Of all the compliments I've received at DTS for some special presentation, class or article, none have come close to the elation I once experienced after a fellow student shouted to me when walking away, "See you later, Dr. Jones." My heart leaped 8 levels from that remark. That happens when I was president of the Archaeology Research Group for Dallas Theological Seminary. Later (last fall) I even co-taught a class on Archaeology at the DTS Center for Biblical Studies. It was a dream come true. You see, Indiana Jones was my earliest childhood hero. Oh sure I liked the typical cartoon heroes (a.k.a. The Superfriends), but no live-action hero had yet struck my fancy before age 12 when I went to see "Raiders of the Lost Ark."
He was a smart professor that taught students in one life, but then traveled to exotic locations, found ancient and mysterious artifacts, and pretty much saved the world in the other life. It was the ultimate fantasy for a young boy developing into a serious nerd. I knew that archaeology was among the dryer of subjects one could pursue, making the Indy-adventurer persona even more unsuspected from his peers. I used to imagine that I could easily be that nerd who knew his subject, taught by day, and navigated untold adventures on the side.
As I grew older, I understood that Indy was a fictional character, and that archaeology isn't really like that. However, the influence already occurred. "Adventure is in the heart," I have been fond of saying. For me Indiana Jones became a type of adventurous "spirit" that can be found in anyone. Even those who study subjects more "dry" than archaeology can attest to finding excitement where the research takes them. In like manner, I have been less intimidated than many I encounter to step out and attempt new pursuits. Sure it can seem like a dangerous road, but that's where the adventure happens.
Because of my childhood influence from Indy, I even began studying archaeology; and was shocked to discover that I truly enjoy it. I'm curious about the excavation process, and what the findings can teach us about cultures of the past. I absolutely love how artifactual studies give the human details to moments in history. Archaeology is also helpful for preaching and teaching from the Bible (see "Pulpit and Spade"). I love archaeology. My enjoyment in studying it has long sense matured beyond my childhood enjoyment of Indiana Jones, but it's sure fun to think back now to dressing up as Indy when going to see the film at the theater. The irony is that I've never fulfilled the childhood fantasy to the point of actually purchasing an official Indy hat replica, or the rest of the costume. Perhaps sometime soon.
Now a fourth movie is out - "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull." Reviewers seem to be split. When my family and I go see it on Saturday, my expectations are not for it to be better than the previous films. But one thing I do hope is that it will do something similar for my kids that it did for me: portray a very human hero that inspires the adventurer within, and the thinker within who has a day job the rest of the time.