Wednesday, December 16, 2020

December 16 The Amazing Archaeological Evidence in Favor of the Biblical Record

Reason #16 The Archaeological Evidence in Favor of the Biblical Record

The trustworthiness of Christian scripture has been freshly substantiated by the many discoveries of archaeology.

One of the great differences between Christianity and other religions is that Christianity is actually grounded in history—with real people experiencing real conditions in real places. The Germanic tribes have their Thor being sired by Odin somewhere in the tree-shaped universe, wherever that is, and no one can say exactly when Odin, Thor, and their colleagues did any particular thing on earth or elsewhere. Egyptian paganism has its beloved Isis putting her dismembered husband back together, making him not quite dead and not quite alive, and then giving birth by him to Horus, but no one can say when, precisely, any of this happened or whether it might have happened only in a metaphorical way between Isis as the sky-goddess and Osiris as the god of the underworld. Even Mormonism has its non-historical heroes like the Nephites and Lamanites living in non-historical North American places like Zarahemla and Cumorah.

But the Christian Bible is nothing at all like this. In it we read about places that can be visited by tourists even now—Jerusalem, Babylon, and Bethlehem—and people who are mentioned in history—Abraham, David, and Jesus. Of course, skeptics are very careful not to credit the Bible with any more correctness than what is absolutely forced upon them by archaeology. But even then, the Bible shows itself to have an uncanny reliability when it comes to history.

Dozens of archaeological discoveries have substantiated unlikely biblical accounts. Beyond substantiation for an untold number of general customs, conditions, and geo-political situations, there are many archaeological discoveries that substantiate the authenticity of very specific persons and events in the biblical record.

  • ·        The authenticity of Abraham. An engraving on the wall of the great temple of Karnak in Upper Egypt (circ. 925 B.C.) depicts King Shishaq (also named in 2 Chronicles 12:2) striking down his enemies, and this engraving lists “the field of Abraham” as one of his conquered territories. This attests to the existence of Abraham (and even the story of him buying a field from the Canaanites in Hebron, Genesis 23:17).

·        The authenticity of the Hittites. The Tell el Amarna letters of Upper Egypt (circ. 1350 B.C.) include letters of correspondence between the Pharaoh of Egypt and the king of the Hittites. This attests to the reliability of the biblical references to Hittites. Even the existence of Hittites was often doubted by historians until the publishing of The Hittites: the Story of a Forgotten Empire, in 1888, by Assyriologist Archibald Sayse (who was once teased for being the “inventor” of the Hittites).

·        The authenticity of Sodom and Gomorrah. On October 29, 1976, Professor Giovanni Pettinato, University of Rome, announced that he had found in the Ebla Tablets [circ. 2300 B.C., at Tell Mardikh in N. Syria] a reference to the five cities of Sodom on one tablet and in the same order that they appear in Genesis 14:2 (“…with Bera king of Sodom, and with Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, and Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela, which is Zoar”).

  • ·        The authenticity of the Table of Nations (Genesis 10). Archaeologist William Albright said this list of ancient nations in Genesis 10 “remains an astonishingly accurate document.” He said that it “shows such remarkably ‘modern' understanding of the ethnic and linguistic situation in the modern world, in spite of all its complexity, that scholars never fail to be impressed with the author's knowledge of the subject." To be more specific, Albright writes in Recent Discoveries in Bible Lands: “The tenth chapter of Genesis has long attracted students of ancient Oriental geography and ethnography. It stands absolutely alone in ancient literature, without a remote parallel, even among the Greeks, where we find the closest approach to a distribution of peoples in a genealogical framework. But among the Greeks the framework is mythological and the peoples are all Greek or Aegean tribes.  Many of the names of peoples and countries mentioned in this chapter have been discovered on the monuments for the first time: e.g., Tubal—Tabal; Meshech (properly Moshech with the Greek Bible), Mushke; Ashkenaz—Ashkuz; … Togarmah—Tegarama; Elishah—Alashi (Alashiya); Tarshish—Tarsisi; … Cush—Egyptian (E)kosh, Assyrian Kusi; … Phut—Putu; Seba and Sheba—Saba; Dedan—Ddn; Accad—Akkadu; Shinar—Shanghar; … Asshur—Assur (Babylonian Ashshur); Rehoboth—Rebit Ninua; … ; Calah—Kalkhu; Pathrusim—the inhabitants of Patorese (Upper Egypt); Caphtorim—the inhabitants of Caphtor—Kaptara; Heth—the land of the Hittites, Khattu; the Amorites are the inhabitants of Amurru, etc. In this list we have not included the numerous names of places and peoples which were already known from Graeco-Roman sources, upon all of which the monuments have shed much additional light.”

·        The authenticity of David. A stone slab (circ. 841 B.C.) was discovered in 1993 at Tel Dan (the ancient city of Dan) which contains a reference to the “House of David.”

·        The authenticity of King Jehu and King Omri. The Moabite Stone/Mesha Stele (800s B.C.) was discovered in 1868 at Diban, Jordan. It contains a reference to the biblical king of Israel, Omri (who “humbled Moab many days”). And the Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III (late 800s B.C.) also refers to “Jehu, the son of Omri,” and even shows an engraved depiction of Jehu bowing before Shalmaneser.

·        The authenticity of the decree of Cyrus. The Cyrus Cylinder (500s B.C.) was discovered at the ruins of Babylon in 1879 and contains a reference to Cyrus’ policy of repatriation: “I gathered all their inhabitants and returned to them their dwellings.” This seems to synchronize well with the king’s repatriation of Jews to Israel in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah.

·        The authenticity of King Ahab. Scholarly consensus translates a line on the Monolith of Shalmaneser III (800s B.C.) as a reference to “10,000 soldiers of Ahab, the Israelite.” Additionally, the fragments of the Tel Dan Stele (800s B.C.) are often arranged by scholars to read: “I killed Jehoram son of Ahab king of Israel, and killed Ahaziahu son of Jehoram king of the House of David, and I set their towns into ruins and turned their land into desolation.” In this arrangement, the authenticity of King Ahaziah is also substantiated.

·        The authenticity of King Hezekiah. Tourists to Jerusalem are well acquainted with Hezekiah’s tunnel that connects the pool of Siloam (John 9:7) with the Gihon spring. Additionally, the Lachish relief (circ. 690 B.C.), discovered in the middle 1800s in Nineveh, depicts King Sennacherib’s defeat of Lachish, in Judah, in 701 B.C. The Taylor Prism (also found in Nineveh and dated circ. 690 B.C.) contains King Sennacherib’s Annals in which he boasts, "As for the king of Judah, Hezekiah, who had not submitted to my authority, I besieged and captured forty-six of his fortified cities, along with many smaller towns, taken in battle with my battering rams. ... I took as plunder 200,150 people, both small and great, male and female, along with a great number of animals including horses, mules, donkeys, camels, oxen, and sheep. As for Hezekiah, I shut him up like a caged bird in his royal city of Jerusalem. I then constructed a series of fortresses around him, and I did not allow anyone to come out of the city gates. His towns which I captured I gave to the kings of Ashod, Ekron, and Gaza."

To these may be added historical substantiation for the authenticity of King Ben Hadad of Syria (1 Kings 15:18) by the Milgart Stele which was found in Aleppo, Syria, in 1939; the authenticity of the career of Festus (Acts 25:1) whose name appears on coins dated at 56 A.D.; the authenticity of the career of Gallio (Acts 18:11) by an inscription in Delphi, Greece, dated in the spring of 51 A.D.; the authenticity of Luke’s term “politarch” in Acts 17:6 (once considered an error in Luke’s account) by an inscription from the ruins of the first-century Roman Vardar Arch in Thessalonica which begins with the words, “In the days of the politarchs...”; the authenticity of the career of Lysanias the Tetrarch (Luke 3:1) by an inscription from the time of Tiberius (14-29 A.D.) that was found in the early 1900s, in Abila, Syria, which reads: “Nymphias, freedman of Lysanias the tetrarch”; and the authenticity of the career of Pontius Pilate by the 1961 discovery of the “Pilate Stone” which bears his name and by coins that bear his name.

And the list goes on. Even in spite of our culture’s anti-Christian sentiments and an entrenched guilty-until-proven-innocent approach to the biblical narrative, the Bible keeps gaining witnesses in its favor from the world of archaeology. “With every turn of the archaeologist's spade we continue to see evidence for the trustworthiness of Christian Scripture.”

The trustworthiness of Christian scripture has been freshly substantiated by the many discoveries of archaeology.

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