Archaeological and External Evidence
for the Bible
confirms the Bible!
Archaeology and the
in 1970s in Northern Syria. Documents written on clay tablets from
around 2300 B.C. demonstrate that personal and place names in the
Patriarchal accounts are genuine. In use in Ebla was the name
"Canaan," a name critics once said was not used at that time and was
used incorrectly in the early chapters of the Bible. The tablets refer
to all five "cities of the plain" mentioned in Genesis 14, previously
assumed to have been mere legends.
Greater proportion of
Egyptian words in the Pentateuch (first five books) than in rest of
the Old Testament. Accurate Egyptian names: Potiphar (Gen.39),
Zaphenath-Paneah (Joseph's Egyptian name, Gen. 41:45),
Asenath (Gen.41:45), On (Gen. 41:45), Rameses (Gen.
47:11), Oithom (Exodus 1:11).
Finds in Egypt are
consistent with the time, place, and other details of biblical
accounts of the Israelites in Egypt. These include housing and tombs
that could have been of the Israelites, as well as a villa and tomb
that could have been Joseph's.
skeptics, but confirming the Bible, an important discovery was made in
Egypt in 1896. A tablet—the Merneptah Stela—was found that mentions
Israel. (Merneptah was the pharaoh that ruled Egypt in 1212-1202 B.C.)
The context of the stela indicates that Israel was a significant
entity in the late 13th century B.C.
The Hittites were once
thought to be a biblical legend, until their capital and records were
discovered in Turkey.
Crucial find in Nuzi (northeastern
Iraq), an entire cache of Hittite legal documents from 1400 B.C.
Confirms many details of Genesis, Deuteronomy, such as: (a) siring of
legitimate children through handmaidens, (b) oral deathbed will as
binding, (c) the power to sell one's birthright for relatively trivial
property (Jacob & Esau), (d) need for family idols, such as Rachel
stole from Laban, to secure inheritance, (e) form of the covenant in
Deuteronomy exactly matches the form of suzerainty treaties between
Hittite emperors and vassal kings.
Jericho—discovery in 1930s by John Garstang. The walls fell suddenly,
and outwardly (unique), so Israelites could clamber over the ruins
into the city (Joshua 6:20).
In 1986, scholars
identified an ancient seal belonging to Baruch, son of Neriah, a
scribe who recorded the prophecies of Jeremiah (Jer. 45:11).
In 1990, Harvard
researchers unearthed a silver-plated bronze calf figurine reminiscent
of the huge golden calf mentioned in the book of Exodus.
In 1993, archaeologists
uncovered a 9th century B.C. inscription at Tel Dan. The words carved
into a chunk of basalt refer to the "House of David" and the "King of
Israel." And the Bible's version of Israelite history after the reign
of David's son, Solomon, is believed to be based on historical fact
because it is corroborated by independent account of Egyptian and
It was once claimed there
was no Assyrian king named Sargon as recorded in Isaiah 20:1, because
this name was not known in any other record. Then, Sargon's palace was
discovered in Iraq. The very event mentioned in Isaiah 20, his capture
of Ashdod, was recorded in the palace walls! Even more, fragments of a
stela (a poetic eulogy) memorializing the victory were found at Ashdod
Another king who was in
doubt was Belshazzar, king of Babylon, named in Daniel 5. The last
king of Babylon was Nabonidus according to recorded history. Tablet
was found showing that Belshazzar was Nabonidus' son.
The ruins of Sodom and
Gomorrah have been discovered southeast of the Dead Sea. Evidence at
the site seems consistent with the biblical account: "Then the Lord
rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the Lord out of
the heavens." The destruction debris was about 3 feet thick and
buildings were burned from fires that started on the rooftops.
Geologist Frederick Clapp theorizes that that pressure from an
earthquake could have spewed out sulfur-laden bitumen (similar to
asphalt) known to be in the area through the fault line upon which the
cities rest. The dense smoke reported by Abraham is consistent with a
fire from such material, which could have ignited by a spark or ground
Archaeology and the New Testament
The New Testament
mentions specific individuals, places, and various official titles of
local authorities, confirmed by recent archeology. Luke sites exact
titles of officials. (Titles varied from city to city so they are
easily checked for accuracy.) Lysanias the Tetrarch in Abilene
(Luke 3:1)—verified by inscription dated 14-29 A.D. Erastus,
city treasurer of Corinth (Romans 16:23)—verified by pavement
inscription. Gallio—proconsul of Achaia (Greece) in A.D. 51
(Acts 18:12). Politarchs ("city ruler") in Thessalonica (Acts
17:6). Chief Man of the Island on Malta (Acts 28:7). Stone
Pavement at Pilate's headquarters (John 19:13)—discovered
recently. Pool at Bethesda— discovered in 1888. Many examples
of silver shrines to Artemis found (Acts 19:28). Inscription
confirms the title of the city as "Temple Warden of Artemis". Account
of Paul's sea voyage in Acts is "one of the most instructive documents
for the knowledge of ancient seamanship."
Census of Luke 1. Census
began under Augustus approximately every 14 years: 23-22 B.C., 9-8
B.C., 6 A.D. There is evidence of enrollment in 11-8 B.C. in Egyptian
Josephus puts Quirinius as governor in Syria at 6 A.D. Solution:
Recent inscription confirms that Quirinius served as governor in 7
B. C. (in extraordinary, military capacity).
kingdom was not part of the Roman Empire at the time, so there would
not have been a census. Solution: it was a client kingdom. Augustus
treated Herod as subject (Josephus). Parallel—a census took place in
the client kingdom of Antiochus in eastern Asia Minor under
Enrollment in hometown?
Confirmed by edict of Vibius Maximus, Roman prefect of Egypt, in 104
A.D. "...it is necessary for all who are for any cause whatsoever
way from their administrative divisions to return home to comply
with the customary ordinance of enrollment."
Opinion of Sir William
Ramsay, one of the outstanding Near Eastern archeologists: "Luke is a
historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact
trustworthy; he is possessed of the true historic sense; he fixes his
mind on the idea and plan that rules in the evolution of history, and
proportions the scale of his treatment to the importance of each
incident. He seizes the important and critical events and shows their
true nature at greater length...In short, this author should be placed
among the very greatest of historians."
uncovered an ossuary (repository for bones) with the inscription
"Joseph Son of Caiaphas." This marked the first archaeological
evidence that the high priest Caiaphas was a real person. According to
the gospels, Caiaphas presided at the Sanhedrin's trial of Jesus.
External References to Jesus and the Christian Church.
Josephus. Born to
priestly family in A.D. 37. Commanded Jewish troops in Galilee during
rebellion. Surrendered, and earned favor of Emperor Vespasian. Wrote
20 books of Antiquities of the Jews. Refers to John the Baptist
(killed by Herod) and to James, the brother of Jesus (condemned to
death by stoning by the Sanhedrin). Passage about Jesus:
"And there arose about
this time Jesus, a wise man, if indeed we should call him a man,
for he was a doer of marvelous deeds, a teacher of men who receive
the truth with pleasure. He led away many Jews, and also many
of the Greeks. This man was the Christ. And when Pilate had
condemned him to the cross on impeachment by the chief men among us,
those who loved him at first did not cease; for he appeared to
them on the third day alive again, the divine prophets having spoken
these and thousands of other wonderful things about him, and
even now the tribe of Christians, so named after him, has not yet
(Note: We know from
Origen and others that Josephus was not a Christian, so this text may
have suffered some corruption from emendations by Christian scribes.
It may be that the "if indeed we should..." phrase is original, a
tongue-in-cheek reference to Christian belief. The phrase "the truth"
(alethe) may have originally been "strange things" (aethe). Also, such
phrases as "they say" or "supposedly" may have been piously deleted by
scribes. Still, it seems certain that Josephus did refer to Jesus as a
miracle-worker crucified under Pontius Pilate.)
Early Gentile writers,
referred to by Christian apologists in 2nd century.
Thallus—wrote a history
of Greece and Asia Minor in A.D. 52. Julius Africanus (221 AD),
commenting on Thallus, said: "Thallus, in the third book of his
histories, explains away the darkness [during the crucifixion] as an
eclipse of the sun—unreasonably, as it seems to me [since the
Passover took place during a full moon.]"
Official Roman records
of the census, and Pontius Pilate's official report to the Emperor.
Justin Martyr wrote his "Defense of Christianity" to Emperor
Antonius Pius, referred him to Pilate's report, preserved in the
archives. Tertullian, writing to Roman officials, writes with
confidence that records of the Luke 1 census can still be found.
historian, born 52 A.D., wrote a history of the reign of Nero in 110
A.D. "...Christus, from whom they got their name, had been executed
by sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilate when Tiberias was
emperor; and the pernicious superstition was checked for a short
time only to break out afresh, not only in Judea, the home of the
plague, but in Rome itself, .. " (Annals 15:44)
Suetonius—AD. 120. In
his Life of Claudius: "As the Jews were making disturbances
at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from Rome."
Younger—Governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor, wrote the emperor in
A.D. 112 about the sect of Christians, who were in "the habit of
meeting on a certain fixed day, before it was light, when they sang
an anthem to Christ as God."
A good web
site for biblical archaeology is
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