Bible contains a lot of history, specially about civilizations in which present-day archaeology is also interested. Consequently, everyday they bring up more and more information about these civilizations.
Radical critics of the last two centuries were convinced that this branch of learning will prove to be their greatest tool for demolition. Some of them even went so far as to claim that the historical narratives in the Bible will be discredited in less than one century.
Archaeology, however, turned out to be the greatest friend of Bible. Whenever its finds could interact with the Bible, there it has only confirmed the reliability of the Biblical narratives. So much so that some unbelieving researchers even became believers in Bible after they saw these wonderful confirmations. Today there is no ancient book that stands vindicated like the Bible.
Archaeology in the Biblical lands often gives us new insights into the civilization which existed at the same time as the Old Testament people. Bible critics used to claim that Moses could not have been the author of the Pentateuch (the first five books of Bible) because people were illiterate at that time. But archaeological discoveries confirmed that not only was writing widely diffused long before Moses, but also that the Egyptians who trained him were highly skilled in Mathematics, Astronomy, Architecture and many other related disciplines.
The investigations of Sir Leonard Wooley at the Ur of the Chaldees has shown that Abraham’s mother town was highly civilized. Ur was a brick-built Sumerian town dominated by a huge temple-mound, built of bricks and called a Ziggurat. This tower, patterned after the Tower of Babel is now the tallest mound and in Abraham’s time it was the most conspicuous building in the city.
A good amount of information has been discovered about the cities, roads, streets and houses of the Old Testament times. Clay images have been found in private chapels, that might explain the family gods such as the teraphim that Rachel had stolen from her father.
Clay tablets have been found which contain common laws and legal decisions, receipts for business transactions, temple hymns, mathematical tables with formulae for calculating square and cube roots, problems for students, and writing exercises. In the temple storehouse receipts were found for countless objects, including sheep, cheese, wool, copper ore, oil for lubricating hinges, and payrolls for the female employees.
It is also evident from documents discovered that merchants kept a record of their business and many educated people had personal libraries of religious works. All of this indicates how literate the people of Abraham’s times were.
Many times sculptures and pictures are discovered which even tell us what those people looked like and what types of cloths they wore. A picture of Jews was discovered which dates back to about 1892 B.C. (probably from the era of Abraham). According to it, men wore woolen tunics made by sewing strips of coloured cloths together, leaving one shoulder bare. The women’s garments were very much longer and they wore sandals.
Collecting all the available archaeological data has helped historians to construct a very detailed history of the lands of Egypt, Babylon, and Assyria.
Also, we now know of a large number of kings belonging to various dynasties. Some of them like Shishak of Egypt, Sennacherib of Assyria, and Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon are well known to the Bible readers. Several kings of Israel like Omri, Ahab, Menahem, Pekah, and Hosea are mentioned in Assyrian records. Reference are also found about kings of Judah like Hezekiah, Manasseh, and Jehoiachin etc.
The order in which metals have been mentioned in the Bible, and the order in which they have been found in archaeological discoveries is strikingly similar. Gold and silver were plentiful from very early times, but iron came into use only after 1400 B.C. The same is the order seen in the Bible.
According to archaeology, sheep and cattle were domesticated in Neolithic times, and asses were used for transport from the beginning of the early Bronze age. Horses came to man’s service later. Bones and teeth of camels have been found at several sites, dating from the Middle Bronze Age. All of this sequence is in the same order as they are mentioned in the Bible.
The order in which a certain thing appears in history, and the order in which the same thing is mentioned in historical documents is a good test of the accuracy of these documents. Biblical history passes this test in every narrative that archaeology is at present capable of testing.
This limited discussion cannot look into all the archaeological details pertaining to the Bible, but what has been mentioned above is enough to point out the general confirmation of Bible by archaeology. Much more information is available in many excellent treatises and technical journals devoted to Biblical and Middle Eastern archaeology. Anyone with special interest in this subject can refer to these publications.
Compared to the four thousand years of history recorded in the Old Testament, the New Testament touches less than one century. Consequently it has fewer references to persons, places, and events. Still an unbelievable amount of information has come up related to New Testament.
There are numerous references to the Lord Jesus in secular literature — writings that do not have any connection with the Bible. In our library, we have at least 35 such references to Lord Jesus discovered from non Biblical sources. Then there are numerous stories and places discovered by archaeologists that attest to the Lord Jesus and disciples as historical persons.
The writer of the world famous book BEN HUR had originally set about to disprove the existence of Lord Jesus. But in the process of his investigations he was so much overwhelmed with proofs for the existence of the Lord Jesus that he became a Christian, and then put down his historical discoveries in the form of his well- known novel BEN HUR.
Similar is the story behind the book WHO MOVED THE STONE, the writer of which started his investigation in order to disprove the story of resurrection of Jesus. But his careful investigations convinced him that if the matter of resurrection were brought before a court for examination then there is sufficient evidence to accept the resurrection as a fact testified by numerous eyewitnesses. Thus convinced of the truth of resurrected Jesus, he wrote down the above mentioned book about the open grave of Lord Jesus.
It has now been established with sufficient authority that the books of the New Testament are definitely as ancient as are believed by Christians, and that they were indeed written by the persons whose names are connected with these books.
In the last century it was the fashion of the times to claim that the New Testament books were written a long time after the time that Christians usually assign to these books. This implied two things : these books were not written by authors like Paul whose names are connected with these books. Secondly, since the books were written very late after the time of Lord Jesus their reliability was highly suspect. But today we know that all the books of New Testament were complete by 90 A.D.
Manuscript fragments are available that indicate that some of the books were written before 50 AD when the eyewitnesses were still alive so that sufficient historical facts were available to the writers. Further, some of the eyewitnesses were hostile to Christians, and therefore when they were alive it was impossible for Christians to circulate false documents about Lord Jesus.
Miniature images of Diana, that are mentioned by Dr. Luke in the book of Acts, have been found. The Areopagus, or Mars Hill, where Paul gave his discourse in front of the intellectuals can still be seen in quite a good condition. The alter dedicated to the “unknown god” has also been discovered !
Coins used for taxation, imprinted with the likeness and image of Caesar, have been discovered among numerous other Roman coins. This is the coin about which the Lord had said “Render to Caesar, that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mark 12:17). Names similar to many of those mentioned in the New Testament have been found in abundance. Many of the persons mentioned there have been found mentioned in historical sources also.
The census at the time of Lord Jesus’ birth was disputed by many who maintained that censuses were neither customary nor known at that time. But discoveries that followed not only disproved this position, but have also provided a good amount of information about the actual census mentioned in the Gospels.
Many attacked the Gospel of John on the ground that such profound theology was not possible at that time, and that it must have taken it a long time to grow into this mature form. But manuscripts of this Gospels have been discovered that show that the gospel was indeed written in the same mature form in the first century itself.
The Greek language used in the New Testament was the subject of speculation for a long time because this variety of Greek language was not discovered anywhere else. But in the last two centuries tens of thousands of manuscripts have been discovered that have revealed the secrets of this language — a dialect that was spoken by the common man at the time of the Lord Jesus. Known today as the Koine Greek, these finds have produced such insight into this language that one can understand the New Testament better than any other book from the ancient world.
Every God-fearing Christian should know at least something about the logical foundations of the Christian faith. We live in the age of reason, and it is natural for people to ask reasons for our faith. You should be ready to reply before they fire the question at you. The Christian can rest assured that an unprejudiced investigation of Biblical history will always come out in favour of this Book !