Stones and Bones and Skeptic’s Groans
Two of the greatest attacks on Christianity began in the nineteenth century with the Biblical Higher Criticism of the notorious German rationalists and Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. The first was the satanic lie, “Yea, hath God said” (Genesis 3:1) and the latter gave man the excuse to get rid of God and deify himself: “Ye shall be as gods” (Genesis 3:5).
One taught that the Scriptures evolved over thousands of years from mythological stories while the other taught that man evolved over millions of years from lower life forms. The attacks centered on the writings of Moses which are the foundation of the Bible. It was an attack upon the Savior Himself for He confirmed the Old Testament record. Critics concocted endless theories to explain a late origin of the Pentateuch, Hebrew words, names, places, and customs. They claimed that man was not evolved enough to have developed writing or laws.
Just as discoveries in science have shown Darwin’s theory to be impossible, likewise archaeology has dealt a significant blow to the critical theories. From the growing mountain of evidence which is available, we can list just a few outstanding discoveries in this short article.
The tide turned with the discovery of thousands of clay writing tablets from the time of Abraham. Some came from Mari, an Amorite city, from Nuzi, a Horite city, and from the Empire of Ebla. They included the Law Code of Hammurabi and the Canaanite Ugarit texts.
The names of people, places, and cities in Genesis were not invented. Archeologists found Abraham’s city, Ur, a great city which he forsook. Its writing and laws were quite advanced. Hebrew is now recognized as one of the oldest languages.
Customs recorded in Genesis were authentic for that period. For example, Sarah’s actions in Genesis 16:1-3 were a common custom of the time where a man’s wife gave a slave woman to her husband in order to raise up a child for herself. If a man had no son he would normally adopt an heir (Genesis 15:2-3). The great journey of Abraham was along known trade routes and not impossible; as well, the Bible’s description of Canaanite depravity was not fiction. Even the twenty pieces of silver paid for Joseph was in line with the price of slaves at that time. Such details would be unknown to a forger centuries later.
The Hittites, mentioned over forty times in the Bible, were considered historically worthless until archaeologists found proof of their great empire in Bogazkoy, Turkey. In 1967 Balaam’s words were found inscribed on plaster fragments in the Jordan Valley, consistent with Exodus’ account.
Such discoveries led archaeologists to respect the historical accuracy of the Bible. This included the famous William F. Albright (1891 – 1971), who abandoned many of his liberal views.
David and his kingdom were thought to be just a legend until 1993 when a stone inscription was found at Tel Dan in northern Israel with the words “House of David” & “King of Israel” written in paleo-Hebrew script of the ninth century B.C.
King Omri and his son Ahab are mentioned on the Moabite Stone, a Moabite account of the events in 2 Kings 3:5. Assyrian documents mention King Ahab. King Jehu is pictorially depicted paying tribute on the Black Obelisk of Shalmanezer III of Assyria (2 Kings 10:31-33).
The Taylor Prism, displayed in the British Museum, is one of the three accounts left by the Assyrian monarch Sennacherib of his campaign against Israel and Judah. On it Sennacherib boasts, “He himself I shut up in Jerusalem, his royal city, like a bird in a cage… fear of my lordly splendor overwhelmed that Hezekiah…” The absence of any conquest is silent testimony to God’s deliverance. Sennacherib’s assassination by his sons is attested by the Babylonian Chronciles (2 Kings 19:36-37).
Hezekiah’s tunnel (2 Chronciles 32:30) was also discovered when Arab boys swam in the pool of Siloam and found its underwater opening. Critics once claimed man did not have the technology to undertake such a feat of engineering.
Tablets from the royal archive of Nebuchadnezzar showed that King Jehoiachin and his five sons received a monthly ration and were treated well (2 Kings 25:27-30). Over 400 bullae (seals) were found in Jerusalem including some which mentioned names of persons in the book of Jeremiah. One was that of Baruch the scribe of Jeremiah, with his fingerprint still on it!
The Lachish Ostraca depict the final hours of the city’s fall to the Babylonians and confirm the accuracy of Jeremiah. They mention the prophet who weakened the hands of the people (see Jer 38:4).
Critics once claimed there was no Assyrian king named Sargon (Isaiah 20:1), until Sargon’s palace was discovered in Khorsabad, Iraq. The very event mentioned in Isaiah, his capture of Ashdod, was recorded on the palace walls.
Critics declared that Daniel was a forgery written long after its prophecies were fulfilled. They said Belshazzar never existed because Nabonidus was the last recorded king of Babylon. A cylinder found at the ancient city of Sippar proved them wrong. It read, “Belshazzar the son first (born) the offspring of my heart (body).” Other tablets stated that Nabopolasar was in Arabia and left his son as second ruler of Babylon. Thus, Belshazzar could offer to make Daniel “third highest ruler in the kingdom” (Dan 5:16). A great Bible event was confirmed by the Cyrus cylinder, “I (Cyrus) gathered all their former inhabitants and returned to them their habitations.” In 1961 an Italian excavation uncovered huge limestone block at the city of Caesarea with the inscription “Tiberium…Pontius Pilate… Prefect Judea.”
However the greatest impact came when an Arab shepherd boy discovered the Dead Sea scrolls in 1947 at Qumran. William F. Albright hailed it as “the greatest manuscript discovery of all times.” It included a complete scroll of Isaiah dated 25 B.C. and thousands of fragments, representing every Old Testament book except Esther. Dated between 300 B.C. and 100 A.D., these manuscripts predated the oldest Old Testament manuscripts then available by over a thousand years, yet differ from them only slightly. Evidently, down through the years Jewish scribes had copied the Bible with a care not shown to any other book in human history – “because that unto them were committed the oracles of God” (Romans 3:2).
Evidence for the New Testament includes over 5000 Greek manuscripts, together with the writings of the “church fathers” who quoted nearly every Scripture. Also Syriac, Latin, Coptic, and Aramaic manuscripts total over 24,000 texts to prove, beyond a doubt, its reliability.
“Experts” dismissed Luke’s record of Roman names, places, and titles as inventions. Archaeology not only proved Luke right in every detail but led to the conversion of Sir William Ramsey (1851-1939), an archaeologist who set out to disprove the Scriptures. He said, “Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of facts trustworthy; he is possessed of the true historic sense…In short this author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.”
However, there is so much more to be discovered as only a few of the thousands of sites of archaeological significance in Palestine have been extensively excavated. So far out of the many discoveries made, Nelson Glueck (1900-1971) the famous Jewish archaeologist said, “It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a Biblical reference.”
To this we can add the testimony of William F. Albright, “The excessive skepticism shown toward the Bible (by certain schools of thought) has been progressively discredited. Discovery after discovery has established the accuracy of numerous details.” He also said, “There can be no doubt that archaeology has confirmed the substantial historicity of Old Testament traditions.”
The spade that unearthed proofs for the Bible has buried many a critic and his worthless theories. When man refuses to glorify God, the Lord declares, “I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out” (Luke 19:40). This they have done through the science of archaeology.