Archeology and the Bible Pt.2 Looking at more discoveries that show the reliability of the Bible as a historical document Again, most comes from the OT due to the vast support of NT geography and historical events, but some NT contents will also be looked at
In 2002, the Biblical Archaeological Society and the Discovery Channel announced in Washington, D.C. that an ancient inscription on a 2,000-year-old ossuary with the inscribed Aramaic words "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus" was genuine. The November/December 2002 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review magazine published the translation, dated at between 6 and 70 A.D.
Caiaphas was high priest for 18 years, A.D. 18-36. He most likely gained the position by marrying the daughter of Annas, head of a powerful high-priestly clan (John 18:13). Caiaphas is infamous as the leader of the conspiracy to crucify Jesus.
The Caiaphas family tomb was accidentally discovered by workers constructing a road in a park just south of the Old City of Jerusalem. Archaeologists were hastily called to the scene. When they examined the tomb they found 12 ossuaries (limestone bone boxes) containing the remains of 63 individuals. The most beautifully decorated of the ossuaries was inscribed with the name "Joseph son of (or, of the family of) Caiaphas." That was the full name of the high priest who arrested Jesus, as documented by Josephus (Antiquities 18: 2, 2; 4, 3). Inside were the remains of a 60-year-old male, almost certainly those of the Caiaphas of the New Testament. This remarkable discovery has, for the first time, provided us with the physical remains of an individual named in the Bible.
The Egyptian Scarab of Khirbet el-MaqatirThis tiny 3/4-inch long amulet, carved in the familiar shape of a dung beetle, has been dated to the Late Bronze I period, 1550-1450 BC. Its discovery in the remains of a fortress at Khirbet el-Maqatir, nine miles north of Jerusalem, strengthens the case being made by the excavators that this site is the real location of Ai, the city destroyed in Joshua 8.
Have we found the ark? References to the ark begin in about the 3rd century B.C. From these references, historians infer that it was common knowledge the ark was still visible on the top of Mt. Ararat. Other references throughout history report the existence of a boat on the mountain in this region.
In the 20th century, several people reported either standing on the roof of the ark, going inside it, taking pictures of it or recovering petrified wood from it. With the breakup of the Soviet Union and the relaxation of its control of the Soviet-Turkish border where Ararat sits, the mountain became more accessible. While it’s generally believed that at least part of the ark is intact somewhere in the mountain range of Ararat, definitive proof eludes us. Photographs have been lost and eyewitnesses have either died or recanted. If the ark is there, above 10,000 feet, it remains sheathed in ice and snow for much of the year and is only visible in the warmer months.
We now know from the Babylonian Chronicle that the date of Nebuchadnezzar’s capture of Jerusalem was the night of March 15/16, 597 BC. We also know that Belshazzar really was the king of Babylon at this time because his father Nabonidus, who was undertaking archaeological research, was away from Babylon for about 10 years. He appointed his son Belshazzar as co-regent during that time.
Daniel knew that Nebuchadnezzar was responsible for the splendor of Babylon (Daniel 4:30). This was unknown to modern historians until it was confirmed by the German professor Koldewey, who excavated Babylon approximately 100 years ago.
Jericho The name “Jericho” brings to mind Israelites marching, trumpets sounding and walls falling down. It is a wonderful story of faith and victory, but did it really happen? The skeptic would say no, it is merely a folk tale to explain the ruins at Jericho. The main reason for this negative outlook is the excavations at the site carried out in the 1950s under the direction of British archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon. She concluded,
“It is a sad fact that of the town walls of the Late Bronze Age, within which period the attack by the Israelites must fall by any dating, not a trace remains …. The excavation of Jericho, therefore, has thrown no light on the walls of Jericho of which the destruction is so vividly described in the Book of Joshua.” Thomas A. Hollandsaid: “Kenyon concluded, with reference to the military conquest theory and the LB [Late Bronze Age] walls, that there was no archaeological data to support the thesis that the town had been surrounded by a wall at the end of LB I [ca. 1400 B.C.].”
However, a careful examination of the archaeological evidence collected throughout this century leads to quite another conclusion. Kenyon showed that Jericho was indeed heavily fortified and that it had been burned by fire. Unfortunately, she misdated her finds, resulting in an apparent contradiction in scripture and history. She concluded that the Bronze Age city of Jericho was destroyed about 1550 B.C. by the Egyptians. An in-depth analysis of the evidence, however, reveals that the destruction took place around 1400 B.C. (end of the Late Bronze I period), exactly when the Bible says the conquest occurred.
The retaining wall was some four to five meters (12–15 feet) high. On top of that was a mudbrick wall two meters (six feet) thick and about six to eight meters (20–26 feet) high. At the crest of the embankment was a similar mudbrick wall whose base was roughly 14 meters (46 feet) above the ground level outside the retaining wall
Within the upper wall was an area of approximately six acres, while the total area of the upper city and fortification system was 50% larger, or about nine acres. Based on the archaeologist’s rule of thumb of 200 persons per acre, the population of the upper city would have been about 1,200. However, from excavations carried out by a German team in the first decade of this century, we know that people were also living on the embankment between the upper and lower city walls. In addition, those Canaanites living in surrounding villages would have fled to Jericho for safety.
The citizens of Jericho were well prepared for a siege. A copious spring which provided water for ancient, as well as modern, Jericho lay inside the city walls. At the time of the attack, the harvest had just been taken in (Joshua 3:15), so the citizens had an abundant supply of food. After the seventh trip around the city on the seventh day, Scripture tells us that the wall “fell down flat” (Joshua 6:20). The Hebrew here carries the suggestion that it “fell beneath itself.”
Is there evidence for such an event at Jericho? It turns out that there is ample evidence that the mudbrick city wall collapsed and was deposited at the base of the stone retaining wall at the time the city met its end. Kenyon found, “fallen red bricks piling nearly to the top of the revetment. These probably came from the wall on the summit of the bank [and/or] … the brickwork above the revetment.”
In other words, she found a heap of bricks from the fallen city walls! An Italian team excavating at the southern end of the mound in 1997 found exactly the same thing.
According to the Bible, Rahab’s house was incorporated into the fortification system (Joshua 2:15). If the walls fell, how was her house spared? As you recall, the spies had instructed Rahab to bring her family into her house and they would be rescued. When the Israelites stormed the city, Rahab and her family were saved as promised (Joshua 2:12–21, 6:17, 22–23). At the north end of the tell of Jericho, archaeologists made some astounding discoveries that seem to relate to Rahab.
The German excavation of 1907–1909 found that on the north a short stretch of the lower city wall did not fall as everywhere else. A portion of that mudbrick wall was still standing to a height of over two meters (eight feet). What is more, there were houses built against the wall! It is quite possible that this is where Rahab’s house was
After the city walls fell, how did the Israelites surmount the four to five meter (12–15 foot) high retaining wall at the base of the tell? Excavations have shown that the bricks from the collapsed walls formed a ramp against the retaining wall so that the Israelites could merely climb up over the top. The Bible is very precise in its description of how the Israelites entered the city: “the people went up into the city, every man straight before him [i.e., straight up and over],” (Joshua 6:20). The Israelites had to go up, and that is what archaeology has revealed. They had to go from ground level at the base of the tell to the top of the rampart in order to enter the city.
Destruction by fire? The Israelites burned the city and everything in it (Joshua 6:24). Once again, the discoveries of archaeology have verified the truth of this record. A portion of the city destroyed by the Israelites was excavated on the east side of the tell. Wherever the archaeologists reached this level they found a layer of burned ash and debris about one meter (three feet) thick. Kenyon described the massive devastation as follows.
“The destruction was complete. Walls and floors were blackened or reddened by fire, and every room was filled with fallen bricks, timbers, and household utensils; in most rooms the fallen debris was heavily burnt, but the collapse of the walls of the eastern rooms seems to have taken place before they were affected by the fire.” Also when they look at the remains they find grains, which is rare in archeology because those who attacked would typically take food
Israel being in Egypt and titles recorded match archeological finds Known Egyptian titles such as “captain of the guard” (Genesis 39:1), “overseer” (Genesis 39:4), “chief of the butlers” and “chief of the bakers” (Genesis 40:2), “father to the Pharaoh” (actually “father to the gods,” which to Joseph was blasphemous because he could not accept Pharaoh as a manifestation of Ra the sun god; Joseph Hebraized the title, so that he did not dishonor the Lord), “Lord of Pharaoh’s House” (the palace), and “Ruler of all Egypt” (Genesis 45:8) attest to the historicity of this account.
Contradiction in Genesis Joseph account? Acts 7:14: “Then Joseph sent and called his father Jacob and all his relatives to him,seventy-five people.” Genesis 46:27: “And the sons of Joseph who were born to him in Egypt were two persons. All the persons of the house of Jacob who went to Egypt were seventy.” The Dead Sea Scrolls make the number of the people of Jacob 75, not 70, in Genesis 46:27, thus correcting a scribal error and showing that Stephen’s figure was right (Acts 7:14).
Moses and the ten plagues Pharaoh had yielded to Moses’ demands to allow his slaves to leave because of the ten devastating plagues that fell on Egypt (Exodus 7—12). The waters of the sacred River Nile were turned to blood, herds and flocks were smitten with pestilence, lightning set combustible material on fire, hail flattened the crops and struck the fruit trees, and locusts blanketed the country and consumed what might have been left of plant life. The economy of Egypt would have been so shattered that there should be some record of such a national catastrophe–and there is.
In the Leiden Museum in Holland is a papyrus written in a later period, but most scholars recognize it as being a copy of a papyrus from an earlier dynasty. It could have been from the 13th dynasty describing the conditions that prevailed after the plagues had struck. It states: “‘Nay, but the heart is violent. Plague stalks through the land and blood is everywhere … . Nay, but the river is blood. Does a man drink from it? As a human he rejects it. He thirsts for water … . Nay, but gates, columns and walls are consumed with fire … . Nay but men are few.
He that lays his brother in the ground is everywhere … . Nay but the son of the high-born man is no longer to be recognized … . The stranger people from outside are come into Egypt … . Nay, but corn has perished everywhere. People are stripped of clothing, perfume and oil. Everyone says "there is no more". The storehouse is bare … . It has come to this. The king has been taken away by poor men.’
Among Dr. Mazar’s find was a tiny clay disc within the palace ruins. Called a “bulla,” the disc is inscribed in ancient Hebrew script with the impressions of the sender’s name. It served as a “return address” used to seal papyrus scroll “mail.” This bulla bears the name of Jehuchal Ben Shelemiah, who is mentioned in Jeremiah 37:3 as one of two emissaries sent by King Zedekiah to implore the prophet Jeremiah to pray for Jerusalem, which was under siege by the Babylonians.
Memory verse Isaiah 55:11: “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”