Truth That Matters

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

Historical Corroboration of the Bible

If the historical sections of the Bible are true, we expect them to agree with the historical records from different nations. Indeed, we find such agreement.  This article lists some Biblical accounts and their mentions in historic records.

Babylon

According to secular history, Nebuchadnezzar II was the pioneer of the neo-Babylonian empire. The Bible mentions the following about Nebuchadnezzar:-

  1. He subjugated all the kingdoms from Babylon in the East to Tyre and Egypt in the West (Jeremiah 27:6, 28:14, etc).
  2. He invaded Judah (Southern Israel) and destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple (2 Chronicles 36:17, Jeremiah 52:4). He also took captives.
  3. He built Babylon into a magnificent city (Daniel 4:30).

All these are corroborated by secular sources such as Herodotus, the Babylonian Chronicles, etc.

Assyria

Some Biblical events took place during the time when the Assyrians dominated the Middle East. The following are some Assyrian emperors mentioned in the Bible:-

Pul (Tiglath Pileser III): He made Menahem king of Israel pay tribute (2 Kings 15:19). He also invaded Israel during the reign of Ahaz (2 Kings 15:29). According to secular history, Pul was indeed a prominent Assyrian emperor (Tadmor Inscriptions, p29) and he indeed exacted tribute from Menahem (Ancient Iraq, Georges Roux). He was a great conqueror.

Ululas (Shalmaneser V): Secular history tells us that he was an Assyrian Emperor during whose time Israel revolted from under the Assyrian empire, just like the Bible says (2 Kings 17:3-4). He besieged Samaria, the capital of Israel. Since he died during the siege, the job was completed by his general Sargon. Sargon claims to have deported thousands of Israelis into captivity, corroborating 2 Kings 18:11. Even the place of deportation mentioned in the Bible (Gozan, North East Syria) bears evidence of Israelite presence at that time (letter SAA 16 63).

Sennacherib: According to the Bible, Sennacherib invaded Judea, that is, Southern Israel (Isaiah 36:1, 2 Kings 18:13, 2 Chronicles 32:1). This is corroborated by Sennacherib's own account in his Taylor Prism, Herodotus and Josephus.

Esarhaddon: The Bible tells us that Esarhaddon came to the throne after Sennacherib was killed by two of his sons (2 Kings 19:37). This is exactly what secular history says (Dalley, Stephanie (2008). Esther's revenge at Susa: from Sennacherib to Ahasuerus, Also see: The British Museum: Sennacherib, king of Assyria (704-681 BC)).

Assurbanipal (Asnappar): He is mentioned in Ezra 4:10 as having deported people to Israel. This is consistent with secular history – Assurbanipal led a lot of military campaigns in the region between Assyria and Egypt. 

In Kings and Chronicles, the names of dozens of Jewish kings along with the lengths of their reign are mentioned, spanning five centuries. 
"There are 29 kings referred to in the Bible, and 10 different countries. All these names have been found on monuments, and everyone of these is given his right name in the Bible, his right country, and placed in the right chronological order. There are 195 Hebrew consonants in these 29 proper names, and there are only two or three out of the entire 195 about which there can be any question of their being written in exactly the same way as they were inscribed in their own monuments. In contrast, the librarian at Alexandria in 200 BC compiled a catalog of the kings of Egypt, 38 in all. Of the entire number, only 3 or 4 are recognizable. He also made a list of the kings of Assyria; in only one case can we tell who is meant; and that one is not spelt correctly. Ptolemy drew up a register of 18 kings of Babylon. Not one of them is properly spelt; you could not make them out at all if you did not know from other sources to what he is referring." – Robert D Wilson, Scientific Investigation of the Old Testament.

More details

Persia

The Bible tells us that when Belshazzar was ruling in Babylon, the Medes took the city (and thus, the Babylonian empire) under the leadership of Darius (Gubaru or Gobyras) the Mede (Daniel 5:30-31). Later, Cyrus the Persian took over the empire (Daniel 6:28). This is corroborated by the Nabonidus Chronicle (15-18). The Bible also tells us that Cyrus allowed the Jews to return to Israel and rebuild their temple (Ezra 1:1-3). This is corroborated by the Cyrus Cylinder.

The Bible also mentions the following emperors briefly (in chronological order):-

  1. Artaxerxes (Cambyses): He stopped the Temple construction that Cyrus had allowed (Ezra 4:23)
  2. Darius Hystaspes: He allowed the Temple construction to resume (Ezra 6:1)
  3. Ahauseurus (Xerxes): Esther's husband (Esther 1:1) who invaded Greece
  4. Artaxerxes Longimanus: He gave permission to Nehemiah, his Jewish cup-bearer (Nehemiah 2:1) to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:5)

All of these emperors find mention in Persian history (in the same chronological order).

Rome

According to the Bible, Augustus Caesar was the Roman emperor when Jesus was born and he conducted a census for taxation (Luke 2:1). This is borne out by secular history (Bunson, Matthew. (1994). Encyclopedia of the Roman Empire, p404). Here is Luke at his historical best:-
"Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar (29 AD), Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness." – Luke 3:1-2
Each of the above positions and names have been verified in recent years after great effort. As an example, scholars thought that Luke was inaccurate because the only Lysanias who was known had been killed in 36 BC. But an inscription dated between AD 14 and 29 was found near Damascus, confirming the existence of a first century Lysanias. Notice the technical terms used by Luke, and the names of the officials involved. These are details that would be unknown to a person living several decades after the events transpired. Some more examples of technical terms:-In Acts 16:12, Luke refers to Philippi as a colony - this was verified when a medal was discovered which showed that Julius Caesar made the city a colony. Luke calls Sergius Paulus anthupatos (translated "deputy" in the King James Version of the Bible - Acts 13:7) - this was also verified by a medal dating to the time of Proclus, Sergius' successor. The image is a marble head of a statue of Tiberius Caesar.
"I take the view that Luke's history is unsurpassed in regard to its trustworthiness...You may press the words of Luke in a degree beyond any other historian's and they stand the keenest scrutiny and the hardest treatment" – Skeptic turned Christian Sir William Ramsay, Luke The Physician, pp 177-179
Luke also mentions Felix, and Festus, governors of Judea. Secular history bears witness to them in the same chronological order. The Bible also mentions the emperors Tiberius, Claudius and Nero. Again, they appear in secular history in the same order. Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome (Acts 18:2, corroborated by Suetonius).
 
Church figures such as Clement of Rome (AD 95), Ignatius (AD 70-110), Polycarp (Ad 70-156) and Tatian (AD 170) offer external confirmation of some New Testament accounts.

Conclusion

 
Such meticulous attention to historical fact proves the genuineness of the writers of the Bible. The fact that they have excelled trained and learned secular historians and scribes in this is consistent with their claim of being guided by God. The Biblical narratives span thousands of years and mentions dozens of people, places and events in several empires. In such a wide gamut, the historical accuracy of the Bible is proof of its authenticity. 

Further reading:

  • Barnett Paul, Is the New Testament history? Ann Arbor, Mich.: Vine, 1986
  • Blomberg, Craig. The historical Reliability of the Gospels. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1987
  • Ramsay, William. The Bearing of Recent Discoveries on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament New York, NY: Hodder and Stoughton