An archeologist and linguist who has spent his life digging among the ruins of ancient civilizations says the Bible is still his best source book for what took place thousands of years ago.
Dr. Donald Wiseman, professor of Assyriology at the University of London and the author of numerous books and articles on archeological and biblical subjects, says that in 30 years of working in the field and study of finds, he has never yet found that archeology, when rightly interpreted, has clashed with the clear statement of Scripture.
Wiseman, chairman of the British School of Archaeology in Iraq, said in an interview that the discovery of some 250,000 documents from Old Testament times by him and his colleagues has only confirmed that the Bible is God's word to man in real, historical situations.
"Archeology only illustrates the world of the Bible. Most of the discoveries are of everyday life, such as school reports of children in the days of Abraham," he said.
Wiseman reads, writes and speaks 14 dialects and languages of the Near East, and has written 100 articles and nine books. He argues that extra-biblical document sonly reaffirm the existence of Old Testament kings and that the narrative of the Bible is confirmed by the claims of history, geography and archeology.
"Archeological finds give us an anecdotal view of ancient civilizations. It personalizes the ancient life of O.T. (Old Testament) people. It makes them come alive. The Bible is still a real historical presentation . . . Archeology demonstrates the reliability and relevance of the Bible."
On the thorny issue of biblical inspiration and infallibility, Wiseman affirmed his belief that the Bible is both reliable and inspired in its selection, preservation, translatability and the truth it conveys.
Wiseman is currently involved in a new translation of the Old Testament to be published in the fall. In concert with 100 evangelical scholars, the new translation (not a transliteration or paraphrase) is called the New International Version (NIV) and is in modern English rather than the Language of King James. (A version of the New Testament was published five years ago.)
Wiseman says the Bible is God's word written, using different literary styles and genres of its days. His findings have uncovered an immense detailed knowledge of the times.
"It's apparent the Covenant God made with His people was not a bargaining tool but it affirms God as king. The Ten Commandments are unique. There is nothing like them in the Ancient World. They are an account of what God requires of His people. They also attest the uniqueness of Israel. 'I am your God, you are my people.'"
Questioned on the biblical account of creation, Wiseman said the early Genesis narrative is only a summary of very ancient tradition of which the earliest peoples also had their own account.
"Before Israel got into their land in 130 B.C., we have detailed accounts of creation and the flood in libraries of South Syria in Ugarit, Ras-Shamrah."
Wiseman said the creation account in Genesis, Chapter one, can best be understood not as the time it took for creation to occur, but the time God took to tell early man about creation.
"It was dictated in five languages, proving that Moses was not illiterate, and that he probably read eight languages. From the biblical account, he was raised in the court of pharoah and was well educated. He probably did not write the first five books of the Bible, but rather brought them together in his day."