What Does Archaeology Have to Do with Racial Justice in Modern Times?

A new voice is rising up that is reconnecting social justice to the truth of scripture

The Dead Sea Scrolls on display at the caves of Qumran that located on the edge of the Dead Sea in Israel.

“These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to one another, render true and perfect justice in your gates. And do not contrive evil against one another, and do not love perjury, because all those are things that I hate – declares the Lord.” Zechariah 8:16-17

A major archaeological discovery was made recently in some remote caves in the Judean Desert. Among the discoveries were, coins from the time of the Bar Kochba Revolt, the skeleton of a child dating back some 6,000 years, and a 10,000-year-old exceptionally well-preserved basket. (From 2,000-year-old biblical texts found in Israel, 1st since Dead Sea Scrolls by Rossella Tercatin for the Jerusalem Post, March 16, 2021.)

These items were found in “the Cave of Horror” in the Nahal Hever area of the Judean Desert. The Nahal Hever is an intermittent stream in in the West Bank, flowing from Yatta to the Dead Sea. At the head of the stream are two caves, the “Cave of Letters“, and, further up, the “Cave of Horror“.

Though the caves are hard to access, looters have raided them over the years. Archaeological efforts many years ago netted portions of the Book of Numbers, Psalms and Deuteronomy. Until recently, people might have assumed all artifacts to be found in those caves had already been removed.

The Greek scroll of the minor prophets found at Nahal Hever may even be the most significant find to date. Some date these fragments in the 50 years before Christ, and others date them in the 50 years after Christ. We don’t really know, but scholars seem to agree that the fragments come from “an early revision of the Septuagint in alignment with the Hebrew text”.


Modern archaeological finds continue to affirm Scripture and the continuity of Scripture through the ages. Poignantly for today in these times, the discovery of the scroll of the minor prophets found in the Nahal Hever speaks to an age old theme.

The passage in Zechariah 8 quoted above was found among the fragments. From old, from ages and ages past, we find that God desires truth and justice from His people.

“Speak the truth to one another, render true and perfect justice in your gates.”

I am reminded that God’s desire for justice and truth from His people is the same today as it was then. I think about these things after listening to the Disrupters podcast in which host, Esau McCalley, spoke to the political strategist, Justin Giboney. As they were talking about faith and politics, I realize that justice and truth continue to be priorities for God, and only the circumstantial details have changed.

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Looking at Some of the Oldest Extant Examples of Ancient Biblical Text

By Tamar Hayardeni, Attribution, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23802552
Ketef Hinnom burial caves

Some of the oldest extant examples of ancient biblical text are the Ketef Hinnom amulets.[i] The silver amulets meant to be worn around the neck are very small. They are actually tiny scrolls made of rolled silver with inscriptions on them. They were found at the First Temple funerary site of Ketef Himmom southwest of Jerusalem.[ii]

Discovered in 1979, the inscriptions on the amulets were not detected until the scrolls were painstakingly unrolled in 1994 by the West Semitic Research Project at the University of Southern California. The inscriptions on one scroll contain text similar to the blessings found in the Tora[iii]h at Numbers 6:24-26[iv]:

6:24 Yahweh bless you and keep you;
6:25 Yahweh make his face shine upon youand be gracious to you;
6:26 Yahweh lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.

(The italicized words are not found on the scroll but may have appeared in the area where the scroll has disintegrated.)

The other scroll contained language similar to the parallel passages in the Torah of Exodus 20:6; Deuteronomy 5:10 and 7:9, and the Prophets, Daniel 9:4 and Nehemiah 1:5.[v]


These amulets with the biblical inscriptions date to the First Temple period before the Babylonian exile. Conservative sources date them to the eighth–sixth centuries B.C.E.[vi] More liberal sources date them to the period immediately prior to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586/7 BCE.[vii] No one dates them after the destruction of the First Temple.

This is significant because the consensus of scholars date the Torah post exile to the Persian Period (539-333 BCE, and probably 450-350 BCE).[viii] While classic rabbinic views hold that the entire Torah was written by Moses during his life in the second millennium BCE, the consensus of modern scholars is that the Torah was written by a number of authors post exile.

The confirmed dating of the Ketef Hinnom amulets doesn’t necessarily prove that the Torah was written and in existence at the time those amulets were created. They could have been produced from oral tradition. It does establish, though, that pre-exilic Jews were familiar with the sayings in the Torah.


It’s also consistent (or not inconsistent) with the view that the Torah was written down before the exile – perhaps, even by Moses.

All five books of the Torah, and every book of the Christian Old Testament, except for Esther, was found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. The earliest Dead Sea Scroll texts date to 300 BCE. The remarkable similarity of the versions of the Hebrew text in the Dead Sea Scrolls to the texts preserved from a millennium or more later amazed scholars. While most of the books of the Old Testament found at Qumran were fragmentary, a complete scroll of Isaiah was found dating to no earlier than the first century BCE.[ix] The Ketef Hinnom amulets, though are much older still.

I have referenced mostly sources that are secular or liberal in their leaning. I did that on purpose, as even these sources attest to a certain factual baseline that is consistent with the biblical narrative, and not contradictory to it. They don’t rule out earlier dates and facts that are not just consistent, but which match the biblical record. Thus, archaeology continues to reveal artifacts consistent with a view of the historical reliability of the Old Testament.


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[i] See Ketef Hinnom at Wikipedia

[ii] See Miniature Writing on Ancient Amulets, by Robin Ngo for Bible History Daily at the Biblical Archaeology Society website March 5, 2021.

[iii] The first five books of the Christian New Testament known as Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.

[iv] See Wikipedia

[v] Ibid.

[vi] See Miniature Writing on Ancient Amulets

[vii] Wikipedia.

[viii] See Torah at Wikipedia

See Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls? By Andrew Lawler for Smithsonian Magazine January 2010

[ix] See 6 Things You May Not Know About the Dead Sea Scrolls by Jennie Cohen at History.com

The Ebla Tablets Revisited

Ruins of the outer wall of Ebla and the “Damascus Gate”


One of the most popular articles on this blog is The Ebla Tablets Confirm Biblical Accounts. Though it was posted in 2015, it was still the most read article on the blog in 2016 and 2017 and was still third on the list in 2018.  Perhaps, that is why I feel prompted to revisit the subject today.

Digging a little bit deeper into the subject (pun intended), I found a 1979 Washington Post article that boasts no biblical claims. (Literally, it’s in the title.) The article asserts that, after initial enthusiasm that the tablets would reveal biblical treasures, “three years of intense study” disclosed no biblical claims. Dr. Robert Biggs, professor of Assyriology at the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute, announced the verdict, “People who are looking to the Ebla tablets for proof of the authenticity of the Bible are going to be sorely disappointed.”

At the time of the article in 1979, 11,000 tablets had been discovered dating from 23 centuries before Christ in the ancient Sumerian city of Ebla in what is now northern Syria that was destroyed by fire around 2300 BC. Of course, only 48 tablets had been translated and published at the time of the article. While Professor Biggs was quick to render a verdict against the Bible, other scholars were not as quick to jump to judgment as noted by a Smithsonian expert who speculated at the same time that Ebla tablets may support the historicity of the Patriarchal narratives, “but we won’t know for decades.”

Fast forward to 2015, the number of tablets recovered from the ancient library in the ruins of Ebla had increased to 15,000, and the early verdict that they contain no “biblical claims” is much in doubt. (See Controversial Discovery: 15,000 Ancient Ebla Tablets Prove Old Testament To Be Accurate) The current number of tablets and portions of tablets may be closer to 17,000, and assessments are changing,

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What is the Quantum of Proof Necessary to Believe a Biblical Account?

Believers are told to take the stories of the Bible in faith, Skeptics take the opposite view. There is evidence consistent with belief that the stories are true, but insufficient evidence to prove them beyond a reasonable doubt.

Ruins and remains in Tell es-Sultan, better known as Jericho, the oldest city in the world

I previously wrote a piece on the city of Jericho of biblical fame that was inspired by a presentation given by an archaeologist, Ted Wright, who excavated at tell es-Sultan, the modern site known formerly as Jericho. He commented that archaeology is not really divided over issues like whether Jericho existed. Rather, archaeologists differ on the chronology they find in the story of the stratified remains of prior habitation.

That issue of timing regarding the destruction of the city of Jericho was the focus of the previous blog. There is no doubt that Jericho was surrounded by a double wall of which the interior wall collapsed on the outer wall, forming a virtual ramp up into the city. The city was also clearly destroyed by a conflagration (fire). The only question is: when did those events that are evident in the rocky soils on the site took place?

The first archaeologist to dig at the site reached the conclusion that the city of Jericho was destroyed in the early bronze period, well before the Israelites may have come upon the heavily fortified City. According to the first assessment, Jericho had long been uninhabited by the time the Israelites arrived.

Subsequent archaeological digs revealed disputing conclusions. John Garstang found evidence in the 1930s that Jericho was destroyed around 1400 BC, exactly the time frame of the biblical account. Subsequently, archaeologist, Kathleen Canyon, came to the opposite conclusion, reaffirming the earlier opinion that the city was uninhabited by the time Joshua and his combatants came along. But wait… there is more.

The most recent archaeological findings, seem to suggest that the biblical timing is correct. Kathleen Canyon apparently ignored and failed to register the significance of Late Bronze period pottery that would not have been found in an area that was uninhabited by that time. Many factors that she missed reveal the error and suggest a date consistent with biblical chronology. (See Believers Score in Battle Over the Battle of Jericho, by John Noble Wilford, published February 22, 1990, The New York Times).

The story of the excavation of Jericho reveals how archaeology and interpreting what we find is sometimes highly influenced by what we believe about history. The same finding can suggest different conclusions, depending on what we are looking for (or not looking for). The difference as Ted Wright suggested, isn’t in the what, but the when.

The Bible, of course, has many fantastic stories in it. They are so fantastic, that many people simply find them incredible, as in not credible at all. Believers are told to take the stories on faith. Skeptics take the opposite view and reject them, hook, line and sinker (to turn a phrase). There is evidence consistent with belief that the stories are true, but insufficient evidence to prove them beyond a reasonable doubt.

Should modern archaeology require something more than reasonable doubt simply because the biblical accounts have a miraculous, religious bent to them?

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Archaeology that Supports the New Testament Record

Depositphotos Image ID: 139260410 Copyright: vblinov
Kidron Valley and the Mount of Olives

This is the second in a two-part blog series inspired by an interview with archaeologist, Dr. Craig Evans. The first article was general in nature, focusing on people in the biblical record who are confirmed by archaeological finds, and noting that modern archaeology continues to affirm the historical reliability of the Bible. In this piece, we focus on the New Testament, which is Dr. Evans’s specialty.

Significantly, when asked whether he is aware of any archaeological finds that contradict the Gospels, Dr. Evans responded, “Where it relates to the Gospels – the Gospels talk certain people, certain places and certain events – and everywhere archaeology has any relevance that touches on it in any way, the archaeology supports what the Gospels say.” Thus, the theme continues: that modern archaeology, far from casting a shadow of doubt on the bible, shines light on it, illuminating the biblical accounts with archaeological discoveries.

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