Biblical archaeology, with its concentration on the Levant, deals with the study of the archaeology of the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament. Through biblical archaeology scholars gain a fuller perception of the events and the lifeways of the peoples described in the Bible. In biblical archaeology we reconstruct the lifeways of biblical peoples and learn of the cultural change, known as cultural process, in their civilizations.
Culture in the study of ancient peoples refers to their learned and transmitted behavior over time. A procedural definition of biblical archaeology emphasizes the systematic recovery of the surviving remains of ancient civilizations in the Bible lands.
In its quest to illuminate our understanding of biblical times, biblical archaeology, reflects the defining characteristics of both the humanities and the sciences. Its focus is the production of knowledge concerning biblical peoples and their lifeways from their earliest beginnings through the period of the New Testament. The epistemological question challenging biblical archaeologists is--what can we know and how can we know it?
At one time the Bible, supported by other ancient texts such as the works of Flavius Josephus, Herodotus, and Eusebius, provided the structure for interpretation of bible lands sites and artifacts. Today biblical archaeologists place less emphasis upon written texts and draw more heavily upon the sciences to do their work. Some biblical archaeologists consider themselves scientists and others do not.
As the discipline becomes increasingly secularized its task is less the search for truth and more a search for facts. The underlying ends of biblical archaeology, a specialty in archaeology, are the advancement of scholarly knowledge through reconstruction of the lifeways of biblical peoples and their explanation.
When the primary means by which biblical archaeologists achieve these ends is by the discovery of the material culture of biblical peoples, through science informed by history, biblical archaeology is part of the social sciences. The desired outcome is explanation (see Scientific Archaeology).
Another trend in archaeological thought is postmodernism. Biblical archaeologists following this approach draw upon the methods and principles of philosophical hermeneutics, to "read" the archaeological record, rather than those of science (see Postmodern Archaeology).
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