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Explore the fascinating intersection of archaeology and faith in “Biblical Archaeology—Basis for Believing the Bible.” Uncover archaeological evidence that confirms the historical reliability of the Scriptures and fortifies belief in the Bible. Dive into the world of ancient artifacts, historical documents, and scholarly insights that bridge the past and present, providing a tangible basis for faith in the inerrant Word of God.
Liberal-Moderate Christianity and Faith in the Bible
Liberal-moderate scholars might reject miracles or other supernatural events in the Bible, leading to a skeptical view. This tears down faith by dismissing key elements of Christian doctrine, such as the virgin birth of Christ.
The relationship between liberal-moderate Christianity and a diminishing faith in the Bible can be explored through their approach to historical and archaeological evidence.
Dismissal of Miracles and Supernatural Events: Liberal-moderate scholars may reject miraculous events, such as the parting of the Red Sea or the resurrection of Christ. This dismissal directly contradicts the fundamental teachings of the Bible, thus undermining faith in its divine authority.
Historical-Critical Method: Liberal-moderate scholars often apply the historical-critical method, dissecting the text and looking for human rather than divine elements. This approach leads to the questioning of the authenticity and authorship of various Biblical books. For example, the documentary hypothesis, which suggests multiple authors for the Pentateuch, challenges the traditional view of Mosaic authorship and can shake faith in the coherence and unity of Scripture.
Selective Use of Archaeology: While conservative scholars use archaeological evidence to affirm the historical accuracy of the Bible, liberal-moderate scholars might selectively interpret or even disregard this evidence. For example, the city of Jericho’s excavation has provided evidence of its destruction in line with the Bible’s account, yet some liberal scholars dispute the dating or significance of these findings.
Rejection of Prophecy: Liberal-moderate scholars often date Biblical books, such as Isaiah or Daniel, later than the conservative dating, in order to negate the prophetic element. They may argue that the detailed prophecies were written after the events occurred. This rejection of prophecy undermines the divine inspiration of the Scriptures.
Moral and Cultural Relativism: By reinterpreting clear Biblical moral teachings to fit contemporary cultural norms, liberal-moderate scholars may undermine the timeless authority of the Bible. This can lead to a questioning of the Bible’s relevance and authority on moral and ethical issues.
Emphasizing Doubtful or Contradictory Evidence: Focus on doubtful or contradictory evidence, such as alleged contradictions within the Bible or conflicting external historical sources, can create doubt about the Bible’s accuracy. An example would be the alleged contradiction between the Hittites’ existence and Egyptian historical records. However, the later discovery of the Hittite capital confirmed the Bible’s account.
Theological Liberalism: Liberal-moderate scholars often approach the Bible with a human-centered perspective, focusing on human experience and reason rather than divine revelation. This may lead to a view of the Bible as a purely human document, stripping it of its divine authority.
In sum, the liberal-moderate approach to Christianity often tears down faith in the Bible by questioning or denying its divine inspiration, authenticity, moral authority, and historical accuracy. This approach relies on a skepticism that can undermine the trustworthiness and unity of the Scriptures, leading to a fragmented and human-centered view of the Bible. By prioritizing human reason and cultural trends over the literal interpretation of the text and the historical-grammatical method of interpretation, it diverges from the conservative view that sees the Bible as the infallible and inspired Word of God.
Wrong Position of the Higher Critic
Higher critics often rely on source criticism, suggesting multiple authors for books like Isaiah without substantial evidence. They use subjective methods of investigation. This undermines the traditional understanding of single authorship.
Higher critics often approach the Bible with skepticism and methodologies that challenge the traditional understanding of the text. From a conservative apologetic-minded Old Testament Bible scholar’s perspective, here’s an exhaustive look at the wrong positions higher critics take, supported by archaeological and historical evidence:
Documentary Hypothesis: Higher critics propose that the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) was not authored by Moses but composed of several sources (J, E, P, D). However, this view fails to take into account the consistency and unity of the text and does not align with ancient Near Eastern writing practices.
Denying Mosaic Authorship: Critics claim that Moses could not have written the Pentateuch since writing was not prevalent during his time. This has been disproved with discoveries like the Code of Hammurabi and the Ebla tablets, which predate the time of Moses and demonstrate that writing was well-established.
Late Dating of Biblical Books: Some critics date books like Isaiah and Daniel later than their historical context, denying their prophetic nature. Archaeological findings such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, which include copies of Isaiah and Daniel, confirm their early dating.
Questioning Historical Accuracy: Higher critics have questioned the Bible’s historical accuracy, like denying the existence of the Hittites. Subsequent discoveries of Hittite cities and artifacts, such as at Hattusa, have validated the Bible’s account.
Dismissing Archaeological Evidence: Critics may disregard or reinterpret archaeological evidence, like the destruction layer found in Jericho, to suit their views. However, the evidence aligns with the biblical account of the fall of Jericho as described in Joshua 6.
Denying Supernatural Elements: Higher criticism often denies miracles, prophecies, and other supernatural elements of the Bible, reducing them to myth or legend. This position ignores the inherently religious nature of the text and is at odds with the theological claims of Scripture itself.
Emphasizing Alleged Contradictions: Critics may focus on alleged contradictions or errors in the Bible, such as the number of Quirinius’ censuses. However, historical studies and discoveries, such as inscriptions and ancient records, can clarify and harmonize these apparent discrepancies.
Moral Relativism: By reinterpreting the Bible to fit contemporary moral norms, higher critics can undermine the timeless moral teachings of the text. This stance ignores the historical and cultural context in which the Bible was written.
Selective Skepticism: Higher critics often apply a level of skepticism to the Bible that they do not apply to other ancient texts. For example, they may question the Bible’s accounts of specific historical events while accepting less substantiated accounts from other ancient sources.
Rejection of Prophecy: By denying the possibility of predictive prophecy, higher critics invalidate key elements of the biblical message. The fulfillment of prophecies, such as those concerning Babylon, Tyre, or the Messiah, confirms the divine inspiration of the Scriptures.
In conclusion, the wrong positions taken by higher critics regarding the Bible often stem from a naturalistic or skeptical worldview that disregards the divine nature of the Scriptures. This approach fails to consider the extensive archaeological and historical evidence that supports the Bible’s accuracy, authenticity, and supernatural elements, leading to interpretations that are inconsistent with the conservative understanding of the text as the inspired and inerrant Word of God.
Moses’ Authorship Argument
Critics claimed that writing was not invented during Moses’ time, but discoveries like the Code of Hammurabi from the 18th century B.C.E. show writing was well-established.
The argument against Moses’ authorship of the Pentateuch, known as the Documentary Hypothesis, posits that the first five books of the Bible were not written by Moses but were composed of several different sources (often labeled J, E, P, D). This theory became prominent in the 19th century but has faced significant challenges since. Here’s an examination of that argument and an abundance of evidence as to why it is no longer widely accepted by informed critics:
The Argument Against Moses’ Authorship
- Different Names for God: Critics argued that the use of different names for God (e.g., Elohim and Jehovah) in the Pentateuch suggested different authors.
- Supposed Anachronisms: Critics claimed that certain passages contained anachronisms, such as references to places or practices that did not exist during Moses’ time.
- Stylistic Differences: The theory posited that variations in style and language indicated multiple authors.
Why the Argument Is No Longer Widely Accepted
Discovery of Ancient Near Eastern Texts: Ancient texts from the Near East, like the Code of Hammurabi and the Ebla tablets, reveal that writing was well-established during Moses’ time, contrary to the claim that writing was not yet advanced enough for the composition of the Pentateuch.
Understanding of Ancient Literary Practices: Studies of ancient literary practices show that variations in language, style, and terminology were common within single-authored works, debunking the idea that stylistic differences necessitate multiple authors.
Consistency of Theology and Theme: The Pentateuch demonstrates a remarkable consistency in its theological teachings and overarching narrative, something unlikely if it were a patchwork of different sources.
Archaeological Evidence: Discoveries related to places, people, and practices mentioned in the Pentateuch have confirmed the historical accuracy of the text. For example, the Merneptah Stele confirms Israel’s existence in the late 13th century B.C.E., supporting the historical backdrop of the Exodus account.
Evidence from Other Biblical Texts: Other parts of the Bible, including the New Testament, affirm Mosaic authorship. Jesus Himself referred to the Law as “Moses” (e.g., John 5:46).
Rejection of Naturalistic Presuppositions: The Documentary Hypothesis often relied on a rejection of the supernatural, assuming that prophecies or miracles were unlikely. However, this presupposition is not based on empirical evidence and is at odds with the worldview presented within the Bible itself.
Lack of Manuscript Evidence: The Documentary Hypothesis has never been corroborated by manuscript evidence. All known manuscripts of the Pentateuch are consistent, with no evidence of separate ‘J’ or ‘E’ documents.
Testimony of Jewish Tradition: Ancient Jewish tradition consistently attributes the Pentateuch to Moses, and there is no historical evidence of a debate among the ancient Israelites about the authorship of these books.
Failure of the Documentary Hypothesis to Reach Consensus: The hypothesis itself has fractured into various competing theories, with no consensus among scholars on the identification or dating of the alleged sources. This lack of agreement underscores the speculative nature of the hypothesis.
In conclusion, the argument against Mosaic authorship, once a cornerstone of higher criticism, has been largely abandoned by informed critics due to an overwhelming amount of evidence from archaeology, literary studies, theology, and other disciplines. The unity, historical accuracy, and consistent affirmation of Mosaic authorship within and outside the Bible demonstrate that the Documentary Hypothesis is an untenable position from a conservative, apologetic-minded Old Testament Bible scholar’s perspective.
Facts Concerning Creation, Flood, and Monotheism
The Epic of Gilgamesh contains a flood story with similarities to the Biblical account yet differs in key theological points, emphasizing the uniqueness of the Biblical teaching of monotheism.
The accounts of creation, the flood, and the themes of monotheism and polytheism within the Bible have been subjects of much discussion and analysis. Here’s an exhaustive look at the facts concerning these topics, backed by archaeological and historical evidence:
Biblical Uniqueness: Unlike many ancient Near Eastern creation myths, the Genesis account describes an orderly, purposeful creation by a single God, rather than a chaotic struggle among multiple deities.
Historical Context: The Genesis creation account can be understood in contrast to other ancient Near Eastern creation myths, such as the Enuma Elish. The Biblical account sets itself apart by its monotheistic perspective and moral order.
Archaeological Insights: Archaeological findings, such as the discovery of ancient Mesopotamian creation texts, shed light on the historical context of the Genesis creation account, affirming its uniqueness and theological distinctiveness.
Global or Local Flood: Some conservative scholars interpret the flood in Genesis as a local event, while others see it as global. Geological and archaeological evidence can be marshaled to support both views, but the text primarily focuses on the theological and moral lessons of the event.
Parallel Accounts: The existence of flood accounts in various cultures, such as the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Sumerian Flood Story, supports the historical basis of a significant flood event. These accounts share similarities with the Genesis account but differ significantly in their theological interpretations.
Geological Evidence: Some geological features, such as sedimentary rock layers and fossil distribution, have been interpreted by some as evidence of a large-scale flood event.
Monotheism and Polytheism
Monotheism in Ancient Israel: The Old Testament consistently emphasizes the worship of one God, Jehovah, as seen in the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4). This was unique in a world where polytheism was the norm.
Archaeological Support for Israelite Monotheism: Discoveries such as the Mesha Stele affirm the historical context of Israel’s monotheistic faith, contrasting with the polytheistic beliefs of neighboring nations.
Polytheistic Influences: Archaeological findings, like the Ugaritic texts, provide insight into the polytheistic cultures surrounding ancient Israel. The Old Testament itself speaks against the influence of these beliefs on the Israelites (e.g., Exodus 20:3).
Development of Monotheism: The historical development of monotheism can be traced within the Old Testament itself, moving from a focus on Jehovah as the supreme God to a more explicit rejection of all other gods (e.g., Isaiah 43:10).
The creation and flood accounts in the Bible present a unique and theologically rich perspective compared to other ancient Near Eastern texts. While there are parallel accounts and some evidence that can be interpreted in various ways, the Bible’s presentation stands apart in its emphasis on a single, sovereign Creator and a moral order in the universe.
The historical and archaeological evidence supports the Bible’s portrayal of a distinct monotheistic belief in ancient Israel, contrasted with the polytheistic practices of surrounding nations. This distinction underscores the theological message of the Old Testament, affirming the uniqueness and sovereignty of Jehovah in the midst of a polytheistic world.
Archaeology and the Tower of Babel
Excavations of ziggurats in Mesopotamia, like the Etemenanki in Babylon, align with the biblical description, supporting the historical basis of the story.
The account of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11:1-9 tells of a unified human race speaking one language, who sought to build a city and a tower to make a name for themselves. God confounded their language, causing them to scatter and abandon their project. Here is how archaeology and historical studies have brought outside support to this Biblical account:
Ziggurats in Mesopotamia: Archaeologists have unearthed several ziggurats in the ancient Near East, particularly in Mesopotamia. These step-pyramid structures bear resemblance to the description of the tower in Babel. For example, the ziggurat at Ur, dedicated to the moon god Nanna, is an impressive structure that illustrates the kind of edifice referred to in the Babel account.
Etemenanki: A specific ziggurat in Babylon, known as Etemenanki, has been suggested as a potential site for the Tower of Babel. It was dedicated to Marduk, the chief god of Babylon, and historical texts describe it as reaching a great height. Though the remaining ruins are fragmentary, historical records, such as those from Herodotus, describe it in ways reminiscent of the Biblical account.
Linguistic Evidence: The spread of languages from a common origin aligns with the Babel account’s description of the confusion of languages. Historical linguistics supports the idea that many languages have common roots, and while the precise process described in Genesis may be unique, the general principle of language divergence from common sources is well-accepted in linguistics.
Historical Texts: Some ancient texts outside the Bible reflect a similar tradition of a once-unified humanity that was scattered. For example, the Sumerian epic Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta speaks of a time when there was one language among the people. This lends some outside literary support to the Biblical narrative.
Cultural Practices and Beliefs: Various cultures around the world have traditions and myths regarding the creation of different languages and the scattering of people. While these may not directly correlate with the Biblical account, they can be seen as echoes of a shared memory of a real historical event.
Archaeological Context: The Biblical account places Babel in the land of Shinar, commonly identified with Sumer in southern Mesopotamia. The historical and archaeological record confirms the prominence of building projects and city-state development in this region during the time frame consistent with the Biblical narrative.
The Name Babel: The name “Babel” is etymologically linked to the Akkadian “Bab-ilu,” meaning “Gate of God.” This reflects the kind of religious and monumental architecture associated with the Tower of Babel. The play on words in Genesis 11:9, where Babel sounds like the Hebrew word for “confused,” adds a theological interpretation to a known place name.
While no archaeological evidence directly confirms every detail of the Tower of Babel account, various findings support its historical and cultural plausibility. The discovery of ziggurats, the understanding of linguistic divergence, ancient texts with similar themes, and the known cultural and architectural context of ancient Mesopotamia together provide a supportive backdrop for the Genesis account. These elements demonstrate the Bible’s engagement with the real historical and cultural world of the ancient Near East and lend outside support to the Biblical narrative.
Bible Accuracy and Heathen Kings
Discoveries like the Moabite Stone confirm the existence of King Mesha of Moab, as mentioned in 2 Kings 3, showing the Bible’s historical accuracy.
The accuracy of the Bible in the depiction of various non-Israelite (or “heathen”) kings has been corroborated by various archaeological and historical sources. Here’s an exhaustive look at some key examples:
1. Pharaohs of Egypt
- Thutmose III: Depicted in the Bible as a pharaoh during the time of the oppression of the Israelites, Thutmose III’s reign is well documented in Egyptian records.
- Ramses II: Often considered the pharaoh of the Exodus, monumental evidence of his reign matches the timeframe suggested in the Bible.
- Shishak (Sheshonq I): Chronicled in 1 Kings 14:25-26, Shishak’s invasion of Judah has been corroborated by inscriptions at the Temple of Amun in Karnak, which describe a campaign into Canaan during his reign.
2. Kings of Assyria
- Tiglath-Pileser III: Mentioned in 2 Kings 15:29, inscriptions from his reign align with the Biblical record of his invasions into Israel.
- Sennacherib: His campaign against Judah is documented in 2 Kings 18-19 and confirmed by the Annals of Sennacherib, as well as the Lachish reliefs, which provide detailed depictions of the siege of Lachish.
- Esarhaddon: Acknowledged in Ezra 4:2, historical records confirm his policy of deporting and resettling conquered peoples, consistent with the Bible’s description.
3. Kings of Babylon
- Nebuchadnezzar II: The Babylonian Chronicles and other inscriptions corroborate the Bible’s account of Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest of Jerusalem and his interactions with figures like Daniel and Jehoiachin (e.g., 2 Kings 24:10-16; Daniel 1-4).
- Belshazzar: Once questioned by skeptics, the discovery of cuneiform texts identifying Belshazzar as the son of Nabonidus and the crown prince of Babylon vindicated the Biblical description in Daniel 5.
4. Kings of Persia
- Cyrus the Great: The Cyrus Cylinder aligns with the Biblical portrayal of Cyrus’s decree to allow the Jews to return to their land (Ezra 1:1-4).
- Darius the Great: Inscriptions and administrative records match the Biblical depiction of Darius’s reign and his interactions with the Jewish community (Ezra 6:1-15).
- Xerxes I and Artaxerxes I: The biblical books of Esther and Nehemiah present details of these kings’ reigns consistent with external historical sources.
5. Kings of Moab
- Mesha, King of Moab: The Mesha Stele confirms the revolt of Mesha against Israel, as described in 2 Kings 3, and offers a parallel perspective to the Biblical account.
The depiction of various non-Israelite kings in the Bible is consistent with what is known from external historical and archaeological sources. From the great empires of Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon to the smaller neighboring powers, the Bible’s accurate portrayal of these rulers and their actions supports its overall historical reliability.
In cases where direct archaeological evidence might not be available, the consistency of the Biblical narrative with the known historical context adds further credibility. This concord between the Bible and external sources demonstrates the text’s engagement with the real political world of its time and adds weight to its claims of divine inspiration and historical truthfulness.
Moses vs. Herodotus
While Herodotus made errors in his description of Egypt, Moses’ accounts in Exodus align with historical details of Egyptian culture and practices, vindicating his accuracy.
The comparison between Moses and Herodotus can be enlightening, especially when considering the authenticity and historical accuracy of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible traditionally attributed to Moses.
Moses as a Historian:
Moses’ historical writing in the Pentateuch includes detailed accounts of events, laws, genealogies, and cultural practices of the time. The following points highlight how Moses was vindicated as a historian, even when his writings were compared or contrasted with those of Herodotus, the Greek historian.
Language and Writing: Critics once claimed that writing was unknown during the time of Moses, and thus, the Pentateuch could not have been written by him. However, archaeological discoveries like the Wadi el-Hol inscriptions and Proto-Sinaitic script have shown that alphabetic writing existed in the region even before the time of Moses.
Cultural Accuracy: Moses’ accounts reflect an intimate knowledge of Egyptian culture and practices. The details about the Pharaoh’s court, the building projects using brick (Exodus 1:14; 5:6-19), the Egyptian religious practices, and even the correct titles for Egyptian officials are in harmony with what has been found in Egyptian inscriptions and documents.
Geographical Knowledge: The accurate description of places and natural features, such as the Nile River, shows a deep familiarity with the geography of the region.
Herodotus and the Clash:
Herodotus, often referred to as the “Father of History,” wrote his Histories in the 5th century B.C.E., and his work sometimes clashed with the Biblical account.
Differences in Purpose and Style: Herodotus’ writings often included myths, legends, and stories collected during his travels, whereas Moses’ writings were precise and law-oriented. The intent of Herodotus was often to entertain or provide moral lessons, while Moses’ intent was to record the covenant laws and history of the Israelite people.
Historical Inaccuracies in Herodotus: While Herodotus is praised for his pioneering work, his Histories are not without error. He sometimes included fantastical tales or errors in his accounts of foreign lands. In contrast, Moses’ writings have been increasingly corroborated by archaeological evidence.
Moses’ Familiarity with Egyptian Practices: Unlike Herodotus, who was an outsider to Egypt, Moses was raised in Pharaoh’s court. His intimate knowledge of Egyptian life has been vindicated by various archaeological discoveries, lending credence to his accuracy as a historian.
While Herodotus’ historical writings are significant, they contain elements that are inconsistent with known facts, reflecting his distance from the sources and his different purposes in writing. Moses, on the other hand, wrote with precision and familiarity about the world he lived in. As more archaeological evidence has come to light, the accuracy and authenticity of Moses’ account have been increasingly validated, vindicating him as a historian in comparison to Herodotus. His writings in the Pentateuch continue to stand as a reliable historical record, consistent with the known facts of the ancient Near East.
The Fall of Jericho
The collapsed walls and burn layers found in Jericho’s excavations by Garstang and Kenyon match the account in Joshua 6.
The biblical account of the fall of Jericho, as described in the book of Joshua, has been a subject of extensive archaeological inquiry. Though interpretations have varied, several key archaeological findings provide evidence supporting the biblical account:
The Wall’s Collapse: In Joshua 6, the Bible describes how the walls of Jericho fell after the Israelites marched around the city for seven days. British archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon’s excavation during the 1950s revealed a collapsed city wall, with fallen bricks forming a ramp against the retaining wall. This finding was consistent with a sudden collapse, although interpretations of the dating of this collapse have been debated.
Destruction Layer: Evidence of widespread destruction, including charred remains, points to a significant conflagration. This aligns with Joshua 6:24, where it says that the Israelites “burned the city with fire, and everything in it.”
Grain Jars: One of the more intriguing discoveries is the large number of grain jars found in the ruins, still full. The presence of full grain jars suggests a short siege, which is consistent with the seven-day timeframe described in the Bible. Moreover, this grain might have been left untouched because of the command in Joshua 6:18 to keep away from the devoted things. In typical ancient warfare, grain would have been valuable plunder, and its abundance indicates that the city did not suffer from a prolonged siege.
Rahab’s House: While the evidence is not conclusive, some have suggested that a portion of the city wall that did not fall might correspond to Rahab’s house. Joshua 2 tells the story of Rahab, who aided the Israelite spies and whose house was on the city wall. According to the biblical account, her house was spared when Jericho was destroyed.
Dating Controversy: Perhaps the most significant challenge in correlating the archaeological findings with the biblical account has been the dating. Kathleen Kenyon dated the destruction to around 1550 B.C.E., earlier than the traditional date for the conquest of Canaan. However, subsequent scholars, most notably Dr. Bryant Wood, have argued for a later date for the destruction, closer to 1400 B.C.E., which would align with the biblical chronology.*
Pottery Evidence: Pottery discovered in the city, including the Cypriot bichrome ware, supports the dating to the Late Bronze Age, which could correspond to the time of the conquest as described in the Bible.
* Dr. Bryant Wood is an archaeologist who has conducted extensive research on the ancient city of Jericho. His work has been particularly focused on the destruction layers at the site, and he has become well-known for his belief that the evidence supports a destruction date around 1400 B.C.E.
This date is significant because it aligns with the biblical account of the Israelites’ conquest of Jericho, as described in the Book of Joshua. According to the Bible, the walls of Jericho fell after the Israelites marched around the city for seven days, and the city was subsequently destroyed.
In the mid-20th century, British archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon conducted excavations at Jericho and concluded that the city was destroyed in the 16th century B.C.E., much earlier than the biblical date. Kenyon’s dating was largely based on the absence of certain pottery types and other artifacts that she expected to find from the Late Bronze Age (around 1400 B.C.E.).
Dr. Bryant Wood challenged Kenyon’s conclusions by re-examining the pottery and other archaeological evidence from the site. He found that the type of pottery that was indeed present was consistent with the 1400 B.C.E. date. Furthermore, he pointed to other factors such as the city’s fortification system, the evidence of a sudden destruction by fire, and artifacts like scarabs that support the biblical timeframe.
Wood’s research has been seen by many conservative scholars as affirming the historical accuracy of the biblical account and negating Kenyon’s claims. While some controversy and debate continue among archaeologists regarding the exact dating of Jericho’s destruction, Dr. Wood’s work stands as a significant argument for the 1400 B.C.E. date, aligning with a literal interpretation of the Bible.
The archaeological evidence from Jericho presents a complex picture, with various elements supporting the biblical account of the city’s fall. While there have been controversies and differing interpretations, especially concerning the precise dating of the event, key aspects of the discoveries, such as the collapsed walls, the grain jars, and the evidence of destruction by fire, resonate with the biblical description.
Scholars who approach the evidence with a conservative, literal interpretation find substantial support for the historical reliability of the biblical account of Jericho’s fall. The convergence of these archaeological details with the Scriptural record continues to make Jericho a fascinating case study in biblical archaeology.
Higher Critics and the Book of Daniel
Critics’ claims are inconsistent with the Dead Sea Scrolls that include Daniel and the detailed knowledge of Babylonian law and history found in the book.
The Book of Daniel is often at the center of debates between higher critics and conservative scholars. The higher critics typically argue that the Book of Daniel was written in the second century B.C.E., during the Maccabean period, rather than in the sixth century B.C.E., the time of Daniel himself. Their view is primarily based on the accurate and detailed prophecies in Daniel, which they assume must have been written after the events occurred.
However, this late dating of Daniel is inconsistent with various lines of evidence, both internal and external:
1. Language and Literary Style:
- Aramaic Usage: Part of Daniel is written in Aramaic (Daniel 2:4b–7:28), a language commonly used in Babylonian officialdom and the surrounding regions during the sixth century B.C.E. The Aramaic in Daniel is of a type that fits better with an earlier period rather than the second century B.C.E.
- Hebrew Usage: The Hebrew in Daniel is consistent with other biblical texts from the Exilic period and does not resemble the Hebrew of the second century B.C.E.
2. Historical Details:
- Familiarity with Babylonian Culture: Daniel’s account shows a deep understanding of Babylonian customs, law, and administration, fitting with a sixth-century B.C.E. authorship.
- Knowledge of Persian Practices: The book also reveals accurate knowledge of Persian customs and laws, such as the law of the Medes and Persians, which could not be altered (Daniel 6:8). This kind of detail would be unlikely from a second-century author.
- Prophetic Accuracy: Daniel’s prophecies regarding the succession of empires from Babylon to Medo-Persia to Greece are highly accurate. Critics argue that such accuracy is impossible unless the text was written after the events. However, this stance fails to acknowledge the nature of prophecy and assumes a priori that predictive prophecy is impossible.
4. External Evidence:
- Dead Sea Scrolls: Fragments of Daniel found among the Dead Sea Scrolls date as early as the second century B.C.E. This undermines the idea that the book was a late-second-century composition, as it would have needed time to circulate and be accepted among the Jewish communities.
- Ezekiel’s Reference: The prophet Ezekiel, a contemporary of Daniel, refers to Daniel as a wise and righteous person (Ezekiel 14:14, 28:3), supporting the historical existence of Daniel during the Exilic period.
- Historical Figures: The portrayal of historical figures such as Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar is consistent with historical records and inscriptions.
The higher critics’ late dating of the Book of Daniel to the second century B.C.E. is inconsistent with the linguistic, historical, and archaeological evidence. The details within the book that align with the sixth-century context, along with external confirmations like the Dead Sea Scrolls, make a compelling case for the authenticity and early dating of the book.
This stand on the early dating of Daniel, embracing a literal and historical-grammatical interpretation, recognizes the validity of predictive prophecy and sees the Book of Daniel as a genuine product of the Exilic period, in harmony with the rest of Scripture.
Two Occurrences Supported by Excavations
Inscriptions in Babylon showing places of execution by burning and wild beasts confirm practices described in the accounts of the fiery furnace and lion’s den.
Two particular accounts from the Book of Daniel have often been met with skepticism by higher critics, but excavations and historical research have provided evidence that supports these narratives.
1. The Three Hebrews Thrown into the Fiery Furnace (Daniel 3):
Critics have argued that the account of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego being thrown into a fiery furnace for refusing to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image was mythical or exaggerated.
Evidence Supporting the Account:
Archaeological Findings: Excavators at Babylon discovered a large furnace-like structure with an inscription on its base. The inscription stated, “This is the place of burning where men who blasphemed the gods of Chaldea died by fire.” Though this exact furnace may not be the one mentioned in the Bible, it demonstrates that such a method of execution was practiced in ancient Babylon.
Historical Context: Ancient Near Eastern texts and artifacts depict kings employing brutal methods of execution to enforce loyalty and suppress dissent. The practice of executing people by burning aligns with the historical context of the time.
2. Daniel in the Den of Lions (Daniel 6):
Skeptics have questioned the account of Daniel being thrown into a den of lions as a form of punishment by the Medo-Persian king Darius, claiming that there was no evidence that such a punishment was practiced.
Evidence Supporting the Account:
Archaeological Discovery: Excavators unearthed a deep pit in the ancient Near East with an inscription reading, “The place of execution where men who angered the king died torn by wild beasts.” This find validates the use of wild beasts as a form of execution, even if the specific pit is not the one mentioned in the Book of Daniel.
Historical Practices: The use of wild animals for execution was a known practice in various ancient cultures. Lions were kept and used for sport and possibly execution in some ancient Near Eastern kingdoms.
Consistency with Medo-Persian Law: The account of Daniel’s accusers manipulating the king into passing a law that led to Daniel’s condemnation is consistent with the historical understanding of Medo-Persian law and administration.
Though higher critics have dismissed these accounts as myths, archaeological discoveries and a proper understanding of the historical context affirm the plausibility of these events. The evidence shows that both the fiery furnace and the lion’s den were consistent with the practices and legal customs of ancient Babylon and the Medo-Persian Empire. These findings serve to vindicate the historical reliability of the Book of Daniel and underscore the accuracy of the biblical record.
Belshazzar and Nabonidus
The Nabonidus Cylinder confirms Belshazzar as Nabonidus’s son and a co-regent, consistent with the book of Daniel, silencing critics who denied his existence.
The accounts concerning Belshazzar and Nabonidus, as found in the Book of Daniel, were previously points of contention among critics, as they appeared to be in contradiction with known historical records. However, archaeological and historical discoveries have clarified these matters and validated the biblical narrative.
The Book of Daniel refers to Belshazzar as the king of Babylon who saw the writing on the wall (Daniel 5). Critics used to charge that there was no historical evidence for Belshazzar’s existence or his kingship.
Evidence Supporting the Account:
- Nabonidus Cylinder: A significant archaeological discovery was made in the form of the Nabonidus Cylinder, which named Belshazzar as the son of Nabonidus and indicated that he was entrusted with the rule of Babylon when Nabonidus was away.
- Administrative Texts: Other texts have shown that Belshazzar had the authority to conduct affairs of state and was functioning in a ruling capacity in Babylon.
- Title of “King”: Although not the ultimate ruler (his father, Nabonidus, retained that position), Belshazzar’s significant power and responsibilities justify his title as “king” in the biblical narrative.
Nabonidus was the last actual king of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, and his relationship with his son Belshazzar was a complex one.
Evidence Supporting the Historical Relationship:
- Nabonidus’ Absence: Historical records indicate that Nabonidus spent a considerable portion of his reign in Tema, a city in northern Arabia, leaving administrative control of Babylon to Belshazzar.
- Co-Regency: Though not termed as such in extant ancient records, the shared responsibilities between Nabonidus and Belshazzar can be described as a sort of co-regency. This relationship explains the statement in Daniel 5:16 that Belshazzar could make someone the “third highest ruler in the kingdom,” as he himself was the second after Nabonidus.
Former charges against the biblical account, such as the existence of Belshazzar or his position as king, have been silenced through archaeological and historical evidence. The Nabonidus Cylinder, administrative texts, and other historical records have confirmed the complex ruling relationship between Nabonidus and Belshazzar, justifying the biblical portrayal.
These findings underscore the accuracy of the biblical record and show that even seemingly problematic details can be reconciled with a proper understanding of history and archaeology. The Bible’s depiction of Belshazzar and Nabonidus stands as a testament to its historical reliability, even in the face of skeptical criticism.
Evidence for Daniel’s Authorship
Linguistic analysis showing consistency with 6th-century B.C.E. Aramaic and Daniel’s intimate knowledge of the Babylonian court prove his authorship.
The authorship and dating of the Book of Daniel have been subjects of debate, particularly among higher critics who have proposed later dates for the book’s composition. As a conservative apologetic-minded Old Testament Bible scholar, I’ll present evidence that supports the traditional view that Daniel himself wrote the book around 530 B.C.E.
1. Historical Accuracy:
- Detailed Knowledge: The Book of Daniel contains specific details about Babylonian, Medo-Persian, and even Greek history, consistent with a 6th-century B.C.E. author who lived during these times.
- Language: The book is written in both Hebrew and Aramaic, reflecting the linguistic situation in Babylon during the Exile. The Aramaic used is consistent with the Eastern Aramaic dialect of that time.
2. Archaeological Evidence:
- Nabonidus Chronicle: The historical events described, such as Nebuchadnezzar’s reign and the transition from Babylonian to Medo-Persian rule, align with the Nabonidus Chronicle and other historical records.
- Dead Sea Scrolls: Fragments of the Book of Daniel found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, dating to the 2nd century B.C.E., indicate that the book was already recognized and authoritative at that time, supporting an earlier date of composition.
- Detailed Prophecies: Critics argue that the detailed prophecies concerning the Greek Empire must have been written after the events. However, this presupposes that genuine prophecy is not possible. If one accepts the possibility of divine inspiration, the specific prophecies are evidence of early authorship, not late.
4. Literary Analysis:
- First-Person Narrative: Portions of the book are written in the first person (e.g., Daniel 7:15; 8:1), which is consistent with Daniel himself being the author.
- Consistency with Historical Setting: The descriptions of Babylonian and Persian court life, legal procedures, and administrative practices align well with what is known from contemporary sources.
5. Early Recognition:
- Acceptance in Jewish Canon: The Jewish community recognized the Book of Daniel as part of their Scriptures. Its placement in the Writings (Ketuvim) instead of the Prophets (Nevi’im) does not necessarily indicate a late date, as this categorization can be due to thematic reasons.
- References in Other Literature: The Book of Daniel is referenced in other early works, such as the Book of Ezekiel, which speaks of Daniel’s wisdom (Ezekiel 14:14, 28:3), indicating early recognition.
The evidence for Daniel’s authorship of the book bearing his name around 530 B.C.E. is multifaceted and includes historical accuracy, linguistic considerations, archaeological discoveries, literary analysis, and early recognition by Jewish communities. These factors collectively support the traditional view and counter the arguments for a later date of composition. The Book of Daniel stands as a historically grounded work that reflects the life and times of its purported author, consistent with the conservative understanding of biblical authorship and dating.
Associates of the Higher Critic
Higher critics’ skepticism often aligns with agnostic and atheistic worldviews, and many of their claims have been refuted by archaeology, such as the existence of the Hittites, once doubted but confirmed through discoveries in Turkey.
The relationship between higher criticism and more skeptical or atheistic worldviews is an interesting aspect of the history of biblical studies. Here, I will present archaeological and historical evidence that counter some of the claims made by higher critics, particularly focusing on the example of the Hittites.
Higher criticism refers to a scholarly approach that investigates the origins, dates, authors, and textual history of biblical texts. While it includes legitimate and valuable historical research, some proponents of higher criticism have approached the Bible with a naturalistic or skeptical bias, often aligning with agnostic or atheistic worldviews. This can lead to a dismissal of supernatural elements in the text and a tendency to view biblical history with suspicion.
Archaeological Evidence Countering Higher Criticism:
1. The Hittites:
Skepticism: Some higher critics of the 19th century doubted the existence of the Hittites, a people mentioned in the Old Testament (e.g., Genesis 23; 1 Kings 10:29). The lack of evidence outside the Bible led critics to consider the Hittites as mythical or insignificant.
Discovery and Confirmation:
- Boghazkoy: Excavations at Boghazkoy (modern-day Turkey) uncovered the capital of the Hittite Empire, Hattusa, along with thousands of cuneiform tablets detailing Hittite laws, treaties, and history.
- Treaty of Kadesh: The discovery of the Treaty of Kadesh, between the Hittites and Egyptians, further confirmed the existence and significance of the Hittites, aligning with biblical descriptions.
- Artifacts and Inscriptions: Various artifacts and inscriptions found across Turkey and Syria have illuminated the culture, religion, and politics of the Hittites, demonstrating their prominence in the ancient Near East.
Other Examples of Archaeological Vindication:
- The Walls of Jericho: The dating and nature of Jericho’s destruction have been debated, but Kathleen Kenyon’s excavations in the mid-20th century revealed evidence of the city’s collapse, consistent with the biblical account (Joshua 6).
- Belshazzar’s Existence: Higher critics questioned the historical existence of Belshazzar (Daniel 5). However, the Nabonidus Cylinder and other inscriptions have confirmed Belshazzar as the crown prince under his father, Nabonidus, vindicating the biblical record.
Higher criticism’s skeptical approach has often led to premature judgments about biblical historical accuracy. Archaeological discoveries, such as those related to the Hittites, have countered such skepticism, confirming aspects of the biblical narrative. The alignment of higher criticism with agnosticism or atheism is not inherently problematic, but the dismissal of evidence or bias against the supernatural can lead to flawed conclusions. Archaeology serves as a tool to provide a more balanced and substantiated understanding of the Bible’s historical context.
Statements by Conservative Bible Scholars
Scholars like Gleason Archer and J.I. Packer have emphasized the integrity, unity, and historical reliability of the Scriptures, contrasting with higher criticism’s often skeptical approach.
Gleason L. Archer:
- “It is to be remembered that the Bible, with its God-given truths expressed in the language of men, constitutes a mirror reflecting the character and will of God. … Critics seem to forget that the Scriptures themselves insist on perfect harmony with all its parts. God cannot contradict Himself.”
- Source: Gleason L. Archer, “Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties” (1982).
- “The Bible appears like a symphony, with the ‘great theme’ of covenant presented in a ‘rich variety of keys and moods.'”
- Source: J.I. Packer, “God Speaks to Man: Revelation and the Bible” (Westminster, 1965).
Norman L. Geisler:
- “The Bible is the Word of God, and God cannot err. Therefore, the Bible cannot err. If the Bible errs in anything it affirms (even in areas like history or science), then it is not the Word of God. Consequently, the Scriptures are inerrant in everything they affirm.”
- Source: Norman L. Geisler, “Inerrancy” (Zondervan, 1980).
- “The internal testimony of the Holy Spirit is to the effect that the Bible is the infallible, inerrant Word of God, and he persuades us of its truth.”
- Source: R.C. Sproul, “Reason to Believe: A Response to Common Objections to Christianity” (Zondervan, 1982).
John F. Walvoord:
- “If it can be established that the Bible is the Word of God, that it is inspired by the Holy Spirit, and that it constitutes an infallible and inerrant rule of faith and practice, then the Bible is its own defense.”
- Source: John F. Walvoord, “The Holy Spirit” (Zondervan, 1954).
These scholars articulate a robust defense of the unity, integrity, and historical reliability of the Scriptures, contrasting sharply with the skeptical and fragmentary approach often associated with higher criticism. They argue not only for the factual accuracy of the Bible but also for its theological coherence, viewing it as a unified revelation from God.