ARCHAEOLOGY GIVES DOUBLE-CHECK ON BIBLE
We have two important historical records of what happened at the times and in the places where the Bible was written:
BIBLE: First, we have the Bible itself, written on papyrus and parchment but faithfully copied and recopied so that it’s still remarkably preserved for us today (see Topic 20).
ARCHAEOLOGY: Second, we have archeological findings, the wealth of materials buried in mounds that once were cities of the ancient world. Archaeology is the science of digging into these old cities to recover important remnants in order to gain knowledge of what happened there.
Because papyrus and parchment decay, and because only the very most important documents were copied and recopied over the centuries, most of the written history of antiquity has been lost. What mostly remains are physical structures and artifacts, including writings on stone, which have been preserved under layers of sand or in caves.
At first thought, it doesn’t seem like archaeology would have anything to do with our personal faith in God. But upon further thought, this line of reasoning emerges:
- The Bible claims to be God’s book (see Discovery 18), and we want to know if external facts support this claim. If the Bible really is God’s book, there will be no errors in it.
Conversely, if it says things we can prove are wrong, then it’s obviously not God’s book.
- We have difficulty proving or disproving the historical places, events, people and quotations in the Bible because secular historical manuscripts of that time were not preserved like the Bible, and they have since decayed.
- Even though the historical manuscripts are gone, we can now learn about those times and places through archaeology. It’s slow and expensive, but more and more facts are being gathered each year.
- If the archeological record contradicts the Bible, we know the Bible is not God’s book. Even one error in the Bible would discredit it. But if the archeological record completely confirms the Bible, we have compelling evidence that the Bible is God’s book.
ARCHAEOLOGY IS LIKE A CEASELESS DETECTIVE
Either the Bible is what it claims to be – the word of God – or it’s a fraud. If the Bible were a fraud, archaeology would expose it.
During the last two hundred years, over a thousand mounds – called tells – of ancient cities have been excavated in whole or in part by research teams financed by governments, universities, museums, foundations and wealthy individuals.
Archaeologists have developed special tools and methods to unlock unknown languages and to determine the time of origin for every item discovered. From the ruins, they have picked up the threads of ancient life and have woven them into a cohesive historical narrative.
If the Bible is to have credibility, it must not contradict archaeological findings. Archaeology is like a ceaseless detective, always looking for new facts to support or refute the story.
There are thousands of archaeological findings which corroborate in detail the specific places, events and persons named in the Bible. There has never been an archaeological discovery which has controverted a Bible reference!
In historical accuracy, the Bible – with its enormous proven detail – is too perfect to be merely a human book.
ARCHAEOLOGY GIVES OPPORTUNITY TO CRITICS
Typically, archaeological digs are not sponsored by Christian groups seeking to validate the Bible. Most are sponsored by governmental agencies or educational institutions, many of them Jewish or Muslim. Critics of the Bible would be quick to publicize discrepancies if they could find any.
EXAMPLES OF ARCHAEOLOGICAL FINDINGS
Listed in the margin are some of the major excavations that have confirmed accuracy of the Bible. Following are examples of the kind of information these excavations reveal:
EXAMPLE 1. The Bible refers to a civilization of people called the Hittites, but no other literature has made reference to such a civilization. Critics used to say this was just fiction in the Bible.
However, archaeological excavations in the 1950’s found the remains of the Hittite empire in the area where the Bible said it was (Turkey/Syria), and Carbon-14 dating tests prove that it existed at the time stated in the Bible (1375-1200 B.C.).
EXAMPLE 2. The Bible says that when the Israelites crossed the Jordan River to take possession of the ‘promised land,’ they marched around the city of Jericho in a certain way God prescribed to Joshua, and the walls of the city collapsed. Secular historians had come to the conclusion that the city was destroyed about 100 years before the Israelites crossed the Jordan, and therefore the Bible account could not be true.
Furthermore, they said, it’s preposterous to think the walls could fall supernaturally. However, in 1990 (and to a lesser degree in earlier years) archaeologists found artifacts (including 80 scarabs that mention various pharaohs by name) which date the fall of the city exactly in accord with Bible chronology (about 1400 B.C.), and they found that the 32-foot-high walls had fallen outward (unlike the walls of any other city, as walls usually fall inward from force of outside attackers.)
EXAMPLE 3. Between 1959 and 1963, the Department of Antiquity of Israel undertook an excavation of the city of Caesarea, the Roman capitol of Judea at the time of Christ. The city stood until A.D. 1256, when Sultan Bibars of Egypt captured the city and destroyed its walls and most of its buildings. Until the excavation began, the city lay in ruins, with only portions of granite and marble columns protruding from the sand.
The Bible says Jesus was brought before the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, who sentenced him to death. However, the name Pontius Pilate was known only from Jewish and Christian sources; there was never any mention of him from Roman sources. This did not invalidate the Bible, but there was a certain lack of credibility when the Bible spoke of a Roman ruler whose name did not appear anywhere in Roman history.
But in the Caesarea excavation, archaeologists found a stone plaque, apparently recording the dedication of a building, with a Latin inscription naming ‘Pontius Pilate, Praefect of Judaea.’
Besides confirming the Bible, the plaque provided some additional information about Pontius Pilate. It was previously thought that the Greek word in the Bible used in describing him – often translated ‘governor’ – had the same meaning as the Latin ‘procurator’ (a financial official), but this discovery revealed that Pilate’s title was in fact ‘praefect’ (a military official).
These are just a few examples of how thousands of fragments of information – each small, but massive in total – are being chronicled now in the world’s libraries and museums. They provide additional understanding of the Bible and, without exception, they confirm the accuracy of the Bible.
There’s not enough room on this page even to list the names of the major archaeological excavations which have verified the Bible, but following are some of the most important ones:
Absolom’s Pillar, Aczib, Adullam, Ai, Akeldama, Alexandria, Amarna, Anathoth,Antipatris, Arabah, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Asshur, Athens, Baalbek, Babylon, Bersheba, Belvoir, Bethany, Bethel, Bethesda, Bethlehem, Bethsaida, Beth Shearim, Beth Shemesh, Beth Zur, Caesarea, Caesarea Philippi, Calah, Calvary, Cana, Capernaum, Carchemish, Colosse, Corinth, Damascus, Dan, Dead Sea Scrolls, Derbe, Dibon, Dothan, Ebla, Ecbatana, Edrei, Elam, Emmaus, En Gedi, En Rogel, Ephesus, Erech, Ezion Geber, Gaza, Gerar, Gerizim, Gethsemane, Gezer, Gibeah, Gibeon, Gihon, Gilgal, Hamath, Haran, Hazor, Hermon (Mount), Jabneh, Jacob’s Well,Jericho, Jerusalem, Jezreel, Joppa, Judean Desert Caves, Kadesh Barnea, Kedesh, Khorsa bad, Kidron, Kiriath Jearim, Kiriath Sepher, Kish, Korazin, Lachish, Lagash, Laodicea, Lydda, Lystra, Mareshah, Mari, Masada, Medeba, Megid do, Meiron, Memphis, Mizpah, Nazareth, Nebo, Nineveh, Nob, Nuzi, Olives, Pergamum, Perse polis, Petra, Philippi, Rabbah, Ras Shamra, Rome, Safad, Samaria, Sardis, Shechem, Shiloh, Sidon, Siloam, Sodom (and Gomorrah), Susa, Taanach, Tadmor, Tahpanhes, Thebes, Thessalonica, Tirah, Troas, Tyre, Ur, Zare phath, Zion, Zoan, Zorah
The data from these excavations is carefully documented and catalogued in the libraries of major universities and is avail able for study by serious students.