Thursday, December 26, 2013

Does Archaeology Support the Bible?

by Bryant Wood for Archaeology and the Bible

Over the years there have been many criticisms leveled against the Bible concerning its historical reliability. These criticisms are usually based on a lack of evidence from outside sources to confirm the Biblical record. Since the Bible is a religious book, many scholars take the position that it is biased and cannot be trusted unless we have corroborating evidence from extra-Biblical sources. In other words, the Bible is guilty until proven innocent, and a lack of outside evidence places the Biblical account in doubt.

This standard is far different from that applied to other ancient documents, even though many, if not most, have a religious element. They are considered to be accurate, unless there is evidence to show that they are not. Although it is not possible to verify every incident in the Bible, the discoveries of archaeology since the mid-1800s have demonstrated the reliability and plausibility of the Bible narrative.

Here are some examples:
    Clay Tablet, Ebla. Photo copyrighted.
  1. Clay Tablet, Ebla. Photo copyrighted.The discovery of the Ebla archive in northern Syria in the 1970s has shown the Biblical writings concerning the Patriarchs to be viable. Documents written on clay tablets from around 2300 B.C. demonstrate that personal and place names in the Patriarchal accounts are genuine. The name “Canaan” was in use in Ebla, a name critics once said was not used at that time and was used incorrectly in the early chapters of the Bible. The word tehom (“the deep”) in Genesis 1:2 was said to be a late word demonstrating the late writing of the creation story. “Tehom” was part of the vocabulary at Ebla, in use some 800 years before Moses. Ancient customs reflected in the stories of the Patriarchs have also been found in clay tablets from Nuzi and Mari.
  2. The Hittites were once thought to be a Biblical legend, until their capital and records were discovered at Bogazkoy, Turkey.
  3. Many thought the Biblical references to Solomon's wealth were greatly exaggerated. Recovered records from the past show that wealth in antiquity was concentrated with the king and Solomon's prosperity was entirely feasible.
  4. It was once claimed there was no Assyrian king named Sargon as recorded in Isaiah 20:1, because this name was not known in any other record. Then, Sargon's palace was discovered in Khorsabad, Iraq. The very event mentioned in Isaiah 20, his capture of Ashdod, was recorded on the palace walls. What is more, fragments of a stela memorializing the victory were found at Ashdod itself.
  5. Another king who was in doubt was Belshazzar, king of Babylon, named in Daniel 5. The last king of Babylon was Nabonidus according to recorded history. Tablets were found showing that Belshazzar was Nabonidus' son who served as coregent in Babylon. Thus, Belshazzar could offer to make Daniel “third highest ruler in the kingdom” (Dan. 5:16) for reading the handwriting on the wall, the highest available position. Here we see the “eye-witness” nature of the Biblical record, as is so often brought out by the discoveries of archaeology.
HAVE ARCHAEOLOGISTS FOUND ANY MAN-MADE STRUCTURES MENTIONED IN THE BIBLE?
  1. The base of the Tower of Babel in Babylon where language was confused (Genesis 11:1-9).
  2. The palace at Jericho where Eglon, king of Moab, was assassinated by Ehud (Judges 3:15-30).
  3. The east gate of Shechem where Gaal and Zebul watched the forces of Abimelech approach the city (Judges 9:34-38).
  4. The Temple of Baal/El-Berith in Shechem, where funds were obtained to finance Abimelech's kingship, and where the citizens of Shechem took refuge when Abimelech attacked the city (Judges 9:4, 46-49).
  5. The pool of Gibeon where the forces of David and Ishbosheth fought during the struggle for the kingship of Israel (2 Samuel 2:12-32).
  6. The Pool of Heshbon, likened to the eyes of the Shulammite woman (Song of Songs 7:4).
  7. The royal palace at Samaria where the kings of Israel lived (1 Kings 20:43; 21:1, 2; 22:39; 2 Kings 1:2; 15:25).
  8. The Pool of Samaria where King Ahab's chariot was washed after his death (1 Kings 22:29-38).
  9. The water tunnel beneath Jerusalem dug by King Hezekiah to provide water during the Assyrian siege (2 Kings 20:20; 2 Chronicles 32:30).
  10. The royal palace in Babylon where King Belshazzar held the feast and Daniel interpreted the handwriting on the wall (Daniel 5).
  11. The royal palace in Susa where Esther was queen of the Persian king Xerxes (Esther 1:2; 2:3, 5, 9, 16).
  12. The royal gate at Susa where Mordecai, Esther's cousin, sat (Esther 2:19, 21; 3:2, 3; 4:2; 5:9, 13; 6:10, 12).
  13. The Square in front of the royal gate at Susa where Mordecai met with Halthach, Xerxes' eunuch (Esther 4:6).
  14. The foundation of the synagogue at Capernaum where Jesus cured a man with an unclean spirit (Mark 1:21-28) and delivered the sermon on the bread of life (John 6:25-59).
  15. The house of Peter at Capernaum where Jesus healed Peter's mother-in-law and others (Matthew 8:14-16).
  16. Jacob's well where Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman (John 4).
  17. The Pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem, where Jesus healed a crippled man (John 5:1-14).
  18. The Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem, where Jesus healed a blind man (John 9:1-4).
  19. The tribunal at Corinth where Paul was tried (Acts 18:12-17).
  20. The theater at Ephesus where the riot of silversmiths occurred (Acts 19:29).
  21. Herod's palace at Caesarea where Paul was kept under guard (Acts 23:33-35).
IS THERE ANY CONFIRMATION OF BIBLICAL EVENTS FROM WRITTEN SOURCES OUTSIDE THE BIBLE?
Sumerian King List. Photo copyrighted.The most documented Biblical event is the world-wide Flood described in Genesis 6-9. A number of Babylonian documents have been discovered which describe the same Flood.

The Sumerian King List (pictured here), for example, lists kings who reigned for long periods of time. Then a great Flood came. Following the Flood, Sumerian kings ruled for much shorter periods of time. This is the same pattern found in the Bible. Men had long life spans before the Flood and shorter life spans after the Flood. The 11th tablet of the Gilgamesh Epic speaks of an ark, animals taken on the ark, birds sent out during the course of the Flood, the ark landing on a mountain, and a sacrifice offered after the ark landed.

The Story of Adapa tells of a test for immortality involving food, similar to the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

Sumerian tablets record the confusion of language as we have in the Biblical account of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9). There was a golden age when all mankind spoke the same language. Speech was then confused by the god Enki, lord of wisdom. The Babylonians had a similar account in which the gods destroyed a temple tower and “scattered them abroad and made strange their speech.”

More examples of extra-Biblical confirmation of Biblical events
  1. Campaign into Israel by Pharaoh Shishak (1 Kings 14:25-26), recorded on the walls of the Temple of Amun in Thebes, Egypt.
  2. Revolt of Moab against Israel (2 Kings 1:1; 3:4-27), recorded on the Mesha Inscription.
  3. Fall of Samaria (2 Kings 17:3-6, 24; 18:9-11) to Sargon II, king of Assyria, as recorded on his palace walls.
  4. Defeat of Ashdod by Sargon II (Isaiah 20:1), as recorded on his palace walls.
  5. Campaign of the Assyrian king Sennacherib against Judah (2 Kings 18:13-16), as recorded on the Taylor Prism.
  6. Siege of Lachish by Sennacherib (2 Kings 18:14, 17), as recorded on the Lachish reliefs.
  7. Assassination of Sennacherib by his own sons (2 Kings 19:37), as recorded in the annals of his son Esarhaddon.
  8. Fall of Nineveh as predicted by the prophets Nahum and Zephaniah (2:13-15), recorded on the Tablet of Nabopolasar.
  9. Fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon (2 Kings 24:10-14), as recorded in the Babylonian Chronicles.
  10. Captivity of Jehoiachin, king of Judah, in Babylon (2 Kings 24:15-16), as recorded on the Babylonian Ration Records.
  11. Fall of Babylon to the Medes and Persians (Daniel 5:30-31), as recorded on the Cyrus Cylinder.
  12. Freeing of captives in Babylon by Cyrus the Great (Ezra 1:1-4; 6:3-4), as recorded on the Cyrus Cylinder.
  13. The existence of Jesus Christ as recorded by Josephus, Suetonius, Thallus, Pliny the Younger, the Talmud, and Lucian.
  14. Forcing Jews to leave Rome during the reign of Claudius (A.D. 41-54) (Acts 18:2), as recorded by Suetonius.