Recently, two researchers from Tel Aviv University made headlines when they claimed that the Bible’s historicity was undermined by, of all things, camel bones.
The camel bones in question were discovered in ancient copper mines south of the Dead Sea. After dating the bones to the tenth century before Christ, the researchers concluded that the stories of Abraham and other patriarchs possessing camels 1,000 years earlier could not have been true.
But why let the facts get in the way of a good headline? As Todd Bolen of the Master’s College told Christianity Today, their conclusion, based on a single finding, was definitely “an overreach.”
And Titus Kennedy of Biola pointed out that “a camel is mentioned in a list of domesticated animals from Ugarit, dating to the Old Babylonian period,” which ran from 1950-1600 BC, around the time of the biblical patriarchs.
Speaking of facts, in the latest issue of Biblical Archeology Review, Lawrence Mykytiuk of asks and answers the question “how many people in the Hebrew Bible have been confirmed archaeologically?’
The conservative answer is at least fifty.
The most famous of these is King David who, until relatively recently was believed by many scholars to either be a “shadowy, perhaps mythical ancestor” or a “literary creation of later biblical authors and editors.”
All of this changed, however, in 1993 when archaeologists found a stele dating from the ninth century B.C., commissioned by the king of Damascus with the inscription “House of David.” The issue of David’s historicity was laid to rest.
In addition to David, archeologists have been able to independently corroborate the existence of kings such as Hezekiah. The water tunnel he used during the Assyrian siege, described in both 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles, has been discovered in Jerusalem.
Confirmation isn’t limited to those described as doing what was right in the sight of the Lord. Eight of the northern kingdom’s kings—including the notorious Ahab and Jeroboam II, whose reign was denounced by Hosea and Amos—have been verified archaeologically.
Nor is independent corroboration limited to the kings of Judah and Israel. The existence of numerous pagan kings mentioned in the Bible has been verified by archeologists. Some of them, such as Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and Cyrus the Great of Persia, are prominent figures in world history.
Others are not. Second Kings and Isaiah both mention Adrammelech, the son and murderer of Sennacherib, the king of Assyria. The Bible tells us he then fled and never took over as king. Cuneiform inscriptions confirm the biblical tale.
Even the Iron Age equivalents of middle-level bureaucrats mentioned in Scripture have been independently verified.
Make no bones about it: The Bible is easily the most verified book of antiquity—and not just its historical figures, but the copies of the manuscripts themselves. It’s not even close. For instance, the oldest surviving copies of works we have by Herodotus, Plato and even Homer only date back to the early middle ages—some 800 and 1,300 hundred years after they were written.
In contrast, as Frederick Kenyon of the British Museum put it, “the interval … between the dates of the original composition [of the New Testament] and the earliest extant evidence [is] so small as to be in fact negligible.”
Please come to BreakPoint.org and click on this commentary. We’ll link you to some great resources on biblical archaeology and history.
BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.
Eric Metaxas is a co-host of BreakPoint Radio and a best-selling author whose biographies, children's books, and popular apologetics have been translated into more than a dozen languages.
Publication date: April 3, 2014