Biblical Archaeology and Contrasting Views
In Biblical Archaeology two views exist concerning the relationship between this science and the Bible. These views are considered mutually irreconcilable.
The Biblical Minimalist limit the historicity of the Bible accounts. They see little correspondence between the Bible and archaeological data. On this view, the data takes priority in interpretation of their worldview and interpretation of the Scripture. Archaeology also provides little and often contradictory evidence concerning the question of Biblical historicity.
The Biblical Maximalist do not limit the historicity of the Bible accounts. They observe or find correspondence between the Bible and the archaeological record. The Biblical data has influence in interpretation of the text of Scripture while archaeology, itself, provides the likelihood of certain Bible events. It also aids in discovering that the Scriptures themselves are reliable historical documents. (1)
It is not the goal of either view to prove or disprove Scripture. Religious truths are not independent of facts, therefore Biblical archaeology can confirm and validate the reliability of the Scriptures as historical documents. For example, the city of Ur, the hometown of Abraham, is mentioned four times in the Bible. It is presently located about 186 miles southeast of Baghdad.
Archaeologists have been excavating Ur off and on since the 1800's. Sir Leonard Woolley directed several excavations at this site from 1922 to 1934. They have found evidence (Royal Tombs at Ur, Ziggurats) that it was occupied from the 4th Millennium BC. These excavations indicate that Abraham's ancestral home was a powerful city-state before its demise.
The Book of Mormon contains numerous locations and places that have never been located or identified as actual places. If the Bible authors were in error in their historical statements then their theology is also suspect, as is Mormon doctrine. Yet, Archaeology has shown that many of the historical statements of Scripture are reliable. The physical data or evidence helps moderns situate Scripture in a proper historical context in order to better understand the people, language and cultures of the Bible.
In conclusion, Randall Prince adequately states, "If archaeology does not seem to support biblical history in every case, the limitation is not from the Bible but from archaeology...the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence."(2) This should be a guiding principle for believers interested in the relationship between their Bible and the archaeological data.
1) Price, Randall. The Stones Cry Out: What Archaeology Reveals about the Truth of the Bible. Eugene, Or.: Harvest House, 1997. 321
2) ibid. 332