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'This is Not Mythology': Archaeologists Dig Up the Bible at Ancient City of Shiloh

07-21-2018
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Excavating at Tel Shilo, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff

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JERUSALEM, Israel – Driving along the route known as the Way of the Patriarchs in Samaria, the heart of biblical Israel, you'll come to ancient Shiloh.


Aerial view of ancient Shiloh, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff

The Bible says this is the place where Joshua parceled out the Promised Land to the 12 tribes of Israel. It's also where the Tabernacle of the Lord stood for more than 300 years.

Dr. Scott Stripling directs the excavations at Shiloh. Along with dozens of volunteers, he and his crew are digging into history.


Excavation Director Dr. Scott Stripling, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff
 
"Welcome to ancient Shiloh," Stripling greeted us. "This is the first capital of ancient Israel and it's a sacred spot because the Mishkan was here, the Tabernacle, where people came to connect with God."


Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff
 
"We're dealing with real people, real places, real events," he continued. "This is not mythology. The coins that we excavated today – we're talking about coins of Herod the Great, Pontius Pilate, Thestos, Felix, Agrippa the First, Agrippa the Second. The Bible talks about these people. We've got the image right here."

That 'image' includes a fortified wall built by the Canaanites. The team finds a treasure trove of artifacts there, which includes ancient coins and some 2,000 pieces of pottery a day.


Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff

"Now, this one was from yesterday," he said. "It's been washed already so you see the same form right out of the ground in yesterday and those are those handles from the stone vessels. Remember, Jesus' first miracle in Cana? There were stone jars full of water. That's that ritual purity culture of the first century."

An archaeologist like Dr. Stripling looks at these shards as a fine time piece.   
 
"Just like your great grandmother's pottery is different from your pottery that you're using today…once we learn the pottery, then we can use it as our primary means of dating."


Unearthing ancient pottery, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff

Stripling says literally digging into the Bible can change your life."

"You can read the Bible, you can walk the Bible, but the ultimate is to dig the Bible," he said. "You know, when we actually get into the swill, like these students from Lea University. They're literally – it's under their fingernails and in their nose and in their mouth and their ears and they're exposing this ancient culture. It becomes one with you. It's sort of like we came out of the soil and as we dig into the soil, we connect with God and with each other, I think, in a very important way," he said.


Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff

Abigail Leavitt, a student at the University of Pikesville, serves as object registrar.
"I love getting my hands dirty. I love digging in the dirt. It's my favorite thing," she told CBN News.  

While people of all age volunteer at the dig, the main drivers are students like Abigail.

"It's tiring and exhausting, but it's really rewarding," she said. "It's exciting to find ancient things – things that have been just waiting for us for thousands of years."


Abigail Leavitt, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff
 
Leavitt says the Bible comes alive in the dirt.

"I read the Bible totally differently than I did before I came here, and I can see when I read the Bible I know the places, I know what's going on. I understand it more deeply, especially where previous archaeologists have claimed the archaeology disproves the Bible. But when we dig here, we find that everything matches. You read it in the Bible. You dig in the dirt and there it is," she said.

Stripling said, "Archaeology doesn't set out to prove or disprove the Bible. What we want to do is to illuminate the biblical text, the background of the text, so to set it in a real world culture to what we call verisimilitude," he explained.

"So, we get an ancient literary description. Now, we have a material culture that matches that," he continued. "Chris, you're sitting where Samuel and Eli and Hannah and these people that we have read about, they came just like us, needing answers, needing to connect with God, needing forgiveness."

Stripling says they dig into the past and find lessons for the present.

"One of the faith lessons for us is that God is the potter and we are the clay. And even if our lives are broken like these vessels are, God told Jeremiah after He had told him to go to Shiloh and see what He had done, He told him to go to the potter's house and look at a flawed vessel and see how the potter puts it back on the wheel and works out the imperfections. So my faith lesson is this: Yes we're imperfect, but if we will allow God, He wants to put us [on] His potter's wheel and make us a vessel of honor."

Stripling often cites Psalm 102.

"O Zion, your servants take delight in its stones and favor its dust." (Ps. 102:14)

"For me this is sacred soil. This is where the Mishkan was that answers the most basic of all human questions: 'How do I connect with God?' And I think that's their most basic question," he said.

"I know I messed up. I know that God is holy. How do I bridge that gap when I sin against other people, when I sin against God. Ultimately, Chris, if the Bible is true, then the God of the Bible has a moral claim on our lives. And as we establish the veracity of the biblical text, I hope that everyone watching would just think about that – that God loves us and He has a moral claim on our lives."

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