Why Indiana Jones is a Cool Archaeologist, but a Horrible Philosopher

by Ted Wright

In the third installment of the Indiana Jones movie series, The Last Crusade, “Indy” goes to the chalkboard in his tweed jacket and writes down the word “FACT” and underlines it. Then he says to his eager listening students:

Archaeology is the search for fact not truth. If it’s truth you’re interested in, Dr. Tyree’s philosophy class is right down the hall.”

Unbeknownst to most people, “Indy” was summarizing a philosophical outlook, not an archaeological one! That outlook, reaches all the way back to the 18th Century and the European Enlightenment from a German philosopher named, Immanuel Kant.

Kant was responsible for the radical separation of facts from truth (or values).[1] The question is, is “Indy” right? Was Kant right? Should ‘facts’ be divorced from truth? Are the two mutually exclusive? Is truth merely from someone’s perspective? How should truth be defined? Furthermore, why does this even matter? It matters because ideas have consequences! Truth by its very nature is absolute and unbreakable. Truth is that which corresponds to reality.

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If Bible believing Christians adopt the philosophical viewpoint of Kant and “Indy,” it would have devastating consequences on their faith. It is, however, is the viewpoint of Israeli archaeologist Amon Ben Tor. Ben Tor is representative of most archaeologists working in Israel and the Levant, and articulates a view of facts and values that is in directly line with Immanuel Kant [& Dr. Jones].

This intense urge to prove the Bible cannot affect the pious believer. For such a person, the scriptures contain their own truth and need not be criticized or proven. This need is prevalent, in what must be construed as an irrational manner, among large sections of the secular public, which find it important that the archaeologists prove that all the events in the Bible did indeed occur and that all the figures mentioned and the episodes described are entirely consistent with reality. There is in this demand a violation of archaeological integrity and an attempt to impose upon archaeology unattainable objectives that is the proof of faith.[2]

Ben Tor states that the Scriptures “contain their own truth,” as if there were a separation between what the Bible says, and the facts of reality. When Ben-Tor, and other scholars make statements of skepticism towards the Bible, it is not a conclusion from archaeology, rather it is an outworking of an underlying philosophy and world-view to which they adhere…

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Why Indiana Jones is a Cool Archaeologist, but a Horrible Philosopher – Cross Examined