A Case for the Bible, Part 11: Does Archeology Support Christian Apologetics?
This blog is part of a series. You can start the series by going back to the September 1, 2014 Introduction called A Case for Christianity: Why do we need one?
“In extraordinary ways, modern archaeology has affirmed the historical core of the Old and New Testaments—corroborating key portions of the stories of Israel’s patriarchs, the Exodus, the Davidic monarchy, and the life and times of Jesus.” –Jeffery Sheler, “Is the Bible True,” US News & World Report, October 25, 1999, 52
While I was studying Christian Apologetics at Biola I was surprised that I found Biblical Archeology to be one of my most fascinating classes. Going into the course I thought how will archeology do anything to help me defend my belief in the inerrancy of the Bible? Over the last ten posts in this series we have looked at mounds of evidence for the historicity and reliability of the Bible. So what can the field of archeology provide in this quest? Some say that finding ancient artifacts will not in itself support the authenticity of the Bible. However, once you have considered all of the evidence we’ve previously discussed taken as a whole, archeology in my view, puts the icing on the cake. In fact so many of the Biblical stories questioned by skeptics keep on popping up in archeology. Archeology in its fairly short history as a modern field of science has done a lot to support Biblical reliability.
“The geography of Bible lands and visible remains of antiquity have been gradually recorded until today more than 25,000 sites within this region and dating to Old Testament times, in their broadest sense, have been located…” Donald J. Wiseman, “Archaeological Confirmation of the Old Testament,” in C.F.H. Henry, Revelation and the Bible, 301-302.
25,000 is a big number! The following examples I cite are just a few of my favorites from the “Bible Lands,” and by the way no valid archeological find (zero) has ever contradicted a Biblical record. In fact, the Bible, because it is mostly written as an historical narrative, has helped historians and archeologist uncover the truth about places, people, artifacts, and geographical locations in ancient times in general!
“As a matter of fact, it may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference. Scores of archaeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or exact detail historical statements in the Bible” Nelson Glueck, Rivers in the Desert, 31.
There are many significant finds in archeology that have refuted long standing criticism from skeptics who have said things like…
1. The stories in the Old Testament are just myths, especially in Genesis, since there are no records of places like Sodom and Gomorrah.
The most significant find going on right now, in the 21st century, is the discovery of the location of Sodom and the other ‘Cities of the Plain’ at the northern end of the Dead Sea. Dr. Steven Collins is the Director of the Tall el-Hamman Excavation Project that is currently conducting excavations at this site.
- Confirms the historical existence of Sodom, Gomorrah and the ‘Cities of the Plain.’
2. They did not have written language at the time of Moses, so Moses could not have written the Torah.
The discovery of the Black Diorite Stele contains detailed laws of Hammurabi (Mesopotamian ruler c.1792-1750 B.C.). These were written 300 years before the time of Moses and in the same region that Moses lived. The Ebla Tablets were also found in northern Syria and are dated 1,000 years before Moses.
- Confirms written language was used at and before the time of Moses.
3. King David is a mythical figure, there is no evidence outside the Bible for his existence.
In 1993 three stones were found in Northern Israel in the territory of Dan. The stones have the name ‘David, King of Israel’ and ‘the house of David’ inscribed on them. These stones are dated in the same time period that the Bible records David’s life. A 1995 Time magazine article reported on this archeological find confirming the existence of David.
- Confirms the Biblical record of David.
4. The stories of King David and King Solomon’s building of Jerusalem and the Temple in the Old Testament are simply myths since there are no excavations that match that time period.
In November 2010, the Associated Press reported that, “ancient fortifications recently excavated in Jerusalem date back 3,000 years to the time of King Solomon and support the Biblical narrative about that era. If the age of the wall is correct, then the finding is key as it would match the Bible’s account that the Hebrew Kings David and Solomon ruled from Jerusalem around that time.”
- Confirms the historical physical evidence for the City of Jerusalem and the Temple built by David and Solomon.
5. The Babylonian exile and the writings of the prophets Daniel and Isaiah could not have happened during the period reported.
The discovery of the East India Inscription corresponds with the Daniel account of Nebuchadnezzar’s building during the time period in question.
- Confirms that Daniel was an eyewitness to the Babylonian exile and lived in this time period.
6. The Bible prophesies, especially the Isaiah prophesy concerning Cyrus, are so accurate and detailed that they must have been written years after the events occurred.
The discovery of the Cyrus Cylinder confirms the person, time and events of Cyrus. Cyrus was predicted by name in the Bible some 150 years before his birth to be the ruler who would allow the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their temple after seventy years in Babylonian captivity, and it happened!
- Helps to confirm Isaiah’s prophesy which is additionally confirmed by the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
7. The Old Testament records could not be accurate since the earliest manuscript copies we have date c. 900 A.D.
The discovery of a silver amulet was found in one of a series of tombs on the south side of Jerusalem’s Hinnom Valley. The amulet is dated seventh century B.C. and has an abbreviated version of part of the book of Numbers.
- Confirms the existence of the Torah in early Jewish history.
8. But what about the rest of the Old Testament since the only reliable copy we have is dated c. 900 A.D.
The most significant find of the 20th century for the reliability of the Old Testament was the discovery of the DEAD SEA SCROLLS in 1947 by a shepherd boy.
- About 931 scrolls have been discovered so far dating from the second century B.C. into the first century A.D. This confirms the Old Testament was not written after the time of Christ.
- The most significant find is the nearly intact book of Isaiah that contains the most specific prophecies pointing to the person of Jesus.
- The Dead Sea Scrolls are also significant because they literally match the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament of the Bible we have today!
9. The stories of Jesus are mythical.
Coinage gives excellent and irrefutable evidence for times, people and places. The time period of Jesus corresponds to the other historical figures of the New Testament. Herod existed in literal history, so did Jesus.
- Confirms the historical time period of Jesus.
10. Pilate and Caiaphas never existed, there are no records of them outside the New Testament.
In 1961 an Italian archeology group uncovered a stone in the Jerusalem area with the inscription: “Pontius Pilate, Perfect of Judea, has presented this Tiberium to the Caesarians.” In 1990 an ossuary of Joseph Caiaphas was found dated to the first century.
- Confirms the historical existence of Pilate and Caiaphas and the continued accuracy of the Gospel records.
11. John’s account in Chapter five of his Gospel cannot be true because there are no porches or pools found in that area of Jerusalem.
At the turn of the 20th century all five porches and the two pools were excavated about 300 feet north of the Temple Mount’s northern wall.
- Confirms the pool of Bethesda and the continued historical accuracy of the Gospel of John.
12. Skeptics claim that crucifixion was not widely used in the first century since there are no physical specimens of a person who had been crucified.
Fossil of a crucifixion nail in an ankle of a victim was found, dated to the time of Christ.
- Confirms the historical accuracy of the use of crucifixion in the first century.
For further reading I highly recommend: The Popular Handbook of Archaeology and the Bible: Discoveries That Confirm the Reliability of Scripture by Joseph M. Holden and Norman Geisler.
For, “All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls off, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” And this is the word which was preached to you. 1 Peter 1:24-25 (NASB)
Let me know what you think: What do you think of archeology confirming Biblical accounts? Have you researched any archeological finds that you would like to share?
Over the next several blogs I am going to continue to present logical reasoning and sound scientific evidence not found in the public school textbooks.
Join us next week as we continue to examine evidence for the reliability of the Bible.
Always be ready to give an answer for the hope that you have in Christ Jesus as Lord.
1 Peter 3:15