(1900=Abraham, 1700=Joseph, 1447=Moses, 1000=David):
What has become evident over the last few decades is that unlike the difficulties found with the Qur’anic evidence, the most fruitful area for a confirmation of the Bible’s reliability has come from the field of archaeology, for it is here that the past can speak to us the clearest concerning what happened then.
Because Abraham is honoured by both Christianity and Islam it is interesting to look at the archaeological evidence concerning his time which is now coming to light in the twentieth century. What we find is that archaeology clearly places Abraham in Palestine and not in Arabia.
- Abraham’s name appears in Babylonia as a personal name at the very period of the patriarchs, though the critics believed he was a fictitious character who was redacted back by the later Israelites.
- The field of Abram in Hebron is mentioned in 918 B.C., by the Pharaoh Shishak of Egypt (now also believed to be Ramases II). He had just finished warring in Palestine and inscribed on the walls of his temple at Karnak the name of the great patriarch, proving that even at this early date Abraham was known not in Arabia, as Muslims contend, but in Palestine, the land the Bible places him.
- The Beni Hasan Tomb from the Abrahamic period, depicts Asiatics coming to Egypt during a famine, corresponding with the Biblical account of the plight of the sons of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’.
There is further archaeology evidence which supports other Biblical accounts, such as:
- The doors of Sodom (Tell Beit Mirsim) dated to between 2200-1600 B.C. are heavy doors needed for security; the same doors which we find in Genesis 19:9. Yet, if this account had been written between 900-600 B.C., as the critics previously claimed, we would have read about arches and curtains, because security was no longer such a concern then.
- Joseph’s price as a slave was 20 shekels (Genesis 37:28), which, according to trade tablets from that period is the correct price for 1,700 B.C. An earlier account would have been cheaper, while a later account would have been more expensive.
- Joseph’s Tomb (Joshua 24:32) has possibly been found in Shechem,as in the find there is a mummy, and next to the mummy sits an Egyptian officials sword! Is this mere coincidence?
- Jericho’s excavation showed that the walls fell outwards, echoing Joshua 6:20, enabling the attackers to climb over and into the town. Yet according to the laws of physics, walls of towns always fall inwards! A later redactor would certainly have not made such an obvious mistake, unless he was an eyewitness, as Joshua was.
- David’s capture of Jerusalem recounted in II Samuel 5:6-8 and I Chronicles 11:6 speak of Joab using water shafts built by the Jebusites to surprise them and defeat them. Historians had assumed these were simply legendary, until archaeological excavations by R.A.S. Macalister, J.G.Duncan, and Kathleen Kenyon on Ophel now have found these very water shafts.
Another new and exciting archaeological research is that which has been carried out by the British Egyptologist, David Rohl. Until a few years ago we only had archaeological evidence for the Patriarchal, Davidic and New Testament periods, but little to none for the Mosaic period. Yet one would expect much data on this period due to the cataclysmic events which occurred during that time. David Rohl (in A Test of Time) has given us a possible reason why, and it is rather simple. It seems that we have simply been off in our dates by almost 300 years! By redating the Pharonic lists in Egypt he has been able to now identify the abandoned city of the Israelite slaves (called Avaris), the death pits from the tenth plague, and Joseph’s original tomb and home. There remain many ‘tells’ yet to uncover.
Moving into the New Testament material we are dependant on archaeology once again to corroborate a number of facts which the critics considered to be at best dubious and at worst in error.
- Paul’s reference to Erastus as the treasurer of Corinth (Romans 16:23) was thought to be erroneous, but now has been confirmed by a pavement found in 1929 bearing his name.
It is to Luke, however, that the skeptics have reserved their harshest criticisms, because he more than any other of the first century writers spoke about specific peoples and places. Yet, surprisingly, once the dust had settled on new inscription findings, it is Luke who has confounded these same critics time and again. For instance:
- Luke’s use of the word Meris to maintain that Philippi was a “district” of Macedonia was doubted until inscriptions were found which use this very word to describe divisions of a district.
- Luke’s mention of Quirinius as the governor of Syria during the birth of Jesus has now been proven accurate by an inscription from Antioch.
- Luke’s usage of Politarchs to denote the civil authority of Thessalonica (Acts 17:6) was questioned, until some 19 inscriptions have been found that make use of this title, 5 of which are in reference to Thessalonica.
- Luke’s usage of Praetor to describe a Philippian ruler instead of duumuir has been proven accurate, as the Romans used this term for magistrates of their colonies.
- Luke’s usage of Proconsul as the title for Gallio in Acts 18:12 has come under much criticism by secular historians, as the later traveller and writer Pliny never referred to Gallio as a Proconsul. This fact alone, they said, proved that the writer of Acts wrote his account much later as he was not aware of Gallio’s true position. It was only recently that the Delphi Inscription , dated to 52 A.D. was uncovered. This inscription states, “As Lusius Junius Gallio, my friend, and the proconsul of Achaia…” Here then was secular corroboration for the Acts 18:12 account. Yet Gallio only held this position for one year. Thus the writer of Acts had to have written this verse in or around 52 A.D., and not later, otherwise he would not have known Gallio was a proconsul. Suddenly this supposed error not only gives credibility to the historicity of the Acts account, but also dates the writings in and around 52 A.D. Had the writer written the book of Acts in the 2nd century as many liberal scholars suggest he would have agreed with Pliny and both would have been contradicted by the eyewitness account of the Delphi Inscription.
It is because of discoveries such as this that F.F.Bruce states, “Where Luke has been suspected of inaccuracy, and accuracy has been vindicated by some inscriptional evidence, it may be legitimate to say that archaeology has confirmed the New Testament record.”
In light of archaeological evidence, books such as Luke and Acts reflect the topography and conditions of the second half of the first century A.D. and do not reflect the conditions of any later date. Thus it is because Luke, as a historian has been held to a higher accountability then the other writers, and because it has been historical data which has validated his accounts, we can rest assured that the New Testament can be held in high regard as a reliable historical document.
We have no reason to fear archaeology. In fact it is this very science which has done more to authenticate our scriptures than any other. Thus we encourage the secular archaeologists to dig, for as they dig we know they will only come closer to that which our scriptures have long considered to be the truth, and give us reason to claim that indeed our Bible has the right to claim true authority as the only historically verified Word of God. This is why so many eminent archaeologists are standing resolutely behind the Biblical accounts. Listen to what they say (taken from McDowell’s Evidences 1972:65-67):
G.E. Wright states,”We shall probably never prove that Abram really existed…but what we can prove is that his life and times, as reflected in the stories about him, fit perfectly within the early second millennium, but imperfectly within any later period.”
Sir Frederic Kenyon mentions, “The evidence of archaeology has been to re-establish the authority of the Old Testament, and likewise to augment its value by rendering it more intelligible through a fuller knowledge of its background and setting.”
William F. Albright (a renowned archaeologist) says, “The excessive skepticism shown toward the Bible by important historical schools of the 18th and 19th centuries, certain phases which still appear periodically, has been progressively discredited. Discovery after discovery has established the accuracy of innumerable details, and has brought increased recognition to the value of the Bible as a source of history.”
Millar Burrows of Yale states, “On the whole, archaeological work has unquestionably strengthened confidence in the reliability of the scriptural record.”
Joseph Free confirms that while thumbing through the book of Genesis, he mentally noted that each of the 50 chapters are either illuminated or confirmed by some archaeological discovery, and that this would be true for most of the remaining chapters of the Bible, both the Old Testament and the New Testament.
Nelson Glueck (a Jewish Reformed scholar and archaeologist) probably gives us the greatest support for the historicity of the Bible when he states, “To date no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a single, properly understood biblical statement.”