FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS)- The fall issue of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s magazine, Southwestern News, features the seminary’s expanding work in the field of biblical archaeology.
Biblical archaeology is an endangered species, Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Seminary said in his introductory letter to the magazine. “Biblical Archaeology is a discipline that for some years has been in serious decline,” he said. “Most of our seminaries at one time employed an archaeologist, and these archaeologists in turn made serious contributions to the field of biblical archaeology.” The magazine, he writes, captures the growth of the archaeology program at Southwestern.
The magazine recounts the seminary’s past involvement in archaeology, represented primarily by former professor George Kelm. It captures the span of the current archaeology program and reports the impact that students and faculty are currently having at Tel Gezer, one of the major archaeological sites in Israel today. It also highlights the value of archaeology to the study of the Bible.
For nearly 30 years, Southwestern Seminary has been home to the Charles D. Tandy Archaeological Museum, located in the seminary’s A. Webb Roberts Library. It is one of the greatest benefits to the seminary contributed by George Kelm, professor emeritus of biblical backgrounds and archaeology, and his wife, Linda. In the late 1970s, Kelm and Israeli archaeologist Amihai Mazar uncovered the biblical city of Timnah, known for the Israelite judge Samson. Archaeological finds from Timnah are currently exhibited in the Tandy Museum.
According to Paige Patterson, in his article titled “The Changing Face of Biblical Archaeology,” Southwestern’s archaeology program began to wane upon Kelm’s retirement. It was another example of widespread loss in biblical archaeology.
“What had been lost in all of this was an understanding of what archaeology can produce, and the critical importance for evangelicals, especially Southern Baptists, to remain involved in the discussion and efforts of pursuing archaeology,” Patterson said. However, he also announced that Southwestern has begun to take steps to strengthen the emphasis in archaeology once again.
The seminary took their first step in this direction by hiring Steven Ortiz as associate professor of archaeology and biblical backgrounds. He began to teach at the seminary in the fall of 2006. That summer, he reopened excavations at Tel Gezer, which is reported to be among the top five archaeological sites in Israel. Tel Gezer is especially known for King Solomon, who fortified the city (1 Kings 9).
The summer of 2007 marked Southwestern Seminary’s first time to sponsor Tel Gezer alongside the Israeli Antiquities Authority. The project was also supported by several consortium members, including Ashland Theological Seminary, Lancaster Bible College, Lycoming College, Marian Eakins Archaeological Museum, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
Southwestern students, such as Clay Jacobson and Dessa Evans, participated in the dig, learning the value of archaeology both for its own sake and for the sake of biblical studies. The magazine reports their experiences and the lessons they learned at Tel Gezer.
The Tel Gezer Excavation Project is only one aspect of Southwestern Seminary’s archaeology program. The seminary also offers a Master of Arts in Archaeology and Biblical Studies, one of the few programs of its kind among evangelical schools. The archaeology program at Southwestern will also involve the development of the Tandy Museum, a seminar room and artifact study collection, and conferences on archaeology.
Along with the feature on archaeology, the fall issue of Southwestern News also recounts some key points in the life of the seminary over the past summer: Southwestern students have traveled to countries such as Thailand and Siberia to share the Gospel; the seminary has reached its highest enrollment in the past five years; three former professors and their wives were recognized as L.R. Scarborough Award recipients; and more.
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