Biblical Faith Is An Historical Faith

00The accounts in the scripture do not take place in some mythical time-before-time like that of their pagan neighbors or the Bhagavad Gita in Hinduism. There’s nothing insignificant about Israel’s story. It is that story of the people whom God chose to use in order to repair all that human sin had broken, culminating in the sending of his Son, who, as the Apostle John reports, promises to make all things new.” John Stonestreet

It was not that long ago that numerous historians, scholars and scripture lawyers were convinced that the biblical narratives prior to the Babylonia exile were the fantasy creations of pious scribes to create a usable past. In fact, it was widely doubted that people such as Sampson, David, or ever existed and if they did they were little more than glorified tribal chieftains.  Now while our faith does not depend on archaeology, it is certainly a blessing when discoveries are made that prove the accuracy of the Bible.

Five years ago a team of archaeologists digging at the foot of the southern part of the wall that surrounds Jerusalem’s Old City came cross a refuse dump dating to the 8th Century B.C.   Quoting the New York Times, in “an area rich in relics from the period of the first of two ancient Jewish temples,” archaeologists found 33 clay seals known as bulla. But it wasn’t until recently that they were examined more closely and what was revealed “is rocking the archaeological world.”    One bulla was inscribed with “belonging to Hezekiah (son of) Ahaz King of Judah.” According to 11 Kings 18:1-6, Hezekiah, the son of Ahaz, King of Judah, doing what was right in the sight of the Lord, reigned for 29 years in Jerusalem, in which time he destroyed the pagan gods and worship groves, maintaining the commandments given to Moses.

A few years ago archaeologists discovered a coin, dating from the 11th Century B.C. depicting a man with long hair fighting a large animal with a feline tail, near the Sorek River which was the border between the ancient Israelite and Philistine territories.  For those not familiar with Sampson, the person depicted on this coin, read Judges 14.   In Judges 16 we also read of the Valley of Sorek which was the residence of Delilah.

Another archaeological find that confirms the historic nature of the biblical narrative was the discovery of Shaarayim, (Shaaraim), meaning two gates, found in excavations of Khirbet Qeiyafa. Shaarayim is one of the cities mentioned in Joshua 15:26 allotted to the tribe of Judah. The city is mentioned also in 1 Samuel 17:52 where after David slew Goliath, the men of Israel pursued the Philistines, and eventually killed them on the road to Shaarayim.

And speaking of Goliath, a massive gate unearthed in Israel may have marked the entrance to a biblical city Gath that, at its heyday, was the biggest metropolis in the region. Known as the home of Goliath, it was at times in the hands of the Israel.  Remains of a temple from the time of Israel’s occupation was discovered. The temple had been destroyed and desecrated by the Philistines using it as a livestock pen.

The Tel Dan inscription, or “House of David” inscription was discovered in 1993 at the site of Tel Dan in northern Israel in an excavation directed by Israeli archaeologist Avraham Biran. The broken and fragmented inscription commemorates the victory of an Aramean king over his two southern neighbors, the King of Israel [northern tribes] and the King of the House of David. Written in Arabic characters, the Aramean king boats that he under the divine guidance of his god Hadad had vanquished several thousand Israelite and Judahite horseman and charioteers.   Unfortunately the fragment doesn’t preserve the names of the specific kings but most scholars believe the account is the campaign of Hazael of Damascus in which he defeated both Jehoram of Israel (the ten northern tribes) and Ahaziah of Judah. You can read of the conflict in 11 Samuel 8: 26-29.

Another discovery at the site was the southern part of a large palace nearly 11,000 sq. believed to be a home for King David when he visited this important regional area. The location of the building fit the requirements of an Iron Age palace where one can see as far as the Mediterranean Sea to the Hebron Mountains and Jerusalem in the east.  Archaeologists also discovered a pillared building, about 50 by 20 used to store agricultural produce collected as taxes. Evidence of its use were the hundreds of stone jars whose handles were stamped with an official seal as was customary in the kingdom of Judah for centuries.

A 3,000-year-old defensive wall attributed to King Solomon in I kings has been unearthed in Jerusalem, according to National Geographic. The tenth-century B.C. wall is 230 feet long and stands 20 feet tall. It stands along what was then the edge of Jerusalem, between the Temple Mount, still Jerusalem’s paramount landmark, and the ancient City of David, today a modern-day Arab neighborhood called Silwan. It was part of a defensive complex that included a gatehouse, an adjacent building, and a guard tower, which has been only partially excavated. Three-foot-tall earthenware storage vessels were found near the gatehouse, one of them with a Hebrew inscription indicating the container belonged to a high-ranking government official.

The Ophel inscription, 3,000-year-old characters found in Israel in July, is the earliest alphabetical written text ever found in Jerusalem. It proves the real basis behind the parables and stories in the world’s most famous book, said Gershon Galil, a professor of ancient history and biblical studies at the University of Haifa. Three letters of the inscription are incomplete, and Galil translates them to read, “yah-yin chah-lak,” which is Hebrew for “inferior wine.” The first half of the text indicates the twentieth or thirtieth year of Solomon’s reign — making the entire inscription a label of sorts for the jug’s contents. Gershon explains that the text must be written in an early form of southern Hebrew because it is the only language of the time to use two yods (Hebrew letters) to spell the word wine. Galil also suggests that the “inferior wine” was probably given to laborers who were helping to build the burgeoning city of Jerusalem. While archaeologists may argue over the actual translation, the written inscription places the ancient Israelites in Jerusalem during the time of King Solomon’s rule.

A recent archaeological discovery in Jerusalem’s Old City dig uncovered 2,700 years of history, with layers from the time of the First Temple through the Roman, Crusader and Ottoman periods, up to Israel’s independence in 1948. While remains from those eras are strewn throughout the Old City, it’s rare to find them so close together and so well preserved.

The Kishle, Turkish for prison, was built as a jail by the Ottoman Turks in the 1800s and used by the British in the 1940s to hold captured Jewish militia members. A map of Greater Israel etched by an imprisoned member of the pre-state Irgun militia is still visible on the wall. Below the prison lay the foundations of a fortification wall built in the 8th Century B.C. by King Hezekiah. There is also evidence of another wall built 600 years later by the Hasmoneans who ruled Jerusalem after the Maccabees revolt.

Below that lays the remains of the wall of a massive Herodian palace built near the beginning of the Common Era, as well as basins from the Crusader period that were likely used to dye clothes and tan leather. This is the room that archaeologists believe may have been the site of Jesus’ trial by Pontius Pilate.

“On the whole, however, archaeological work has unquestionably strengthened confidence in the reliability of the Scriptural record. More than one archaeologist has found his respect for the Bible increased by the experience of excavation in Palestine….Archaeology has in many cases refuted the views of modern critics. It has shown, in a number of instances, that these views rest on false assumptions and unreal, artificial schemes of historical development. This is a real contribution and not to be minimized.” Millar Burrows, Professor of Archaeology at Yale University, What Mean These Stones?,


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