Should We Minimize the Role of the Bible?

Two schools of thought about Biblical Archaeology exist today: minimalists and maximalists. Biblical minimalism views the Bible as mythological and unreliable in areas of history. Minimalists do not rely on the Bible for direction, confirmation or interpretation of archaeological findings. Minimalists refuse to admit the potential for “a measure of real history [to] lie behind the Scriptures.”[1] “Many biblical stories are like Animal Farm. They are true, though not historically accurate or factual. They are concerned with proclaiming a message, not with providing us with a chronology of events from the history of Israel or the life of Jesus of Nazareth. We must learn to read them not as history but as message.”[2] 

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Biblical maximalists view the Bible as the best preserved archaeological discovery of the world. It is a piece of history that was impeccably preserved and should be considered an asset in the worlds of history and archaeology. “Historicity, or more precisely the historicity of certain core events recorded in the Old and New Testaments, is indispensable to the vitality and even validity of the Christian faith. Biblical faith cannot satisfy if it is based on illusion; it drifts into the realm of the irrational without basis in objective fact.”[3]

While minimalists argue to ignore the history presented in Scripture, one must only look at our current history to see on which side truth lies. Numerous archaeological discoveries, which have taken place in recent history, have supported the historical events mentioned in Scripture. Whether these are “coincidence” or not, they do lend a large advantage to the maximalist’s argument for the historical validity of the Bible, which is quite beneficial to the Christian Apologist.

The same people that now sit in the minimalist camp are the people that unsuccessfully tried to disprove the Bible. Yet as many biblical archaeologists have claimed over the years “the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”  Only about 10% of what people leave behind is preserved for archaeologists; the rest is destroyed by natural circumstances, war, rebuilding or reuse of the materials. Of the 10% left behind, only about 10% is actually recovered during excavation, because of limited resources, time, and also due to the inability to know exactly where to search. This means that only 1% of what was originally left behind by the people of antiquity, ever actually makes it into the hands of archaeologists. Thus, just because something hasn’t been found to support the Biblical narrative, doesn’t mean that the Biblical narrative is inaccurate. It merely means that the evidence to support the Bible has not yet been found.[4]

[1] Garnett H. Reid, “Minimalism and Biblical History,” Bibliothca Sacra 155: 620 (1998): 396.
[2] David Robert Ord and Robert B Coote, Is the Bible Really True?, (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1994), 33.
[3] Reid, “Minimalism,” 401.
[4] Randall Price, Lecture: “Digging for the Truth (Archaeology),” Class: Seminar in New Testament (Dig), May 18-June 1, 2010.