Tom and guest Randall Price of World of the Bible Ministries discuss the proof for the Scripture based on archaeological excavations.
Gary: Welcome to Search the Scriptures 24/7, a radio ministry of The Berean Call featuring T.A. McMahon. I’m Gary Carmichael. We’re glad you could join us! In today’s program, Tom welcomes special guest Randall Price, founder and president of World of the Bible Ministries. Now, along with his guest, here’s TBC executive director Tom McMahon.
Tom: Thanks, Gary. Our guest for today and next week is Randall Price. Randy has a list of credits so long that it would take all of today’s program and part of next week’s to cover them all, so I’ll just pick a few out of his archaeologist’s hat. He’s the founder and president of World of the Bible Ministries. He is a research professor and the executive director of the Center for Jewish Studies at Liberty University. He has a master’s degree form Dallas Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin with a concentration in Jewish Studies and Biblical Archaeology. His books include Secrets of the Dead Sea Scrolls, The Stones Cry Out: What Archaeology Reveals About the Truth of the Bible, The Temple and Bible Prophecy, Searching for the Ark of the Covenant, and he’s coauthor of the forthcoming Zondervan Handbook of Biblical Archaeology. He’s also produced videos based on a number of his books. He was director of excavations on the Qumran Plateau, site of the Dead Sea Scroll community in Israel from 2002-2012, and has been senior archaeologist for the ark search expedition to Mount Ararat in eastern Turkey since 2009. He also leads yearly tours to Israel. Randy, welcome to Search the Scriptures 24/7.
Randy: Thanks, Tom. It’s always a pleasure to be with you.
Tom: Yeah. Now, Randy, besides your teaching, conference speaking, writing, various excavations, guided tours and so forth, what do you do for fun? Or do you have time for that?
Randy: Well, all these things that I do I think are the will of God, and the will of God’s fun! So I really do enjoy everything that I’m doing. I couldn’t be in a better place than being where I know is the center of God’s will for me.
Randy: But we have a large family. We have five children and eight grandchildren, and that certainly is fun whenever we can be together. So I put the priority there in relationships.
Tom: Well, you know, I ask that question obviously tongue in cheek, because I know you, Randy. I’ve known you for a long time. But it is a bit overwhelming. I mean, I have to take a nap just after running through your credits here. But it’s exciting to be, as you say, to be in the Lord’s will, to do what pleases Him. I mean, that’s the heart of the joy of serving God, right?
Randy: It is. Well, you know, I do take that old saying, “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.” And the fact is that, you know, my life is getting shorter every day. I realize that God has those days determined, but how I use them is what I’ll be accountable to Him for, and I want to do the best I can to serve Him and to leave behind a legacy of faith. So that’s the work we have to do.
Tom: Yeah, and it’s, you know, as we mentioned, as we’ve prayed before we started recording, it’s not by might nor by power, but by His Spirit, so therefore, the joy of the Lord in what we do, it will be continually there, right?
Tom: Now, Randy, you have obviously dedicated your life as a Christian to biblical archaeology. Why did you do that?
Randy: Well, initially, I didn’t. I mean, I was trained to be a pastor and I was a pastor for thirty years, but in the midst of all of that, I—right after my seminary training—moved to Israel, because I said, “How can I talk about a place for the rest of my life that I’ve never seen, never experienced?” And so I wanted that kind of evidence to support my faith, not just to have a storybook faith, but a faith that had substance. And when I was there, I realized just the importance of seeing these things myself, and it changed my approach to handling the Scripture and to speaking to others about it, and in the process of time, God used that and in many, many trips back to Israel, many opportunities that doors were opened for further study and work to just lead me in this direction. I found there were very few evangelicals involved in the field of archaeology, because it was so controversial, so many of the liberals had dominated the field, and I felt that if I could make some contribution there, I felt I should.
Tom: Mm-hmm. You know, Randy, when you spoke at our conference a number of years ago, a couple of my kids were there, and I have no greater joy than to see my children walking in the truth, and they are. But there are so many areas that I just don’t think about that’s either new to them or they hadn’t heard about, and when you got up to speak and you gave your presentations with regard to biblical archaeology, you just blew them away. You got them so excited. So that brings me to the question: what part does, I mean, aside from the enthusiasm of my children, what part does archaeology play in biblical apologetics, which they got excited about?
Randy: Well, exactly what you say, it is a big part of it, because we’re trying to communicate a faith that people have never seen, they’ve never realized, they’re only hearing about it from us, and we have to be believable.
Randy: I think that when we come to something like the apostles, when Luke writes, Luke writes very clearly in the first chapter of his book that what was from the beginning that they were eyewitnesses of the things…they were servants of the Word. But they, in being servants of the Word, they just didn’t pass on stories or traditions; Luke says they investigated everything carefully from the beginning, laid things out in consecutive order. John writes that—he says the same thing, “Starting from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen, what our hands have handled concerning the Word of life.” And so, what he says is that there’s a reality to these things, because there is a generation that were not eyewitnesses; they did not see these things. They didn’t see it, they didn’t hear it, they didn’t handle it. Someone who can confirm for them the solid facts behind the faith needs to pass that along, and so one of the things that archaeology has arisen as a science to be a handmaid to the Bible. You know, it is to be able to say the events that happened in Scripture, we don’t have--shall we say--sacred history and secular history. They’re one and the same. There’s no difference. The theological statements made in the Bible are part of history. They took place in a place, and I think we have today in a postmodern world people who just say, “Well, the stories are what matters; just being able to have some kind of template for my practice, it really doesn’t matter if it happened, it’s how I feel about it, what motivates me.” Well, of course that is nonsense when we come to the Scriptures, because all religions teach something like that, but only one can be true. They contradict each other. We have to find the true truth, as Francis Schaeffer used to say, and that comes down to really the evidential witness God has given in history. I think these things were left behind. I think that the remains that exist in many times, in many places, continue to exist so that there could be that witness left behind. We read in the Scriptures how they set up memorial stones at different times, and the witness to the next generation that something happened here, and so God wants that kind of witness to continue. So with archaeology, we have the opportunity to go to the actual places, recover the actual testimony to events—it may not always be biblical events, but it’ll be the context, or it’ll be the culture or the customs or some of even the local color that makes those events understandable, comprehensible, and certainly real to a generation that needs those facts behind the faith.
Tom: Mm-hmm. Randy, it reminds me of, you know, the battle that’s been on-going between the evolutionists and the creationists. All of a sudden, when research is done, it always comes out on the side of supporting the Word of God, the Scriptures. Now, I remember Dave Hunt from time to time when he would address things like archaeology, he’d bring up something like the Hittites, and for the longest time, you mentioned earlier that the liberals had been in control of that, and there were very few evangelical Christians involved. Yet the idea from them was, “Oh, there never were such a people as the Hittites, okay? There’s no proof, there’s no evidence,” and so on. And Dave would have to say, “Wait a minute, not only is there evidence, but there’s a museum in—I think it’s in Ankara, Turkey that’s all about the Hittites.” So these things are an incredible encouragement, as you’ve been saying, an incredible support for the Word of God.
Randy: Well, a friend of mine has just finished a two-volume Hittite grammar, to show you how far we have come and how much knowledge we have of these ancient peoples. But this has been duplicated over and over again, and particularly in our day, the problem with the 10th century in Israel, the time of the biblical monarchy, the time of David and Solomon, there’s a group called the Minimalists who minimalize the biblical information in favor of the archaeological evidence, and they say, “We don’t have archaeological evidence for this time period, so when the Bible talks about a David and Solomon, these are fictitious people. They’ve never shown up in historical record from archaeology, therefore we don’t believe there was a Jerusalem here at that time, at that size, with this type of monumental architecture,” and on it goes. Well, just give it time. In the last decade, probably, I would say in the last just few years, in some cases just in the last year we have tremendous evidence for not only the 10th century, but the 11th century. We have it in terms of inscriptions. One was just found right near the Temple Mount, the oldest Canaanite inscription, which is right there. We have one from a place called [unintelligible]. This has also all of the evidence that shows huge fortifications, you have a scribal activity with archive there, you have now these different portable shrines that were pre-temple, and all of this shows a developed culture not only in terms of the religious life, but also in terms of the political life, and this is far-flung. It’s out near the Valley of Elah, far around the outskirts of the Judean boundaries. And if that were true in that time, then what about Jerusalem, which was the capital city? So even though we have so much buried under centuries of ruin and we haven’t got to it yet, what’s coming out is enough to say the Bible is absolutely accurate in what it says.
Tom: Right. Now, you mentioned just a bit ago, other religions, they have their sacred books. They have their stories and so on. Let’s contrast what you just said, Randy, with Mormon archaeology, so-called. What does the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints have to support their Book of Mormon?
Randy: You know, it’s funny, I went to the Hebrew University, and while I was there, there were Mormon students there, as well, and one of the fellows in the graduate program with me in archaeology was using the funds from the Latter Day Saints to buy huge libraries. I wish—I had no money to buy books. He’s just buying all these books. And I asked him, “You know, where’s the archaeological evidence for, in the Americas and other places, for what the Book of Mormon says?”
He says, “There’s none.” He said, “But, you know, they give me the money, and I’m doing the studies.” I mean he was just almost nonchalant about it. And that’s been the case. There have been books written trying to make ties to what we call some call a crypto-archaeology, but to ancient remains in America, whether it’s different types of Nordic reliefs or runestones or various things, they try to tie that in, but it’s obvious even from the archaeology related these things that they come from a different people. They’re not related to what the Book of Mormon says. So they really have absolutely no evidence, and they claim there were vast civilizations here that developed, and there’s nothing in any literature or any archaeological remains in America has been—well, we don’t have that long a history to excavate, and there has been nothing ever that has come up like that, whereas every time you put the spade in the ground in Israel, you come up with something from the biblical period.
Tom: Yeah, and that’s amazing because according to the Book of Mormon, there were two migrations, and, you know, a whole history. But it basically…you may know, Randy, I wrote an article called “Mormon Fiction,” which also moves into the issue of the DNA—that supposedly these migrations were Jews, were Hebrews, who migrated, but there’s no evidence, DNA or otherwise, to that fact, so…
Randy: Well, I’ll tell you, a friend of mine in Israel who I work with, he’s Israeli, the Mormons support his excavation at a place called Belayim, and because they discovered a stone there that has a mosaic of a boat, they claim, “Oh, this is Lehi. And the Lehites came, they sailed from here across to Europe and to the Americas, and as a result, this must be the place.” And he says, “You know, it’s all Hellenistic. We’ve got all kinds of things there. There’s a church here as well as a synagogue and all kinds of things.” But he said, “There’s nothing connected with that but their coming en masse and being baptized at that site as though it were actually the site connected with the Book of Mormon.” And it just shows the desperation to finding and to latch onto something that will give them some substance behind this very fictional account, as you’ve said, of the Book of Mormon.
Tom: Yeah. On the other hand, as you said, you put a spade in some dirt in Israel, and we read about Jericho. Boom! There’s excavation at Jericho. You know, it’s just time after time after time, as you’ve been saying, Randy, that these things are supported by evidence that’s undeniable.
Randy: Yes, I think people sometimes say, “Well, there’s a lot of things that have not been discovered.” Well, of course, and they never will be, because they have been destroyed in the past. There are very little remains really that are left behind. Some of these are inaccessible. What is excavated is only a small portion of the whole, but I’ll remind people that the little that has been excavated and found is confirmatory. It fits with the Bible; it fits with its history. It shows us that if we had the rest, we would have undeniable evidence of all of these facts that support the faith. So I think that rather than being negative about that, we can be quite positive and say the little we have points to the lot that the document, the text of the Bible, tells us is true.
Tom: On a personal note, you’ve spent about a decade doing excavations on the Qumran Plateau. Now, in that decade, what finds could you tell us about that, in your mind, have some significance?
Randy: Yeah. Well, first, if you had been as a tourist in the site of Qumran, you know that there was a settlement—actually a community—that everyone tours. So these are the buildings that remained, but then there’s this plateau that juts out and people walk out on that to look from a vantage point to see one of the caves that had the Dead Sea Scrolls called Cave 4. And our excavation has taken place from one end of that plateau up to where the settlement begins, and when you look at that, you don’t see anything. It looks completely abandoned or barren…
Randy: …like life only was in the settlement. And I didn’t believe that, and I believe there was a reason for further excavation there, and when we started, we began to get the typical stuff you get in excavations. You get pottery, which are remains of, you know, life in that area. We found coins, which indicated people were out there and these things fell from their pockets. We found a lot of other things, which are all part of life, but at the same time, we didn’t find the big structures and buildings, because they didn’t build out there. And yet one of the most important things we’ve found is something that I think is going to make an ongoing contribution, and that is we have found hundreds of animal bone deposits within jars and plates and cups and bowls all buried out on this plateau, and it’s unique phenomena. It didn’t exist in any other archaeological site in Israel that we know of, or anywhere else in the world, and when we read in the Dead Sea Scrolls, it tells us that they are a very devout group. They were looking for the coming of Messiah. They interpreted the biblical prophecies literally and they believed that they were all in the end of days in which many of those things were going to unfold, and so they were preparing themselves as a unique group to not only interpret the Scriptures, but also live them out. And so one of the things they were doing was having a communal meal. They ate together, and the remains of this meal, I believe, is what is buried out on the plateau, because there’s no other explanation for taking expensive bowls and cups and plates and cooking pots and everything and burying them along with the remains of these meals, which are cooked meals. They felt that they weren’t common meals. They were sacred meals. They were set apart to God. They had a unique purpose, and so when they finished with the meal, they couldn’t reuse those vessels again for common use; they had been set apart to God. So just like what they did with the sacrifices in the temple, the remains of those, they went and buried them out in a clean place, which was outside the camp, and that’s what happened. Now, I’d make a connection with this, I believe that the Scripture passage behind their motive for this was Isaiah:25:6-9, because there it talks about in that day—this is the context of the second coming of Messiah—when He comes to set up His kingdom, He comes to judge the nations, when He comes to bring Israel to repentance, that He is going to have what’s called a messianic banquet, the conclusion of the great slaughter that happens with the battle of Armageddon is the victory feast, and this is what this is about, and all the people come together and read about this in the gospels, too. It talks about coming from the East and West and sitting down, you know, at tables. And so, it talks there about having in this feast meat and bones with the marrow in them, which is a very non-kosher thing. And then it talks about age-refined wine. So these are two things which are very out of place in the normal circumstances. But now under the new covenant in this particular case, something special has happened. I think that’s what was happening there. They were commemorating or celebrating or anticipating this eschatological event. And just like we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, it says, “As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes,” they were doing a similar thing, and this is the remains. And so I think it’s important, because we have for the first time a biblical text, we have the text from the Dead Sea Scrolls that supports that text, and then we have maybe the actual remains from that practice which we can use to point, I think, a generation of Israelis to the fact they were Jews that were their ancestors who believed the prophecies literally, expected them to come to pass, and were looking for the coming of Messiah. And I want to use this in a very evangelistic way as we come to publication to draw that point.
Tom: Mm-hmm. Now, Randy, we have about three or four minutes left in this part of our two-part series with you. I want to get onto contrast what you did at Qumran with your involvement in the search for Noah’s Ark. But we don’t have time for that, so where I’d like you to end this is—now, for all the value of archaeology, there’s a lot of confusion out there, a lot of fraud, a lot of people claiming things that they can’t support. How does a believer…how do we deal with discernment here? What’s your recommendation?
Randy: Yeah…I mean, the first thing I would say is that in just a basic principle, the greater the claim, the greater the evidence has to be to support the claim. So when someone comes up with, you know, “We discovered the chariots of pharaoh under the Red Sea,” or, “We have found this, we have found the bones of giants,” or…it splashes across the internet so frequently, and maybe even reputable people but into it, because they’re not trained in the field, and it seems to support the Bible in some way, and so it’s very exciting. But we need to test this as we would anything from the Scripture, and in this case, it’s difficult, because people don’t have the tools. So I would tell them simply to go to people who do have that information and do have those tools. One good site, and I’m on the board of reference with this group—it’s Associates for Biblical Research. They publish a magazine called Bible and Spade. There’s an organization that we’re all connected with called the Near East Archaeological Society, which is an evangelical group who believe the Bible is the Word of God, and yet we are practicing archaeologists. But they have—they support a website, and the website is biblearchaeology.org. And if someone goes there, they’ll find articles written to critique many of these claims that are out there for people who then will give the references and get the evidence that we have and, from the Scripture, encourage them to say, “You know, before we get too excited about something like this, we need to responsibly look at it in the context of Scripture based on the claims that are made.”
Randy: Because if we don’t do that, then we run the risk of believing something that isn’t so, and then those who are opponents to the faith will say, “You don’t have any credibility. You’re always buying into every rumor that flies. Now, why should I seriously consider your claims for Christ?” So we have responsibility for accuracy and honesty as we handle the Scriptures and the things concerning the Scriptures.
Tom: Right. We need to be Bereans…
Randy: That’s correct.
Tom: You know, my guest has been Randall Price, Dr. Randall Price of World of the Bible Ministries. We’re finished with part 1, but, Randy, you’ll be back for our next session, and I do want to get into some of the aspects of your involvement with the search for Noah’s Ark. So, thanks, Randy, for being with us, and we look forward to next week.
Gary: You’ve been listening to Search the Scriptures 24/7 with T.A. McMahon, a radio ministry of The Berean Call. We offer a wide variety of materials to help you in your study of God’s Word. For a complete list of materials and a free subscription to our monthly newsletter, contact us at PO Box 7019, Bend, OR, 97708. Call us at 800-937-6638, or visit our website at thebereancall.org. I’m Gary Carmichael. Thanks for joining us, and we hope you can tune in again next week. Until then, we encourage you to Search the Scriptures 24/7.