How Archaeology Proves the Bible
The Old and New Testament writings of the Bible have long been considered fables and myths—thereby, deemed untrustworthy. For some critics, if you cannot prove something with empirical evidence, it is not to be taken seriously.
As we’ll see in this article, the authenticity of the Bible is supported by empirical, archaeological evidence.
Men of the Bible such as Jesus Christ, King David, King Solomon, and King Beltezzar of the Book of Daniel are often considered mythical characters by scholars, atheists, critics, and even some Christians! Thankfully, the discipline of archaeology (developed only 125 years ago) provides an excellent source for information on people and communities of antiquity. All of these great men become real when their lives and existence can be proven with factual evidence.
Let’s begin with the intriguing account of Noah’s ark. In 1959, a Turkish airline pilot took stereo photos of a boat-shaped object on the top of Mount Ararat for the Geodetic Institute of Turkey. After careful study, the length of the remains of the boat shaped object was determined to be exactly 300 cubits: the stated length of Noah’s ark in the Book of Genesis (Genesis 6:15). The width was greater than the size recorded in the Bible; however, due to the age of the boat, expansion over time is naturally expected. Careful scientific examination found an organic fossilized antler, extinct rodent hair, organic fossilized animal droppings, and human hair inside the boat. It lies approximately 6300 ft. above sea level and is located over 200 miles from the nearest sea. The age of the boat is over 4400 years. The Turkish Government has officially dedicated the site as a national park declaring it to be the remains of Noah’s ark!1
The Ebla tablets found by archaeologists in 1975 provide solid evidence about life in the ancient world. Ebla was a kingdom that included Syria/Damascus and South-East Turkey. The people of Ebla experienced cultural and commercial prominence in their time. They established state archives, built libraries, and recorded commercial contracts in written form. The kingdom of Ebla existed around 2500 BCE. Many scholars have doubted the accounts in the Torah because it was believed that writing did not exist in Moses’ time; and therefore, he could not have written those books. On that notion, they date the Torah to a much later time and do not credit Moses as the author. The discovery of the Ebla tablets has proven all those unbelieving scholars wrong. Also, the Creation account in Genesis 1 is considered by many to be a later writing, because the word ‘tehon’ (the deep) was used in the text. However, the discovery of tablets in the Eblaite Kingdom in the 1970’s shows the word was in use 800 years before the time of Moses.2
Additionally, the discovery of 20,000 cuneiform tablets and fragments mentioned the names of David (Da-u-dum), Abraham (Ab-ra-mu) and Ishmael (Ish-ma-il). The unearthing of the Ebla tablets in northern Syria in the 1970s, uncovered names of biblical patriarchs, and the discovery of ancient regions such as ‘Canaan,’ all legitimize the patriarchal accounts, proving them to be viable and genuine.3
The Hittite people, considered a biblical legend, have also moved from fiction to historical fact after records from the Ebla Kingdom and Cuneiform tablets discovered in Bogazkoy, Turkey mentioned their name.
Sargon, the Assyrian King, was discounted because his name did not appear outside the biblical account in Isaiah 20:1. It reads, “In the year that Tartan came to Ashdod, when Sargon the king of Assyria sent him, and fought against Ashdod and took it.” However, this all changed when archaeologists found Sargon’s palace in Khorsabad, Iraq. Recorded on the Palace walls was the event mentioned in Isaiah 20—Sargon’s capture of Ashdod. Also, steel fragmented tablets memorializing the victory were found at Ashdod itself.
According to recorded history, Nabonidus was the last Babylonian king. As a result Belshazzar of Daniel 5 was in doubt because there was no extra-biblical source to validate his existence. This position changed when Cuneiform tablets were recently found showing that Belshazzar was Nabonidus’s son, who served as coregent in Babylon.
Archaeologists also uncovered ossuaries from the first century that confirm the existence of additional biblical figures, further supporting the reliability of the Bible.4
Described below is a list of biblical figures that have been made known to us by secular ancient historical records:
- Roman Emperors: Caesar Agustus, Tiberius, Claudius
- Roman Governors: Pontius Pilate, Serguis Paulus, Gallio, Felix, Festus
- Regional Rulers: Herod the Great, Archelaus, Herod Antipas, Philip,
Herod Agrippa I, Herod Agrippa II, Lysanias, Aretas IV
- High Priests: Annas, Joseph Caiphas, Ananias
- Prominent Biblical Figures: John the Baptist, and James the Just
Simon of Cyrene
In 1941, Archaeologists Eliezer L. Sukenic and Nahman Avidag of Jerusalem’s Hebrew University found the ossuary of Simon of Cyrene. There is no question about its authenticity. It was found with 10 others as an intact assemblage in a tomb chamber that survived for centuries untouched by tomb robbers. The blocking stone was still in place. This find was published in 1962. Many scholars who have nothing to gain conclude: the ossuary is that of Simone of Cyrene and one of the 10 others was his son, Alexander.
Presently, many biblical scholars reduce Jesus Christ to a mythical figure because they require evidence from external secular sources that He existed. Archaeology is providing this evidence as scientists continue to uncovered evidence of the communities and people mentioned during the biblical times of Christ. Amazingly, much of the evidence uncovered supporting the Bible is from secular sources; some of which are hostile to Christianity.
Flavius Josephus provides us information about ‘James the Just,’ the half brother of Jesus. In addition, he gives us details about James’ life as the first bishop of the Christian church and his death by stoning, executed by the Sanhedrin in 62 AD.
Josephus refers to Jesus twice in his writings. His second reference refers to James as “the brother of Jesus who was called the Christ.” He has a longer passage on Jesus in his reports on Pontius Pilate’s administration. For centuries, it was dismissed until the original wording was restored, as noted here:
At this time there was a wise man called Jesus, and his conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous. Many people among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified, and to die. But those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion, and that he was alive. Accordingly, he was perhaps the Messiah, concerning who the prophets had reported wonders. And the tribe of the Christians, so named after him, has not disappeared to this day” (Antiquities 20:200).
Critics had doubted the existence of Nazareth in Jesus’ day, until its name showed up in a first-century synagogue inscription at Caesarea. Augustus’ census edicts (this is linked with the Nativity account) are borne out by an inscription at Ankara, Turkey. In his famous accomplishment, the Roman emperor proudly claims to have taken a census three times and mandated that husbands had to register their families for the Roman census.
Herod, the Great
Herod, the Great ruled at the time Jesus was born. This is demonstrated by the numerous excavations of his massive public works in the Holy Land, including the Great Temple in Jerusalem. His son, Herod Antipas, ruled Galilee, which has been shown in similar digs at Sepphoris and Tiberias. Many of the sites during Jesus’ ministry such as Bethsaida, Chorazin, Capernau, Caesarea Philippi, Shechem, Bethany, and Jerusalem are currently in the process of excavation.
It is noteworthy that the correlation between biblical and non-biblical evidence regarding the historicity of Jesus is supported through recent archaeological discoveries. The remains of the synagogue at Capernaum, where Jesus taught, exist today below ruins of a 4th century synagogue. Peter’s house in Capernaum has been uncovered from underneath a 4th century Christian sanctuary.
The Apostle Paul
The apostle Paul was one of the greatest followers of Jesus and the present archaeological support of him is most impressive. Ruins in Cyprus, Galatia, Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, Corinth, Ephesus, Rome and surrounding areas, have many references about Paul of the New Testament.
Other discoveries in recent years include a goblet belonging to Kind David’s dynasty, a fishing boat dating back to the time of Jesus’ disciples, and the tomb of Joseph of Aramathea.
Archaeology continues to confirm the Old and the New Testaments and will persist to do so until Jesus Christ returns. Undoubtedly, it is through archaeology that the Old Testament prophets, the New Testament disciples/apostles, and Jesus Christ Himself, have been taken from the realm of fiction and legend (in the eyes of sceptics) to their rightful place as validated historical figures.
Has archaeology proven the Bible? The evidence is there for all to see, and the answer is a resounding yes! From Noah’s ark, the Ebla tablets, the ossuaries, and the discoveries of hidden cities and towns by present day archaeologists, the evidence that supports and validates the reliability of the Bible and its narratives is overwhelming. Such empirical evidence leaves little room for doubt.
- Noah’s Ark—Wyatt Archaeological Research Article
- In What Ways Have the Discoveries of Archaeology Verified the Reliability of the Bible? by Dr. Bryant Wood (1995)
- Prophet Names Appear in Ebla Tablets 1500 Years Older Than The Torah by Harun Yahya
- In What Ways Have the Discoveries of Archaeology Verified the Reliability of the Bible? by Dr. Bryant Wood (1995).
- Material for the Old Testament section of this article is taken from the work of Bryant Wood of Associates for Biblical Research.
- The archaeological information on the New Testament section of this article is derived from the work of Dr. Paul L. Maier. A professor of Ancient History and chaplain at Western Michigan University-Kalamazoo, MI.
- University of Southern California: Archaeology Department