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 You are in / Foolish Faith / Read Book Online / Chapter 6 / Shaking Modern Discoveries
"The excessive skepticism shown toward the Bible has been progressively discredited. Discovery after discovery has established the accuracy of numerous details."
»  Chapter Introduction
»  Shaking Modern Discoveries
»  Non-biblical Sources
»  A Brief History of the New Testament

Chapter 6:
Unparalleled Historicity
Is the text of the Bible a reliable historical document?

Shaking Modern Discoveries

While it is generally agreed that the text of the Bible has remained free from corruption, liberal scholars still criticize the Bible concerning its historical reliability. Such criticisms have usually been based on a lack of archaeological evidence to confirm the biblical record.

Today, however, the credibility of such criticisms is steadily diminishing. Canada’s National Post illuminates, “Archaeologists are increasingly discovering that their finds support the Bible’s account of many historical events, from Roman crucifixion practices to ancient battles and the existence of King David. . . . The Bible has even provided archaeologists with leads to discoveries they may never have otherwise uncovered. More and more, archaeological finds are affirming the historical accuracy of the Bible, corroborating key portions of events.”[4]

Following are several such discoveries, some of which have stunned liberal scholars.

  • According to the biblical account, King David was the founder of Israel’s city of Jerusalem — 1996 was celebrated as Jerusalem’s 3,000th anniversary as the “City of David.” The biblical story of King David is so fantastic that scholars have claimed for decades that the existence of David and his conquests were pure fiction. However, in 1993 archaeologists unearthed a piece of stone from an ancient monument. Inscribed on it in ancient Aramaic were the words “King of Israel” and “House of David.” Initially unbelievable, this discovery has since been described as “one of the greatest finds of the 20th century” by the director of one of the world’s leading archaeological institutes. The Associated Press conveys, “The discovery so shook some scholars that they insisted the find was phony or the inscription incorrectly translated. A year later, however, archaeologists found more fragments of the monument with additional inscriptions referring to the ancient king. Today, the new scholarly consensus is that David was real — because archaeology has found it.”[5]
  • The U.S. News & World Report explains why this “reference to David was a historical bombshell: never before had the familiar name of Judah’s ancient warrior king, a central figure of the Hebrew Bible and, according to Christian Scripture, an ancestor of Jesus, been found in the records of antiquity outside the pages of the Bible. Skeptics had long seized upon that fact to argue that David was a mere legend, invented by Hebrew scribes. Now, at last, there was material evidence: an inscription written not by Hebrew scribes but by an enemy of the Israelites a little more than a century after David’s presumptive lifetime.”[6]

Following are some additional finds of importance:[7]

  • Recent expeditions at Shechem, where the Bible says Abraham built an altar to God, prove an organized community existed there during Abraham’s time nearly 4,000 years ago.

  • Archaeologists have found a stone tablet with an inscription bearing the name of the city of Ekron, which is the city where, according to the Book of First Samuel in the Bible, the Philistines took the ark of the covenant after capturing it from the Israelites.

  • Recent excavations have uncovered a string of ancient Egyptian forts along the Mediterranean coast. The discovery offers an explanation for why Moses would lead his people out of Egypt through the Sinai wilderness instead of along the shorter coastal route, as the story in Exodus relates.

  • During the summer of 1996, a wine jug was found inscribed with the name of King Herod, the first object ever found bearing the Judean king’s name from the New Testament Gospels.

  • An ivory pomegranate [a tropical reddish fruit] purchased in the international antiquities market by Israeli authorities for $550,000 in 1988 is now believed by many scholars to be the first relic ever found from Solomon’s Temple. According to the Bible, the magnificent temple — generally dated to around 950 B.C. – housed the ark of the covenant. An inscription on the pomegranate has been translated as “Holy to the priests, belonging to the temple of Yahweh [the LORD].[7a]

Additional discoveries that proved amazingly consistent with the biblical narratives of Jesus Christ were reported in a 1999 cover article in U.S. News & World Report:

   Compared with the earlier eras of Old Testament history, the days of Jesus are a fleeting moment. A life span of just three decades and a public career of only a few years leave a dauntingly narrow target for archaeological exploration. Yet during the past four decades, spectacular discoveries have produced a wealth of data illuminating the story of Jesus and the birth of Christianity. The picture that has emerged overall closely matches the historical backdrop of the Gospels.

   In 1968, for example, explorers found the skeletal remains of a crucified man in a burial cave outside of Jerusalem. It was a momentous discovery: While the Romans were known to have crucified thousands of alleged traitors, rebels, robbers, and deserters, never before had the remains of a crucifixion victim been recovered. An initial analysis of the remains found that their condition dramatically corroborated the Bible’s description of the Roman method of execution.

   The bones were preserved in a stone burial box and appeared to be those of a man about 5 feet, 5 inches tall. His open arms had been nailed to the crossbar, in the manner similar to that shown in crucifixion paintings. The knees had been doubled up and turned sideways, and a single large iron nail had been driven through both heels. The shin bones seem to have been broken, corroborating what the Gospel of John suggests was normal practice in Roman crucifixions: “Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs” (John 19:32–33).

   The discovery posed a powerful counterargument to objections some scholars have raised against the Gospels’ description of Jesus’ burial. It has been argued that the common practice of Roman executioners was to toss corpses of crucified criminals into a common grave or to leave them on the cross to be devoured by scavenging animals. So it hardly seems feasible that Roman authorities would have allowed Jesus to undergo the burial described in the Gospels. But with the remains of a crucified contemporary of Jesus found in a family grave, it is clear that at least on some occasions the Romans permitted proper interment consistent with the biblical account.

   A few decades ago, the name of a key figure in the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus turned up in the archaeological record: During excavations in 1961 a first-century inscription was uncovered confirming that Pilate had been the Roman ruler of the region at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion. The badly damaged Latin inscription reads in part, “[Pon]tius Pilatus . . . [Praef ]ectus Juda[ea]e.” According to experts, the inscription would have read, “Pontius Pilate, the Prefect of Judea.” The discovery of the so-called Pilate Stone has been widely acclaimed as a significant affirmation of biblical history because, in short, it confirms that the man depicted in the Gospels as Judea’s Roman governor had precisely the responsibilities and authority that the Gospel writers ascribed to him.

   Thanks to archaeology, the Bible has been firmly fixed in a context of knowable history, linked to the present by footprints across the archaeological record.[8]

Today, the words of the great American archaeologist William Albright continue to ring profoundly true: “The excessive skepticism shown toward the Bible [by certain schools of thought] has been progressively discredited. Discovery after discovery has established the accuracy of numerous details.”[9]


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