The Bible, Archaeology, and the Christian Faith

William W. Baker

When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Peace in heaven and glory in the highest." Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher rebuke your disciples!' "I tell you," he replied. "if they keep quiet, THE STONES WILL CRY OUT." (Luke 19:37-40)

Two thousand years later, the stones continue to "cry out" as new archaeological discoveries are made on a regular basis, discoveries that corroborate and sustain the Biblical records of mankind. The accuracy of the historical records contained in the Bible are unequalled by any other book of antiquity known to man. No other book contains such a thorough and detailed record of the rise and fall of Nations, Kings, Emperors, and the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, the Son of God.

Many Christians have lived their lives in fear of new technological advances or archaeological discoveries which might discredit the biblical record and thus render their "Christian faith" irrational, obsolete and untrustworthy. But as one who has worked in numerous excavations in the middle east as well as teaching various courses on Christian Evidences in a Christian College, I want the readers of THE EXAMINER to know that of all the hundreds of thousands of archaeological treasures uncovered over the past centuries, NOT EVEN ONE has proven the Bible to be wrong or incorrect! In fact, nearly all of the primary antiquities have given absolute support to the biblical narratives.

Archaeology is an exacting science with the primary purpose of discovering and interpreting material remains of past civilizations. Archaeology is solely responsible for giving to mankind the key to the ancient past by discovery and analysis of the many monumental, artifactual and written materials left by previous generations. The Behistun Inscription, discovered by Rawlinson in 1847 on a rock face in Iran and written in the oldest known form of writing, cuneiform or "square" writing, opened up the entire civilization of Mesopotamia to our understanding. The Rosetta Stone, a basalt slab discovered at the mouth of the Nile river, written in 190 b.c., was carved in three registers: Greek, Demotic Persian, and Hieroglyphics. Deciphered by Chompollion, it became the final key to the reading of the ancient hieroglyphics of Egypt and the Middle East which had been illegible and unknown for the previous 2500-3000 years.

BIBLICAL DISCOVERIES

Thousands of archaeological "finds" have been found to support biblical events which, prior to their discovery, were thought to be fictitious or exaggeration. Let's consider only a few of these finds.

CREATION AND EARLY HUMANITY

The Bible places the beginning of mankind, including the creation of the Garden of Eden and Adam and Eve, in the area known as the Mesopatamian Valley. After more than one hundred years of excavation throughout this area the following conclusions can be stated as historically true:

A. The Sumerians of the Mesopotamian Valley left us numerous tablets revealing that they believed that man had an original paradise in the Valley where there was no fear, cruelty or diseases. Two very, ancient seals used to make impressions on clay tablets show designs suggesting (1) Adam, Eve and Serpent by a tree; and (2) Adam, Eve and Serpent walking away in despair. Both the Sumerians and the Babylonians had a story of a man named Adapa who lost immortality by refusing to eat the bread and water of life. As a representative of mankind, he involved mankind in illness, disease and death. Consider the strong resemblance between their stories and the Biblical account of the fall of man (Adam) and mankind.

B. The Biblical Flood seems apparent for at several sites in Mesopotamia a water laid clay, as much as eight feet thick, has been consistently found. Places include Ur, Kish, and Ninevah, locations that are hundreds of miles apart which would preclude any "local flood" theory. The Sumerians had a legend about a "great flood" which contained a hero named Ziusudra (Noah), who made a great ship, survived the great flood, and offered sacrifice afterwards. A Babylonian version, discovered in 1853 has striking similarities to the Genesis Flood Account:

Both have a hero.
God warns both heroes before the flood.
Dimensions of both arks are similar.
Both arks have several floors and pitched with bitumen.
Both tell of taking animals aboard.
Both indicate that all outside the ark perished.
Both indicate the ark landed on a mountain.
Both tell of birds sent out from the ark.
Both speak of blessings bestowed on the hero afterwards.

PRIMARY OLD TESTAMENT DISCOVERIES

BABYLONIAN CHRONICLE ... a newly discovered chronicle which bears exact confirmation that not only was there such a person as Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon, but that he did exactly those things attributed to him in 2 Kings 24:11,12. Read this text now, and know that a scribe in the year 597 b.c. wrote:

"Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon came against the city of Jerusalem, and captured the city and took the king a prisoner."

CYLINDER OF CYRUS

In the book of Ezra 1:1-2 we read of the following:

In the first year of Cyrus King of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing: this is what Cyrus king of Persia says: "The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build, a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Anyone of his people among you may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the Lord, the God of Israel; the God who is in Jerusalem.

In the nineteenth century a clay tablet was found written in cuneiform by order of Cyrus. The text is in full agreement with Ezra and 2 Kings with Cyrus declaring the return of the Jews and the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem in 538 b.c.

THE MOABITE STONE

"Now Mesha king of Moab was a sheep breeder; and he had to deliver annually to the king of Israel a hundred thousand lambs, and the wool of a hundred thousand rams. But when Ahab died, the king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel' II Kings 3:4-5.

The Moabite Stone was found in 1868. Commissioned by king Mesha himself, it reveals in detail how he rebelled against the new king of Israel, even naming him! (Omir). Once again we have exact confirmation of a biblical event and occurrence, not by an Israelite or Prophet, but an enemy!

HEZEKIAH'S TUNNEL (2 Kings 20:20)

"As for the other events of Hezekiah's reign, all his achievements and how he made the pool and the tunnel by which he brought water into the city, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah.'

In 1880 an inscription was found in an underground water conduit beneath the old city of Jerusalem. The inscription, dated to the year 702 b.c. and written in Old Hebrew (Canaanite) confirms the construction of the tunnel was ordered by Hezekiah, and also records minute details of how the tunnel was engineered.

NEW TESTAMENT DISCOVERIES

Numerous biblical cities have been identified throughout the ancient land of Palestine. Most have had nc) excavation, but two of the more prominent New Testament cities have had quite extensive excavation.

JERUSALEM PROPER AND SURROUNDING AREA DISCOVERIES:

Garden of Gethsemene.
Tower of David.
Pavement area where Pilate judged Christ.
various gates to Herod's temple and city.
Kidron Valley.
numerous coins verifying Pilate, Herod, Caesar.
original temple steps of Jesus time.
pools of Siloam and Bethesda.

CAPERNAUM IN GALILEE

Excavated for nearly the past one hundred years by an order of Franciscan monks, numerous discoveries with direct bearing on the New Testament have been uncovered. A third century synagogue was found to be erected directly over the remains of a first century synagogue from the time of Christ.

"They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach." Mark 1:21.

Found only recently under a Byzantine basilica from the sixth century were a cluster of small homes built in the first century which was the time of Christ's ministry in the area. The roofs were made from branches, clay and straw which immediately draws our attention to the story of the paralytic in Mark 11:4. The walls and ceilings of a larger house were filled with graffiti or inscriptions. Of the 134 pieces, 101 were in Greek, 18 in Syriac, and 15 in Hebrew. Most astounding was the repetitive phrase in the form of a prayer giving thanks to God for "our brother Peter" and his allowing fellow Christians to meet in his home in Capernaum. It seems the HOME OF THE APOSTLE PETER HAS BEEN DISCOVERED!

Many discoveries have been made by utilizing the biblical record of an event as a type of map or guidebook. The late scholar and archaeologist Nelson Glueck wrote in his book, The River Jordan, pg. 4:

"Whenever I have gone exploring in the Jordan Valley or the Wadi Arabah or in any part of the Transjordan or the Negev I have used the Bible as a guidebook of antiquity, giving wholehearted credence to its information, clues and hints. My discoveries and dating of King Solomon's copper mines, for instance, stemmed directly from belief in the essential correctness of the tantalizingly brief statement in Deuteronomy 8:9 about the presence of copper."

One of the most respected names in biblical archaeology is that of William E Albright. In his book Archaeology of Palestine, page 229 he states:

"Biblical historical data are accurate to an extent far surpassing the ideas of any modern critical students, who have consistently tended to err on the side of hypercriticism."

A final quote from the brilliant George Earnest Wright from his book Biblical Archaeology", pages 17, 18:

"For the most part, archaeology has substantiated and illumined the biblical story on so many crucial points that no one can seriously say that it (the Bible) is little but a congeries of myths and legends."

I have mentioned but a few of the archaeological discoveries which support the Biblical record. Vast numbers of other equally important finds, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, Water Pipe of Pilate, Coins bearing the landing of Noah's Ark, and many, many others should be considered by every believer. Perhaps more can be presented in other editions of THE EXAMINER. But for now, Christians should understand that the book which accurately records some of mankind's greatest battles, its most powerful kings and events, is the same book that tells us of the greatest gift ever given to man, the gift of God's Son and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The Bible, God's final Word to mankind, is absolutely trustworthy. Believers need not fear the realm of science or archaeology, nor should they imagine that knowledge or intelligence are the enemies of faith. Jesus told a young inquirer that the greatest commandment of all was to "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND! (Mark 12:30) Christian believers are to be doing battle with the philosophies, concepts and theories created by men to oppose the Scriptures. Archaeology and the entire subject of Christian apologetics can help prepare every Christian to enlist in this battle and win as many as possible to the Cause of Christ while there is still time to do so.

"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." (I Peter 3:15).

"We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ," (2 Cor. 10:5).

"The grass withers and the flowers fail, but the word of our God stands forever." (Isaiah 40:8).