Several years ago, Time magazine published an article about archaeology and Christianity. the article appeared to concede that there was a great deal of archaeological evidence consistent with the descriptions of the places and events described in the New Testament (as Christians contend). However, as one heads further back into the murkier days before King David, the article announced unreservedly that the archaeological evidence actually contradicts the Biblical account. One of the breaking points that I recall was the account of the fall of Jericho to the Israelites when they entered the Promised Land as recounted in the Book of Joshua, Chapter 6. According to the Time story, Jericho hadn't even been occupied at the time that the Israelites would have entered into the Promised Land. Hence, the entire account had to be a myth made up at a later date.
My own personal thought was: how do they know that? After all, there really is no confirmation as to the date of the Exodus itself, so how could the authors of Time or the archaeologists consulted know that Jericho fell so early in comparison to the arrival of the Israelites?
In fact, it appears that much of the problems in dating of the fall of Jericho and the claims that the city was unoccupied during the time of the Exodus come from the work of Dr. Kathleen Kenyon, a Christian, who excavated the site in the 1950s. She concluded, reluctantly, that the fall of the walls could not possibly have occurred during the supposed time frame that Joshua would have entered the Promised Land. I guess it is certainly reasonable to conclude that if a Christian says it didn't happen, then that's good evidence that it didn't happen. (Admissions against interest are given a great deal of credibility in courtrooms.)
However, just because a Christian archaeologist reached this conclusion 60 years ago does not mean that the conclusion is correct. The real question is: was Dr. Kenyon (and those that followed after her) correct? Was the city really unoccupied during the time frames that Joshua most likely entered the Holy Land?
Biblical Archaeology, a fine website put together by the Associates for Biblical Research, has posted an article that evaluates the original conclusions of Dr. Kenyon. The article entitled The Walls of Jericho concludes that while Dr. Kenyon did excellent excavation work, she was in error on her dates by a century. According to the article:
The meticulous work of Kenyon showed that Jericho was indeed heavily fortified and that it had been burned by fire. Unfortunately, she misdated her finds, resulting in what seemed to be a discrepancy between the discoveries of archaeology and the Bible. She concluded that the Bronze Age city of Jericho was destroyed about 1550 BC by the Egyptians. An in-depth analysis of the evidence, however, reveals that the destruction took place at the end of the 15th century BC (end of the Late Bronze I period), exactly when the Bible says the Conquest occurred (Wood 1990).
A very interesting part of this article includes some discussion about the Biblical statement that the dwelling of Rahab (the Jericho prostitute who aided the Israelites) would be spared. The article gives credence to the fact that it very well may have been spared.
Excavations at the outer (lower) fortification wall by the three major expeditions to Jericho. At the north end (numbers 1–5), a portion of the mud brick wall (shaded) atop the stone retaining wall survived, demonstrating that the city wall did not fall in this area. Nothing remains of the mud brick city wall at other points investigated, showing that it had collapsed everywhere else (numbers 6–13). Remnants of the collapsed city wall (shaded) were actually found still in place in three places at Jericho: number 11 (German excavation), number 12 (Kenyon’s excavation), and the 1997 Italian-Palestinian excavation extending Kenyon’s south trench at number 8.
According to the Bible, Rahab’s house was incorporated into the fortification system (Jos 2:15). If the walls fell, how was her house spared? As you recall, the spies had instructed Rahab to bring her family into her house and they would be rescued. When the Israelites stormed the city, Rahab and her family were saved as promised (Jos 6:17, 22–23). At the north end of the tell of Jericho, archaeologists made some astounding discoveries that seem to relate to Rahab.
The German excavation of 1907-1909 found that on the north a short stretch of the lower city wall did not fall as everywhere else. A portion of that mudbrick wall was still standing to a height of 8 ft (Sellin and Watzinger 1973: 58). What is more, there were houses built against the wall! It is quite possible that this is where Rahab’s house was located. Since the city wall formed the back wall of the houses, the spies could have readily escaped. From this location on the north side of the city, it was only a short distance to the hills of the Judean wilderness where the spies hid for three days (Jos 2:16, 22).
The article is a fascinating read. I certainly recommend it.