FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – Mendy Loyd enrolled at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2006 as one of the first students in the Master of Arts in Archaeology and Biblical Studies degree. She began classes as the seminary prepared to revive its long-dormant archaeology program and to renew excavations at the ancient Israelite city of Tel Gezer.
 “I was the first one (to join the program),” said Loyd, who earned her bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of Arkansas. “When classes started, there were only a couple of us in it.” Her excitement grew, however, as more students participated in the program. “In my last semester, classes were full, and it was nice to see other students learning about the program and joining it.”
Now, with two others, Loyd will be among the first students to graduate with the degree this May. According to Steven Ortiz, associate professor of archaeology and biblical backgrounds, Loyd and her fellow graduates have set high standards for future students.
“These are strong candidates that represent Southwestern and the archaeology program well,” Ortiz said. “I am confident that they are going to do well in academics and in God’s kingdom.
“These students are already on track. They’ve all given papers at professional meetings. Some are already published. We think they represent the future of our program, and they have already set the standard of expectations for students.”
“I thank the trustees and administration,” Ortiz added, “for the foresight of establishing this center of biblical archaeology at Southwestern. We are seeing the first fruits of this vision, and we hope this investment will continue to grow.”
In 2003, Byron Longino, another graduate from the program, completed the seminary’s doctorate in biblical backgrounds and archaeology. This course of study did not involve any fieldwork, so the master’s in archaeology degree, which included fieldwork in Israel, instantly attracted Longino’s attention.
Through excavations and surveys at Tel Gezer, an ancient city once fortified by King Solomon, Longino learned about the Bible and came “into direct contact with the life and the culture” of people who lived in biblical times through the artifacts they left behind.
Archaeology graduate Cameron Coyle first became interested in archaeology as a teenager, when he made a similar connection with biblical history during a tour of Israel.
“We visited dig site after dig site,” Coyle said. “I had always been interested in history, and on that trip I learned that you can actually pull history up out of the ground. I was hooked.”
Before coming to Southwestern Seminary, Coyle earned a bachelor’s degree in Jewish studies, as well as taking some classes in archaeology, at the University of Texas. In 2006, after he and his wife served two years overseas with the International Mission Board, Coyle enrolled at Southwestern, although he was not sure where God would lead him in his studies. Then he learned about Southwestern’s master’s degree in archaeology.
“When I heard about the new archaeology program,” Coyle said, “I knew that God had brought me to Southwestern to be a part of it.” During the program, Coyle participated for three years in the excavation at Tel Gezer. Like his fellow graduates, he has also presented papers during academic conferences, such as the southwest regional meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research. Although he is now graduating with his master’s in archaeology, Coyle’s work in the seminary’s program is not over.
In addition to working on the dig at Gezer this summer, Coyle will return to the classroom this fall as one of the first students in Southwestern Seminary’s new Ph.D. in archaeology and biblical studies.