Dave Armstrong is a notable American apologist and prolific writer. He has written 51 books and 4,000 articles through the span of 30 years. His Patheos channel, “Biblical Evidence for Catholicism” hints at his favorite theme: to provide rational and compelling evidence for Catholic teachings and beliefs.

The Word Set In Stone by Dave Armstrong Published by Catholic Answers Press (March 14, 2023)

His latest book, The Word Set in Stone: How Archaeology, Science, and History Back up the Bible, is an attempt to do just that.

Throughout 236 pages, Dave Armstrong shows how the current archaeological and scientific evidence validates many biblical episodes that are usually brushed off by the current secular mindset. From the Garden of Eden to the Gospel’s details on the life of Jesus, Armstrong provides reasonable and credible—sometimes even surprising—arguments for their plausibility.

It is important to note that Armstrong is not engaging in fundamentalist rationalizations here. The book does not go out of its way to prove the existence of every single biblical character or occurrence, to the point of stretching credulity. Rather, it limits itself to showing only what trustworthy scientific and archaeological data can tell us about the biblical narrative’s reliability.

So, for instance, in chapter 1, instead of trying to prove the existence of an actual Adam and Eve couple from whom all humans are descended, Armstrong tries to determine to what Mesopotamian area the biblical writers were referring to when they mentioned the Garden of Eden. This was a big surprise for me, since I had believed that two of the rivers that border the Eden (Pishon and Guihon) were mythical. Armstrong, however, shows that they could have been real rivers, so Eden referred to an actual geographical place.

Likewise, instead of trying to prove that everything in the Bible happened exactly the way it is shown, down to the most unprovable detail, Armstrong collects information from kings and cities that validate the Bible’s timeline of major events, thereby establishing the biblical writers’ credibility.

A third instance: Noah’s flood. Armstrong does not try to demonstrate that a deluge submerging the entire earth happened. We do not possess scientific evidence of such an event. Armstrong rightfully brings up an unexpected source—the Catholic Encyclopedia, published under Pius X—to show that there is not enough water in the entire world to submerge the almost 30,000 feet high Mount Everest. However, Armstrong does show that a catastrophic flood during Noah’s timeframe is possible with our current scientific knowledge.

Of course, this does not mean that Armstrong believes the Bible contains falsehoods. Rather, he makes a distinction between the two major academic currents as regards to biblical accuracy: biblical maximalists and minimalists. The latter believe that latest archaeological findings mandate a reappraisal of the Bible’s narrative, whereas the former believe that no archaeological discovery to date has controverted a biblical reference. Armstrong takes the maximalist position, and very effectively.

I was already aware of some of the topics that Armstrong discusses in his book, like the scientific explanation for the Star of Bethlehem or for the chronological succession of Egypt’s Ten Plagues. However, Armstrong’s thorough research solidified my positions on these issues even more.

Other topics were a complete surprise to me like, the medical explanation for King Nebuchadnezzar’s madness. I didn’t even know there was controversy about the domestication of camels during the timeframe mentioned in the Bible! All of this was covered in the book, with earnestness and rigor.

The book contains 393 endnotes, spread through over 30 pages, as well as two appendices.

In the end, it was a very enjoyable read, and the book continuously amazed and delighted me. For those who enjoy both studying scripture and delving into historical and scientific questions, Dave Armstrong’s The Word Set in Stone is something you will not want to miss.

Image: Adobe Stock. By John Theodor.

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Pedro Gabriel, MD, is a Catholic layman and physician, born and residing in Portugal. He is a medical oncologist, currently employed in a Portuguese public hospital. A published writer of Catholic novels with a Tolkienite flavor, he is also a parish reader and a former catechist. He seeks to better understand the relationship of God and Man by putting the lens on the frailty of the human condition, be it physical and spiritual. He also wishes to provide a fresh perspective of current Church and World affairs from the point of view of a small western European country, highly secularized but also highly Catholic by tradition.

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