Truth That Matters

"What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?" - Jesus Christ

ARCHAEOLOGY

A major portion of the Bible is history - events involving real people and places at specific times are narrated. Excavations in the Middle East have unearthed not only buildings, weapons, pottery and tombs, but also inscriptions that have been deciphered. If the Bible is indeed genuine, we can expect correlation between it and these excavations. This page contains some details of such a correlation.

Syria

Hazael's Statue:
The Bible says that Hazel was king of Syria. He succeeded Benhadad after assassinating him (see 2 Kings 8:7 onwards) The time period implied from Biblical chronology is the latter half of the eighth century B.C. A 7 inch ivory statue of Hazael king of Syria has been found. It was discovered in the ruins of Arslan Tash in north Syria (ancient Hadatu). Several artifacts from the palace of Hazael are now in the Aleppo Museum in Syria. An 842 B.C. inscription of Assyrian Emperor Shalmaneser III mentions:-

"I fought with Ben-hadad. I accomplished his defeat. Hazael, son of a nobody, seized his throne."

As you can see, the Biblical record mentions that Hazael was indeed a "son of a nobody" (2 Kings 8:13) who went on to become king of Syria. Shalmaneser then goes on to boast about his battles with Hazael:-

"In the 18th year of my reign for the 16th time I crossed the Euphrates. Hazael of Damascus trusted to the strength of his armies and mustered his troops in full force. Senir (Mount Hermon), a mountain summit which is in front of Lebanon, he made his stronghold. I fought with him; his defeat I accomplished...At that time I received the tribute of the Syrians and Sidonians and of Yahua (Jehu) the son of Khumri (Omri)"

The Bible mentions Mount Hermon/Senir and the Sidonians (Deuteronomy 3:9). The Bible also mentions Jehu king of Israel who ruled around the same time as Benhadad and Hazael (1 Kings 19:16). Shalmaneser confuses Jehu's father with Omri, an earlier prominent Israeli king (1 Kings 16:23-27). Notice how the names of people and places mentioned in the Bible agree with Assyrian inscriptions and Syrian artifacts.

The Mari Tablets:
These were discovered during French excavations beginning 1933. Mari was an ancient town (the mound is now known as Tell Hariri); located in Syria. They are dated ~1800 BC. They describe covenant rituals similar to those in Genesis 15. Animals would be killed, their body parts separated and the parties of the covenant would pass in between these body parts. The Mari Tablets thus refute the skeptical argument that Genesis cannot be true because it describes rituals that no one would ever do.

The Ebla Tablets (Ebla, Syria):
Dated 2300 BC by secular archaeologists, they are a testimony to ancient writing; discovered by Italian archaeologist Paolo Matthiae and his team in 1974–75. Today, the tablets are being held in the Syrian museums of Aleppo, Damascus, and Idlib. One reason skeptics claimed for believing that the early parts of the Bible are fraudulent was that writing did not exist before 1500 BC. The Ebla Tablets refute this argument – they are consistent with the Biblical picture of the ancient Middle East.

Lysanias the Tetrarch
"A Greek inscription from Abila (18 miles north-west of Damascus) records a dedication by one Nymphaeus, 'freedman of Lysanias, the tetrarch', between AD 29-34. Prior to this, Lysanias the tetrarch was unknown, and thus the authenticity of Luke 3:1 was questioned. [Note that the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar mentioned in Luke 3:1 is 29 AD.] – Bruce , F.F "Archaeological confirmation of the New Testament" in Revelation and the Bible, ed. by C. F. Henry, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1958, p327

The Eliahou Hanabi (Elijah the Prophet) synagogue, Damascus:
One of the synagogue's plaques near the door reads: “Shrine and Synagogue of Prophet Eliahou Hanabi, Since 720 B.C.”. Tradition holds that the biblical prophet Elisha built the first structure on the site over a grotto in which his teacher, the prophet Elijah, had sought refuge. This synagogue was partially destroyed during the Syrian civil war of 2012-2013.

The Bible records that Elijah fled for his life because of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel in around 860 BC. He went to Mt Sinai, but God then sent him to Damascus (1 Kings 19:15) and made him anoint Elisha to be his successor, who would also visit Damascus later (2 Kings 8:7).

Thus the synagogue and its associated traditions are consistent with the Biblical record.

Sumeria

The First Civilization:
From archaeology, we have come to know that Sumeria (Iraq) was the cradle of civilization. The image shows the ruins of a Sumerian city. The Bible tells us that after Noah's Flood the entire population of the world chose to remain in Iraq (the Biblical terms are Shinar and Babel) instead of populating the whole earth as God wanted them to. It is only when God forced them to that they scattered (Genesis 11:1-9). Thus, the Bible is consistent with archaeology. Sumeria was also the location of later civilizations such as Assyria and Neo-Babylon.

The Weld Blundell clay Prism
It was found in Iraq and dates from about 2170 BC. It contains a listing in Old Akkadian script of "10 kings who ruled before the great flood", plus many more. The 10 ante-diluvian kings have very long life spans, and the ones after the flood have shorter life spans. This is consistent with the Biblical records in Genesis 5 and Genesis 11. 

The Gilgamesh Epic:
It was discovered by Hormuz Rassam in 1853. Various versions exist, including Old Sumerian fragments and the "Standard Accadian Version"; the latter (see image below right) was a 12-tablet treatise whose 11th tablet narrates the occurrence of a flood, similar to the account of Noah's Flood in the Bible.

The following are the similarities between the Biblical account of Noah's Flood and the Gilgamesh Epic:

  1. The deluge was divinely planned
  2. The plan was revealed to the hero of the deluge and he was instructed to build a huge boat to preserve life.
  3. The deluge was due to a defect in the human race
  4. The hero and his family were delivered.
  5. The flood was caused by rain.
  6. The landing place of the boat is named.
  7. Birds were sent to determine if the waters had receded.
  8. The hero worshiped after his deliverance.
  9. The hero was blessed after he worshiped. 

The similarities (as also other Flood traditions from around the world) suggest that the reported event actually happened and thus was recounted by different cultures. 

The Gilgamesh Epic has a story in which a man is created from the soil by a god, and lives in a natural setting among the animals. He is introduced to a woman who tempts him. The man accepts food from the woman, covers his nakedness, and must leave his former realm, unable to return. A snake steals a plant of immortality from the hero later in the epic. All this is similar to the Biblical account of Adam and Eve (Genesis 2 and 3). 

Thus, the Gilgamesh Epic is archaeological evidence that the Bible is true

Is the Bible a bunch of plagiarized myths?

Inscription about a tower:-
In Genesis 11, the Bible mentions an attempt by virtually the whole of the world population in around 2100 BC to make a tower, rebelling against God's command to spread all over the world, and choosing polytheism and astrology over faith in the true God of the Bible (Jehovah). The ring leader in this apostasy was perhaps Nimrod, whom the Bible mentions (Genesis 10:9) as a great hunter before (that is in the face of, or against) Jehovah. God judged these people by confusing their language, so that they no longer understood each other, and thus had to scatter all over the world.

The archaeologist George Smith found an inscription in Babylon that read in part as follows:

"The illustrious tower offended the gods. In a night they threw down what they had built. They scattered them abroad, and made strange their speech." – Halley's Bible Handbook (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1965), p. 84.

Nimrod's name persists in the town Nimrud, near Nineveh where many of the important archaeological finds related to the Sumerians have been found, and also in the name Birs-Nimrud (the tower of Nimrud), the remains of a mighty tower in Borsippa, about 10 miles south of Babylon.

Also, there exists the tower of Babylon described by the Greek historian Herodotus, that was renovated at the time when he visited Babylon. It was more than 300 feet tall, had a spiral staircase, and a shrine on the top devoted to the sun-god and the other host of heaven.

Thus, archaeology supports the "Tower of Babel" narrative of the Bible.

Ur
According to the Bible, Abraham lived in around 2000 BC and Ur was his hometown (Genesis 11:31). Secular theories about the Bible (that its early parts are not authentic) were propounded in the 1800s based on the following assumptions:

  • Places like Ur, mentioned in Genesis do not appear in classical literature, and thus never existed
  • If Abraham existed, he would have been a poor, ignorant Bedouin, not the cultured, wealthy, learned man that the Bible makes him out to be.
  • Individual Inhabitants of Chaldea would never attempt a long journey to Israel (such as the Bible reports Abraham doing).

John George Taylor (in the 1850s) and Sir Leonard Woolley (in 1922-34) excavated a site in modern Iraq. Here's what they found:

  • The site was Ur. Thus, the Biblical city existed after all.
  • The finds included royal tombs, the Standard of Ur (one of the earliest representations of a Sumerian army), figurines, pottery, jewels, etc. Documents found include mathematical calculations, payrolls for female employees, and countless receipts. The Sumerian culture was at its zenith in 2000-2500 BC. 
  • Receipts were found for carriages hired for trips to faraway places.

Notice how the findings refute secular assumptions and vindicate the Bible. However, although archaeological discoveries like these have refuted the premises of these theories, most academicians still hold on to these theories.

Egypt

Archaeological finds from Egypt

Here I will just mention two minor finds:-

The temple of Amon at Karnak in Upper Egypt (This temple is dated 1450 BC according to the Standard Egyptian Chronology) lists many of the cities mentioned in Numbers 33 of the Bible.  This suggests that Numbers is authentic.

The Elephantine papyrus (found on the Elephanta island on the Nile) mentions Sanballat as governor of Samaria under the Persian empire, corroborating Nehemiah 2-6 of the Bible. The image shows the western bank of the island.

Assyria

Assyria is the proverbial icing on the Biblical archaeology cake. Details

Babylon

The Fall of Nineveh: The Babylonian Chronicle for 615-609 BC (also called the Fall of Nineveh Chronicle or ABC3: in the British Museum now) states:

"The king [Nabopolassar] of Accad [Babylon] called out his army...and camped against Nineveh...a great attack they mounted...a great defeat of this dominant people was made...great spoil of the city and temple they carried away and the city was reduced to a mound of ruin and heaps of debris"

This provides the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Biblical prophets Nahum and Zephaniah (see the entire book of Nahum and Zephaniah 2:13). When the Assyrian capital Nineveh was destroyed, the Assyrians fled to Harran.

Egyptian help for the Assyrians: The same chronicle (ABC3) also states:-

"In the month Ajaru of his sixteenth year, the king [Nabopolassar] of Accad [Babylon] called out his army and marched...to Haran. Fear fell on him [the last Assyrian king Ashur-ballit] and on the army of Egypt which had come to his help...they abandoned the city"

This is consistent with the Biblical statement that Pharaoh Necho of Egypt went to help the Assyrians against the Babylonians (2 Chronicles 35:20, 2 Kings 23:29 - note: the first 'against' in old English also refers to 'alongside').

The Battle of Carchemish: The Babylonian Chronicle for 605-594 BC (also called the Nebuchadnezzar Chronicle, the Jerusalem Chronicle or ABC 5: in the British Museum now - see image) records the following:-

"In the 21st year the king of Akkad [Nabopolassar] stayed in his own land, Nebuchadnezzar his eldest son, the crown prince, mustered and took command of his troops. He marched to Carchemish...against the Egyptian army...accomplished their defeat and beat them to non-existence"

This provides fulfillment of Biblical prophecy (Jeremiah 46:2) and also matches with the Bible's statement in 2 Kings 24:7. The decisive Battle of Carchemish was a crushing blow to Egypt.

Nebuchadnezzar's first invasion of Judah: The same chronicle (ABC 5) continues:-

"...at that time Nebuchadnezzar conquered the whole of the Hittite territory [which includes Palestine]"

This is consistent with 2 Kings 24:1, 2 Chronicles 36:6 and Daniel 1:1-5.

Nebucadnezzar's second invasion of Judah: The same chronicle (ABC 5) continues:-

"The king of Akkad [Nebuchadnezzar] mustered his troops, marching to the Hatti land, and encamped against the city of Judah...besieged the city and captured the king. He appointed there a king of his own choice, received its heavy tribute and sent them to Babylon"

This confirms the Biblical narrative in 2 Kings 24:8-17 and 2 Chronicles 36:9-10. During the siege of Jerusalem, the capital of Judah, the Jewish King Jehoiachim died. The young successor Jehoiachin surrendered to Nebuchadnezzar, who appointed Zedekiah as king. Ezekiel was one of the captives taken to Babylon (Ezekiel 1:1-2).

Nebuchadnezzar's greatness: The Bible records Nebuchadnezzar glorying over his construction feats (Daniel 4:30). So what have archaeologists found out?

"Nebuchadnezzar was the greatest monarch that Babylon, or perhaps the East generally, ever produced. He must have possessed an enormous command of human labor, nine-tenths of Babylon itself, and nineteen-twentieths of all the other ruins that in almost countless profusion cover the land, are composed of bricks stamped with his name. He appears to have built or restored almost every city and temple in the whole country. His inscriptions give an elaborate account of the immense works which he constructed in and about Babylon itself, abundantly illustrating the boast, 'Is not this great Babylon which I have built?'" – George Rawlinson, Historical Illustrations of the Old Testament.

Laws in ancient Mesopotamia: A stone tablet discovered in Nuzi, near the Tigris river in Iraq joins Hammurabi's Code in specifying that a barren wife must provide a slave-girl to her husband for producing children (Edwin M. Yamauchi, The Stones and The Scripture, New York, Lippencott, 1972, p38). We thus understand that Abraham and Sarah's decision in Genesis 16:1-2, which may seem weird to us today, was accepted social custom then. The Nuzi Tablets also mention a slave becoming a heir (compare with Genesis 15:2) and the sale of a birthright (see Genesis 25:29-34). This is a big deal because skeptics used to doubt the historicity of Genesis because of what they considered to be incredulous social customs mentioned in it.

Darius the Mede and Belshazzar:
Bible critics were sure that Daniel 5 is fraudulent because it mentions two characters that the Greek historians don't: Belshazzar (the last king of Babylon who was slain on the night Babylon fell to the Medo-Persians) and Darius the Mede (first governor of Chaldea in the Medo-Persian empire). According to Herodotus, Nabonidus (who is not mentioned in the Bible) was the last king of Babylon and he was not slain, while the first Persian Emperor was Cyrus. So the skeptics were sure that the Bible is wrong. However, a couple of discoveries showed how wrong human experts can be when they rely on partial information.

The Nabonidus Cylinder (now in the British museum – image at upper right) has Nabonidus referring to Belshazzar as "Belshazzar, the firstborn son, offspring of my heart"

The Nabonidus Chronicle (also in the British museum – image at right) says: "The king was in the city of Tema; the king's son, courtiers and army were in Babylonia...the gods of Babylonia entered Babylon from every direction...when Cyrus attacked the Babylonian army at Opis...the people of Babylonia revolted...the troops of Cyrus entered Babylon without battle."

The Chronicle also says that a certain Ugbaru was Cyrus' general who actually lead the conquest of Babylon and became ruler of the region. Ugbaru died within a year of capturing Babylon. 

In The Cyrus Cylinder (discovered in 1879), Persian Emperor Cyrus says that he captured Nabonidus and entered into Babylon without destroying it.

With this, everything fits perfectly well:-

  • Nabonidus was the last king of Babylon, with Belshazzar his son as coregent [that's how Belshazzar could promise Daniel only the third (not second) position, as Daniel 5:7 says]
  • The Medes entered the city of Babylon by night and killed Belshazzar.
  • Ubgaru (translated Gobyras by the Greek historian Xenophon) is the same as Darius
  • Sometime later, Cyrus apparently took direct control over Babylon from Darius. When Darius retired, he may have taken some of the official records with him; that is why, at a later date, the copy of Cyrus' edict towards the Jews was found not at Shushan, the Persian capital, but at Achmetha in Media (Ezra 6:2)

Other Places

The Mesha Stele was found in Dibon/Dhiban, Jordan in 1868. It has been dated to about 840 BC by secular scholars. It includes the following details:-

  1. The kingdom of Moab existed in present-day Jordan
  2. Mesha was king of Moab
  3. Dibon, Aroer, Nebo, Diblathaim, and Madiba were in Moab
  4. Chemosh was the god of Moab.
  5. Jehovah was the God of Israel
  6. Israel oppressed Moab - the Israeli monarch was Omri
  7. The Israeli tribe of Gad lived near Moabite territory
  8. Mesha was able to throw off the yoke of the Israelis.
  9. Horonaim and Ashtaroth were places near Moab

All these details are there in the Bible. The main story occurs in 2 Kings 3:4-5. Other details are spread out. For example, Judges 11:24 cites Chemosh as the god of Moab.

Sodom and Gomorrah were ancient cities in the Bible notorious for their sexual immorality (did you know where the word sodomy comes from?). According to the Bible, they were well populated before God destroyed them by fire (Genesis 19). They have now been identified and the details are consistent with the Bible.

Dinosaur engravings on ancient temples
Dinosaur engravings prove that dinosaurs lived alongside people, just like the Bible implies.

The Politarch Inscription discovered in 1835 has the title 'Politarch' with a list of names who owned the title. Luke calls the Thessalonian officials "politarchs" in Acts 17:6 and Acts 17:8 (translated 'rulers of the city' in English). This is a big deal because prior to 1835, skeptics happily denounced Luke for his use of the term.

The Hittites:
The Bible mentions the Hittites as a great civilization comparable in power to Egypt or Assyria (2 Kings 7:6). Although no archaeologist doubts this today, Biblical references to the Hittites were considered to be ridiculous myths until the Hittite capital was discovered near modern Boghazkoy, Turkey.

Claudius' AD 52 inscription found in Delphi, Greece, mentions Gallio as proconsul of Achaia, which tallies with Acts 18:11-12. Since there was no record of this in secular Roman history, skeptics ridiculed Luke, calling him a story teller. But the Delphi Inscription (dated AD 52) was discovered early in the 20th century in which Emperor Claudius refers to Gallio as "my friend and proconsul". The image shows the Apollo Temple in Greece where the inscription was discovered.

Conclusion

Here's how some authors summarized the situation:-

"The theories current in Old Testament studies [that most OT books are not authentic], however brilliantly conceived and elaborated, were mainly established in a vacuum with little or no reference to the Ancient Near East, and initially too often in accordance with a-priori philosophical and literary principles. It is solely because the data from the Ancient Near East coincide so much better with the existing observable structure of Old Testament history, literature and religion than with the theoretical reconstructions, that we are compelled..to question or abandon such theories despite their popularity...If some of the results reached here approximate to a traditional view [that the Bible is authentic] or seem to agree with theological orthodoxy [the belief that the Bible is God's Word], then this is simply because the tradition in question or that orthodoxy is that much closer to the real facts than is commonly realized." – K A Kitchen, Lecturer in the School of Oriental Studies at Liverpool University, Ancient Orient and the Old Testament, p172-173 

"There can be no doubt that archaeology has confirmed the substantial historicity of the Old Testament tradition" – William Albright, John Hopkins University, Archaeology and the Religion of Israel, Baltimore, Johns Hopkins Press, 1942, p.176. William Albright was a professor emeritus of Johns Hopkins University who became convinced that the Old Testament is authentic based on his original archaeological research in Israel.

"On the whole such evidence as archaeology has afforded thus far...strengthens our confidence in the accuracy with which the text has been transmitted through the centuries...(it has) also shown that not only the main substance of what has been written but even the words, aside from minor variations, have been transmitted with remarkable fidelity, so that there need be no doubt whatever regarding the teaching conveyed by them" – Millar Burrows (Professor at Yale University), What Mean These Stones, New Haven: American Schools of Oriental Research, p42 

"There has never been found anything that discredits statements of facts in the Bible…almost the entire list of names, places, and events of the Bible have been corroborated by the findings of archaeology" – Dr Melvin G. Kyle, archaeologist 

"It may be stated categorically, that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference" – Glueck, Nelson (Jewish archaeologist), Rivers in the Desert, New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Inc. 1959, p.31

"It is therefore legitimate to say that, in respect of that part of the Old Testament against which the disintegrating criticism of the last half of the nineteenth century was chiefly directed, at the evidence of archaeology has been to reestablish its authority and likewise to augment its value by rendering it more intelligible through a fuller knowledge of its background and setting. Archaeology has not yet said its last word, but the results already achieved confirm what faith would suggest – that the Bible can do nothing but gain from an increase in knowledge" – Sir Frederic Kenyon (former director of the British Museum) The Bible and Archaeology, New York: Harper and Brothers, 1940, p275.

If you wanted evidence, you have it. There is enough archaeological evidence to suggest that the Bible is not a book of fables, but an authentic historical document. Sir William Ramsay is a skeptic turned Christian due to his archaeological excavations; so is William Albright. God has demonstrated that He does not want blind faith. It is up to you to decide how seriously you want to take the evidence for the authenticity of the Bible.

Also see:

  • Finegan, Jack. The Archaeology of the New Testament. Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1992
  • McRay, John. Archaeology and the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991
  • Thompson, J. A. The Bible and Archaeology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975
  • Yamauchi, Edwin. The Stones and the Scriptures. New York: J. B. Lippencott, 1972
  • Howard F. Vos, An Introduction to Bible Archaeology Moody Press, Chicago. 1973.
  • Kenyon, Frederick G 1940. The Bible and Archaeology. New York, NY: Harper Brothers
  • Unger, Merrill F. 1962. Archaeology and the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publ. House.
  • Unger, Merrill F. 1954. Archaeology and the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publ. House.
  • McDowell, Josh. 1975. More Evidence that Demands a Verdict. San Bernardino, CA: Here's Life Publishers
  • Morris, Henry M. 1976. The Genesis Record. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
  • Wilson, Robert Dick 1959. A Scientific investigation of the Old Testament. Chicago, Il: Moody Press.
  • Wiseman P. J. 1946: New Discoveries in Babylonia about Genesis. London: MArshall, Morgan and Scott.
  • Whitcomb, John C. 1959. Darius the Mede. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
  • Archaeology at Christian Answers
  • Former Things
  • The Bible would never be produced by humans even if they could
  • The Bible could never be produced by humans
  • Evidence for God
  • The Main Message