Bible Proofs from Archaeology
[Please go to the link at the very bottom in order to see the ’very necessary’ PowerPoint slideshow used to present these facts with.]
Jesus’ existence and resurrection can be proven, and we’ve looked at that in other messages. So what about further proofs that the Bible is the true Word, inspired of God? The last 2 messages have gone into the many evidences from within the Word of God and without, whether from science, medicine, history, or fulfilled prophecies. We’ve looked at the miracles of the Bible’s origination, preservation, and circulation as well. It has been compelling. But here’s one more truckload of proofs to add to the scale: Archaeology.
Over the years there have been many criticisms leveled against the Bible concerning its historical reliability. These criticisms are usually based on a lack of evidence from outside sources to confirm the Biblical record. Since the Bible is a religious book, many scholars take the position that it is biased and cannot be trusted unless we have corroborating evidence from extra-Biblical sources. In other words, the Bible is guilty until proven innocent, and a lack of outside evidence places the Biblical account in doubt.
This standard is far different from that applied to other ancient documents, even though many, if not most, have a religious element. They are considered to be accurate, unless there is evidence to show that they are not. Although it is not possible to verify every incident in the Bible, the discoveries of archaeology since the mid 1800s have demonstrated the reliability and plausibility of the Bible narrative. Here are some examples.
• The discovery of the Ebla archive in northern Syria in the 1970s has shown the Biblical writings concerning the Patriarchs to be viable. Documents written on clay tablets from around 2300 B.C. demonstrate that personal and place names in the Patriarchal accounts are genuine. The name "Canaan" was in use in Ebla, a name critics once said was not used at that time and was used incorrectly in the early chapters of the Bible. The word "tehom" ("the deep") in Genesis 1:2 was said to be a late word demonstrating the late writing of the creation story. "Tehom" was part of the vocabulary at Ebla, in use some 800 years before Moses. Ancient customs reflected in the stories of the Patriarchs have also been found in clay tablets from Nuzi and Mari.
• The Hittites were once thought to be a Biblical legend, until their capital and records were discovered at Bogazkoy, Turkey. Many thought the Biblical references to Solomon’s wealth were greatly exaggerated. Recovered records from the past show that wealth in antiquity was concentrated with the king and Solomon’s prosperity was entirely feasible. 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 Khorsabad, Iraq. The very event mentioned in Isaiah 20, his capture of Ashdod, was recorded on the palace walls. What is more, fragments of a stela memorializing the victory were found at Ashdod itself.
What does archaeology mean to these subjects? It shouldn’t be necessary to believe by faith, but many require more science behind their beliefs, and all of us appreciate seeing more external proofs…so, here it is:
• Archaeological evidence demonstrates the historical and cultural accuracy of the Bible.
• The Bible’s message of a loving Creator God who interacts in the affairs of mankind and has provided a means of salvation stands in sharp contrast to the pagan fertility religions of the ancient world as, revealed by archaeology.
• Archaeological findings demonstrate that the Biblical prophets accurately predicted events hundreds of years before they occurred -- something that lies beyond the capability of mere men.
The most documented Biblical event is the world-wide flood described in Genesis 6-9. A number of Babylonian documents have been discovered which describe the same flood.
The Sumerian King List (pictured here), for example, lists kings who reigned for long periods of time. Then a great flood came. Following the flood, Sumerian kings ruled for much shorter periods of time. This is the same pattern found in the Bible. Men had long life spans before the flood and shorter life spans after the flood. The 11th tablet of the Gilgamesh Epic speaks of an ark, animals taken on the ark, birds sent out during the course of the flood, the ark landing on a mountain, and a sacrifice offered after the ark landed.
The Story of Adapa tells of a test for immortality involving food, similar to the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
Sumerian tablets record the confusion of language as we have in the Biblical account of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9). There was a golden age when all mankind spoke the same language. Speech was then confused by the god Enki, lord of wisdom. The Babylonians had a similar account in which the gods destroyed a temple tower and "scattered them abroad and made strange their speech."
Other examples of extra-Biblical confirmation of Biblical events:
• Campaign into Israel by Pharaoh Shishak (1 Kings 14:25-26), recorded on the walls of the Temple of Amun in Thebes, Egypt.
• Revolt of Moab against Israel (2 Kings 1:1; 3:4-27), recorded on the Mesha Inscription.
• Fall of Samaria (2 Kings 17:3-6, 24; 18:9-11) to Sargon II, king of Assyria, as recorded on his palace walls.
• Defeat of Ashdod by Sargon II (Isaiah 20:1), as recorded on his palace walls.
• Campaign of the Assyrian king Sennacherib against Judah (2 Kings 18:13-16), as recorded on the Taylor Prism.
• Siege of Lachish by Sennacherib (2 Kings 18:14, 17), as recorded on the Lachish reliefs.
• Assassination of Sennacherib by his own sons (2 Kings 19:37), as recorded in the annals of his son Esarhaddon.
• Fall of Nineveh as predicted by the prophets Nahum and Zephaniah (2:13-15), recorded on the Tablet of Nabopolasar.
• Fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon (2 Kings 24:10-14), as recorded in the Babylonian Chronicles.
• Captivity of Jehoiachin, king of Judah, in Babylon (2 Kings 24:15-16), as recorded on the Babylonian Ration Records.
• Fall of Babylon to the Medes and Persians (Daniel 5:30-31), as recorded on the Cyrus Cylinder.
• Freeing of captives in Babylon by Cyrus the Great (Ezra 1:1-4; 6:3-4), as recorded on the Cyrus Cylinder.
• The existence of Jesus Christ as recorded by Josephus, Suetonius, Thallus, Pliny the Younger, the Talmud, and Lucian.
• Forcing Jews to leave Rome during the reign of Claudius (A.D. 41-54) (Acts 18:2), as recorded by Suetonius.
Graves of Bible characters:
Caiaphas the High Priest
Ossuary of Caiaphas the High Priest
Caiaphas was high priest for 18 years, A.D. 18-36. He most likely gained the position by marrying the daughter of Annas, head of a powerful high-priestly clan (John 18:13). Caiaphas is infamous as the leader of the conspiracy to crucify Jesus.
At a meeting of the religious leaders, Caiaphas said, "It is better for you that one man die for the people than the whole nation perish" (John 11:50). He was referring to the possible intervention of the Roman authorities, if Jesus’ teaching should cause unrest. His words were prophetic in that Jesus did die for the people, all the people of the earth, as a sacrifice for sin.
After He was arrested, Jesus was taken to Caiaphas’ house and detained overnight. The guards mocked and beat Him (Luke 22:63-65). In the morning He was interrogated and further beaten. Caiaphas asked Him, "Are you the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the Blessed One?" "I am," Jesus replied (Mark 14:61-62). Caiaphas then handed Jesus over to Pilate to be tried.
Following Jesus’ crucifixion, Caiaphas continued to persecute the early church. He brought the apostles before the religious leaders and said to them, "We gave you strict orders not to teach in this Name. Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s (Jesus’) blood." Peter and the other apostles replied, "We must obey God rather then men" (Acts 5:28-29).
The Caiaphas family tomb was accidentally discovered by workers constructing a road in a park just south of the Old City of Jerusalem. Archaeologists were hastily called to the scene. When they examined the tomb they found 12 ossuaries (limestone bone boxes) containing the remains of 63 individuals. The most beautifully decorated of the ossuaries was inscribed with the name "Joseph son of (or, of the family of) Caiaphas." That was the full name of the high priest who arrested Jesus, as documented by Josephus (Antiquities 18: 2, 2; 4, 3). Inside were the remains of a 60-year-old male, almost certainly those of the Caiaphas of the New Testament. This remarkable discovery has, for the first time, provided us with the physical remains of an individual named in the Bible.
A great politician and administrator, Augustus ruled the Roman empire from 27 B.C.-A.D. 14. It was Augustus who issued the census decree that brought Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, where Jesus was born (Luke 2:1-7). Augustus erected for himself a grand mausoleum in Rome, on the east bank of the Tiber River, one quarter mile northwest of the Roman Forum. The remains exist today in the middle of the Piazza Augusto Imperatore.
It was 285 feet in diameter and 143 feet high, surmounted by a statue of the emperor. His ashes were placed in an urn in the center, while those of other members of the dynasty were placed in urns in a corridor around a central cylinder. Although some of the urns were found in place by excavators, the ashes had long since disappeared.
Tomb of the Patriarchs
The Bible says that Sarah, Abraham, Isaac, Rebekah, Leah and Jacob were buried in Hebron, in a cave called the Cave of Machpelah, purchased by Abraham (Gen. 23).
Traditionally, this cave has been located below the Haram el-Khalil ("sacred precinct of the friend of the merciful One, God") in Hebron, today a Muslim mosque. References as early as the Hellenistic period (2nd century B.C.) testify that this is the authentic location of the burial place of the Patriarchs. The cave was explored by the Augustine Canons in 1119, at which time they claim to have found the bones of the Patriarchs.
Joseph, son of Jacob (grandson of Abraham)
At the southwest end of an Israelite burial area in Egypt, some 83 meters from the villa compound, was a monumental tomb, Tomb 1. It was composed of a nearly square superstructure containing the main burial chamber, and a chapel annex. In a robbers’ pit sunk into the chapel, excavators found fragments of a colossal statue depicting an Asiatic dignitary. The likeness was of a seated official 1½ times life size. It was made of limestone and exhibited excellent workmanship. The skin was yellow, the traditional color of Asiatics in Egyptian art. It had a mushroom-shaped hairstyle, painted red, typical of that shown in Egyptian artwork for Asiatics. A throwstick, the Egyptian hieroglyph for a foreigner, was held against the right shoulder. The statue had been intentionally smashed and defaced (Bietak 1996: 20-21).
In his book Pharaohs and Kings: A Biblical Quest, David Rohl suggests that this is the tomb of Joseph himself (1995: 360-67). The evidence seems to support this hypothesis. We must assume that Tomb 1 was that of the occupant of the villa, and thus possibly of Joseph himself. The Bible is very specific as to what became of Joseph’s body.
"So Joseph died, being one hundred and ten years old; and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt."
Moses took the bones of Joseph with him during the Exodus because Joseph had made the sons of Israel swear an oath.
And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him: for he had straitly sworn the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you; and ye shall carry up my bones away hence with you.
And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence.
Tombs of David and Solomon
Throughout the kingdom period, the kings of Judah were buried within the city of David. At the southern end of the City of David, south of the Old City of Jerusalem, there are two monumental tunnel tombs which many scholars believe are the tombs of David and Solomon. Unfortunately, they were damaged by later quarrying, so no identifying inscriptions have survived. In the same area are many Iron Age tombs, possibly those of other kings of Judah.
One exception to the normal custom was the burial of Uzziah. Since he was a leper, he was not buried with the other kings, but "near them in a field for burial that belonged to the kings, for people said, ’he had leprosy’" (2 Chr 26:23).
Interestingly, an inscription was found on the Mount of Olives in 1931 dating to the first century A.D. which reads, "Here were brought the bones of Uzziah, King of Judah – do not open." Evidently, because of his leprosy, Uzziah’s bones were removed from the field belonging to the kings and transferred to yet a more remote location.
Cyrus the Great
Cyrus ruled the Persian empire from 559-530 B.C. He is best known for his capture of Babylon in 539 B.C. Already in the 8th century B.C. Isaiah predicted this defeat (Isaiah 45:1-3), and went on to say that Cyrus would "set my exiles free’ (Isaiah 45:13). That Cyrus released the Jewish exiles from Babylon is not only documented in the Bible (2 Chronicles 36:22-23; Ezra 1:2-4), but also implied in the contemporary Cyrus Cylinder. This ancient record states, "I (Cyrus) gathered all their former inhabitants and returned to them their habitations."
Cyrus was buried in a simple gabled stone tomb outside his capital of Pasargadae in modern Iran. According to the historian Strabo, this inscription once graced the structure, "Oh man, I am Cyrus, the son of Cambyses, who founded the empire of Persia, and was king of Asia. Grudge me not therefore this monument" (Geography xv.3.7).
Darius I was king of the Persian empire from 522-486 B.C. He gave permission to renew the rebuilding of the Temple (Ezra 6:1-12), which had been discontinued for some 10 years.
His is the first of three monumental tombs cut into a cliff near the Persian capital of Persepolis, Iran. The inscription on his tomb reads,
King Darius states: King, whoever you are, who may arise after me, protect yourself well from lies. Do not trust the man who lies. … Believe what I did and tell the truth to the people. Do not conceal (it). If you do not conceal these matters, but you do tell the people, may Ahura Mayda protect you. …
There are three other tombs at the site, thought to be those of the Persian kings Xerxes (485-465 B.C.), Artaxerxes I (465-424 B.C.), and Darius II (423-405 B.C.). There are no accompanying inscriptions, however, to be certain of these identifications. Xerxes is the Ahasuerus of the book of Esther, the king whom Esther married. Ezra was a scribe (Ezra 7:6) and Nehemiah a cupbearer (Nehemiah 2:1) under Artaxerxes I. He authorized both Ezra and Nehemiah to return to Jerusalem, Ezra to carry out religious and judicial duties (Ezra 7:12-26), and Nehemiah to rebuild the city walls (Nehemiah 2:1-9). Darius II may be the Darius mentioned in Nehemiah 12:22, but this is not certain.
Quite a number of Biblical structures have been excavated. Some of the most interesting are the following:
• The base of the Tower of Babel in Babylon where language was confused (Genesis 11:1-9). There are also historical records in many cultures retelling the tale in similar forms.
• The ruins of Sodom and Gomorrah have been discovered southeast of the Dead Sea. The modern names are Bab edh-Dhra, thought to be Sodom, and Numeira, thought to be Gomorrah. Both places were destroyed at the same time by an enormous conflagration. The destruction debris was about three feet thick. What brought about this awful calamity? Startling discoveries in the cemetery at Bab edh-Dhra revealed the cause. Archaeologists found that buildings used to bury the dead were burned by a fire that started on the roof.
What would cause every structure in the cemetery to be destroyed in this way? The answer to the mystery is found in the Bible. (Genesis 19:24). The only conceivable explanation for this unique discovery in the annals of archaeology is fire and brimstone…that burning debris fell on the buildings from the air. And archaeology has in recent decades found much sulfur deposited on the surface of the area, much of it in the form of pellets. [slides]
The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah became an example in the Bible of how God judges sin. (Ezekiel 16:49-50).
• The palace at Jericho where Eglon, king of Moab, was assassinated by Ehud (Judges 3:15-30). So, what about the walls of ancient Jericho which the Bible reports to have fallen?
…The Bible says that the walls fell down, and there’s good reason to believe it. The walls have been found and authenticated. [slides]
The scriptures also say that when the walls collapsed, the Israelites stormed the city and set it on fire. Archaeologists found evidence for a massive destruction by fire just as the Bible relates.
What caused the strong walls of Jericho to collapse? The most likely human explanation is an earthquake. But the nature of the earthquake was unusual. It struck in such a way as to allow a portion of the city wall on the north side of the site to remain standing, while everywhere else the wall fell.
The spies leave Rahab’s Jericho wall house.
Rahab’s house was evidently located on the north side of the city. She was the Canaanite prostitute who hid the Israelite spies who came to survey the city. The Bible states that her house was built against the city wall. Before returning to the Israelite camp, the spies told Rahab to bring her family into her house and they would be saved. According to the Bible, Rahab’s house was miraculously spared while the rest of the city wall fell.
This is exactly what archaeologists found. The preserved city wall on the north side of the city had houses built against it.
The timing of the earthquake and the manner in which it selectively took down the city wall suggests something other than a natural calamity. A Divine Force was at work. In the New Testament, we read,
By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days.  By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.
• How about the Samson story?
Could one man pull down an entire temple single handed? Archaeology has provided us with some amazing answers.
Two stone pillar bases in the Philistine temple at Tel Qasile, Israel
Two Philistine temples have been uncovered by archaeologists. One at Tel Qasile, in northern Tel Aviv, and one in Tel Miqne, ancient Ekron, 21 miles south of Tel Aviv. Both temples share a unique design -- the roof was supported by two central pillars! The pillars were made of wood and rested on stone support bases. With the pillars being about six feet apart, a strong man could dislodge them from their stone bases and bring the entire roof crashing down. The archaeological findings match the Biblical story perfectly and attest to the plausibility of the account.The east gate of Shechem where Gaal and Zebul watched the forces of Abimelech approach the city (Judges 9:34-38).
• The Temple of Baal/El-Berith in Shechem, where funds were obtained to finance Abimelech’s kingship and where the citizens of Shechem took refuge when Abimelech attacked the city (Judges 9:4, 46-49).
• The pool of Gibeon where the forces of David and Ishbosheth fought during the struggle for the kingship of Israel (2 Samuel 2:12-32).
• The Pool of Heshbon, likened to the eyes of the Shulammite woman (Song of Songs 7:4).
• The Pool of Samaria where King Ahab’s chariot was washed after his death (1 Kings 22:29-38).
• The royal palace at Samaria where the kings of Israel lived (1 Kings 20:43; 21:1, 2; 22:39; 2 Kings 1:2; 15:25).
• The water tunnel beneath Jerusalem dug by King Hezekiah to provide water during the Assyrian siege (2 Kings 20:20; 2 Chronicles 32:30).
• The royal palace in Babylon where King Belshazzar held the feast and Daniel interpreted the handwriting on the wall (Daniel 5).
• The royal palace in Susa where Esther was queen of the Persian king Xerxes (Esther 1:2; 2:3, 5, 9, 16).
• The royal gate at Susa where Mordecai, Esther’s cousin, sat (Esther 2:19, 21; 3:2, 3; 4:2; 5:9, 13; 6:10, 12).
• The foundation of the synagogue at Capernaum where Jesus cured a man with an unclean spirit (Mark 1:21-28) and delivered the sermon on the bread of life (John 6:25-59).
• The house of Peter at Capernaum where Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law and others (Matthew 8:14-16).
• Jacob’s well where Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman (John 4).
• The Pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem, where Jesus healed a crippled man (John 5:1-14).
• The Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem, where Jesus healed a blind man (John 9:1-4).
• Herod’s palace at Caesarea where Paul was kept under guard (Acts 23:33-35).
• The tribunal at Corinth where Paul was tried (Acts 18:12-17). As well as much more from the city of Corinth and other churches Paul visited in Europe as well as Asia minor, the 7 churches of Rev. 2 & 3.
• The theater at Ephesus where the riot of silversmiths occurred (Acts 19:29).
• Philippi, where Paul and Silas met. The next picture is the ruins where the church was.
• Thessalonica, where they were driven away from unto Berea.
• Smyrna temple ruins.
• And Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.
Other points to ponder:
• Eden has not been found. Things before the flood are likely to be beneath miles of sedimentary sludge left over. The Tigris and Euphrates were likely different rivers in those days, and don’t meet the description in Scripture.
• Noah’s Ark: [ ‘Ark-eology!’ ] Noah’s Ark is unlikely to be found. Wood simply doesn’t survive like stones and metals. Many searching Ararat think they see things, but the fact is that what is called Ararat today is likely not what it was then, but more of a range or region. Nothing conclusive or even compelling has been found.
• The Ark of the Covenant: Not hardly! God may not allow us to find many things that we would be likely to ‘worship.’
The truth is: We shouldn’t need any of the above to convince us to take our Creator at His Word. But these things are here so we can share them with others who DO feel like they need more proof. Jesus said it best when He said to Thomas, “blessed are they who have not seen, and yet believe!”
Please see also Parts 1 & 2 on ‘How We Can Know the Bible is the Word of God.’ [just go to the link, below...]