An archaeologist spoke last week to students and faculty of Erskine College and Seminary about his search for Sodom and Gomorrah.
Dr. Steven Collins, director of the Tall el-Hammam Excavation Project in Jordan, spoke on Christianity and Archaeology as part of the yearly Erskine Lecture Series on Feb. 8-9. The excavation project is an effort to discover the biblical cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Collins believes archaeology is important to Christianity because “all the faith in the world won’t resurrect truth from fiction,” he said, according to an Erskine news release.
The director added that some people believe that the information included in the patriarchal narratives – beginning with Abraham in Genesis – is mythical and even fiction, but archaeology shows the truth of the information in the Bible.
“Too often we take it and we don’t fight back,” Collins said.
He noted that the legitimate discovery of the Cities of the Plain, as Sodom and Gomorrah are called in the Bible, would be compelling evidence that the historical information in Genesis is factual, the guest speaker said.
"Such a discovery would be one of the most important biblically-related archaeological finds in history," Collins said.
The archaeologist has conducted five years of focused research on the location of Sodom and Gomorrah that led to the discovery of a group of ancient sites that are “by far the best candidates for the two cities,” said Erskine.
When asked how sure he was that the sites would be Sodom and Gomorrah, Collins answered, "I'll stake my life on it."
The Tall el-Hammam Excavation Project began in December 2005 and will continue with a six-week excavation season in December 2006 and January 2007 at a site in Jordan near the Dead Sea. .
According to Collins, the key to locating the Cities of the Plain is an intricate analysis of the biblical text.
"The three main biblical criteria for correctly identifying these famous cities are geography, chronology and stratigraphy," Collins said. "The Bible clearly says they were located on the eastern edge of the Jordan Disk, that well-watered circular plain of the southern Jordan Valley just north of the Dead Sea."
He said it is also clear from the text that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed during the Middle Bronze Age, the time of Abraham and Lot. He estimated the Middle Bronze Age to be between 2300 and 1550 B.C.
"Had scholars analyzed the biblical text carefully, they would have realized that the general location of the cities is laid out quite clearly and unambiguously," Collins said. "If you take the textual data of Genesis 13-19 seriously, the location is pretty much a no-brainer."
Collins is dean of the College of Archaeology and Biblical History at Trinity Southwest University in Albuquerque, N.M. He has searched for the location of Sodom and Gomorrah off and on for ten years.