THE EVIDENCE OF ARCHAEOLOGY
by Wayne S. Walker
God does not ask us to accept the Bible as His word on blind faith. He has always provided us with evidence to corroborate the truthfulness of His word. One evidence is fulfilled prophecy, as the last several articles in this series have shown. Another is a comparison of archaeological finds in Bible lands to what the Bible says. This demonstrates the historical accuracy of the Bible. Homer Hailey wrote, "If the Bible cannot be trusted in this point, i.e., of historical trustworthiness, it cannot be trusted in any way. It must be historically accurate. This does not prove it inspired, but adds to the testimony which would lend to such a conclusion" (Internal Evidences of Christianity, p. 23). What does the evidence of archaeology contribute to our understanding of the Bible?
First, we must know what archaeology is. It comes from two Greek words and means the study of ancient things. Thus, the term is used to describe the systematic study of ancient people as their life can be learned by what they left behind–e.g., buildings, coins, jewelry, pottery, images, inscriptions, etc. Archaeological studies have been done world-wide, but the Bible lands and especially Palestine have proven to be some of the most fertile grounds for this kind of work. Archaeological sites in Palestine are usually mounds known as "tells." In Joshua 11:12-14 we read that in the conquest of Canaan Joshua did not burn the cities that stood on their mounds, except for Hazor. The footnote for the word "mounds" says that in Hebrew it is "tel, a heap of successive city ruins." Sifting through these ruins provides archaeologists with the materials which they need for their work.
Archaeology has provided a general cultural background for Biblical studies. Scholars have been mostly agreed (some have had other theories) that the origin of human life began in the Tigris-Euphrates river valley now located in Iraq. This confirms the general Biblical location of the Garden of Eden from which humanity spread to all the earth (Genesis 2:7-15). Archaeologists have been able to resurrect ancient peoples. The Bible frequently mentions the Moabites, but for many years no historical records confirmed their existence and many Bible critics claimed they were fictitious. However, in 1868 the Moabite Stone was found at Dibon by F. A. Klein and contained an account of Moabite king Mesha’s rebellion against Israel as recorded in 2 Kings 3:4-5.
Archaeology offers help for better Biblical translations. In the King James Version, Genesis 1:1 reads, "…And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters." In 1611 the translators did not have enough information to know the exact meaning of the Hebrew word. However, archaeological studies found that in other ancient Hebrew literature, this term was used of mother birds brooding over their eggs or chicks. So most newer translations, such as the New King James Version, render the verse, "And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters." Archaeologists have helped to locate Biblical sites. We read about the city of Gibeon in Joshua 9:3-4. Its precise location was unknown for many years, but jar handles with the name of the city were found in an archaeological dig which identified where the city was located.
Archaeology has assisted in developing an accurate chronology of Biblical events. The Bible affirms that Nebuchadnezzar, Chaldean king of Babylon, conquered and destroyed the city of Jerusalem (2 Kings 25:1-9). Archaeological finds of Nebuchadnezzar’s records have enabled scholars to place the destruction of Jerusalem on March 15-16, 597 B.C. Archaeologists have also been able to correct impressions of doubtful trustworthiness of the Biblical account. Daniel 4:1-30 mentions Belshazzar as the last king of Babylon. No mention of him was found in Babylonian records for a long time, and critics assailed the historical trustworthiness of Daniel. However in 1853 an inscription was found which mentioned Belshazzar, son of Nabonidus. Other inscriptions have since been found which say that Nabonidus made his son co-regent.
In my library, I have a copy of a little booklet entitled, "Archaeology Proves the Bible," given to me by a relative. Again, we must be very careful to emphasize and understand that archaeological findings do not actually prove the Bible divine, or even true for that matter. The Bible was not written merely as a history book. However, it does contain history, and in order for it to be believed the history that it records must be accurate. Thus, the study of archaeology does illustrate, illuminate, and supplement what the Bible says. Our next article will examine some specific examples of archaeological findings which confirm various Biblical accounts. (—taken from With All Boldness; September, 1995; Vol. 5, No. 9; p. 16)