False Argument #4: Bible Unsupported By Archaeology

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If any of the people, places and events mentioned in the biblical record actually occurred, there should be archaeological findings and history to support them, and surely we might expect some mention of biblical events from extrabiblical sources. Many critics contend this is not what we find. This claim simply does not hold water. While of course not every person, place or event from any ancient manuscript could ever be recovered, legitimate discoveries affirm key players in the Hebrew scriptures.

Until about the middle of the twentieth century there was a general consensus that many of the events, places and people mentioned in the Bible didn’t ever exist. This attitude prompted claims of embellishment and other times outright fraud by biblical writers to justify their personal moral or theological inference from such events. It is difficult for some people to accept the stories of King David or Herod the Tetrarch without some sort of extra-biblical validation of their existence, just as the story of creation in Genesis loses credibility if it can be found in bona fide conflict with a bona fide fact of modern science.

Regarding the possibility to prove the historicity of certain people or places mentioned only in the Bible, scientific evidence, again, is a wonderful servant but a horrible master. Extreme refusal to believe something purely on a lack of scientific evidence can cause bias. It must also be noted that absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence. Although archaeology of today has never unearthed ‘city x,’ that does not negate the possibility that ‘city x’ once existed, and archaeologists may in fact discover remnants of ‘city x’ at any future point.

In 1993 Israeli archaeologists unearthed fragments of a stele, or ancient monument, bearing the inscriptions in Aramic ‘King of Israel’ and ‘House of David.’ The find was a blow to scholars who previously discredited the historical existence of King David based on a lack of extra-biblical evidence. At Tel Miqne-Ekron, an excavation team found a stone tablet with a Phoenician inscription bearing the name of the city ‘Ekron,’ the legendary deposit city of the Ark of the Covenant, captured by the Philistines according to the first book of Samuel. In the summer of 1996, archaeologists sifting through a 2,000 year-old garbage site at Masada in Southern Israel found the first extra-biblical mention of King Herod. It was a wine jug bearing an inscription of the great Judean King mentioned in the gospels.

References of Israel are found in Egyptian epigraphy, for example the Stela of Merneptah, discovered at Thebes by Sir Flinders Petrie. Written in hieroglyphics, the writing records the boasting of an early thirteenth-century b.c. Egyptian ruler, Merneptah, that he had ‘humbled Israel.’ The omission of the customary determinative sign of ‘land,’ supports the idea of a nomadic tribe without a homeland, corroborating the account found in the book of Exodus.

Opposite Aswan is an island in the Nile known as Elephantine in Greek or Yeb in Aramic. It was there that a series of ancient Jewish manuscripts were discovered in 1903, which came to be known as the Elephantine Papyri. These letters revealed the presence of Jewish colonists and their families in the fifth century b.c. Among them were requests to Johanan and Sanballat to build a temple; the names of these priests also appear in Nehemiah 12:22 and 2:19.

Archaeologist Amnon Ben-Tor unearthed evidence that seems to confirm the biblical accounts of Joshua plundering the Canaanite city of Hazor and destroying it by fire. Citing fire-blackened stones, Ben-Tor confirms the biblical account of Hazor being destroyed by a terrible fire and having its Canaanite and Egyptian statues destroyed. Discoveries at Hazor also show the city was occupied again by the tenth century b.c., supporting biblical mention of King Solomon’s reign in the area.

A Lutheran minister named Klein discovered the Moabite Stone at Dibon in present day Jordan. The stone is extra-biblical confirmation of the defeat of King Omri of Israel (885-874b.c.) by Mesha. It was also the only extra-biblical mentioning of the name Yahweh until the Lachish Letters of 1932.

As supported by this quick handful of discoveries, the Bible contains a sound historical core. Note this is not equivalent to the emotionally-based, rhetorical blanket statement, “Archaeology and history proves the Bible!”

Also note the absurdity in the claim of opposite polarity, that archaeology and history fail to properly support scripture or locate events of the Bible in history or time.

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