Insights Archaeology Handbook, edited by Charles R. Swindoll. Plano, Texas: Insights for Living Publishing House, 2008. 118 pp.
This book evaluates ten important archaeological discoveries/artifacts and the contributions they have made to biblical studies. In order to determine which ten discoveries to include, the authors were confronted with several challenges. First, they wanted to choose ten archaeological discoveries that adequately represented the span of time covered in the Bible. They selected five Old Testament and five New Testament. This selection corresponds fairly well with those presented by Keith Schoville (2001: 13-26) in his article "Top Ten Major Archaeological Discoveries of the Twentieth Century Relating to the Biblical World" as well as other similar lists that have been published.
The second challenge that the authors had was to present these archaeological discoveries in a fresh, new and fun way. This book compares biblical archaeology to a jigsaw puzzle. Each article presents an artifact as one piece in a giant puzzle. While the description of the artifact focused on the individual puzzle piece, other aspects of the artifact were also discussed and then illustrated with full-color pictures. In a sense, the pictures act as the cover top of the puzzle box, allowing the artifact to be placed properly within the overall archaeological puzzle.
The final challenge that the authors had was to present the technical aspects of biblical archaeology without limiting its appeal for general audiences. Each article is a self-contained unit that could easily be used in any Bible study, Sunday school, or undergraduate course. These articles relate information about the find itself, such as who discovered the item, any interesting facts surrounding that discovery and how the artifact relates to biblical times. These tidbits of information are skillfully interwoven into the articles and do not detract from the overall ability of the article to excite the general reader. As part of this effort, many of the chapters include a section entitled "Dig This!" These subarticles are snippets of information which take the reader just a bit farther into the archaeological adventure by exploring additional artifacts that are related to the main article and their impact on biblical archaeology.
In order to appeal to the growing popular interest in biblical archaeology, Insights Archaeology Handbook integrates the "Indiana Jones" movies into the discussion. Two articles link biblical archaeology to the fictional character "Indiana Jones." The first article provides an overview of the archaeological process by contrasting the theatrical "Indiana Jones" view of archaeology with actual archaeological endeavors. While this is not a comprehensive detailed description of archaeological work, it does assist in dispelling any notion that archaeology is like that depicted in the movies. The second article is an interview with Dr. Bryant Wood and Professor Todd Bolen, who were selected as representative "Indiana Jones" for biblical archaeology. This article discusses what these "Indiana Jones" have done with the archaeological artifacts and discoveries that they have been involved with in their own careers and how these discoveries have assisted in illuminating the Bible.
Insights Archaeology Handbook is a supplementary text for introductory courses in Old and New Testament studies. This book could also be used to introduce a small group or Bible study to the utility of biblical archaeology in enhancing a general understanding of the Bible. However, the book is not a textbook on biblical archaeology nor was it intended to be a textbook. Insights Archaeology Handbook is a handbook on some interesting biblical artifacts that could be a tool used to introduce people to biblical archaeology.
Donald McNeeley, Church & Biblical Research Group, Virginia Beach, VA