Ancient Artifacts Caution

Ancient Artifacts at the Clayton Museum
The Clayton Museum of Ancient History in York, Nebraska, has a problem that all of us need to be aware of. That museum houses Foster Standback’s collections of ancient artifacts from Palestine and the Roman world from the time of Jesus.

The problem is that there is a huge market for ancient things that can bring massive profits to those who sell them. This has resulted in looting, black market selling, the making of fakes, and damage to archaeological sites. UNESCO is the United National Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. In 1970 UNESCO established a Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export, and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. In 1972 the nations of the world agreed not to trade in illicit cultural heritage objects.

The reason for this agreement is not only to stop criminal acts but also to keep ancient artifacts in their context. Once the archaeological context of an object is lost, it is worth far less academically, as it can no longer tell us anything about the people who made it. The goal is to allow scholars to gain as much information as they can about the objects in their context. The archaeological evidence can contribute to our understanding of the past.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to enforce an agreement between the nations of the world to anything. There are organizations such as The Museum of the Bible that buy artifacts from black-market dealers claiming to be trying to preserve the objects. A good general rule is that if you see an ad for ancient artifacts from the time of Christ, especially things of religious significance, do not purchase them. It is not only illegal, but it is highly likely you are paying a lot of money for something that is fraudulent.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Reference: Biblical Archaeology Review, September/October 2018, page 6.

Archaeological Discoveries at Masada

Archaeological Discoveries at Masada
More than 2000 years ago, King Herod built a fortress in the Judean Desert that could house 10,000 soldiers. He equipped it with five palaces and water installations which included three bathhouses and a swimming pool. Masada is a butte with incredibly steep sides making it an easy place to defend. When Rome set out to defeat the Jewish zealots, the rebels sought refuge at Masada where they held out from A.D. 66 to 73. In recent years there have been new archaeological discoveries at Masada.

Archeologists have been exploring the remains of Masada for a very long time. In the past ten years, new technology has revealed a great deal of information about the history of Rome, Palestine, the Jewish community, and the Christian community. Biblical Archaeology Review for September/October 2018 carries an excellent article about what they have learned. The discoveries have strong implications for the credibility of the Bible and help us understand the conditions that existed at the time of Jesus and during the early years of the Church. Here are some of the recent finds:

Masada had an advanced water system, enough to produce extensive agriculture including a winery with 50 fermentation tanks.

Herod had huge gardens with trees and flowers as well as agricultural products.

There was an Essene community at Masada. The Essenes are the Jewish group that left us the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The Jews had animals of burden during the siege by the Romans.

A Christian community had a chapel on Masada by A.D. 400 and a Church which included a monastery on Masada from the fifth to seventh centuries.

Archaeological discoveries at Masada give us new insights into biblical events and beliefs. The interactions of the apostles and Jesus with the Jews and the Romans give us a better understanding of what happened in New Testament times, during the life of Jesus, and for the first 500 years of the Church.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Ancient Science of Moving Huge Rocks

Ancient Science of Moving Huge Rocks
One of the long-term arguments among those who study ancient history is how people thousands of years ago moved huge stones from place to place and set them up as idols or monuments. As examples, they point to the huge rocks in the Egyptian pyramids, Stonehenge in England, and Rapa Nui or Easter Island. On that island, ancient people moved or set up nearly 1000 human statues made of rocks weighing up to 784 metric tons. The quest is for the ancient science of moving huge rocks.

Those who promote ancient alien visitation to the Earth argue that these huge rocks provide proof that aliens have been here and have done some fantastic high tech things. Some suggest that those aliens also created us for some great event in the distant future. Sometimes those tabloid writers even misrepresent the Bible to “prove” their false theories.

Science News magazine (July 7, 2018, page 15) published an interesting report by archaeologists. Fifteen people were able to move rocks weighing 12 metric tons 45 meters down a dirt road. Then with a ramp, they lifted they lifted the stones 8 meters to the tops of human statues where they placed them as hats crowning the figures. Other archaeologists have given similar explanations involving a small number of workers.

Those who assume that ancient humans lacked intelligence and had no knowledge of science grossly underestimate the abilities of our ancestors. The Egyptian creations can easily be explained by simple engineering principles and the labor pool that was available to them. There is no need to suppose that huge populations were needed or that some outside force such as ancient astronauts were players in constructing those ancient monuments. The ancient science of moving huge rocks should not be a mystery.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Biblical History Gains New Support

Biblical History Gains New Support
Many skeptics of the Bible attempt to suggest that the biblical record of the Exodus, Moses, and Israel is fiction. They say that most of the Old Testament contains made-up stories with no historical support. However, with further discoveries, biblical history gains new support.

Michael Zellmann-Rohrer of the University of Oxford has recently translated a large papyrus document discovered in 1934 at the pyramid of Senusret I at Lisht in Lower Egypt. The text is written in Coptic, an Egyptian language that adapts the Greek alphabet. The document contains references to Abraham and Isaac from the Book of Genesis and quotations from a prayer by Seth, a son of Adam and Eve. This papyrus does not come from the time of the Exodus, but it shows strong connections to the biblical record in Egypt that endured to the time of Christ and beyond. (Reference: Archaeology July/August 2018, page 16.)

In our websites and publications, we have repeatedly given examples of evidence showing that what the Bible says is true. We also have a DVD series on biblical archaeology by Dr. Harvey Porter. We are currently working on new programs on archaeology and history for our “Does God Exist?” video series. They are taught by John Cooper and recorded in the Clayton Museum of Ancient History at York College in York, Nebraska. Those new programs will be available by the fall of 2018.

We have said many times that science and the Bible are friends, not enemies. That is also true of the science of archaeology. As we learn more from archaeology, biblical history gains new support.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Giza Pyramids and Answers

Giza Pyramids
Someone said, “If you don’t believe in something you will believe anything.” A lightning rod for people looking for ways to deny the biblical account or the existence of God has been the three giant pyramids near Cairo, Egypt. The Giza Pyramids are listed as one of the “Seven Wonders of the World.” We have seen books, documentaries, and articles attempting to prove that space aliens built the pyramids, or that a super-advanced lost civilization was responsible. Research has gradually answered most of the questions concerning those impressive structures.

The three Giza Pyramids were constructed during the 70 years between 2575 and 2465 B.C. There is no doubt about their purpose. They were tombs for royalty. The blocks that make up the pyramids were cut from quarries along the Nile River. They were moved by men or cattle using sledges. One particular building material was white limestone which faced two of the pyramids (Khufu’s and Khafre’s). It was quarried at Tura on the Nile’s east bank eight miles away from the pyramid site. Granite beams for inner chambers were quarried in Aswan which was hundreds of miles away. The Egyptians dug canals and harbors and used cargo boats to move those huge stones.

In 2013 a papyrus was found stuffed between stones in a building at a harbor used in the construction of the Khufu pyramid. The papyrus is a day-to-day log by an inspector named Merer who directed a cargo boat crew transporting the white limestone from Tura to the Giza Plateau. Archaeologists are making more discoveries as research continues.

The Giza Pyramids are amazing, and they tell us that ancient humans were very intelligent and very concerned about what happens when this life has ended. There were no aliens, super-humans or divine spirits involved in the pyramids. Those structures were built by humans desperately wanting to find a way to a life that is better than this life when they died. We are blessed in our day to have the Word of God that tells us how to live successfully in this life, and how to live eternally.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Reference: Discover magazine, July/August 2018, page 30-33.

Minimalist View of History and the Evidence

Minimalist View of History: City of David
Atheists and skeptics have waged war against the Bible, with the history of Israel as one of their main targets. Philip R. Davies wrote a book in 1992 titled, In Search of Ancient Israel which is widely quoted by biblical minimalists. The minimalist view of history is that the Bible is a doubtful source for information about ancient Israel. They consider it to be unreliable. In Dr. Davies’ book, he states what he maintains are three possible views of Israel:

There may have been a “historical Israel,” but it is not really accessible to us because the Bible text is largely unreliable.

“Biblical Israel” is only a late construct of the biblical writers.

“Ancient Israel” is a modern scholar’s construct, that is, also not real but fictitious.

The answer to all of these claims is to ask for an unbiased examination of the evidence. Assuming the Bible text is unreliable is a closed-minded approach to the issues involved. We have maintained in this “layman’s journal” for nearly 50 years now that if you look at who wrote the Bible, to whom, and why, it is clear and accurate. We have also shown that there are examples of statements in the Bible that are testable. We deal with that in our video series which is available on DVDs, or you can watch it at no cost on our DoesGodExist.tv website.

Archaeological data supports many of the factual statements of the Bible and new data has become available in the twenty-first century. The picture shows the “City of David” archaeological site in Jerusalem. Language and translation problems are certainly an issue, but to say the Bible is inaccessible or unreliable demeans what scholars can do.

There is plenty of evidence to refute the minimalist view of history. We can trust the Bible, but there are times when we have to dig into what it says to understand what it means.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Hershel Shanks and the Dead Sea Scrolls

Hershel Shanks and the Dead Sea Scrolls
In 2017, Hershel Shanks retired. He was the founder of the Biblical Archaeology Society and the editor of Biblical Archaeology Review for 42 years. Shanks is important to those of us interested in apologetics because he caused the contents of the Dead Sea Scrolls to become available to the general public. He also has been useful in getting material supporting belief in the Bible as the Word of God into the hands of the public. A recent example is evidence that David was, in fact, the historical figure the Bible depicts–a belief biblical minimalists have challenged.

The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in the late 1940s, and thousands of fragments were housed in the Palestine Archaeological Museum which is now called the Rockefeller Museum. A scroll publication team with an editor-in-chief supervised the assembling and reproduction of the scrolls. However, virtually no reproductions had been made available so research on the contents of the scrolls not possible.

When the Dead Sea Scrolls were unavailable for study, skeptics attacked the Bible, and the media carried all kinds of claims about what the scrolls contained. One story was that the scrolls said that Jesus was “the great teacher of the Essenes.” Some people made claims that the scrolls showed that apocryphal books should be validated as part of the biblical canon. Shanks began a public campaign to make the scrolls available to researchers, students, and the general public. Hebrew University professor, Emanuel Tov, became the editor-in-chief of the publication team and during his tenure over 100 scholars contributed to the release of the scrolls’ contents.

Hershel Shanks published a preliminary edition of the unpublished Dead Sea Scrolls in 1991, and a landslide of demands for full disclosure of all of the documents followed. Today the Dead Sea Scrolls are housed in a special building in Jerusalem called “The Shrine of the Book.” They are also available to view in high definition for free on the internet. To see them click here.

The scrolls provide great support for belief in the Bible as the Word of God. You can read many articles that we have published over the years showing archaeological support for the Bible on our journal archives at doesgodexist.org.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Reference: Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April/May/June 2018, Vol. 44, numbers 2 & 3, page 24.

Isaiah’s Signature Found

Isaiah's Signature Found
The prophet Isaiah is often called the “Messianic Prophet.” In his lengthy (66 chapter) book of the Old Testament, he told of the coming Messiah. We have his words, but now we may also have Isaiah’s signature.

In 2015 archaeologists found the royal seal of King Hezekiah stamped in a clay seal at Ophel, the foot of the southern wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Written on the seal is a Hebrew inscription which reads “Belonging to Hezekiah, son of Ahaz, king of Judah.”

Now in the same location, a new seal has been found. This one appears to belong to the prophet Isaiah. The March-June issue of Biblical Archaeology Review (pages 64-73) has pictures and an explanation of the find. Because there is some damage to the seal, or bulla, the final judgment will have to come after scholarly review. If the scholars give their approval, they will make a formal announcement.

For years biblical minimalists and skeptics have attacked the accuracy of the Bible’s historical information. As archaeologists make more discoveries, it becomes increasingly more difficult to refute the accuracy of the Bible. Isaiah’s signature would be one more evidence that we can have confidence in the inspiration of the original manuscripts of the Bible.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Earth’s Magnetic Reversals

Earth's Magnetic Reversals and Ancient Pottery
When I took my earth science students on our annual field trip to Lake Michigan, we did a “magnetism and history” exercise showing Earth’s magnetic reversals. We would go to the large sand dune known as “Old Baldy” (no, not named after me), cover a bar magnet with a white handkerchief, and stick it into the sand. The handkerchief would come out completely covered with little black needles of magnetite which is a magnetic iron oxide.

There was a nearby pool where the water was calm and where you could see the magnetic pieces with a pair of binoculars. They pretty much lined up in the same direction, and I showed the students that they were lined up with a compass needle. We would then dig down several feet into the sand to a layer of mud where the magnetite pieces pointed every which way. I would ask my students to tell me why that would be. Most of them said that the Earth must have lost its magnetic field at the time when that mud was deposited. I then told them if we dug down deeper we would find the magnetite pieces lined up again, but in the opposite direction. The point was obvious–the magnetic field of the Earth had flipped.

In reality, there are several other possible causes for the scrambled magnetite pieces, but the magnetic reversal did happen. In the mid-ocean ridge of the Atlantic, lava flows have trapped the magnetite. The process is called “thermoremanent magnetization.” Because the lava flows happened multiple times, they show a picture of the history of the Earth’s magnetic reversals. These lava flows have recorded over a dozen “flips” in the magnetic field of Earth.

Archaeologist Dr. Erez Ben-Yosef of Tel Aviv University has led studies of the history of magnetic changes on the Earth. Ancient pottery has tiny magnetic minerals that were aligned with the Earth’s magnetic field when the pottery was fired in the kiln. The stronger the magnetic field, the greater the alignment of the magnetic particles. From the late eighth to the second century B.C., ceramic jars bearing the impressions of royal stamps were manufactured in and around Jerusalem. Scientists have studied handles from 67 pieces of pottery, and they have found that the magnetic field of the Earth has gone through periodic rises and falls throughout history. The mapping of the magnetic fields gives a record of history, with small changes producing a pattern that improves dating techniques by a huge factor.

What causes the Earth’s magnetic field is still not completely understood, and the magnetic reversals are even more of a mystery. By measuring the magnetic particles in the pottery, scientists can date the pottery very accurately. This dating method can answer many questions about ancient kings and kingdoms including the major figures in the history of Israel.

For more on this go to https://www.haaretz.com/archaeology/1.771427
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Essenes and Qumran Discoveries

Essenes and Qumran Discoveries
In the 1970s there was a lot of attention paid to a community of ascetics known as the Essenes. This group lived in the Qumran area near the Dead Sea and were probably the producers of the Dead Sea Scrolls. In the past, skeptics of Christianity have suggested that they were the originators of Christian teachings and of Jesus himself. The Essenes expected a “Teacher of Righteousness” who would rise from the dead.

As scholars probed more deeply, it became obvious that there were huge differences that invalidated attempts to discredit Christianity by ascribing its teachings to the Essenes. The Essenes were ultraconservative Jews, many of whom rejected marriage and attempted to hide from the Romans.

On November 16, 2017, anthropologist Yossi Nagar of the Israel Antiquities Authority in Jerusalem presented a study of 33 newly discovered skeletons found at Qumran. Carbon-14 dating puts the bones at 2200 years ago, close to the dates of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The bones are mostly, if not all, from adult males and have no signs of having been in combat, so they were not soldiers.

In February of 2017, researchers found another cave that seems to have held more scrolls or pieces of leather or papyrus that were ready to be used for writing. The significance of the finds is that they may lead to more scrolls in the area. Questions about who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls do need to be answered to establish the validity of the documents.

The content of the writings of the Essenes validates the accuracy of the Bible. So far the Dead Sea Scrolls contain all the books of the Old Testament except the book of Esther. The scrolls predate the birth of Christ, and they show that the text of the Old Testament has been faithfully preserved. Research continues and will have great value in answering biblical questions.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Reference: Science News December 23,2017.