The Word Set in Stone Is a Good Apologetic Summary of Biblical Archeology

Dave Armstrong is a Catholic Apologist. He recently wrote a book summarizing Biblical Archeology. The title is The Word Set in Stone: How Archaeology, Science, and History Back up the Bible. It goes through the Bible chronologically, examining at various periods or issues.


The Word Set in Stone book cover (fair use)

Overall, I think this is a good summary but only for a certain medium-level apologetic audience. As it is published by Catholic Answers, that is likely their main audience so not an issue there. However, it is written such that it does not really work great in either direction. There are a few things too complicated for a person picking this up with no background beyond regular Sunday Mass. At the same time, he is a little dismissive of critical views or does not explore them with enough nuance to qualify for academic writing. It also seems to more narrowly prescribe a specific reading than most academic treatments would.

With this narrow audience, it is still quite a useful book. I read it as I wanted to expand the coverage of Biblical archeology by one lecture in my Introduction to Scripture class that I will be teaching this fall. It is a freshman-level college class with about 50-50 Catholic and non-Catholic students. It helped point me to some things to add. I do not require it as reading but taking about a lecture of material from it to present to students.

Some specific examples

Armstrong provides many different examples in the book. Here are a few to give you a taste.

  • He goes into details like the price of a slave at different periods showing that the price in certain books match the price at the time the books took place.
  • The dating of camels in the Holy Land is a debated topic. Some have argued they arrived after Biblical authors claim them there (thus the Biblical account is brought into doubt) while Armstrong provides evidence they were there earlier.
  • He similarly lists things in the Bible that actually match time and place like Moses in the Egyptian court, the existence of bitumen in Palestine in a period, etc.
  • He shows external sources for Old Testament names like the Tel Dan basalt stele.
  • He shows all the details in St. Luke making him a reliable historian.


Overall, I will give this 5/5 on Amazon.

Dave Armstrong sent me this book for free on the promise of a review and I meant to get it out earlier. Sorry for the delay, Dave.

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