Tuesday, December 28, 2010

BAR and 2011 Digs

I received the latest issue of BAR (Biblical Archaeological Review) this past week. I have a love/hate relationship with this yearly issue because it invites volunteers for the upcoming 2011 digs in Israel. I love archaeology, but I have very little experience doing it and with a young family and ministry commitments little opportunity to pursue it. So when I get this issue, I find great envy welling up in me as I think about those who will volunteer on these digs. I have been on two digs: one in 2000 and another in 2007. If I could I'd go to Israel every summer for a few weeks to haul rocks and dirt out of squares.

Truth be told, I'm not very attracted to philosophy and I don't have great theological chops, but I find engagement with the tangible world of the New Testament to be one of the most thrilling experiences I've had intellectually, spiritually and professionally. For me, the best New Testament interpreters are those who know text and artifact. I unfortunately must admit I know little about both. One of my heroes in NT studies is the German scholar Rainer Riesner, with whom I once had opportunity to meet. He exemplifies just this combination. He has a wonderful little book on "Bethany beyond the Jordan" (Bethanien jenseits des Jordan) where you see firsthand the power of the two disciplines at work.

If you are just beginning your academic study in the New Testament, let me make a plea that you complement your study of the text with a study of artifact. Take course in archaeology if their offered (I'll never do this, but I would enjoy getting an MA in archaeology). Go on a dig(s). If you are single I challenge you to go to Israel and spend a year of your study there. Learn the Land and get dirty. Alternatively, go to Greece or Turkey if you're more interested in the Greco-Roman world. I sat in on a session at SBL that was a fascinating presentation on recent discoveries of Jewish synagogues in Turkey.


Jason B. Hood said...

Hi Joel,

I'd love it if you'd do a post or short series on archaeological texts and archaeological discoveries that have piqued your interest.

Joel Willitts said...

thanks jason for the good suggestion. happy new year.