By Brian Nixon
ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO (ANS)—Will the real Exodus Pharaoh please stand up? Before an answer is given to the Pharaoh question, a few words are in store concerning the International Symposium on Archaeology and the Bible.
Co-hosted by Veritas International University and Trinity Southwest University, the three-day conference was held at the Albuquerque Hotel Convention Center from September 9-11, 2021, attended by roughly 125 scholars, students, and interested lay people from around the globe. Parties from Italy, Israel, Canada, and the United States participated in an engaging and enthralling symposium. Leading scholars such as Dr. Jodi Magness, Dr. Robert Mullins, Dr. Aaron Burke, Dr. Craig Olson, Dr. Ravi Arav, Dr. Scott Stripling, and Dr. William Dever—presented information on a host of topics, ranging from Masada to Sodom.
I reach out to co-sponsor Dr. Joseph Holden, President of Veritas International University (VIU) and co-author of a book on Biblical archaeology (The Popular Handbook of Archaeology and the Bible), about the importance of the event.
“Biblical archaeology is on the decline in many mainline universities and Christian colleges around the country, with many Biblical archaeology department chairs being cut and funding for digs reduced or eliminated. It is essential Christian universities, particularly evangelical schools, take a leading role in the development of Biblical archaeology. The International Symposium on Archaeology and the Bible is a much-needed conference on current developments in Biblical archaeology, allowing participants to hear from leading scholars. Our program at VIU has seen substantial growth around Biblical archaeology and participating in the conference shows VIU’s commitment to the importance of the field.”
Archaeology student and coordinator of the event, Larissa Lusko, M.A, concurs. “If there’s one thing that was made apparent through the International Symposium on Archaeology and the Bible it’s that there’s a hunger for information on Biblical archaeology. And though many universities have downplayed the importance of the field, participants at the symposium unequivocally showed deep interest and zeal. After all, who else could sit through hours of information—many with detailed slides and terminology—and still want more?”
Though there was great interest in all the presentations and lectures, two had a deep—and somewhat controversial—nature.
One was presented by Dr. Phil Silva and Dr. Malcolm LeCompte on the destruction at Tall el-Hammam, an archaeology site in southern Jordan. Many believe Tell el-Hamman is the ancient city of Sodom. Due to a forthcoming academic article, published in a major scientific journal, this article is unable to discuss the findings. Suffice to say, after the presentation many scholars rushed to the front of the room to chime in on his or her position concerning Tall el-Hammam. If the presentation is correct, however, the implications are momentous.
The second rousing lecture was given by Dr. Steven Collins, Department Chair of Archaeology and the Bible at Veritas International University. In a presentation entitled The Real Exodus Pharaoh…Please! Dr. Collins presented a historically based argument on who the actual Exodus Pharaoh was. The answer? According to Collins—as outlined in his book, Let My People Go—is Thutmose IV. Dr. Collins’s presentation incorporated detailed studies in ancient Near Eastern history using sources from Egypt, Hatti, Mitanni, Assyria, and the Levant.
After Collins’ lecture, I was able to eavesdrop on a couple of attendees reaction. One was enthusiastically in-line with Dr. Collins’ conclusions, stating “I think he has it right.” Another participant calmly retorted back, “I think he’s on the right track.”
It’s this agree-disagree element that made the conference appealing. Afterall, where can one who supports a high view of scripture (such as Dr. Collins and Dr. Scott Stripling) meet head-to-head with those who have a low view of scripture (Dr. William Dever)?
Not only was the International Symposium on Archaeology and the Bible a success, but it’s also, as one participant conveyed, “Essential.” Continuing, she notes, “We need to revive this dialogue—and field—for the future, allowing the field to expand and enlarge our understanding of the Bible and archaeology.”