Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Mining the Biblical Text

By Karla Noles

GEZER, ISRAEL -- In my class on biblical hermeneutics (interpretation), I was taught that proper exegesis of the Bible involves mining and sifting of the biblical text in order to get through to the real depth of the text: a variety of layers of truth. Those precious nuggets of truth often come only after the long tedious work of intense examination of the text by means of language, history, and context among other aspects.
While taking those exegetical classes in seminary, I never realized that one day, I would get to mine the biblical text literally; but in a sense, that’s what we’re doing here in Israel at the Tel Gezer dig. The ancient city of Gezer is mentioned in 1 Kings 9:15-16. Pharaoh had originally conquered and burned the city, but King Solomon rebuilt it after receiving it as a dowry when he married Pharaoh’s daughter.
May 22 was our first day at the dig site where we began digging trying to reach the Gezer water system built during Canaanite times. The process is difficult and dirty as our group works to extract the rocks and dirt currently blocking the entrance of the water system. Bag by bag with incredible team effort, we remove the dirt by shoveling it into bags, using a wench to pull the bags to the entrance of the cavern, then using a crane to lift the bags out of the cavern.  Groups and individuals have come from across the U.S. to join this effort to get us closer to our goal of uncovering this well.
Throughout this unearthing process, it’s humbling to realize that we are examining life as it was in biblical times. We are beginning to see the world as the biblical readers might have seen it so that when I read the text, I don’t impose my own ideas, interpretation, and understanding into it.  Seeing the text in its social and visual context adds an entirely new layer of understanding to it.
Right now, our task involves hard work and painstaking effort. In the same way, biblical interpretation, like archaeology, involves difficult work. But the result of the work is truth that changes lives. While the work, right now, in this archaeological project is tough, the end result hopefully will involve a new understanding of life in the Bible times, which in turn opens our twenty-first century eyes to a new worldview enabling us to read our Bibles better in the way that the biblical readers would have seen the world. Biblical archaeology brings us closer to the biblical text and opens up new understandings of truth in ways that we never before have seen. Personally, in my own life, I see how simply being here is opening my eyes to a new understanding of the scripture which clarifies more my understanding of truth. And that new understanding makes the entire process worthwhile.  


Karla Noles graduated from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary this May with a Master of Divinity with a specialization in Christian Thought.

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