that the archaeological evidence for the Kings of Israel and Judah and their battles with Assyrian and Babylonian Kings is unassailable. Here are more examples of evidence for archaeological support for the Bible. You know that the destruction of Hazor gives credence to the Joshua story, and you know that the Tel Dan tablet verifies that David was indeed an important king. You should know that Solomon's temple is a common pattern for temples in the area. And as I mentioned, can you provide evidence that a Noah didn't build an Ark? Or that the ancestors of the Hebrews were not named Abraham and Sarah? Can you state emphatically that some Hebrews were not in Egypt? And how do you know that the Copper Scroll doesn't not contain locations where treasure was not buried? There are a number of books on the market that demonstrate that archaeology supports much of the biblical text and I can give you their names. Tony
#3 - Tony Barrett - 07/04/2010 - 19:33


I'm not finding any place where Cargill is trying to debunk the Bible. And I also think those trying to force others to accept the Bible as innerant and factual, are on the wrong tack. At the same time, I think it's a mistake to try to 'prove' OR 'disprove' the Bible with archaeology. The Bible is a book of faith, and faith does not, by definition need proof, nor is it a matter for science to address. Every religion has a different type of faith and a different version of creation and of whether it is Jesus or Mohammed or Buddha or Chaitanya that we should regard as a savoir or example. The argument about which religion is 'right' is just as pointless and divisive as trying to force people to accept the Bible as literal fact, trying to debunk it with fact, etc.
#4 - tusu - 07/14/2010 - 13:08


Neither do I think that Dr. Cargill has attempted to “debunk” the Bible. Exposing the ulterior motives of people who would exploit believers and their purses is hardly the work of a debunker.

Mr. Barrett tells us that “most believers of the Bible understand that not every word is to taken literally,” yet goes on to assume that every biblical event occurred in the manner described. Therefore, there had to have been an Abraham and Sarah, Joshua must have destroyed Hazor, Noah must have built an ark, and the Copper Scroll has to be a treasure map.

Eponymous figures do not destroy an origins tradition. Battles take place, but the victors write the history. Greek, Hebrew, and Babylonian flood stories do not explain the absence of one in the Nile flood plane. And while Schliemann did use the Iliad in his search for Troy, the treasure he found came from the “wrong” level.

In many places, the biblical record does parallel the archaeological record, but the biblical record is a theological record, not an artifactual one. In many places, the parallel lines are not going to meet — yet both records can still lead to wisdom.

#5 - Raymond Wood - 07/18/2010 - 15:08


We always knew that the stories about Hazor in Joshua 11 and Judges 4 could not both be taken at face value as historical records. It is extremely unlikely that archaeology could decide which was closer to the truth. If I were an archaeologist I wouldn't mind making an Amazing Find (King Jabin's personal diary?) that would really settle matters: who would? I wouldn't mind getting ahead of the academic pack - who would? But we should remember that huge personal triumphs like that are rare in any context and that patience in all enquiries is a great, maybe even a Christian, virtue.
#6 - Martin Hughes - 07/20/2010 - 20:33


I don't think tony you read Cargill's response to your comment . I fully agree with what he has to say. My faith must be grounded in reason also. Did not God give me a mind ? Did He not give me free will? I am not offended at all by Cargill. His article was informative.
#7 - Charles Reed - 07/27/2010 - 02:13


This article is right on target. The cause of the gospel is not served by pseudo-science or manipulation with scientific facts. Ultimately this kind of "post-modern" approach will have the effect of a boomerang for the truth of God's Word and the credibility of the believers. There is also the all important ethical element. Of course, this does not mean that all scientific enterprise also is filled with bias and philosophical (world vieuw)assumptions. But that problem is not solved in this manner.
#8 - Marlon Winedt - 07/27/2010 - 18:40


For more details exposing the NAMI/MEDIA fraud please go to http://www.mountainararattrek.com/ark
#9 - Dr. Amy L. Beam - 02/24/2012 - 03:15


Marlon is right on target. Pseudo-science does not advance God's plan. It just leads people away from becoming Christians. That's because the only people who fall for this pseudo-science are the same kinds of people, had they been raised differently, who would have been following tabloids religiously. People who can provide valuable contributions to religion are not the kind of people who value "National Enquirer" religiion.
#10 - Brian Newman - 04/28/2013 - 16:05


Ah, only if Albright had followed your tips for a Biblical Archaeologist. Things would be so much easier.
#11 - Paul Stein - 08/11/2015 - 05:05


Article Comments

Submitted by carl nestor on Fri, 07/30/2021 - 13:01


I think there is room for all types of investigation and exploration. Archaeology would be a dead field (no pun intended) if averages citizens were discouraged from trying to make major finds/discoveries. Indiana Jones has done more for generating a love of archaeology than some dry, minimally attended lecture by other academics debating whether some pottery fragment came from the Bronze Age or other era. I think we need to embrace all attempts and be kind. Rather than turn noses up, maybe the learned could help the less experienced improve their efforts.

Submitted by Chriatina Porter on Sun, 01/15/2023 - 17:27


Deeply held beliefs are hard to shake. Faith does not require proof by it's very definition. I like Cargill's descriptive stance when he says that Archaeology's role is specifically to Disprove. Reason and Logic are invaluable tools, but so are a moral code, and ethical practices. Nobody has the monopoly on the deeper questions regarding the meaning of life or what happens after. Archaeology can only offer data to draw informed conclusions about what has happened in the past, and the data is infallible where as history is not. But human interpretation of that data, is as flawed as anything else humans do. Looking at the past and expecting the bible to be perfectly accurate is dangerous...but not using the bible as a helpful supplement would be just plain silly. No matter what faith you follow, no one believes that GOD wrote the bible. Christians believe he INSPIRED it, but did not author it. Humans wrote the bible. And the bible shows over and over (especially in the Old Testament) that humans are flawed. As Cargill states "Evidence is never the last word; it is only the best word thus far." Always keep an open mind. Always strive to learn more. Jesus was a teacher. I think it would be folly to accept the bible without testing it, thinking about it and what it says about it's time, and remembering that times change. I certainly hope God doesn't want gullible followers, but people that come to him because they sought him out. They are the most credible and apt to be the best apostles. And I say that as a non-christian myself. I wholly support everybody's beliefs, whether I agree with them or not, as long as they contribute to a positive society in which I hope someday we can all live in relative harmony. A little idealistic I'm sure, but I'm a big believer in "as long as you aren't hurting anybody, you do you." I don't have all the answers either, but I don't draw conclusions without looking at all the information I can. If God gave me a brain, I intend to use it.

Submitted by Jerry Llevada on Wed, 05/10/2023 - 12:15


So many words and time wasted to say: "All religions are based on myths and myths are based on faith". The Christian religion is not excepted.

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