Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Theological Studies (MATS)



First Advisor

Steve Delamarter

Second Advisor

Roger Nam


This thesis examines two aspects of the work the American School of archaeologists: 1) their refinements of archaeological method; and 2) their cultivation of a particular rhetorical strategy to describe the significance of their findings In the first chapter, we explore the rise of Near Eastern archaeology from the mid-nineteenth century through the early-twentieth century. During this time many communities of faith joined in the digging in hopes of locating finds with biblical implications. A lofty rhetoric was developed to describe these discoveries and to relate their impact upon the accounts of the Bible. This period was marked by the free-wheeling exploits of adventurers who lacked any sort of developed scientific approach, but who, nonetheless, cultivated lofty claims about the truth of the Bible based on their discoveries. In the following chapters, we examine the rise of the American school of biblical archaeology. The study begins with William Foxwell Albright, the father of the American school. We show how Albright established the foundation of a critical methodology on which the American school was built and how he developed a new and slightly more restrained rhetoric of "light" and "illumination" to describe the effect of archaeology on the Bible. We also show how Albright's approach was closely followed by his students John Bright and George Ernest Wright. These men remained devoted to Albright's approach, but tempered even more the rhetoric and truth claims prominent in their teacher's writings. In the next chapters, our study narrows its focus to follow the career of William G. Dever, one of Wright's students. During this time -often portrayed as the pinnacle of the American school- Dever and others placed a great emphasis on the refinement of methodology, and a completely restrained (if not agnostic) rhetoric with reference to the impact of archaeology on the truth of the Bible. At the Gezer field school, Dever trained an upcoming generation of archaeologists in this method and rhetoric. We argue that this period was concluded with Dever's lectures to Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in January 1972. This period ends with Dever calling for a complete separation between biblical archaeology and Syro-Palestinian archaeology. Finally, we trace the history of the rise of the post-modemists and Dever' s conflict with their new approach to the biblical accounts. Unfortunately, the dialogue was quickly mired in accusations and name-calling. Each period addressed in this work provides an interesting case study in the interplay between culture and faith, as it was played out in the developments smTounding archaeology and biblical studies. This thesis explores these case studies in hopes of understanding the nature of the changes and developments.