Does archaeology confirm the Bible?
Films of the Indiana Jones variety notwithstanding, the field of archaeology is a scholarly discipline that seeks to understand ancient cultures and civilizations by excavating and evaluating the material evidence such cultures left behind. Archaeological findings help scholars, as well as Bible students, understand the Bible. They reveal what life was like in biblical times, throw light on obscure passages of Scripture, and help us appreciate the historical and geographic settings of ancient peoples.
In the last 150 years, many archaeological discoveries have been made that confirm the historical accuracy of the Bible. Nelson Glueck, a famous Jewish archaeologist, said, “It is worth emphasizing that in all this work no archaeological discovery has ever controverted (contradicted) a single, properly understood biblical statement. (Ready Defense, p. 92)
While archaeology cannot prove that the Bible is the Word of God, it does provide strong evidence that it is historically accurate. The history of Israel as found in the Bible covers a staggering 2000 years. From the calling of Abraham (2000 B.C.), to the establishment of David’s kingdom (1000 B.C.), we are given details about kings, invasions, famines, empires, plagues, captivity, and a return from exile. The history of the Old Testament ends near the time of the destruction of Jerusalem (70 A.D.) by the Roman empire. This long period of interaction with the surrounding nations of the Ancient Near East produced a rich diversity of scholarly treasures that archaeologists have uncovered that substantiate the accuracy of biblical history: Here are just a few examples:
Ebla: This empire, discovered in 1974, dates to 2300 B.C. Its archives of 17,000 tablets have confirmed places, names, customs, and languages that are found in Genesis.
Hittites: This great empire, dating from 1650 to 1200 B.C. was unknown to archaeologists until 1906. The discovery of its capital, Hattusas, in Turkey and its government archives verified the use of covenant documents throughout the Near East. The Hittite covenant structure was found to parallel the structure of Deuteronomy, corroborating the early origins of Israel’s history and yielding a wealth of background material for understanding the significance of Bible covenants.
Assyria: This empire, which ruled the Near East from 850 to 612 B.C., is mentioned often in the Bible. From its archives, we have found dozens of references to the kings of Israel and Judah, among them Jehu, Omri, Ahab, Pekah, Ahaz, Hezekiah, Manasseh and many others.
Egypt: The land of
, pharaohs and Israel’s bondage is a treasure trove of archaeological findings. The Merneptah Stele dated 1205 B.C. mentions Israel as an established nation in Canaan. This means that the Exodus must be dated before this time. Conservative scholars date the Exodus to 1447 B.C.
King David: In 1993 in Tel Dan, a broken monument dated to 850 B.C. was found. It mentioned the “house of David”, referring to the great Israelite king. It was the first time that David’s name was found outside the Bible.
Cyrus: Cyrus the Great was the first great ruler of the Persian Empire. He is mentioned prophetically by Isaiah (45:1-2) and historically by Ezra (1:1-2) and in 2 Chronicles 36:22. A cylinder was found with his decree to allow exiled peoples in his empire to return to their former homelands. This decree meant the end of Judah’s Babylonian Captivity. His tomb in Iran is well-known, a frequent stop for tourists.
Dead Sea Scrolls: Discovered in 1947 in caves surrounding the Dead Sea, these documents helped scholars to articulate the religious perspective of a Jewish sect around the first century A.D. Copies of the Hebrew Scriptures dating back to 150 B.C. verified the textual accuracy of our modern Bibles.