Why Study Archaeology?

I subscribe to Biblical Archaeology Review, and read it fairly carefully for clues to the text.  There's a lot of liberal disbelief in the Word on its pages, but there is the occasional gem.

"To isolate the Biblical text from the world in which it emerged is to make it into something which it is not and to forgo many essential clues to its interpretation."

In traditional language, we have to interpret the Bible grammato-historically, by the grammar and the historical context.  Most exegetes and preachers spend more time on grammar, and little on the history.

Here's an example, from the same issue of BAR, written by a favorite seminary professor I had, Jeffrey Weima:

"When worshipers in the ancient world offered a sacrifice to a particular god, only a small portion of the food was burned up on the altar.  The majority of the offered food survived to be either sold by the priest in the marketplace (1 Cor 10:25) or eaten by the worshiper in a dining room located in the temple.  These dinners, therefore had a strongly religious character which transformed them from regular meals to cultic meals.  Christians were forbidden to join in these meals because their participation involved a level of intimacy with the pagan god that made believers guilty of idolatry.
"Some 20 papyrus dinner invitations asking guests to dine at such cultic meals have been discovered in Egypt.  Typical is P.Oxy. 2791 which reads: 'Diogenes invites you to dinner for the first birthday of his dauther in the Serapaeum tomorrow which is Pacon 26 from the 8th hour onward.' ... the Serapaeum - a temple devoted to the Egyptian god Serapis."

Weima goes on to describe a dining hall for such a purpose in Pergamum.  This fits Revelation 2:14 (the letter to the church in Pergamum!): "I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality."

This one was a classic of bad timing.  I read this article a day after I preached on Revelation 2!

So there is this distinction between (1) associating too closely with idolatry or sin, and (2) yes, there's a connection somewhere along the supply chain, but not worrying about it.

Quotes from BAR, Nov/Dec 2012, pgs 16, 64

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