What does archaeology tell us about the validity of the bible?
“There have been thousands of archaeological finds in the Middle East that support the picture presented in the biblical record,” says Dr. Norman Geisler. “There was a discovery not long ago confirming King David. The patriarchs – the narratives about Abraham, Isacc, and Jacob – were once considered legendary, but as more has become known, these stories are increasing corroborated. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was thought to be mythological until evidence was uncovered that all 5 of the cities mentioned in Genesis were, in fact, situated just as the Old Testament said. As far as their destruction goes, archaeologist Clifford Wilson said there is permanent evidence of the great conflagration that took place in the long distant past.’
“Furthermore,” Geisler added, “various aspects of the Jewish captivity have been conformed. Also, every reference in the Old Testament to an Assyrian king has been proven correct; an excavation during the 19060’s confirmed that the Israelites could, indeed, have entered, Jerusalem by way of a tunnel during David’s reign; there is evidence the world did have a single language at the time, as the Bible says. The site of Solomon’s temple is now being excavated; and on and on. Many times, archaeologist have been skeptical of the Old Testament, only to have new discoveries corroborate the new account.”
“The Bible makes about 3 dozen references to the Hittites, but critics use to say there was no evidence that such people ever existed. Now archaeologists digging in modern Turkey have discovered the records of the Hittites. As the great archaeologist William F. Albright declared, “There can be no doubt that archaeology has confirmed the substantial historicity of the Old Testament tradition.”
Suffice it to say : while not everything in the Old Testament can be tested by archaeology, discoveries have repeatedly confirmed claims made by these Scriptures.
“The noted Roman historian Colin J. Hemer, in The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History, show how archaeology has confirmed not dozens, but hundreds and hundreds of details from the biblical account of the early church,”states Dr. Norman Geisler “Even small details have been corroborated, like which way the wind blows, how deep the water is a certain distance from the shore, what kind of disease a certain island had, the names of local officials, and so forth.”
“Now, Acts was authored by the historian Luke. Hemer gives more than a dozen reasons why Acts had to have been written before AD 62, or about thirty years after Jesus’ crucifixion. Even earlier, Luke wrote the gospel of Luke, which is substantially the same as the other biblical accounts of Jesus’ life.”
“So here you have an impeccable historian, who has been proven right in hundreds of details and never proven wrong, writing the whole history of Jesus and the early church. And it’s written within one generation while eyewitnesses were still alive and could have disputed it if it were exaggerated or false. You don’t have anything like that from the other religious books of the ancient world.”
“Prominent historian Sir William Ramsay started out a skeptic, but after studying Acts he concluded that in various details the narrative showed marvelous truth. The great Oxford University classical historian A.N. Sherwin-White said, ‘For Acts the conformation of historicity is overwhelming,’ and that any attempt to reject its basic historicity must now appear absurd.'”
The documents of the New Testament have been validated as accurate historical documents.
- The papyrii from those Egyptian “talking crocodiles” have demonstrated that the New Testament documents are remarkable records of the times claimed for them in the language of “everyday” people. Those everyday expressions from Paul’s time have also thrown much light on Paul’s writings themselves.
- The findings of Sir William Ramsay and his successors in Asia Minor reestablished the veracity of Luke the historian and other New Testament writers.
The three Bible writings most attacked by critics were the Moses’ Pentateuch, Ezra/Nehemiah, and Luke. Every one of these has been remarkably confirmed as being accurate and reliable by the research of credible scholars.
- A flood of evidence shows the continuity between the New Testament documents (e.g., the Rylands Papyrus with parts of John 18:31–33 on one side and John 18:37–38 on the other) and the abundant evidence from the secular Roman writers and the early church fathers.
I do not use the statement: “Archaeology proves the Bible.” In fact, such a claim would be putting archaeology above the Bible. What happens when seemingly assured results of archaeology are shown to be wrong after all? Very often archaeology does endorse particular Bible events. And some would say that in this way it “proves the Bible.” But such a statement should be taken with reservation because archaeology is the support, not the main foundation.
Thousands of facts in the Bible are not capable of verification because the evidence has long since been lost. However, it is remarkable that where confirmation is possible and has come to light, the Bible survives careful investigation in ways that are unique in all literature. Its superiority to attack, its capacity to withstand criticism, and its amazing facility to be proved right are all staggering by any standards of scholarship. Seemingly assured results “disproving” the Bible have a habit of backfiring.
Over and over again the Bible has been vindicated from Genesis to Revelation. The superiority of Genesis 1–11 has been established, and the patriarchal backgrounds have been endorsed. The writings of Moses do date to his time, and the record of the conquest of Canaan under Joshua has many indications of eyewitness recording.
David’s Psalms were clearly products of his time, and records about Solomon should no longer be written off as “legendary.” Solomon was a literary giant, a commercial magnate, and a powerful ruler—under God. God alone gave Israel their “golden age.”
The Assyrian period has given dramatic confirmation to biblical records, with excavations of palace after palace over the last 150 years. Such excavations constantly add to our understanding of the background to Old Testament kings, prophets, peoples, and incidents.
The exile in Babylon is endorsed at various points, and the Cyrus Decree makes it clear that captured people could return to their own lands and worship according to their own beliefs. Ezra and Nehemiah are accurate reflections of that post-exilic period.
Likewise, the New Testament documents have been consistently demonstrated as factual, eyewitness records. Kings, rulers, and officials are named unerringly; titles are used casually but with remarkable accuracy; geographic boundaries are highlighted; and customs are correctly touched on.
It is indeed true that “truth shall spring out of the earth” (Psalm 85:11).
I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?
Jesus in John 3:12