Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Archaeological Evidence for Scripture

Archaeological evidence substantiates many Scriptural accounts. To quote Millar Burrows of Yale. "...archaeological work has unquestionably strengthened confidence in the reliability of the scriptural record. More than one archaeologist has found his respect for the scripture increased by the experience of excavation in Palestine." Nelson Glueck, reformed Jewish scholar notes: "It is worth emphasizing that in all this work no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a single, properly understood Scriptural statement." What follows are example a just a few of the previously controversial claims that the scripture had made and have been proven since.

Iconium and Lyconium

Archaeological discoveries have proved the accuracy of scripture accounts that had long been considered inaccurate by scholars who had insufficient information. Because of Luke's detailed descriptions of historical events, some of his writings -- and thus the credibility of the entire New Testament -- had been in dispute for over a century by scripture scholars who didn't believe the details supplied by Luke were accurate. scripture scholars thought that Luke's writings were a fraud, written in the second century by someone who didn't know the history or geography of the time. For example, in Acts 14:6, Luke relates that Paul and Barnabas fled from Iconium to the cities of Lyconium. scripture scholars had believed that Iconium was located in the province of Lyconium -- thus the statement made no sense. It would be like saying someone fled from Miami to Florida. An inscription was later found that proved that when Paul and Barnabas fled from Iconium, the city was part of the province of Phrygia, proving Luke's writing was correct.


Scripture critics also believed that the circumstances of Jesus' birth were concocted to fulfill the prophecy in Micah that states the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. They doubted that there had been a census (Luke 2:1-3) which caused Joseph and Mary to travel to Bethlehem. A Roman edict was later discovered in Egypt, which stated: "The enrollment by household being at hand, it is necessary to notify all who for any cause soever are outside of their administrative districts that they return at once to their homes to carry out the customary enrollment..." Other discovered documents confirmed that this census was taken every fourteen years. Luke had stated that Quirinius was the Governor of Syria at the time of Jesus' birth, however secular records showed that Saturninus was the governor at that time. An inscription was later found in Antioch which showed that Quirinius indeed was governor of Syria at the time.

Pontius Pilate

Pontius Pilate's historical authenticity was in doubt until 1961, when an inscription was found "Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judea, has presented the Tiberium to the Caesareans", thus proving his existence. An interesting archaeological discovery appears to document a Roman governor's reaction to the resurrection of the dead. Matthew 28:11-15 describes the reaction of the chief priests and elders when the guards around Jesus' tomb told them about the resurrection: "When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, "You are to say, 'His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.' If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble." The governor must have heard the report and it must have upset him, because he issued a decree instituting capital punishment for the crime of violation of sepulcher, a crime which had never previously had such a severe penalty. A white marble slab inscribed with this decree was found in Nazareth in 1878.


In the Old Testament, Joshua followed the Lord's instructions and the walls of Jericho collapsed with a shout from the people, allowing Joshua to take the city c.1400 BC, (Joshua 6:5, 6:20). Archaeological evidence found the walls of Jericho, fallen outward, even though they were 15 ft. high and 10 ft. thick. From pottery and ceramic evidence, the city was destroyed c. 1400 BC.

King Herod

In Jerusalem, archaeologists discovered the remains of a 2,000-year-old clay wine jug inscribed with the name of King Herod, along with some of the first evidence of daily life at the Masada fortress during Herod's time. The Latin inscription says either "Herod, King of Judea" or "Herod, King of the Jews." It was the first time the full title of Herod, king of Judea from 37 B.C. until his death in 4 B.C., had been found in an inscription. The jug, which dates from about 19 B.C., was found in an ancient garbage dump near the synagogue at Masada.

Archaeologists also discovered food remains from Masada dwellers in Herod's time, including nuts, eggshells, dates and olive pits, and pieces of cloth and basketware. Masada, a citadel built by Herod atop an isolated cliff on the edge of the Judean Desert and the Dead Sea Valley, was the last outpost of the zealots during the Jewish revolt against Rome that began in A.D. 66. After Roman battering rams breached the fortress' gates, hundreds of Jews committed suicide rather than fall prisoner.


One of the most important archaeological mounds in Israel, Tel Megiddo contains the remains of historic Megiddo, a fortified city that sat strategically on the ancient trunk road from Egypt to Syria and Mesopotamia. Megiddo has served as an important junction and battlefield throughout history. It is mentioned in an Egyptian document over 3,500 years old, was one of the chariot cities of Kings Solomon and Ahab, and was the site where Josiah, King of Judah, fell in battle.

Excavations have uncovered the ruins of 25 cities dating from 4,000 to 400 B.C.E. Ruined structures, now visible, belong to the fortified "chariot city," built by King Solomon in the 10th century B.C. An ancient water system, dating from the 9th century B.C. is well preserved and a remarkable piece of engineering. It consists of a large shaft, sunk 120 feet through rock, meeting a tunnel cut more than 200 feet to a spring outside the city. The spring was hidden by a wall and camouflaged by a covering of earth.

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