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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Warning Against Archaeology-1– by Franz Pieper

I recall when returning to the Christian faith that I was hungry for any evidence I could find for the truth.  One of those areas that I investigated was "Biblical Archeology" and I subscribed to the magazine Biblical Archaeology Review.  But as I read from this publication, it became clear that not all of those who wrote for it fully believed the historicity of the Bible itself.  Although there were writers who gave some evidences for the Bible, it was not the solid truth that I wanted to hear.  There was equivocation and open questions.  And it had a Jewish editor.  But when I began to read from the old (German) Missouri Synod, especially Franz Pieper's Christian Dogmatics, I was pointed to the ultimate assurance of the Bible... from Christ Himself, by His own words.  Below begins my translation of an early essay by Franz Pieper in the 1896 on this subject.  He would also later emphasize it also in his text books.  All Christians would benefit by this treatise for it grounds the Christian faith where it belongs... in the Bible.

Translation by BTL – Underlining from original  – Highlighting is mine – Hyperlinks added for reference.
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A Word of Warning Against Overestimation of Archaeological Research.
by Franz Pieper
Every Christian is pleased with the testimony of the biblical accounts through extra-biblical sources.  With interest he takes note in particular also of the Assyriological research of our time, that even the first part of the first book of Genesis contains real history, and not only legends, as a disbelieving theology has stated, and still states.   For example news brought by the “Lutherische Kirchenblatt” ["Lutheran Church Journal"] of Philadelphia about the research of Assyriologist Dr. Hilprecht, is of the highest interest not only for theologians but for all Christians.  The "Kirchenblatt" reported the following from a speech of Hilprecht, who recently returned from the Orient: "He (Hilprecht) gave a broadly concise survey of the result of the great excavations in Nippur, the ancient sanctuary of the god Bel in Babylon by giving special attention to those points which are of importance for the exploration and understanding of the Old Testament.  Maybe it will not be without interest for the theologically trained readers of the ‘Kirchenblatt’, when we highlight one or another point here.  In Genesis 14:1,  as is well known, is recorded the train of four kings against Sodom and Gomorrah.  The names of the four kings are Amraphel, Arioch, Chedorlaomer and Tidal.  This Bible record is now, as Prof. Dr. Hilprecht explained, confirmed in a wonderful way by a cuneiform tablet discovered by him, which also includes the names of three kings of those mentioned in Genesis 14.  ... Also an astonishing light falls on the 'ethnology' in Genesis 10 by the Babylonian findings.  The presence of those ancient cities of Babylon, Erech, Accad and Calneh in the land of Shinar of which Genesis 10:10 speaks, can be detected now by extra-biblical sources.  [pg 322]  In general the results which Assyriology has unearthed, serve to confirm the biblical accounts of the Old Testament at every turn."  So far the ”Kirchenblatt". – Oriental Archaeology also provides weapons against modern "higher criticism", which after all – of course, quite undeservedly – has a scientific reputation in our time.  This is explained in an interesting way by Prof. A.H. Sayce, in an article in the "Contemporary Review" in an extract from the "Public Opinion" of November 19.  According to this, Prof. Sayce says: "I have expressed years ago the conjecture that if excavations were carried out at the sites of the ancient cities of Canaan, libraries of clay tablets with cuneiform inscriptions would be found similar to those in the libraries of Assyria and Babylonia. Of course, the critics laughed and mocked me.  Had they not proved that you do not write about times in Israel from the days of Samuel and David, and that therefore what one has held as historical in the five books of Moses was nothing of the sort?  But despite the critics, the Tel el-Amarna tablets were found and soon afterwards Mr. Bliss discovered a cuneiform tablet from the same period under the ruins of ancient Lachish.  The bravest champions of unlearnedness of the ancient Orient had to be caught, and the critics were forced to admit that they were wrong at least on this point.  The really strong argument of the critics against the Mosaic age and the Mosaic composition of the five books of Moses was that neither Moses nor his contemporaries could read or write.  The Tel el-Amarna tablets overturned this accepted fact and showed that the Mosaic age was literarily sophisticated.  In relation to this point we have therefore seen a discrete observed silence."  From these and similar results of oriental archeology the Christian church joyfully takes note and uses it to strike an unbelieving science with their own weapons.
But it is also a warning against a wrong use and overestimation of these archaeological investigations.  We allow ourselves to be reminded of three things.
1) The first is this: A Christian stands certain before the historical aspects of all Assyriology etc., that is with the historical truth of all biblical accounts.  The simple fact that a historical report is recorded in the Scriptures is proof enough for a Christian of its truth.  For the inviolable truth of the entire Holy Scriptures of the Old Testament occurs for no less an authority than Christ Himself when in John 10:35 he says: "And the Scripture cannot be broken," and for the Apostle of Christ, St. Paul, when he testifies in 2 Tim. 3:16 that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God.  Also the fact that Moses not only could write, but also actually [pg 323] did write, is certain to us before the maps of Tel el-Amarna, by the authority of Christ.  Christ testifies John 5:46 very explicitly: "Moses wrote of me."
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Here Pieper lays the foundation for a Christian – every Christian – that the Bible is absolute "inviolable truth"... to be believed.  When today's LC-MS teachers promote, explain, justify and defend the use of the term "plastic text" in relation to the Bible, I have to laugh... and weep, for it shows just how far today's new (English) LC-MS has strayed from spiritual truth.  Today's LC-MS (in spite of some who would protest this) is more concerned with its "scientific reputation" than its theology.  Today's LC-MS is more interested in proving that Christ was wrong when He said "And the Scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35).  Now the LC-MS may try to defend itself and say "But plastic does not easily break, it bends!"

But Pieper is far from over in his defense of the truth of the Bible as he continues in Part 2.
= = = = = = = = = Table of Contents = = = = = = = = = = =
Part 1 - Introduction, pages 321-322
Part 2 - Pages 323-324: not for divine faith; human faith?; "a large bar" to faith; "science falsely so called"
Part 3 - Pages 325-326: Luther's Chronology, again; Kloha's "plasticity"
Part 4 - Pages 327-329: god of "science" in today's Church; no more secrets in Bible; "History"

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