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While archaeology can not prove that the Bible is inspired and revealed by God, it can prove the historical accuracy and trustworthiness of that which is recorded in its pages.  As many false religions support their beliefs by pointing to a Bible full of errors and mistranslations, there is plenty of archaeological evidence to support the historical accuracy of the Bile we read today. For those who are unwilling to believe God's words when he promised to preserve His Word (Matthew 24:35), and for those interested in contending for their faith, we will examine here some of the Archaeological evidence for the Bible.*

 

 


The Black Stele

For many years, "higher critics" of the Bible postulated that the first five books of the Bible, known as the Pentateuch, could not have been written by Moses - despite the fact that the books themselves say that they were authored by him. This idea came to be know as the "Documentary Hypothesis," and was commonly taught in most religion courses in Western universities.

The proponents of this idea held that writing was not even in existence at the time of Moses, therefore it had to have been of later authorship. The minds of these critics went to work, and they devised a great structure of Old Testament criticism based on this premise - concluding that the books were written by several different authors.

Then, a simple archeological discovery interrupted their progress. The "black stele" - a sculpted stone containing the detailed laws of Hammurabi in large, wedge-shaped characters - was found in the Middle East. Was it post- Moses? No! It was pre-Mosaic by at least three centuries; not only that, but it was pre-Abraham (2,000 B.C.). Amazingly enough, it antedated Moses, who was supposed to have been a primitive man without an alphabet.

Even more amazing is the fact that, in light of this discovery, the "Documentary Hypothesis" is still being taught in universities today.

Another archaeological find that confirms the existence of writing centuries before the time of Moses is the discovery of the Ebla Tablets in northern Syria in the 1960's. The Ebla kingdom was actually in existence approximately 1000 years before Moses (reaching its height around 2300 B.C.).  Ebla shows that a thousand years before Moses, laws, customs and events were recorded in writing in the same area of the world in which Moses and the patriarchs lived.

 

David's Conquest of Jerusalem

S.H. Horn, an archaeologist, gives an excellent example of how archaeological evidence helps in biblical study:

Archaeological explorations have shed some interesting light on the capture of Jerusalem by David .  The biblical accounts of that capture (2 Samuel 5:6-8 and I Chronicles 11:6) are rather obscure without the help obtained from archaeological evidence.  Take for example 2 Samuel 5:8, which in the King James Version reads: "And David said on that day, Whosoever getteth up to the gutter, and smiteth the Jebusites, and the lame and the blind, that are hated of David's soul, so shall be chief and captain."  Add to this statement I Chronicles 11:6 --"So Joab the son of Zeruiah went first up and was chief."

Some years ago I saw a painting of the conquest of Jerusalem in which the artist showed a man climbing up a metal downspout, running on the outside face of the city wall.  This picture was absurd, because ancient city walls had neither gutters nor downspouts, although they had weeping holes int he walls to drain water off.  The Revised Standard Version, produced after the situation had become clear though archaeological discoveries made on the spot, translates the pertinent passages: "And David said on that day, 'Whoever would smite the Jebusites, let him get up the water shaft to attack the lame and the blind, who are hated by David's soul.'"  "And Joab the Son of Aeruiah went up first, so he became chief."  What was this water shaft that Joab climbed?

Jerusalem in those days was a small city lying on a single spur of the hills on which the large city eventually stood.  Its position was one of great natural strength, because it was surrounded on three sides by deep valleys.  This was shy the Jebusites boastfully declared that even blind and lame could hold their city against a powerful attacking army.  But the water supply of the city was poor; the population was entirely dependent on a spring that lay outside the city on the eastern slope of the hill.

So that they could obtain water without having to go down to where the spring was located, the Jebusites had constructed an elaborate system of tunnels through the rock.  First they had dug a horizontal tunnel, beginning at the spring and proceeding toward the center of the city.  After digging for ninety feet they hit a natural cave.  From the cave they dug a vertical shaft forty-five feet high, and from the end of the shaft a sloping tunnel 135 feet long and a staircase that ended at the surface of their city, 110 feet above the water level of the spring.  The spring was then concealed from the outside so that no enemy could detect it.  To get water the Jebusite women went down through the upper tunnel and let their water skins down the shaft to draw water from the cave, to which it was brought by natural flow through the horizontal tunnel that connected the cave with the spring.

However, one question remained unanswered.  The excavations of R. A. S. Macalister and J. G. Duncan some forty years ago had uncovered a wall and a tower that were thought to be of Jebusite and Davidic origin respectively.  This tract of wall ran along the rim of the hill of Ophel, west of the tunnel entrance.  Thus the entrance was left outside the protective city wall, exposed to the attacks and interference of enemies.  Why hadn't the tunnel been built to end inside the city?  This puzzle has now been solved by the recent excavations of Kathleen Kenyon on Ophel.  She found that Macalister and Duncan had given the wall and tower they discovered wrong dates; these things actually originated in the Hellenistic period.  She uncovered the real Jebusite wall a little farther down the slope of the hill, east of the tunnel entrance, which now put the entrance safely in the old city area.

David, a native of Bethlehem, four miles south of Jerusalem, may have found out about the spring and its tunnel system in the days when as a youth he roamed through the countryside.  Later, as king, he based his surprise attack on this knowledge and made the promise that the first man who entered the city through the water shaft would become his commander-in-chief.  Joab, who was already general of the army, did not want to lose that position and therefore led the attack himself.  The Israelites apparently went through the tunnel, climbed up the shaft, and were in the city before any of the besieged citizens had any idea that so bold a plan had been conceived.

This water system, constructed more than three thousand years ago, is still in existence and can be examined by any tourist.  Some good climbers have even climbed the shaft in modern times.

 

The Ebla Tablets

The Ebla Tablets were discovered in northern Syria by two professors from the University of Rome, Dr. Paolo Matthiae, an archaeologist; and Dr. Giovanni Petinato, an epigrapher.  The excavation of Tell Mardikh began in 1964 and in 1968 they uncovered a statue of King Ibbit-Lim.  Since 1974, 17,000 tablets have been unearthed from the era of the Ebla Kingdom.  These tablets have already made valuable contributions to biblical criticism.

One contribution is in relation to Genesis 14.  Critics have have described the victory of Abraham over Chedorlaomer and the Mesopotamian kings  as fictitious and the five Cities of the Plain (Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim and Zoar) as legendary.

The Ebla archives, however, refer to all five Cities of the Plain and on one tablet the cities are listed in the exact same sequence as Genesis 14.  The tablets further reflect that the region was prosperous and successful with a patriarchal culture consistent with that recorded in Genesis  prior to the catastrophe recorded in Genesis 14.

 

 * Information for this page is taken largely from: Josh McDowell, The Best Of Josh McDowell: A Ready Defense, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1993), pp. 94-96, 98.