Q: I recently started subscribing to Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR). There are many articles by supposed scholars that attack many of the views held dear to us orthodox Christians. Can you give me some advice?
A: The magazine is excellent for providing updates of archaeological discoveries in Israel. However, you must keep in mind that it is composed largely by unbelievers who often put archaeological theory over the biblical text only because it is the trendy thing to do, not because of objective proof. One must also remember that archaeology is more of an art than a science. The scientific element ends once they uncover what is below ground level. At that point, the art factor enters in, as findings are largely interpreted based upon certain presuppositions rather than inscriptions that spell out exactly what they have found.
The fact that it is more an art than a science is the reason that even within BAR, you will find different archaeologists debating each other as to the meaning of findings. One example is the recent discovery of an inscription in Dan that mentions “the house of David.” Subsequent issues include archaeologists debating whether it really does say that or not. The debate is not based upon what the inscription actually says, but, rather, strictly upon the presuppositions of the archaeologists. Those who believe that King David existed readily accept the reading of the inscription. Other archaeologists who deny that David existed try to find a different reading for the text. My recommendation is that you read BAR only for the information on new discoveries and excavations in Israel, and do not worry about the specific interpretations — theological or otherwise.