This is an ongoing series of meditations on faith, in response to readings from the articles that preface The Oxford Study Bible.
I will trust the reader to dig up the context if the meaning is unclear.
Here again it comes down to this: facts can be verified, but it's not facts we're after.
Archeology is clearly of enormous value in reconstructing the general biblical world. It is far less secure as a means of validating the specific biblical world. Archaeological evidence is more indirect than direct ... It may indeed be the case, though perhaps less common than we might expect, that archaeological data do confirm individual biblical passages. Yet what is meant by the truth of the Bible is not in fact subject to the kind of confirmation that archaeology can provide" (page 53).
When we look for specific confirmations of biblical passages, what we want is truth. But truth is a function of story, not of fact.
A story may be challenged or confirmed by the facts it contains. But facts aren't the point. Facts are the music man's credentials, and sure, everyone wants to check his credentials, because if he's a fraud that changes everything — but in the end, what people really want is a boys' band.
The only reason they're chasing those credentials in the first place is that they want to believe he's the sort of musician who can transform their children, likewise, into musicians. No sheet of paper can do that work. The credentials are useless without the man. Facts are just a sheet of paper next to the living story, the truth it embodies, a truth which, if you let yourself believe it, will change your world. Facts can be proven or disproven, but truth is a function of belief; and truth — belief, then — is ultimately the only thing we care about.
Through the new analytical possibilities ... perhaps we can come closer than ever before to reconstructing the life experiences that caused our biblical ancestors to draw their profound and powerful conclusions about the role of God in their lives and to make their compelling assertions about the ongoing relationship between God and humanity" (page 55).
Perhaps indeed. Let historicity be the assist. Let truth be the goal.