Monday, August 10, 2020

"There is no archaeological evidence for . . ."

Kenneth Kitchen is Personal and Brunner Professor Emeritus of Egyptology and Honorary Research Fellow at the School of Archaeology, Classics and Oriental Studies, University of Liverpool, England. He has published many books and articles relating to Egypt, the Bible, and the Ancient Near East.

Two of these publications which I have read and enjoyed are Ancient Orient and Old Testament (Chicago: Inter-varsity Press, 1966), and his more recent work, On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003). The later book is quite thorough in addressing many of the controversies surrounding the archaeology of the Bible and is not for the casual reader, however, the interested student of the archaeological background of the Bible will be well rewarded.

Speaking from his position of experience as a well established Biblical scholar in the field Kitchen stated the following:

“In the field of history, whether it be the patriarchs, or David or anyone else, we are repeatedly told that no extra-biblical occurrences of this or that individual have been found, so their historicity is to be dismissed or treated as doubtful, regardless of all other indications. No such wrong criterion is applied elsewhere – why here? Absence of evidence is not, and should not be confounded with, evidence of absence. The same criticism is to be leveled at the abuse of this concept in archaeology: the syndrome: `we did not find it, so it never existed!’ instead of the more proper formulation: `evidence is currently lacking; we may have missed it or it may have left no trace’; particularly when 5 percent or less of a mound is dug, leaving 95 percent or more untouched, unknown, and so, not in evidence.” (Kenneth A. Kitchen, "New directions in Biblical archaeology: historical and Biblical aspects," in Biblical Archaeology Today, 1990. Proceedings of the Second International Congress on Biblical Archaeology, Jerusalem, June-July 1990. Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, and The Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities).

If we are truly seeking understanding, how we phrase issues and questions about the Book of Mormon is just as important. As with the Bible, instead of saying, for example, "there was no metal money in ancient America," we should say, rather, "evidence for this is currently lacking; we may have missed it or it may have left no trace."

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