The winter 2021 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review contains an announcement by the Israel Antiquities Authority of what they call a “groundbreaking discovery.” Archaeologists have uncovered the wall Hezekiah built around 701 B.C. Isaiah 22:9-10 describes the wall’s construction, and 2 Kings 25:10 tells of its destruction during the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem about a century later. In addition to the wall itself, the archaeologists found various objects, including seals, along the wall’s base to confirm its date.
The archaeologists say that the wall was 10 feet (3 m) tall and more than 15 feet (4.5 m) wide. It was built along the slopes of the steep-sided Kidron Valley, making an imposing barrier on that side of Jerusalem. Researchers previously found other sections of the wall Hezekiah built, but this find connects those sections and provides more verification of the biblical account. The same issue carries a report of finding evidence of the powerful earthquake that occurred during the reign of King Uzziah and is described in Amos 1:1 and Zechariah 14:5.
Many people don’t realize that archaeological work in the Middle East is in its infancy. Hundreds of identified sites have not been excavated because of the expense involved. In addition, the field of archaeology is complicated by politics, nationalism, funding, and the prejudice of some of the people directing the digs and the museums displaying the artifacts.
Skeptics who challenge the Bible’s accuracy often point to the story of Joseph in Egypt recorded in Genesis 37–50. First, the Bible tells of Joseph being sold by his brothers to a passing caravan and then sold as a household slave to an Egyptian officer named Potiphar. Next, after being falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife, Joseph lands in prison, becoming a model prisoner. Finally, by interpreting Pharoah’s dream, he becomes second in command in Egypt. Then the famine Joseph predicted forces Joseph’s brothers to go to Egypt for food. Eventually, the whole family settles in Egypt in an area the Bible refers to as Goshen (Genesis 47).
Living in Egypt continues for 400 years (Exodus 12:40). Eventually, a new pharaoh becomes unhappy about this foreign group residing in his land, perceives them as a threat, and enslaves them (Exodus 1:8-14). Then a leader named Moses helps the enslaved people escape, pursued as far as the Red Sea by the Egyptian army. Finally, after 40 years of wandering, they end up back in Canaan.
Atheists and skeptics claim that the story of Joseph in Egypt can’t be accurate because there is no record of any of this outside of the biblical account. Therefore, they say, it must not be true. However, Biblical Archaeology Review magazine (Fall 2021, pages 40-47) carried an article by Rachel Hallote titled “Does Archaeology Confirm Joseph’s Time in Egypt?” It said, “Egyptian material is nearly identical with the short summary of the biblical account.”
The problem seems to be that the Egyptian sources referred to the Canaanites as “Hyksos.” Secular writers often fail to recognize that the Hyksos were the descendants of Jacob and his son Joseph. The article concludes that “the stories of Joseph and his brothers are clearly rooted in the rise of the Hyksos in Egypt.” Thus the biblical story of Joseph in Egypt does not conflict with archaeological evidence.
Archaeology is a friend of the Bible. If you have watched our DVD series with John Cooper titled “Beyond Reasonable Doubt,” you have seen some of the evidence that the Bible is correct in its testimony of history. The July 3, 2021, posting of “Bible History Daily” by the Biblical Archaeology Society told of finding a royal stele from the Egyptian Pharaoh Apries. Here is the first paragraph of the posting:
“While digging in his field, an Egyptian farmer recently made the discovery of a lifetime, a roughly 2-meter-tall royal stele. The stele, which was discovered near the Egyptian city of Ismailia, 62 miles northeast of Cairo, appears to commemorate a foreign campaign of Apries (r. 589–570 B.C.E.). Apries was an Egyptian pharaoh of the 26th Dynasty who is remembered in the Book of Jeremiah as having come to Jerusalem’s aid during the Babylonian siege (Jeremiah 37:5).”
Steles are stone slabs or columns typically bearing a commemorative inscription. They provide excellent evidence of historical events and verify the roles of high-ranking political or military figures. The finding of this stele is one more verification of the historical accuracy of the biblical account.
Those who attempt to discredit the Bible have to deal with growing evidence that the Bible is accurate and reliable. Archaeology is a friend of the Bible, and this latest find is more evidence of that.
The first Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in the spring of 1947. Among them was a scroll from Qumran Cave 1, which archaeologists labeled “The Genesis Apocryphon.” At the time, the area had political and military turmoil because it was the year preceding the founding of the State of Israel. Four of the scrolls were transported from Jerusalem to Lebanon to Syria and eventually to the United States before returning to Israel. The first three scrolls were unrolled immediately, but the 4th scroll was not unrolled until later. It ended up in the Monastery St. Mark in the Old City of Jerusalem.
The State of Israel purchased the Genesis Apocryphon scroll, and experts unrolled it. The scroll is written in Aramaic and tells about the patriarchs described in the book of Genesis. The text begins with the story of Lamech (the father of Noah) and ends with Abraham freeing the captives of Sodom, covering roughly Genesis 5 to 15.
The scroll agrees with the account we see in our Bibles, but it adds some insight to the events described there. One of those is the discussion between Noah’s mother (Bitenosh) and his father, Lamech. One of the things that the scroll makes clear is that the name “Bitenosh” means “daughter of man.” That is in contrast to the popular notion that Genesis 6 refers to aliens or spirit creatures (verse 4). In the Genesis Apocryphon, Bitenoch reminds Lamech of their sexual relationship that produced Noah.
Archaeology in the biblical lands offers excellent support for the integrity of the Bible and the accuracy of its records. The science of archaeology is another discipline that is a friend of the Bible and can help us strengthen our faith in the Bible as God’s Word.
One of the characteristics unique to humans is the creation of art. Some people have made desperate attempts to prove that gorillas, chimps, and elephants create art. When you look at their “art,” you realize that it is merely swashes of color enabled by the researchers working with the animals. Is art just something that evolved, or could Adam create art?
Archaeologists and other scientists have found that ancient humans created art. That very ancient art is not simple swashes of color but complex pictures. Paintings found on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi seem to portray a fight between a group of pigs. This discovery is significant because evolutionists have always maintained that humans did not create art until Ice Age Europe. They insisted that humans had not evolved to the point of being able to express historical events in pictures until that time.
Archaeologists have found an even older example of artwork in the Ramie region of Israel, and it consists of symbols cut into a bone fragment. Symbols tell of beliefs beyond survival and express thoughts beyond the mundane affairs of life. People used symbolic expressions from the very beginning of human history. These examples tell us that humans were created with the capacity to express themselves in art.
So the answer to the question, “could Adam create art” would be “yes.” The unique capacities of humans were built into Adam because he was created in the image of God. The human spiritual makeup expressed itself in art from the earliest days of human existence.
Genesis 4:19-26 tells about the first descendants of Adam and Eve. Jubal “was the father of all who play the harp and flute.” Those verses also tell us that Tubal-Cain was the first artisan in brass and iron. These descriptions were all before the birth of Seth. That means Adam and Eve were still around as musical instruments and artisans in metal were doing their creative works.
Skeptics will go to almost any length to discredit the Bible. Science News (December 19,2020-January 2, 2021, page 14) published an article titled “Goliath Was Not So Giant After All.” The biblical record says that Goliath was six cubits and a span tall. The Science News article says four cubits and a span and then says, “…but don’t take that measurement literally.” The article misses the message of the David and Goliath story.
Fixed standards precisely define today’s measurement units. The ancient cubit was roughly defined as the distance from the tip of the middle finger to the elbow of an adult. Obviously, not all adults are the same size. So a cubit could vary between 17.5 inches and 21 inches (about 444 to 530 mm). The Science News article says that Goliath would have been 7 feet 10 inches tall. The New Bible Dictionary puts Goliath’s height at 10 feet six inches and says that archaeologists have found skeletons that tall in Goliath’s Philistine region of Gath. (We have not seen evidence for that.)
The Science News article bases their contention that Goliath was not a giant on the basis that Gath, the city from which Goliath came, had walls that were four cubits and a span wide. The author of the article is Jeffrey Chadwick of Brigham Young University, an archaeologist who has been involved in excavations around Gath. Chadwick says his discoveries show that the biblical descriptions of Goliath’s stature are metaphorical and not literal. According to him, 1 Samuel 17:4 is merely saying that Goliath “was as big and strong as his city’s walls.”
Lost in the debate about Goliath’s size is the fact that Goliath’s city of Gath was destroyed about 2850 years ago. That fits the time-frame of David’s defeat of Goliath and the conquest of his army. The bottom line is that the biblical record accurately describes what happened. It tells us that Goliath was a huge warrior and David was a small shepherd boy. The city walls’ size would have no more relevance than saying that the height of the doors of American buildings is the average height of NBA basketball players. We can’t know the exact size of Goliath, but that isn’t the message of the David and Goliath story. Despite the odds, David trusted God, and through him, God brought victory to His people.
This ministry has a museum in York, Nebraska, called The Clayton Museum of Ancient History. It features part of the extensive antiquity collection of Foster Stanback. The museum’s purpose is education, and the state of Nebraska has listed it as an important tourist attraction. In the years since the museum opened, we have received offers from people trying to sell us supposed valuable artifacts. There is always a danger in purchasing artifacts if their origin and authenticity can’t be proven. Recent Dead Sea Scroll frauds have shown that to be true.
Fakery is an ongoing problem. In the last 20 years, there have been 70 pieces of the Dead Sea Scrolls offered for sale on the antiquities market. Scientific studies have proven that many recently purchased fragments were frauds. The Museum of the Bible reported that all 16 of its prized fragments were fakes. Azusa Pacific University has concluded that the five fragments it bought for 1.3 million dollars are not authentic.
Dead Sea Scroll frauds and other fake antiquities are on the market because they sell for high prices. They are collectors’ market objects. While they have cash value from that standpoint, they are not being stolen or faked for religious purposes but for profit motives.
Yesterday, we talked about the Clayton Museum of Ancient History in York, Nebraska. To get more background on how that museum came to be, here is a five-minute conversation between John Clayton and Foster Stanback, the benefactor of the museum who assembled the collection of artifacts.
You can see an amazing collection of artifacts from the time of Christ and earlier in the Clayton Museum of Ancient History. That museum, located on the campus of York College in York, Nebraska, displays artifacts collected by Foster Stanback. One of the first questions we asked when this project began was how he secured the relics. The problem is that many collectors buy artifacts from black-market dealers who have either stolen the artifacts or faked them. Foster Stanback and the Clayton Museum wanted to ensure that items we displayed were secured from government-approved sources and validated by qualified experts.
Biblical Archaeological Review published an article (fall 2020 issue, page 6) about artifacts in the Museum of the Bible collected by Steve Green, the president of Hobby Lobby. Green spent massive amounts of money to secure artifacts that were “unprovenanced,” meaning that their origin and authenticity were unverified. In April of 2020, a study commissioned by the museum proved that all of the supposed Dead Sea Scroll fragments in its collection were fakes. Around the same time, the museum announced that 11,500 artifacts in their possession had been stolen from Iraq and Egypt and would be returned. Three years earlier, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency seized thousands of artifacts and fined Steve Green three million dollars for illegally bringing them into the United States. Green released a statement saying that when buying the items, “I have trusted the wrong people to guide me, and unwittingly dealt with unscrupulous dealers.”
Unprovenanced relics are an issue for scholars and for people who collect artifacts. You may wonder how all of this affects the Clayton Museum of Ancient History. First of all, Stanback’s collections have all been secured from government-approved sources and have been studied by scholars and proven to be authentic. Foster Stanback and the Clayton Museum are working for educational purposes, not financial interests. In the past two years, the museum has added a children’s interactive section. School groups come in regularly to learn the history of the Roman world at the time Jesus lived and the Church began.
Unfortunately, greed and a desire for fame have invaded the antiquities market. We can be thankful that Foster Stanback and the Clayton Museum seek to help people understand the history of the time in which Jesus lived.
One of the exciting clues to the Bible’s credibility is the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. They consist of thousands of scrolls and fragments found in caves near Qumran on the Dead Sea’s northwest shore. These scrolls have been useful in showing that the Old Testament books in our modern Bibles are credible. Recently scientists have conducted DNA tests on Dead Sea Scrolls.
Many people suggested that the modern Bible is a modified copy of a modified copy of a modified copy, and thus is not trustworthy because of copying errors. The Dead Sea Scrolls date back to 2000 plus years ago. The fact that they agree with the biblical texts available today is strong evidence that there have not been massive copy problems in bringing us the written word of God.
Molecular biologists at Tel Aviv University have conduced DNA tests on Dead Sea Scrolls. They are using the DNA evidence to tell us more about the origin of the Dead Sea Scroll fragments. They have isolated animal DNA in 26 fragments. Two of the fragments came from cowskin, and 24 came from sheepskin. The DNA evidence supports the idea that the sheepskin scrolls came from scribes at Qumran, although the cowskin scraps came from elsewhere. A few fragments came from Masada some 55 kilometers south of Qumran.
With more and more evidence, we see more credibility for the manuscripts from which our Bibles came. We can trust the Bible and its message. Whatever differences we find in manuscripts are easy to overcome and to understand.