Understanding Archaeology

Christianity is a historical faith based on actual events recorded in the Bible.
Archaeology has therefore played a key role in biblical studies and Christian
apologetics in several ways.

First, archaeology has confirmed the historical accuracy of the Bible. It has
verified many ancient sites, civilizations, and biblical characters whose existence
was questioned by the academic world and often dismissed as myths. Biblical
archaeology has silenced many critics as new discoveries supported the facts
of the Bible.

Second, archaeology helps us improve our understanding of the Bible. Although
we do not have the original writings of the authors, thousands of ancient manuscripts
affirm that we have an accurate transmission of the original texts.{1} Archaeology
can also help us to understand more accurately the nuances and uses of biblical
words as they were used in their day.

Third, archaeology helps illustrate and explain Bible passages. The events of
the Bible occurred at a certain time, in a particular culture, influenced by
a particular social and political structure. Archaeology gives us insights into
these areas. Archaeology also helps to supplement topics not covered in the Bible.
Much of what we know of the pagan religions and the intertestamental period
comes from archaeological research.

As we approach this study we must keep in mind the limits of archaeology. First,
it does not prove the divine inspiration of the Bible. It can only confirm the
accuracy of the events. Second, unlike other fields of science, archaeology
cannot re-create the process under study. Archaeologists must study and interpret
the evidence left behind. All conclusions must allow for revision and reinterpretation
based on new discoveries. Third, how archaeological evidence is understood depends
on the interpreter’s presuppositions and world view. It is important to understand
that many researchers are skeptics of the Bible and hostile to its world view.

?Fourth, thousands of archives have been discovered, but an enormous amount
of material has been lost. For example, the library in Alexandria held over
one million volumes, but all were lost in a seventh century fire.

Fifth, only a fraction of available archaeological sites have been surveyed,
and only a fraction of surveyed sites have been excavated. In fact, it is estimated
that less than two percent of surveyed sites have been worked on. Once work
begins, only a fraction of an excavation site is actually examined, and only a
small part of what is examined is published. For example, the photographs of
the Dead Sea Scrolls were withheld from the public for forty years after they
were uncovered.

It is important to understand that the Scriptures remain the primary source
of authority. We must not elevate archaeology to the point that it becomes the
judge for the validity of Scripture. Randall Price states, "There are indeed
instances where the information needed to resolve a historical or chronological
question is lacking from both archaeology and the Bible, but it is unwarranted
to assume the material evidence taken from the more limited content of archaeological
excavations can be used to dispute the literary evidence from the more complete content
of the canonical scriptures."{2} The Bible has proven to be an accurate and
trustworthy source of history.

Noted archaeologist Nelson Glueck writes, "As a matter of fact, however, it
may be clearly stated categorically that no archeological discovery has ever
controverted a single biblical reference. Scores of archeological findings have
been made which confirm in clear outline or exact detail historical statements in
the Bible."{3}

[<strong>The Discovery of the Hittites</strong>]

The Hittites played a prominent role in Old Testament history. They interacted
with biblical figures as early as Abraham and as late as Solomon. They are mentioned
in Genesis 15:20 as people who inhabited the land of Canaan. 1 Kings 10:29 records
that they purchased chariots and horses from King Solomon. The most prominent Hittite
is Uriah the husband of Bathsheba. The Hittites were a powerful force in the
Middle East from 1750 B.C. until 1200 B.C. Prior to the late 19th century, nothing
was known of the Hittites outside the Bible, and many critics alleged that they
were an invention of the biblical authors.

?In 1876 a dramatic discovery changed this perception. A British scholar named
A. H. Sayce found inscriptions carved on rocks in Turkey. He suspected that
they might be evidence of the Hittite nation. Ten years later, more clay tablets
were found in Turkey at a place called Boghaz-koy. German cuneiform expert Hugo Winckler
investigated the tablets and began his own expedition at the site in 1906.

?Winckler’s excavations uncovered five temples, a fortified citadel and several
massive sculptures. In one storeroom he found over ten thousand clay tablets.
One of the documents proved to be a record of a treaty between Ramesses II and
the Hittite king. Other tablets showed that Boghaz-koy was the capital of the
Hittite kingdom. Its original name was Hattusha and the city covered an area
of 300 acres. The Hittite nation had been discovered!

?Less than a decade after Winckler’s find, Czech scholar Bedrich Hronzny proved
the Hittite language is an early relative of the Indo-European languages of
Greek, Latin, French, German, and English. The Hittite language now has a central
place in the study of the history of the Indo-European languages.

?The discovery also confirmed other biblical facts. Five temples were found
containing many tablets with details of the rites and ceremonies that priests
performed. These ceremonies described rites for purification from sin and purification
of a new temple. The instructions proved to be very elaborate and lengthy. Critics
once criticized the laws and instructions found in the books of Leviticus and
Deuteronomy as too complicated for the time it was written (1400 B.C.). The
Boghaz-koy texts along with others from Egyptian sites and a site along the Euphrates
called Emar have proven that the ceremonies described in the Jewish Pentateuch
are consistent with the ceremonies of the cultures of this time period.

?The Hittite Empire made treaties with civilizations they conquered. Two dozen
of these have been translated and provide a better understanding of treaties
in the Old Testament. The discovery of the Hittite Empire at Boghaz-koy has
significantly advanced our understanding of the patriarchal period. Dr. Fred
Wright summarizes the importance of this find in regard to biblical historicity.

?Now the Bible picture of this people fits in perfectly with what we know of
the Hittite nation from the monuments. As an empire they never conquered the
land of Canaan itself, although the Hittite local tribes did settle there at
an early date. Nothing discovered by the excavators has in any way discredited
the Biblical account. Scripture accuracy has once more been proved by the archaeologist.{4}

The discovery of the Hittites has proven to be one of the great archaeological
finds of all time. It has helped to confirm the biblical narrative and had a
great impact on Middle East archaeological study. Because of it, we have come
to a greater understanding of the history of our language, as well as the religious,
social, and political practices of the ancient Midd
le East.

Sodom and Gomorrah

The story of Sodom and Gomorrah has long been viewed as a legend. Critics assume
that it was created to communicate moral principles. However, throughout the
Bible this story is treated as a historical event. The Old Testament prophets
refer to the destruction of Sodom on several occasions (Deut. 29:23, Isa. 13:19, Jer.
49:18), and these cities play a key role in the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles
(Matt. 10:15, 2 Pet. 2:6 and Jude 1:7). What has archaeology found to establish
the existence of these cities?

?Archaeologists have searched the Dead Sea region for many years in search of
Sodom and Gomorrah. Genesis 14:3 gives their location as the Valley of Siddim
known as the Salt Sea, another name for the Dead Sea. On the east side six wadies,
or river valleys, flow into the Dead Sea. Along five of these wadies, ancient cities
were discovered. The northern most is named Bab edh-Drha. In 1924, renowned
archaeologist Dr. William Albright excavated at this site, searching for Sodom
and Gomorrah. He discovered it to be a heavily fortified city. Although he connected
this city with one of the biblical "Cities of the Plains," he could not find
conclusive evidence to justify this assumption.

?More digging was done in 1965, 1967, and 1973. The archaeologists discovered
a 23-inch thick wall around the city, along with numerous houses and a large
temple. Outside the city were huge grave sites where thousands of skeletons
were unearthed. This revealed that the city had been well populated during the
early Bronze Age, about the time Abraham would have lived.

?Most intriguing was evidence that a massive fire had destroyed the city. It
lay buried under a coating of ash several feet thick. A cemetery one kilometer
outside the city contained charred remains of roofs, posts, and bricks turned
red from heat.

?Dr. Bryant Wood, in describing these charnel houses, stated that a fire began
on the roofs of these buildings. Eventually the burning roof collapsed into
the interior and spread inside the building. This was the case in every house
they excavated. Such a massive fiery destruction would match the biblical account
that the city was destroyed by fire that rained down from heaven. Wood states,
"The evidence would suggest that this site of Bab edh-Drha is the biblical city
of Sodom."{5}

Five cities of the plain are mentioned in Genesis 14: Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah,
Zoar, and Zeboiim. Remnants of these other four cities are also found along
the Dead Sea. Following a southward path from Bab edh-Drha there is the city
called Numeria. Continuing south is the city called es-Safi. Further south are the ancient
cities of Feifa and Khanazir. Studies at these cities revealed that they had
been abandoned at the same time about 2450?2350 B.C. Many archaeologists believe
if Bab ed-Drha is Sodom, Numeria is Gomorrah, and es-Safi is Zoar.

?What fascinated the archaeologists is that these cities were covered in the
same ash as Bab ed-Drha. Numeria, believed to be Gomorrah, had seven feet of
ash in some places. In every one of the destroyed cities ash deposits made the
soil a spongy charcoal, making it impossible to rebuild. According to the Bible, four
of the five cities were destroyed, leaving Lot to flee to Zoar. Zoar was not
destroyed by fire, but was abandoned during this period.

?Although archaeologists are still disputing these findings, this is one discovery
we will be hearing more about in years to come.

?The Walls of Jericho

According to the Bible, the conquest of Jericho occurred in approximately 1440
B.C. The miraculous nature of the conquest has caused some scholars to dismiss
the story as folklore. Does archaeology support the biblical account? Over the
past century four prominent archaeologists have excavated the site: Carl Watzinger
from 1907-1909, John Garstang in the 1930’s, Kathleen Kenyon from 1952-1958,
and currently Bryant Wood. The result of their work has been remarkable.

?First, they discovered that Jericho had an impressive system of fortifications.
Surrounding the city was a retaining wall fifteen feet high. At its top was
an eight-foot brick wall strengthened from behind by an earthen rampart. Domestic
structures were found behind this first wall. Another brick wall enclosed the
rest of the city. The domestic structures found between the two walls is consistent
with Joshua’s description of Rahab’s quarters (Josh. 2:15). Archeologists also
found that in one part of the city, large piles of bricks were found at the
base of both the inner and outer walls, indicating a sudden collapse of the
fortifications. Scholars feel that an earthquake, which may also explain the
damming of the Jordan in the biblical account, caused this collapse. The collapsed
bricks formed a ramp by which an invader might easily enter the city (Josh.

?Of this amazing discovery Garstang states, "As to the main fact, then, there
remains no doubt: the walls fell outwards so completely, the attackers would
be able to clamber up and over the ruins of the city."{6} This is remarkable
because when attacked city walls fall inward, not outward.

A thick layer of soot indicates that the city was destroyed by fire as described
in Joshua 6:24. Kenyon describes it this way. "The destruction was complete.
Walls and floors were blackened or reddened by fire and every room was filled
with fallen bricks."{7} Archaeologists also discovered large amounts of grain at the
site. This is again consistent with the biblical account that the city was captured
quickly. If it had fallen as a result of a siege, the grain would have been
used up. According to Joshua 6:17, the Israelites were forbidden to plunder
the city, but had to destroy it totally.

Although the archaeologists agreed Jericho was violently destroyed, they disagreed
on the date of the conquest. Garstang held to the biblical date of 1400 B.C.
while Watzinger and Kenyon believed the destruction occurred in 1550 B.C. In
other words, if the later date is accurate, Joshua arrived at a previously destroyed
Jericho. This earlier date would pose a serious challenge to the historicity
of the Old Testament.

Dr. Bryant Wood, who is currently excavating the site, found that Kenyon’s early
date was based on faulty assumptions about pottery found at the site. His later
date is also based on the discovery of Egyptian amulets in the tombs northwest
of Jericho. Inscribed under these amulets were the names of Egyptian Pharaohs dating
from 1500-1386 B.C., showing that the cemetery was in use up to the end of the
late Bronze Age (1550-1400 B.C.). Finally, a piece of charcoal found in the
debris was carbon-14 dated to be 1410 B.C. The evidence leads Wood to this conclusion.
"The pottery, stratigraphic considerations, scarab data and a carbon-14 date
all point to a destruction of the city around the end of the Late Bronze Age,
about 1400 BCE."{8}

Thus, current archeological evidence supports the Bible’s account of when and
how Jericho fell.

?House of David

One of the most beloved characters in the Bible is King David. Scripture says
that he was a man after God’s own heart. He is revered as the greatest of all
Israelite kings and the messianic covenant is established through his lineage.
Despite his key role in Israel’s history, until recently no evidence outside the
Bible attested to his existence. For this reason cr
itics questioned the existence
of a King David.

?In the summer of 1993, an archaeologist made what has been labeled as a phenomenal
and stunning discovery. Dr. Avraham Biran and his team were excavating a site
labeled Tell Dan, located in northern Galilee at the foot of Mt. Hermon. Evidence
indicates that this is the site of the Old Testament land of Dan.

?The team had discovered an impressive royal plaza. As they were clearing the
debris, they discovered in the ruins the remains of a black basalt stele, or
stone slab, containing Aramaic inscriptions. The stele contained thirteen lines
of writing but none of the sentences were complete. Some of the lines contained
only three letters while the widest contained fourteen. The letters that remained
were clearly engraved and easy to read. Two of the lines included the phrases
"The King of Israel" and "House of David."

This is the first reference to King David found outside of the Bible. This discovery
has caused many critics to reconsider their view of the historicity of the Davidic
kingdom. Pottery found in the vicinity, along with the construction and style
of writing, lead Dr. Biran to argue that the stele was erected in the first quarter
of the ninth century B.C., about a century after the death of King David.

?The translation team discovered that the inscription told of warfare between
the Israelites and the Arameans, which the Bible refers to during this period.
In this find, a ruler of the Arameans probably Hazael is victorious over Israel
and Judah. The stele was erected to celebrate the defeat of the two kings. In 1994
two more pieces were found with inscriptions which refer to Jehoram, the son
of Ahab, ruler over Israel, and Ahaziah, who was the ruler over the "House of
David" or Judah. These names and facts correspond to the account given in chapters
8 and 9 of 2 Kings. Dr. Hershel Shanks of Biblical Archaeological Review states,
"The stele brings to life the biblical text in a very dramatic way. It also
gives us more confidence in the historical reality of the biblical text."{9}

The find has confirmed a number of facts. First, the use of the term "House
of David" implies that there was a Davidic dynasty that ruled Israel. We can
conclude, then, that a historic King David existed. Second, the kingdoms of
Judah and Israel were prominent political entities as the Bible describes. Critics
long viewed the two nations as simply insignificant states.

?Dr. Bryant Wood summarizes the importance of this find this way. "In our day,
most scholars, archaeologist and biblical scholars would take a very critical
view of the historical accuracy of many of the accounts in the Bible. . . .
Many scholars have said there never was a David or a Solomon, and now we have a
stele that actually mentions David."{10}

Although many archeologists remain skeptical of the biblical record, the evidence
for the historical accuracy of the Bible continues to build.

??????????????? 1.? ????????? See Are the? Biblical Documents Reliable? available on the
Web at? www.probe.org/docs/bib-docu.html
??????????????? 2.? ????????? ?Randall Price, The Stones Cry Out (Eugene, OR.: Harvest?
House Publishers, 1997), 46.
??????????????? 3.? ????????? ?Nelson Glueck, Rivers in the Desert, (New York: Farrar,?
Strous and Cudahy, 1959), 136.
??????????????? 4.? ????????? ?Fred Wright, Highlights of Archaeology in the Bible Lands,?
(Chicago: Moody Press, 1955), 94-95.
??????????????? 5.? ????????? ?Price, 118.
??????????????? 6.? ????????? ?John Garstang, The Foundations of Bible History; Joshua,
Judges? (London: Constable, 1931), 146.
??????????????? 7.? ????????? ?Kathleen Kenyon and Thomas Holland, Excavations at Jericho
Vol.? 3: The Architecture and Stratigraphy of the Tell, (London: BSA), 370.
??????????????? 8.? ????????? ?Bryant Wood, "Did the Israelites Conquer Jericho?" Biblical?
Archaeological Review, March/April, 1990, 57.
??????????????? 9.? ????????? ?John Wilford, "Archaeologists say Evidence of House of
David? Found." Dallas Morning News, 6 August 1993, 1A
??????????????? 10.? ??????? ?Price, 173.

??????????????? ? ????????????? Biblical Archaeological? Review, March/April 1994, "David
Found at Dan," 26-39.
??????????????? ? ????????????? ?Bryce, Trevor. The? Kingdom of the Hittites. Oxford: Clarendon
Press, 1998.
??????????????? ? ????????????? ?Freedman, Noel and? Geoghegan, Jeffrey. "House of David Is
There!" Biblical? Archaeological Review. March/April,1995, 78-79.
??????????????? ? ????????????? ?Garstang, John. The? Foundations of Bible History; Joshua,
Judges. London: Constable, 1931.
??????????????? ? ????????????? ?_______. The Land of the? Hittites. London: Constable and
Company, 1910.
??????????????? ? ????????????? ?Geisler, Norman. When? Skeptics Ask. Wheaton, IL: Victor
Books, 1989.
??????????????? ? ????????????? ?Glueck, Nelson. Rivers? in the Desert. New York: Farrar,
Strous and Cudahy, 1959.
??????????????? ? ????????????? ?Hoerth, Alfred. Archaeology? and the Old Testament. Grand
Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1998.
??????????????? ? ????????????? ?Kenyon, Kathleen and? Holland, Thomas. Excavations at Jericho
Vol. 3: The Architecture and? Stratigraphy of the Tell. London: BSA 370.
??????????????? ? ????????????? ?_______. Digging Up? Jericho. New York: Fredrick Praeger
Publisher, 1957.
??????????????? ? ????????????? ?Lemonick, Michael.? "Score One for the Bible." Time Magazine,
5 March 1990,? 59.
??????????????? ? ????????????? ?_______. "Are the? Bible Stories True?" Time Magazine, December
18, 1995, 62-70.
??????????????? ? ????????????? ?McDowell, Josh. Evidence? That Demands a Verdict. San Bernadino:
Here’s Life Publishers, 1979.
??????????????? ? ????????????? ?_______. More Evidence? That Demands a Verdict. San Bernadino:
Here’s Life Publishers, 1975.
??????????????? ? ????????????? ?Merril, Eugene. "The? Very Stones Cry Out: A New Witness
to an Ancient Record." Gospel? Herald at the Sunday School Times. Fall 1995,
54-55, 59.
??????????????? ? ????????????? ?Millard, Alan. Nelson’s? Illustrated Wonders and Discoveries
of the Bible. Nashville: Thomas? Nelson Publishers, 1997.
??????????????? ? ????????????? ?Price, Randall. The? Stones Cry Out. Eugene, OR.: Harvest
House Publishers, 1997.
??????????????? ? ????????????? ?Wilford, John.? "Archaeologists say Evidence of House of
David Found." Dallas? Morning News, 6 August 1993, 1A and 11A.
??????????????? ? ????????????? ?Wood, Bryant. "Did the? Israelites Conquer Jericho?" Biblical
Archaeological Review,? Vol. 16:2, 1990.
??????????????? ? ????????????? ?Wright, Fred. Highlights? of Archaeology in the Bible Lands.
Chicago: Moody Press, 1955.
??????????????? ? ????????????? ?Yamauchi, Edwin, The? Stones and the Scriptures. Philadelphia:
J.B. Lippincott Company,? 1972.

?? 2000 Probe Ministries International

?About the Author

Patrick Zukeran is a research associate, and a national and international speaker
for Probe Ministries. He graduated from Point Loma Nazarene University in San
Diego, California, and holds a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary. He served
in the pastorate for ten years before joining the staff of Probe Ministries. He is
the author of the book Unless I See… Reasons to Consider the Christian Faith.
He can be reached via e-mail at pzukeran@probe.org.

?What is Probe?

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