Archaeology is a fast-growing science which aims at studying the history and sociology of man in the past. This is done by uncovering remains of ancient buildings, art, inscriptions, and any kind of artifact which would throw light on the life, manners and customs of the cultures in the past.
A good amount of archaeological study is being done in places where the Biblical history left its mark. In fact it was an interest in places and times mentioned in the Bible which gave the initial incentive to many of the earlier excavators and students of the past history. But now the interests have broadened very much and these studies have given us a broad picture of the religious, ethical and cultural background of the Old Testament history. Numerous places and things mentioned in the Bible have been discovered. Events recorded in Scriptures have been found recorded also in secular sources. Numerous biblical names have also been discovered in records of contemporary societies. All of this has given us a better understanding of many passages in the Bible and also solved many problems and refuted criticisms directed by many against the Bible.
In the last two hundred years there has been a steep rise in the number of critics whose general aim is destroying the reliability of the Bible. Books of the Old Testament were their best targets, first because these are the oldest and foundational books in the Bible, and second because these books contain a large amount of historical narrative. One of these attacks was that Moses could not have written the first five books of the Bible because (according to these critics) the art of writing had not developed at the time of Moses. But archaeological discoveries like the Ebla tablets and multitude of others have shown that writing was known thousands of years before the time of Moses.
The Old Testament records a number of chronologies, which can be combined with combined with the history mentioned in it to construct a more or less continuous chronology of the past ages (about 4000 years before Christ). This has been of great interest to many critics who disputed either parts or all of this chronology. But many isolated discoveries have confirmed and strengthened many parts of this chronology instead of refuting it. A number of scholars have demonstrated that whenever there is any conflict between the Biblical chronology with the secular one, it is the Biblical one which has always stood the test of
time. Also, many secular scholars have shown that their chronology is still very much confused and even wrong in certain places and therefore if there is any conflict between the Biblical and secular chronology in such places, the blame does not rest on the Bible.
Many of the individual stories mentioned in the Bible were also criticized by many men. But one after another the essential truth of these stories were confirmed by archaeological discoveries. The story of the Hittite nation is one example. They maintained that this is an error in the Bible and that such people never existed. This view was even stated in many learned books and encyclopedias. But in 1906 Hugh Winckler excavated the capital of the Hittites and discovered thousands of Hittite texts including what is known as the Hittite Code. Critics had to accept that the 40 or so many references to the Hittites in the Bible have to be considered seriously. Books and encyclopedias had to revise their attitude of contempt against the Bible on this subject.
There have been tens of thousand of minor findings which shed some sort of light on the biblical text. But there have been many major findings also which received unusual attention even from the secular media. This includes the Ebla Tablets. These clay tablets were found in the royal library of the kings of Ebla, and archaeologists have been able to salvage something like 20,000 tablets and fragments written at least a thousand years before the time of Moses, and therefore they are sure to shed much light on the study of the Old Testament.
The Dead Sea scrolls are another such find. Around 1947 they were discovered in some caves near the Dead Sea area. Further investigation has produced hundreds of documents of interest to Bible scholars. They include part or whole of almost all the books of the Old Testament. This is such an unusual discovery that numerous books have been published on it, and even today one can find paperbacks being sold on this topic in many Indian bookshops.
The Dead Sea scrolls have given us a vast amount of information about the times when the last of the Old Testament books were written, and also have given us many manuscripts to critically study the copies of the Old Testament books that we have today.
Archaeology is a vast subject today, having specialized faculties, institutions, textbooks and specialized journals all around the world. In the last century rationalist critics were of the general the opinion that with the growth of this subject, the Bible will be disproved and rejected eventually. But just the opposite has happened. Things disputed by the critics have turned out to be the way they are described in the Bible. The Bible history was confirmed like no other ancient book in the world. Also, there have been many cases when the wrong notions of the archaeologists were corrected by the Bible.
There is at least one case in which a non-Christian archaeologist became a Christian when he saw the amazing accuracy of the Bible.
There has never been a shortage of of people who are hasty to speak against the Bible. But the growth of the sciences have always tended to support the Bible instead of refuting, contrary to what was desired by many of these men. The same is the situation in archaeology. Critics of the last century thought that here is ultimately the science that will completely refute and destroy the Bible. Unfortunate to them, archaeology has turned out to be the greatest friend of the Bible and Bible believing people.