I recently listened to an interview of Dr. Craig Evans, who wrote the book, Jesus and the Remains of His Day: Studies in Jesus and the Evidence of Material Culture. The book is described as a collection of articles demonstrating how archaeological evidence “enlightens our understanding of the life and death of Jesus and the culture in which he lived”. The interview focused on archaeology, generally, and especially on the way archaeology sheds light on the New Testament.
In this piece, I am following up on the more general discussion. When asked if he was aware of any finds that have failed to support the biblical record, Dr. Evans could not think of any. Rather, he commented that archaeological evidence is found every year that confirms the biblical record. Of particular note are the people mentioned in the Bible that archaeology has affirmed.
I recently attended a conference at which Ted Wright, an archaeologist, presented information related to the exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt and the later conquest of the area of Canaan. Ted Wright has participated in the excavation of Jericho and Khirbet el-Maqatir, thought to be the modern location of the city, Ai, mentioned in the Bible. One thing that Ted Wright said, which has stuck with me, is that modern archaeology continues to affirm people, places and other information contained in biblical accounts.
As an example, Ted Wright recounted the story of an archaeologist, John Garstang, who excavated Jericho in the 1930’s. Garstang concluded that the site dated to 1400 BC, consistent with the biblical account (John Garstang, “Jericho and the Biblical Story,” p. 1222.):
“In a word, in all material details and in date the fall of Jericho took place as described in the Biblical narrative. Our demonstration is limited, however, to material observations: the walls fell, shaken apparently by earthquake, and the city was destroyed by fire, about 1400 B.C. These are the basic facts resulting from our investigations. The link with Joshua and the Israelites is only circumstantial but it seems to be solid and without a flaw.”
Ted Wright observed in his talk that most of the battle in modern archaeology is not whether places, like Jericho, really existed, or the happening of events, but rather the timing of when they existed and happened. Continue reading “Timing the Walls of Jericho”→
Bible skeptics often talk as if there is a dearth of evidence that any of the events in the Bible took place. Skeptics consider the Bible, and especially the Old Testament, as fictional, a fanciful product of the imagination trumped up many, many years after the actual events took place, and full of places and characters that never actually existed. The Ebla Tablets found in Northern Syria tell a different story.
When skeptics claim that Bible believers are biased, they are right. The truth is we all are biased, skeptics included. Some may be more aware of their own bias than others, but we all have our biases.
I am fascinated with stories of people who had one “bias” at one time and changed to the opposite “bias”. It happens both ways: atheist to believer/believer to atheist. Someday I will explore the similarities and the differences in those stories. There are some common threads, but that is a topic for another day. Continue reading “Bias is Revealed in What we Consider and Fail to Consider”→
Some argue over which writings should be included or not included in the canon which we call the Bible, but no one argues that it does not exist and has existed in virtually the same form for over a couple thousand years.
It is also a collection of stories, poems, songs and sayings. As literature, it is full of imagery, compelling stories and words of wisdom. It has great literary value. The Bible is a collection of writings covering a span of about 1600 years by various authors focusing on particular people in a particular geographical area of the Middle East.
Some of the writings purport to be relatively contemporaneous accounts, and others seem more like historical accounts. Scribes were trained and devoted their lives to the careful transcription of the text from generation to generation. The writings have been collected and preserved by the people who have been passed them down from generation to generation as sacred text.
What is most likely meant when people say they “do not believe the Bible” is that they do not believe the Bible is the “Word of God”. People do not believe it is divinely inspired. Perhaps, the thing that people stumble over the most is the fact that it purports to be just that: a collection of God’s communications with people in history. When people say the do not believe the Bible, they most likely mean they do not believe the Bible can be taken at face value.
Various people have various theories about the Bible. I have even recently heard people say that the Bible was put together by Roman dictators to “control the people” by giving them something to believe in. Really?! There is no scholarly support for that position by the way, but there are other pet theories.
Most scholars agree that there is some “truth” to the Bible. What I mean by that is that there seems little doubt that the collection of writings have been preserved from antiquity in roughly the same form as they are today, through various translations that are pretty amazingly similar, and that the Bible has some historical value, as any ancient text does.
The evidence suggests that all of the Old Testament writings pre-date the first Century. The Dead Sea Scrolls, which pre-date the First Century, include manuscripts from every book in the Old Testament except for Esther. Among the manuscripts found in the Qumran caves that we call the Dead Sea Scrolls, was a complete scroll of the Book of Isaiah dating to at least 200 BC.
In fact, the Bible is the most well-preserved and well-attested of any ancient text. We have more ancient manuscripts of the Bible, by a huge volume, than any other ancient text. It gets even more compelling with the New Testament.