Bible Accuracy and Archaeology
After thousands of years of scrutiny, the Bible has stood the divine test of time as historic, archaeological, philosophical and spiritual perfection.
Why is the Bible different from all other books that have ever been written? Aside from the primary reason of eternal salvation in Christ or the amazing logic and wisdom of the Scriptures, no other book in history comes close to offering as much precise historic and archaeological data about human civilization. The Bible also provides the blueprint for the future of mankind. As a civilization, the Bible teaches us that the best way to know our future, is to obtain an accurate representation and understanding of our past.
To many skeptics, the Bible is often judged as an irrelevant book of myths used by the political and religious elite to mislead the ignorant. Yet over the years, when I've had the opportunity to encounter those who doubt Scripture, I have always discovered one thing... They should have investigated the Bible further.
“The first gulp from the glass of natural science will turn you into an atheist,
but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you.”
- Werner Heisenberg, Nobel Prize winner
For those who do in-depth research, they end up having a profound change of heart. For the more one researches the Scriptures and reflects on science and history, they will discover that the Bible is miraculously accurate. Unfortunately, for many critics, they never take the time and effort to reach the threshold where they discover the logic and evidence they claimed to to need.
Roman Occupation of Israel
It is often claimed that there is little evidence that Christ existed because there is no account of Jesus in official Roman and Jewish records. In fact, this should be no surprise since Christ’s life and ministry occurred in an era when Israel was under Roman occupation. While many provinces accepted Roman conquest, the threat of a revolt in Israel was always near the surface throughout the first century era and especially true during Jewish holidays like Passover. Because of this, anyone who questioned Roman authority or the Jewish leaders they installed were obviously suppressed or put to death.
The Jewish religious and political leadership at the time of Christ were under the control of their Roman superiors and often motivated by their own status or financial gain as the Temple had turned into a religious marketplace. Several of the Jewish religious leaders in the Sanhedrin saw Jesus as a threat who exposed their greed and hunger for power. While there were members of the Sanhedrin (like Joseph of Arimathea) who supported the ministry of Jesus, Caiaphas (the Jewish high priest) plotted to have Jesus killed.
The Jewish revolts (also known as the Jewish-Roman wars) are another reason why the Romans would have censored the life of Christ. These revolts eventually led to the Roman destruction of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem in 70AD. So the last thing the Jewish and Roman leadership wanted to do was to legitimize the leader of a local Jewish religious sect by documenting His existence.
Christ's Place in History
Contrary to what many are led to believe, Christ is well documented by several well-known Roman and Jewish historians. Publius Cornelius Tacitus is a famous Roman senator and historian who documented Christ and execution by Pontius Pilate.
The first-century historian Titus Flavius Josephus documented both Jesus and John the Baptist on several occasions.
According to the Roman historian Eusebius, the emperor Hadrian buried Christ’s tomb with a temple honoring the Roman deity Venus in an attempt to erase his existence. This location was common knowledge for early Christians during the first few centuries after Christ's resurrection. In 325AD, the Roman ruler Constantine the Great had the temple removed to expose Christ’s original tomb, known today as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Here is a very informative documentary from National Geographic on the recent excavation of Christ’s tomb.
Our history books and scholars accept that Alexander the Great existed. Meanwhile, many are still skeptical of the existence of Christ, even though Jesus is surprisingly documented by far more individuals in history. It is true that Alexander the Great led thousands of soldiers to great military conquests that no sane person will dispute. With vast amounts of archaeological evidence and historical documentation confirming Biblical events, it would also be illogical to assume that the existence of Christ derives from the realm of fictional mythology.
In this era, the greater relevant question is:
"With the massive geopolitical influence
and status that Alexander the Great acquired,
how much relevance does Alexander the Great have today
compared to that of Jesus Christ?"
With the reality of two billion Christians living on Earth at present and the philosophy of Christ that provided the foundation for our current Western civilization, Jesus casts a shadow that has left Alexander the Great in the dark. The teachings of Christ are so incredibly profound, He has to easily be considered the most influential person in all of human history... Amen!
Up until the beginning of the 20th century, Old Testament stories about Babylon and Jericho were considered myths because there was no physical proof of their existence. Yet, the location of these cities were eventually discovered by archaeologists just as they were described in the Bible. Modern archaeology has even discovered evidence that the walls of Jericho were indeed destroyed in a catastrophic battle.
Another popular Biblical tale (involving Babylon) that many have viewed as myth, is the story of the ancient Tower of Babel. Even today the Encyclopedia Britannica incorrectly refers to this building as myth. In reality, archeologists have already discovered it's location and obtained detailed artifacts from the 6th century BC that even provide drawings. Here is a link to an informative documentary from the Smithsonian about the location of Babylon and the Tower of Babel.
Tablet enhanced showing the tower and Nebuchadnezzar II (Screenshot from the Smithsonian Channel)
For centuries civilizations like the Canaanites, Hittites, Assyrians, and Phoenicians were all thought to be mythical cultures, until they were also discovered by curious archaeologists. The repeating scenario of secular academia's continued referrals of "mythical" Bible accounts has become very stale and outdated. It's as if popular secular culture exists in an alternate reality of denial.
Dead Sea Scrolls
One of the most profound archaeological discoveries legitimizing the Bible's historic accuracy are the Dead Sea Scrolls. Found in the Qumran Caves in the Judaean Desert, this treasure trove of revealing documents covering the books of the Old Testament are dated from the 3rd century B.C. through the 1st century A.D..
Dead Sea Scrolls - Book of Isaiah
Dead Sea Scrolls - Book of Psalms
New Testament Archaeological Discoveries
New discoveries that confirm the Bible's historic accuracy are still occurring every year. As cities and eventful sites are located, they have always matched the accounts and descriptions found in the Bible. As archaeological technologies advance, we should expect mores sites to be rapidly discovered in the coming years.
Pool of Siloam, Pilgrimage Road and King David's Palace
In 2004 a water pipe ruptured in the city of Jerusalem and a municipal maintenance crew was sent while accompanied by an archaeologist. As they began to dig, the archaeologist noticed something very significant. They had just uncovered first-century stone stairs. This accidental discovery led to very significant findings that included the the Biblical Pool of Siloam, the ancient Pilgrimage Road and what is believed to be King David’s Palace that included seals bearing the Hebrew names of many biblical figures from the House of David.
Built by King Hezekiah, the Pilgrimage Road served Jewish pilgrims in ascending to the ancient Jewish Temple. The discovery of this ancient thoroughfare revealed countless archaeological treasures and a commitment to Jerusalem as an anchor of Western civilization.
City of Bethsaida
The ancient city of Bethsaida had been lost for centuries, but was recently excavated. Mentioned in Luke 9:10 as the site where Jesus fed the multitude of 5,000 and in John 1:44 where it is identified as the home of Andrew, Peter and Philip. The ancient gate, from the time of King David, has also been discovered in Bethsaida just as the Bible described.
Crucifixion at Givat Hamivtar
Many Bible skeptics claim that crucified individuals during 1st century Israel would not have had a proper burial and most likely would have been scavenged by animals. A crucified heel bone artifact discovered in Giv’at ha-Mivtar, a Jewish neighborhood in north-east Jerusalem, proves that a victim of Roman crucifixion could receive a proper, honorable Jewish burial.
The Crucifixion at Givat Hamivtar provides clear evidence that the Biblical narrative of Christ's burial was the norm. The story of this discovery begins in 1968 when building contractors unexpectedly uncovered an ancient burial site containing about 35 bodies. One body was found in an 18-inch long limestone ossuary (or bone-box), and a seven-inch nail had been driven through the heel bone of his left foot. This ossuary contained a crucified body with the name Yehohanan, who is estimated to be between 24 and 28 years old at his time of death. This example demonstrates that crucifixion victims were buried, just as the Gospel accounts suggest.
Village of Nazareth
Christians recognize the name "Jesus of Nazareth". But many modern historical scholars have claimed that the town did not exist in the era of Christ. This is because of the lack of mention of Nazareth in the historical record outside the Bible until after the 1st century time period of Jesus.
Fortunately, in December 2009, archaeologists from the Israeli Antiquities Authority, discovered a house from first century Nazareth. To quote the excavation site director Yardenna Alexandre: “The discovery is of the utmost importance since it reveals for the very first time a house from the Jewish village of Nazareth and thereby sheds light on the way of life at the time of Jesus."
Pontius Pilate Stone
After presiding over the trial of Jesus and ordering his crucifixion, Pontius Pilate was the fifth governor of the Roman province of Judea, serving under Emperor Tiberius from 26/27 to 36/37 AD. Unfortunately there is very little about Pilate in the historical record.
In 1961, archaeologist discovered a damaged block of limestone at the site of Caesarea Maritima. Discovered by Italian archaeologists led by Dr. Antonio Frova while excavating in the area of an ancient theater. This carved limestone block has an inscription that says:
"TIBERIEUM IUS PILATUS ECTUS IUDA"
Translated, this reads as:
“To Tiberius – Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judea.”
Dated to the early 1st century, this was the first direct evidence that confirms the existence of Pontius Pilote's leadership during the time of Jesus' crucifixion.
Ossuary of James (brother of Jesus)
James, the brother of Jesus, was martyred around 69 AD when he was thrown off of the temple roof in Jerusalem. Though he originally was supposedly a skeptic of the divinity of his brother Jesus, he eventually became an inspiring leader of the early Church in Jerusalem.
The Ossuary of James is a very exciting archaeological find. Discovered in 2002, it bears this inscription: “Ya’akov bar Yosef akhui di Yeshua” (“James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus”)
It was originally considered a forgery, but paleogrophers confirmed it authentic in 2005 and 2012.
New Testament scholar Ben Witherington is quoted: “If, as seems probable, the ossuary found in the vicinity of Jerusalem and dated to about AD 63 is indeed the burial box of James, the brother of Jesus, this inscription is the most important extra-biblical evidence of its kind.”
Peter’s Home in Capernaum
Underneath the remains of an octagonal shaped church from the fifth century AD, archaeologists (in 1968) discovered the remains of an earlier church. This church was built around what was originally a private house containing first century Christian graffiti. Considering the location, date, graffiti and the fact that a church was built around this enshrined first century home, it is very likely the original home of Simon Peter.
Peter Walker, professor of Biblical Studies at Trinity School for Ministry, says:
“Graffiti that referred to Jesus as Lord and Messiah... provides strong evidence that the room was used as a place of Christian worship – almost certainly because it was believed to be the room used by Jesus, perhaps the home of Simon Peter (Luke 4:38)... Given that the early tradition goes back to the first century, this is almost certainly the very place where Jesus stayed in the home of his chief apostle, Peter.”
Mentioned on several occasions in the Bible, Jesus would have spent quite of bit of time at the home of Peter. He even healed many in need while at this sacred home.
"As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them. That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was." -Mark 1:29-34
Today a modern church exists, suspended above the site, with the excavation site visible through a glass floor.
Old Testament Archaeological Discoveries
Sodom and Gomorrah
Another recent archaeological discovery is the City of Sodom. Mentioned in the Book of Genesis as a city that was destroyed by God for its salacious wickedness, recent evidence shows that it was likely vaporized by an asteroid that incinerated the city matching the Biblical account. The History Channel created an informative documentary about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
The archaeological discovery and date verification of the destruction of Sodom is important since it signifies and verifies events not long after God's Covenant with Abraham and the arrival into the land of Canaan where Abraham's nephew (Lot) had been living in the city of Sodom.
Settlements of First Israelites in Canaan
Over the last several years archaeologists have been discovering foot-shaped settlement walls in locations in the Jordan Valley and Mount Ebal (in Israel's central highlands). These various settlements all date back 3200 years ago. It is precisely the 13th century BC when most historical scholars believe the Israelites first entered the land of Canaan. The very first were known as the Twelve Spies (one each from the twelve tribes of Israel).
Israeli archaeologist Adam Zertal discovered the foot-shaped on the north-eastern side of Mt. Ebal which lies north of modern-day city of Nablus. Scholars have been postulating that the 13th century BC Mount Ebal site is likely connected to the biblical narrative of an altar erected by Joshua on Mount Ebal (Joshua 8:31–35) during the very same time period.
Credit: The Jordan Valley Excavation Project
The Merneptah Stele
This Egyptian stone tablet is the earliest known reference to the nation of Israel. Dated from the late 13th-century BC it references ‘Israelite’ settlements in the land of Canaan central hills region. this tablet is specifically dated under the order of Merneptah, king of the 19th Egyptian Dynasty, who reigned between approximately 1213 and 1203 BC.
The Merneptah Stele tablet is quite significant, since it is a non-Biblical textual reference relating to the precise era when the nation of Israel is was in its infancy. This ancient tablet is largely an account of Egyptian ruler Merneptah's victory over the Libyans and their allies, but the last 3 of the 28 lines deal with a separate campaign in the land of Canaan.
The tablet was discovered in 1896 by Flinders Petrie in the ancient Egyptian capital of Thebes.
When Napoleon invaded Egypt back in 1798, he brought a scientific team of scholars and draftsmen to survey the monuments of the land. The Rosetta Stone was by far their most important discovery. Dated to the period of Ptolemy V (204–180 BC), this tablet was actually inscribed with three languages (Greek, demotic, and hieroglyphic). This archaeological discovery in 1799 was an extremely important find since for the first time it allowed modern science to translate hieroglyphics. It also marked the beginning of the study of ancient Egyptian texts and grammar and provided the basis for modern Egyptology studies.
The Rosetta Stone also allowed etymologists to read ancient hieroglyphics pertaining to Israel and biblical events. Understanding the Merneptah Stele is a prime example.
Tel Dan Inscription
Discovered in 1993 in Tel-Dan by Gila Cook, a member of an archaeological team lead by Avraham Biran, this ancient tablet included the word BYTDWD on it. Archaeologists at the site understood this word to mean “House of David”. The stone tablet was also dated to the ninth century BC and later sealed by a Assyrian destruction layer firmly dated to 733/722 BC.
The Tel Dan Inscription is seen by most scholars as having been erected by Syrian King Hazael after he defeated the Kings of Israel and Judah. The inscription is in several pieces and contains several lines of Aramaic, a closely related Israeli language of Hebrew and also spoken by most Jews in the era of Christ hundreds of years later.
Conquests of Gath, Home of Goliath Discovered
One of the five principal cities of the Philistines, the city of Gath, known today as Tel es-Safi, is mentioned in the Bible more often than any of the other Philistine cities.
Surprisingly, excavations at Gath show that there was a massive city beneath the previously studied levels. This is now thought to be the remains of the home town of Goliath, who was slayed by David and recorded in the book of 1 Samual 17.
Mentioned in Joshua 11:21-22, Gath is portrayed as a city of the legendary “Anakim”(meaning "a race of giants"), remnants of the early Canaanite population of the land.
David slays Goliath by Michelangelo
King Soloman, Hazor, Gezer and Megiddo
Evidence at the site of the ancient City of Gezer reveals its violent past. When the Israelites returned to Canaan after the exodus from Egypt, Gezer was a city near the coastal plain they could not conquer.
Gezer’s King Horam was killed by Joshua when his army went to the aid of an ally. But it wasn’t until Solomon’s reign, hundreds of years later, that Gezer became part of the Israelite empire. This was after the Egyptian Pharaoh devastated the city and offered it to Solomon as a dowry when marrying his daughter.
These three locations have all been excavated thoroughly exposing where large-scale city gates were found. These sites are all revealing evidence of large-scale construction from the 10th century B.C. ironically when standard biblical chronology matches the period of King Solomon's reign. Which, interestingly, is not mentioned in any non-biblical source.
10th or 9th century BC ruins at Megiddo, now a Unesco World Heritage Site. (Image by Alamy)
Jeremiah 34 describes how Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon wages war against Jerusalem and all its surrounding towns. Physical evidence of these events were confirmed by the discoveries of the Lachish Letters.
The city of Lachish lies about twenty-five miles southwest of Jerusalem and is one of the key sites in the Bible’s account of the Israelite conquest of Canaan when conquered by Joshua around 1220 B.C..
During the Old Testament era, letters were written on papyrus paper, parchment, clay tablets or on broken pottery (known as potsherds). Thousands of potsherds, including the Lachish Letters, have been unearthed throughout Judah, Samaria and Egypt.
In 1935 and again in 1938, archaeologist JL Starkey unearthed 18 potsherds in the gate tower of Lachish (known today as Tell ed-Duweir).
Lachish and Azekah were two important Judaean cities which sat on separate hills that could communicate by lighting beacons.
Some of the Lachish Letters contain writings about the lights going out at the nearby city of Azekah in the wake of an invasion by the dreaded Babylonian army around 587 BC.
For countless events and locations from Mideast antiquity, the Bible remains a flawless source to find accurate historical records and reliable narratives for the countless cities and civilizations that have been lost to Western history.
It is often assumed by many that when a natural or cosmic event is used to explain a Biblical narrative, it discounts the Scriptural account. In fact, the reality is the very opposite, as God can easily use natural or cosmic events to further His will. A couple of examples would be the Biblical account of the Star of Bethlehem or the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
If Sodom was indeed destroyed by a meteor or asteroid, the ironic fact that a stellar object traveled for thousands (or millions) of years across the vastness of outer space, to ironically fall in the exact location and time on Earth that God had forewarned to Lot. This scenario is as spectacular as any event imaginable. This kind of miracle exemplifies God's absolute majestic control over time and the immense reaches of the universe.
Unfortunately, the Bible still doesn't receive proper recognition in the secular academic community for its historical and archaeological accuracy. In my opinion and for those who have performed thorough research, the Bible is easily the greatest historical document ever written. It is modern civilization's most reliable historical account of the ancient Middle East and overwhelmingly the inspiration for today's Western culture.
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