Does Archaeology Support The Bible?
The Scriptures declare that when mankind refuses to acknowledge God's truth, the very stones will cry out. We can see the evidence of this all around us because, while the critics have attacked the Bible and denied the historicity of its civilizations and people, the shovel of the archaeologist has consistently overturned their claims. Amazingly enough, many archaeologists entered that field for the purpose of disproving the Bible, and yet an impressive number of them were finally forced to conclude that the Bible was, indeed, a most astonishing book. Some have even become Christians and used their work to support the Biblical data they once sought to invalidate.
It is important to understand that this evidence has confirmed what many experienced apologists have long held: that because of their anti-supernatural presuppositions or in many cases biases, these skeptics have made the facts fit their assumptions! If we can finally force them to look at the evidence without bias, many of the skeptics we deal with will finally have to do as these archaeologists have done--bow to the miraculous power and historical consistency of the Word of God.
During the 19 century, a movement known as "Higher Criticism" or the German Higher Critical School, made up of theologians from various universities in Germany, began attacking the Scriptures mercilessly. They were trying to show that the Bible was not an historically accurate book--that Adam and Eve never existed; that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were part of mythological Hebrew folklore; that Daniel was also a myth; that the Exodus never happened, or at least that it didn't resemble the biblical record; that the gospels were written by anonymous authors in the 2nd or 3rd century; and more. They posited that nothing was as the Bible said it was, and it seemed that Christianity might collapse under the weight of the attack.
The Science of Archaeology:
At the same time, God was at work in the development of the little known science of archaeology. As these two movements grew solidified throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries the question was, would the German Higher Critical School prove once and for all that the Bible was a collection of myths and fables, or would archaeology refute its claims and prove that the Bible was, in fact, the very Word of God? One of the sad aspects of this contest was that many believers were holding their breath waiting to see what the final result would be. But as God had said, the very stones began to cry out supporting the inerrancy of the Word of God.
Many Christians have wondered over the years why the Bible is filled with so many details! For example, if you turn to Numbers 33, you find a list of 42 different sites used in Exodus. Throughout the Old Testament, scores of cities, places, kings, individuals, and nations are mentioned. You have lists of "begats" that many Bible readers would rather do without. Ah, but those details do have a purpose.
In fact, the great scholar R. A. Torrey said, "The plethora of details were watermarks in paper which bear indelible evidence of the time and plan of manufacture." The science of archaeology has uncovered from this plethora of details a vast wealth of information about history and veracity of the Scripture. In the past, there was a basic rule the unbeliever followed in relationship to the Bible: If the Bible says one thing and a secular historian says something else, the Bible is always assumed to be false and the secular historian assumed to be correct. Not only that, but if the Bible says something and ancient secular writers say nothing about it, it is always assumed to be a fable or myth. These two basic presuppositions of the higher critics have suffered badly as a result of the findings of archaeology in recent decades.
Pithom and Raamses:
The book of Exodus tells how the Egyptians forced their Israelite slaves to build these two storage cities, yet the critics said it was a fable for children. But archaeologist Sir Flinders Petrie discovered the site of these cities and found that the buildings were the only ones in Egypt built with mortar. Interestingly enough, the lowest levels of the building were built with brick and straw, the next levels were built with bricks and stubble, and the upper layers were built with no straw or stubble at all! A perfect parallel to the biblical account.
The Book of Daniel:
This was popular hunting ground of the higher critics. One of their favorite targets was the naming of Belshazzar as the last king of Babylon. The story, of course, describes how he was feasting in the Palace of Nebuchadnezzar when the Syrians, under Cyrus the Great, set fire to the city and killed the king. Secular historians said this was a fairy tale, because "everyone knew" that Nabonidus was the last king of Babylon. However, in the city of Ur of the Chaldees, four clay cylindars of King Nabonidus were found, describing his co-regency with his eldest son Belshazzar! Other texts that have been found show numerous treaties and contracts that mention this as well.
Over 25,000 Sites:
Have been discovered by archaeology pertaining to the Bible, as well as the records of tens of thousands of individuals and events. Nelson Glueck, the renowned Jewish archaeologist, said, "It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted its biblical reference."
The Battle Continues:
Many archaeologists have been convinced by their own findings that the Bible is an astonishing book--some even to the point of becoming Christians. Sir William Ramsey, for, example, was a wealthy atheistic English archaeologist who was determined to disprove the Bible. He spent many decades over his diggings and published book after book, first confirming the Word of God, and finally declaring that he had become a Christian as a result of his findings! Of course, the unbelieving world was aghast! That's because, as Yale archaeologist Miller Burroughs states, "The excessive skepticism of many liberal theologians stems not from a careful evaluation of the available data, but from an enormous predisposition against the super-natural."
Like our media today, which chooses to splash any apparent findings that contradict the Bible across every magazine cover and newspaper, but ignore the numerous findings that support it, the Jesus Seminar and other institutions of "Higher Criticism" continue to battle the mounting evidence that the Bible is, indeed, the very Word of God.
(Archaeology Confirms the Bible, Dr. D. James Kennedy)
Some Archaeological Findings
The Sumerian King List, One of History's First mention of a Great Flood (2,100 B.C.):
What is striking about the list of Sumerian kings is that the kings are divided into two groups--those who ruled before a great flood and those who ruled after it. Equally striking is that the lengths of the reigns (and life spans) of these kings drastically decreased after the flood, as did life spans of people recorded in the Bible.
An Ancient Flood Story:
Accounts of a massive flood are found in many cultures around the world. The Gilgamesh Epic (the saga of an ancient Babylonian King, Gilgamesh) includes an expanded flood story on Tablet 11, similar to the flood story in Genesis 6-7-8-9. The best known copy of the Epic was found at Nineveh on a series of baked clay tablets.
Copies of the Epic and other flood stories have been found in the Near East. The flood story is told by the Greeks, Hindus, Chinese, Mexicans, Algonquins, and the Hawaiians. The popularity of the flood theme argues for its historicity and supports the flood of Noah's time.
There are good reasons to believe that Genesis relates the original story. The other versions contain elaborations, indicating corruption. Only in Genesis is the year of the flood given, as well as dates for the chronology relative to Noah's life.
Ur, Hometown of Abraham:
Ur is mentioned four times in the Bible as the hometown of Abraham. It was occupied from the 4th millennium B.C. Excavations of Ur (in Iraq today) have continued off and on since the 1800's.
Finds show that Abraham's ancestral home had been a powerful city-state before it fell. If Ur's decline and fall came during Abraham's time, perhaps archaeology has provided another clue as to why Abraham's father relocated his family to Haran. Genesis 11:31;15:7; Nehemiah 9:7; Acts 7:2-4.
Boghazkoy, Hittite Capital:
The ancient Hittite's large capital city has been recovered about 90 miles east of Ankara, Turkey. The Hittite's rule extended to Syria and Lebanon.
Although Hittite's are mentioned often in the Old Testament, almost nothing was known about them until modern times. One hundered years ago, critics thought the Hittite's were an imaginary people made up by the biblical authors. Finding the Hittite's empire forced that claim to be withdrawn and supported the biblical record. The find also helps explain the language, history and literature of people who appear in the Old Testament and ruled in the 2nd millennium B.C.
Haran, Home of the Patriarchs:
A village of Harran (Haran) exists in Turkey today, and has been found to stand atop the ancient one from the Old Testament.
Also found near Haran are villages that still bear the names of Abraham's great-grandfather and grandfather, Serug and Nahor, as mentioned in Genesis 11:22-26. Haran was the father of Lot (Genesis 11:27).
The cities of Ur and Haran both had the moon god as their main deity. Terah, father of Abraham, worshipped "other gods" (Joshua 24:2) and moved his family from Ur, in southern Mesopotamia (Iraq today), to Haran in the north (Genesis 11:27-31).
The Moabite (Mesha Stele) Stone:
The ancient Moabites were relatives of the Israelites according to Genesis 19:37. On this stone King Mesha brags of having driven the Israelites out of his land. 2 Kings 3 tells that the king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel after the death of King Ahab of Israel.
The Moabite stone is one of the earliest finds that mention biblical people. The stone says that King Omri and his son Ahab "humbled" Moab for many years. After Ahab's death, King Mesha said he had "triumphed" over Ahab's family and that Israel had "perished forever." Some scholars say that the stone also contains a reference to the "house of David."
The Black Obelisk of Shamaneser:
This 6 and a half foot tall black basalt obelisk (four-sided pillar) reports in pictures and words the conquests of Assyrian King Shalmaneser III, enemy of the Israelites.
The Black Obelisk was discovered in the palace at Nimrud in 1846 and shows the biblical Jehu, King of Israel, kneeling down and bringing tribute to the Assyrian king, Shalmaneser. Dating from 841 B.C., this important find is the only picture we have so far of an Israelite king. This is the first mention of tribute paid to Assyria by Israel. King Jehu's reign is mentioned in 2 Kings 9-10, even though the tribute is not.
The Siloam Tunnel Inscription:
The inscription comes from the days of King Hezekiah (701 B.C.) who ordered the tunnel to be made so the water from Jerusalem's Gihon Spring could be brought into the city to a man-made reservoir, the Pool of Siloam. This tunnel provided water to Jerusalem during the anticipated siege of King Sennacherib of Assyria.
A 15-inch tall, six-sided baked clay prism from ancient Assyria contains the story of the invasion of the kingdom of Judah by Sannacherib in 701 B.C. The prism was found at Nineveh.
King Sennacherib of Assyria is mentioned in 2 Kings 18-19. Isaiah prophesied that God would protect Jerusalem against attack by Sennacherib (Isaiah 36-37, 2 Chronicles 32). While the prism does say that the Assyrians trapped Hezekiah in Jerusalem "like a bird in a cage," like the biblical record, it says nothing of them conquering the city.
The Bible says that God spared Jerusalem. The prism, together with the Lachish reliefs and excavations, adds detail to the biblical account. King Hezekiah prayed to the Lord. Isaiah brought him God's message. That night the Lord smote 185,000 Assyrians, and Sennacherib went back to Ninevah and later was killed by his sons (Isaiah 37:35-38).
The Cyrus Cylinder:
A 9-inch long clay cylinder found at ancient Babylon, dating to 539 B.C., tells of King Cyrus of Persia's conquest of Babylon and of his decree to let the captives hed by Babylon return to their lands and restore their temples.
Cyrus sent the Jews back to their homeland after many years of exile in Babylon as Isaiah prophesied (2 Chron. 36:23; Ezra 1; Is. 44:28) This "return home" decree was one of the many issued by Cyrus. Though not mentioning Judah, It confirms that this was Cyrus's policy and gives credibility to the biblical record.
The Dead Sea Scrolls:
The Dead Sea Scrolls are actually hundreds of scrolls and scraps that date between 300 B.C. and 70 A.D. The first of them was found in 1947 in caves in the Qumran area near the Dead Sea about seven miles south of Jericho.
Some of the scrolls were found in jars. About one-third of the scrolls contain copies of portions of Old Testament books (every book but Esther). These copies are over 1,000 years older than most of the manuscripts scholars previously had available for study and translation.
This is one of the most important finds in history because it shows that the Old Testament was copied very accurately over the centuries. When the scrolls were compared with the oldest Masoretic text, only insignificant differences were found. Therefore we can be confident that our current translations are faithful to the original.
The excavation of Gezer in 1969 ran across a massive layer of ash that covered most of the mound. Sifting through the ash yielded pieces of Hebrew, Egyptian, and Philistine artifacts. Apparently all three cultures had been there at the same time. This puzzled researchers greatly until they realized that the Bible told them exactly what they had found. "Pharaoh king of Egypt had attacked and captured Gezer. He had set it on fire. He killed its Canaanite inhabitants and then gave it as a wedding gift to his daughter; Solomon's wife." (1 Kings 9:16)
The opening chapters of Genesis (1-11) are typically thought to be mythological explanations derived from earlier versions of the story found in the ancient Near East. But this view chooses only to notice the similarities between Genesis and the creation stories in other ancient cultures. If we can propose derivation of the human race from one family, plus general revelation, some lingering traces of the true historical account would be expected. The differences are more important. Babylonian and Sumerian accounts describe the creation as the product of a conflict among finite gods. When one god is defeated and split in half, the River Euphrates flows from one eye and the Tigris from the other. Humanity is made of the blood of an evil god mixed with clay. These tales display the kind of distortion and embellishment to be expected when an historical account becomes mythologized.
Less likely is that the literary progression would be from this mythology to the unadorned elegance of Genesis 1. The common assumption that the Hebrew account is simply a purged and simplified version of the Babylonian legend is fallacious. In the Ancient Near East, the rule is that simple accounts or traditions give rise (by accretion and embellishment) to elaborate legends, but not the reverse. So the evidence supports the view that Genesis was not myth made into history. Rather, the extrabiblical accounts were history turned into myths.
The recent discoveries of creation accounts at Ebla add evidence of this. This library of sixteen thousand clay tablets predates the Babylonian account by about 600 years. The creation tablet is strikingly close to Genesis, speaking of one being who created the heavens, moon, stars, and earth. The people at Ebla believed in creation from nothing. The Bible contains the ancient, less embellished version of the story and transmits the facts without the corruption of the mythological renderings.
Tall tale of a Philistine: researchers unearth a Goliath cereal bowl
November 15, 2005
An Israeli researcher has found the first archaeological evidence suggesting the biblical story of David slaying the giant Goliath actually took place.
A shard of pottery unearthed at a decade-old dig in southern Israel carried an inscription in early Semitic-style spelling "Alwat and "Wlt", likely Philistine renderings of the name Goliath, said Aren Maeir, who directed the excavation. "Here we have very nice evidence the name Goliath appearing in the Bible in the context of the story of David and Goliath … is not some later literary creation," Professor Maeir said of the rust-coloured ceramic.
Professor Maeir said the shard, possibly part of a bowl, had been found two metres underground at Tell es-Shafi.
The mound where the dig took place is widely believed to be the site of the ancient city of Gath, which the Bible calls Goliath's home town. The specimen, from about 900 BC, is not old enough to have belonged to Goliath, who lived around 1000 BC, Professor Maeir said.
The First Book of Samuel spoke of "a champion out of the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, of Gath", a giant who challenged an Israelite to a duel. David took up Goliath's challenge and "prevailed over the Philistine" with a sling and a stone.
"Most of what we know about the Philistines is from the Bible's point of view," Professor Maeir said. "When we look at the Philistines from an archaeological point of view we get evidence of a very rich, dynamic, fascinating and advanced culture."
Most ancient Hebrew biblical inscription deciphered
‘It indicates that the kingdom of Israel already existed in the 10th century BCE, and that at least some of the biblical texts were written hundreds of years before the dates presented in current research.’
Prof. Gershon Galil of the University of Haifa who deciphered the inscription: “It indicates that the Kingdom of Israel already existed in the 10th century BCE and that at least some of the biblical texts were written hundreds of years before the dates presented in current research.”
A breakthrough in the research of the Hebrew scriptures has shed new light on the period in which the Bible was written. Prof. Gershon Galil of the Department of Biblical Studies at the University of Haifa has deciphered an inscription dating from the 10th century BCE (the period of King David’s reign), and has shown that this is a Hebrew inscription. The discovery makes this the earliest known Hebrew writing. The significance of this breakthrough relates to the fact that at least some of the biblical scriptures were composed hundreds of years before the dates presented today in research and that the Kingdom of Israel already existed at that time.
The inscription itself, which was written in ink on a 15 cm X 16.5 cm trapezoid pottery shard, was discovered a year and a half ago at excavations that were carried out by Prof. Yosef Garfinkel at Khirbet Qeiyafa near the Elah valley. The inscription was dated back to the 10th century BCE, which was the period of King David’s reign, but the question of the language used in this inscription remained unanswered, making it impossible to prove whether it was in fact Hebrew or another local language.
Prof. Galil’s deciphering of the ancient writing testifies to its being Hebrew, based on the use of verbs particular to the Hebrew language, and content specific to Hebrew culture and not adopted by any other cultures in the region. “This text is a social statement, relating to slaves, widows and orphans. It uses verbs that were characteristic of Hebrew, such as asah (“did”) and avad (“worked”), which were rarely used in other regional languages. Particular words that appear in the text, such as almanah (“widow”) are specific to Hebrew and are written differently in other local languages. The content itself was also unfamiliar to all the cultures in the region besides the Hebrew society: The present inscription provides social elements similar to those found in the biblical prophecies and very different from prophecies written by other cultures postulating glorification of the gods and taking care of their physical needs,” Prof. Galil explains.
He adds that once this deciphering is received, the inscription will become the earliest Hebrew inscription to be found, testifying to Hebrew writing abilities as early as the 10th century BCE. This stands opposed to the dating of the composition of the Bible in current research, which would not have recognized the possibility that the Bible or parts of it could have been written during this ancient period.
Prof. Galil also notes that the inscription was discovered in a provincial town in Judea. He explains that if there were scribes in the periphery, it can be assumed that those inhabiting the central region and Jerusalem were even more proficient writers. “It can now be maintained that it was highly reasonable that during the 10th century BCE, during the reign of King David, there were scribes in Israel who were able to write literary texts and complex historiographies such as the books of Judges and Samuel.” He adds that the complexity of the text discovered in Khirbet Qeiyafa, along with the impressive fortifications revealed at the site, refute the claims denying the existence of the Kingdom of Israel at that time.
The contents of the text express social sensitivity to the fragile position of weaker members of society. The inscription testifies to the presence of strangers within the Israeli society as far back as this ancient period, and calls to provide support for these strangers. It appeals to care for the widows and orphans and that the king – who at that time had the responsibility of curbing social inequality – be involved. This inscription is similar in its content to biblical scriptures (Isaiah 1:17, Psalms 72:3, Exodus 23:3, and others), but it is clear that it is not copied from any biblical text.
English translation of the deciphered text:
1′ you shall not do [it], but worship the [Lord].
2′ Judge the sla[ve] and the wid[ow] / Judge the orph[an]
3′ [and] the stranger. [Pl]ead for the infant / plead for the po[or and]
4′ the widow. Rehabilitate [the poor] at the hands of the king.
5′ Protect the po[or and] the slave / [supp]ort the stranger.
(University of Haifa in Israel.)
Oldest Hebrew Text Discovered at King David's Border Fortress
by Gil Ronen
Archaeologists have discovered what they say is the oldest Hebrew text ever found, at a site they believe was King David's front line fortress in the war against the people of Pleshet, also known as the Philistines. The site overlooks the Elah Valley, where the young David slew Goliath, the Philistine giant, with a well-aimed shot from a sling.
The text is written in ink on a pottery shard (ostracon). It is made up of five lines of text in Proto-Canaanite characters separated by lines. The discovery, by archaeologists Prof. Yossi Garfinkel and Sa'ar Ganor of Hebrew University, is being hailed as one of the most important finds in Israel since the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Carbon-14 dates to King David
The writing on the shard seems to be a letter sent from one person to another and archaeologists have still not deciphered it completely. Preliminary analysis shows that it contains the words "king" (melech), "judge" (shofet), and "eved" (slave), and that the terms may be parts of names, as in "Achimelech" or "Evedel" (lit. "King's brother," "Servant of God").
Carbon-14 dating of olive pits as well as chemical analysis of the pottery found at the site shows conclusively that it dates from between 1,000 and 975 B.C.E – the time of King David's reign. David – who wrote the Psalms, unified the tribes of Israel and made Jerusalem the capital of the Israeli nation – is considered to be Israel's greatest King, whose reign ushered in the period in which the First Temple was built.
The writing therefore predates the Dead Sea Scrolls by about 1,000 years.
The site where the shard was found is known as Khirbet Kheyafa, but Rabbi Barnea Selavan of the Foundation Stone organization says that "the local Bedouins refer to it as… are you sitting down?... Khirbet Daoud." The word khirbeh in Arabic refers to a ruin and Daudi is Arabic for David.
Also known as the Elah Fortress because of its location at the Elah Valley near Beit Shemesh, archaeologists believe the fortress controlled a strategic point overlooking the main route connecting Pleshet and the Judean lowland with the mountainous region and the central cities of Jerusalem and Hevron.
The ancient point of settlement covers more than four acres and is surrounded by a 700 meter long wall. Archaeologists believe that 200,000 tons of rock were mined in order to build it. The wall contains a massive and ornate gate built from hewn rock.
Stoned in the head
According to Selavan, there was some debate among archeologists as to whether the fortress was the Jewish front line against the Philistines or the opposite – the Philistines' front line against the Jews. However, there is now widespread agreement that the site was Jewish: there are no pig bones and chemical analysis (petrography) of the ceramics found there shows that the structure was Jewish, not the Philistine's.
The Elah Valley is the site at which Jewish and Philistine armies faced each other in one of the most glorious battles ever: the fateful victory in which David killed Goliath with a stone to the forehead. The Bible describes the location (in 1 Samuel, 17:2-3) thus:
And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered together, and pitched by the valley of Elah, and set the battle in array against the Philistines.
And the Philistines stood on a mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on a mountain on the other side: and there was a valley between them.
The digs at the spot have been underwritten by the Berman Center Biblical Archeology Hebrew University, the Brennan Foundation and Foundation Stone, which is turning the site into an educational attraction and invites the public to participate in the digs.