The Bible Unearthed - Douglas Jacoby

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The Bible UnearthedAn Introduction to Biblical Archaeologyfor the Disciple in the U.K.CONTENTSPAGE No.Why disciples need to knowabout biblical archaeology1What Indiana Jones never told you aboutinscriptions, the evidence for the Flood,the reliability of the biblical manuscripts,coins and places mentioned in the Biblethat we have found.Where to find things in the British Museum214What else you can read to find out more15The notes you always wanted to help you16tour the British Museum on your ownJon YorkeBirmingham International Church of Christ, UKMarch 2002The Bible Unearthed:An Introduction to Biblical Archaeologyfor the disciple in the U.K.Why disciples need to know about biblical archaeology

The Bible UnearthedIt is one of the main areas of evidence we can use to support the reliability of the Bible. Thisstrengthens our own faith and gives us added conviction in a world which seems to believeincreasingly that Bible-believers are people who ignore facts and science. In this paper arefacts which you can master and use to help your friends find hope in Jesus.What is biblical archaeology?Put simply, it is archaeology that relates to the Bible.What then is archaeology?1 It is the study of discovered ancient findings; a) antiquities ancient man-made relics, and, b) fossil bones. Archaeology is not an exact science, and whenreading journals and books you will find that many discoveries undergo subjective analysis andinterpretation. Archaeologists sometimes do not produce sufficient final reports of excavations,and this hinders true identification of discoveries. This makes it difficult to prove withexactness whether specific findings do actually support the Bible. The reader is cautioned thatwith the discipline of Biblical archaeology sometimes “a little knowledge is dangerous”. Indepth study and research is normally needed to establish whether findings do support theBible; this was certainly the case with the fallen walls at Jericho.2 However, this article aims to“clear away all the rubble” and direct the reader straight to the important issues which help toprove the reliability of the Bible.What does a disciple need to know about biblical archaeology?It is up to you how deep you want to go! If you are reading this, then you already have someinterest. This paper is intended as an introduction to get you started in the various areas andgive you ways of doing your own research. It will also introduce you as a U.K. disciple to thewonderful resource of the British Museum. These are the areas covered:Page 3Inscriptions. Without understanding what is written on ancient discoveries, itis extremely difficult to identify what has actually been found.Page 8The Ancient Flood. The ancient epic is confirmed by other ancient texts.Page 9Manuscript Evidence and Ancient Writings. The most important of alldiscoveries in this field, the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) have proved the accuracyof our Bible and the reliability of key prophecies about Jesus.Page 11Coins. Coins are extremely useful archaeological findings, because they offeran exact date of the excavated site and confirm the dates of biblical events.Page 12Discovered Biblical Cities. There have been many cities found that werethriving during Biblical times. It would be useful for the reader to view a mapof the Holy Land when considering this section.What Indiana Jones never told you about Inscriptionsa) What am I looking at? The types of inscriptionAncient Inscriptions are unreadable for us! They normally fall into three main categories; a)pictographic (hieroglyphic) - mainly used by the Egyptians showing animals, implements, andother symbols; b) cuneiform - written with wedged shaped characters, and originated inMesopotamia, the area of Babylonia and Assyria. It continued to be used into the first centuryAD. The Egyptian hieroglyphs and cuneiform scripts originated around 3000BC; and c),alphabetic - originated after 3000BC, the original being the Canaanite alphabet. All alphabetsoriginate from the Canaanite alphabet which comprised of twenty two letters. The alphabet is a1See also, Oakes, J, M., Reasons For Belief: A Handbook of Christian Evidence, GCI, 2001See below. Also, for the enthusiastic reader further study is recommended - Dr. Douglas Jacoby andDr. Steve Kinnard’s articles on are very informative, and it is great to read adisciple’s opinion of archaeological discoveries.21

The Bible Unearthedmore comprehensive form of writing than the pictographic or cuneiform texts. As thealphabetic script evolved, more people began to learn how to read and write, and so literacyspread.3 This became the common script for many ancient peoples.4b) How did we learn to read these forgotten languages?The translation of the inscriptionsThe discoveries and translations of the Rosetta Stone and the Behistun Inscription, hasenabled Biblical archaeologists to read ancient inscriptions, and bring to light their significancefor proving the Bible. The Rosetta Stone, was found in Rosetta, north Egypt by NapoleonBonaparte’s men. In 1822, a French linguist, Jean-Francois Champollion published aninterpretation of the three inscribed languages of Egyptian hieroglyphs, Egyptian demotic, andGreek uncial (capital) letters. You can see the Rosetta Stone in the British Museum. It is a veryfamous discovery and people flock from all over the world to see it. The Behistun Inscription isan outdoor relief, 350 feet above sea level, on a cliff-face in the Zagros mountains in Iran. Itwas inscribed by King Darius of Persia, who allowed the Jews to rebuild the temple inJerusalem. The three languages inscribed are Old Persian cuneiform, Elamite and Babyloniancuneiform. Henry C. Rawlinson identified and translated the three languages.c) What inscriptions are useful for a disciple to know about?i) Old TestamentThe oldest reference to “Israel”. In 1896, a unique discovery provided extra-Biblicalevidence that the people we know of as “Israel” existed. Sir Flinders Petrie, unearthed a 7 ½foot-high black granite stele. It is known as the Merneptah Stele. Merneptah (1211-1202BC)was the successor of Ramesses II in the Egyptain Nineteenth Dynasty. It records the victoriesof Merneptah over Hatti, Canaan, Ashkelon, Gezer, Yanoam, Israel and Hurru. It reads, “Israelis laid waste, its seed is not” describing the Israelites as a “people” rather than land. This is theoldest inscription outside the Bible to indicate the existence of the ancient people of Israel. Thestele records that the Israelites had gone out from Egypt, and so points to an Exodus asrecorded in Exodus 12: 31-51. The stele is also significant because it implies that the Exodushappened during the reign of Ramesses II.The oldest reference to an OT king – and even a picture! In the British Museum,rooms 6 & 85 of the Ancient Near East, there stand two magnificent steles which both recordthe campaigns of the Assyrian King, Shalmaneser III, (857-824BC). The Kurkh Stele ofShalmaneser III, was discovered at Kurkh on the River Tigris in southern Turkey in 1861. It isa relief carving of Shalmaneser, including a cuneiform inscription recording his six militarycampaigns. It was inscribed in 853BC, and records the defeat of Israel. Adad-ibri is alsoincluded, and he appears in the Bible as Ben-Hadad in 2 Kings 6: 24 and 8: 7.The Obelisk of Shalmaneser III was discovered in Calah (Nimrud) byHenry Layard in 1846. It is decorated with five rows of reliefs and fourpictorial panels on each side of the four sides. It details Shalmaneser’svictories from 853BC to 838BC. It is the most important of thediscoveries at Calah. Inscribed are 31 campaigns, including campaignsagainst Adad-idri of Damascus (see 2 Kings 6: 24; 8: 7 for a referenceto Adad-ibri) and his successor Hazael of Damascus (see 2 Kings 8: 715 for a reference to Hazael).Obelisk of Shalmaneser III British MuseumOn the second series of reliefs, the Israelite King Jehu is recordedbringing tribute to Shalmaneser. The relief states, “Jehu the Israelite,son of Omri.” Jehu was not the son of Omri, but the Assyrians mayhave used this as a shorter way of writing, “son of the house of Omri”or “Israel.” Also, the Assyrians mayhave thought that Jehu was amember of the house of Omri who ruled Israel from 885-3Harris, R. L., Exploring the World of the Bible Lands, Thanes & Hudson 1995, p. 26. Also, in theBible, the first time writing is encouraged, is in Exodus 17: 14.4Mitchell, T.C., The Bible in the British Museum, British Museum Press, 1996 p. 32-35.5Please see the appendix: Bible Discoveries in the British Museum, for a room list.Obelisk of Shalmaneser III, PictoralPanel of Jehu British Museum2

The Bible Unearthed873BC. (see 1 Kings 16: 21-28) Furthermore, the Bible does not record a story of Jehu bringingtribute to Shalmaneser, but the fact that the obelisk identifies the Hebrew King is useful forproving his existence. This is also the earliest picture of a Hebrew we have, so we can learnabout their physical characteristics.6 The character carvings have been well preserved, and youcan still see the detailed outline of the Israelite King.Several names all together! The Moabite Stone, discovered in 1868, is also an excellentactual reference to Biblical names – Moab, Chemosh, Omri and Mesha. It was smashed byArabs but fragments have been reassembled and can be seen in the Louvre, Paris. The text is ofMesha, King of Moab, and his war against Israel. (see 2 Kings 3: 4-27.)My personal favourite. The Royal Steward Inscription, was discovered in 1870 by C.Clermont Ganneau, in Silwan near Jerusalem.7 It is a seventh century Hebrew inscriptionlocated at the head of a rock-cut tomb. It says, “This is (the tomb of ) iah the Royal Steward.”The text in brackets was smashed from the rock, as a roof-beam was built into the rock. Theposition of royal steward was a senior title of the Israelite people during the times of Isaiah inthe seventh century BC. He had the personal responsibility for the royal household, and wasthe most important official among the king’s staff in Judah and Israel. The royal stewardrecorded in Isaiah is named as ‘Shebna,’ and in Isaiah 22: 14-25 a prophecy is given aboutJerusalem, and Shebna the steward, who did not fulfill his obligations, cutting a grave stone forhimself.Royal Steward Inscription British MuseumThe spellings of the names do not match. Isaiah uses the name ‘Shebna,’ and not ‘Shebaniah’ which it would have to be to correspond with the tomb inscription. However, in Nehemiah 9: 4the name ‘Shebaniah’ is mentioned as one of the Levites. Shebaniah is generally recognised tobe a fuller version of Shebna, it is the same name - as in ‘Jon’ shortened for ‘Jonathan.’Another factor which suggests this is the tomb in Isaiah, is that there is only one royal stewardat a time. In my mind, it is beyond reasonable doubt that this grave stone is the one God talkedabout in Isaiah 22. The first time I saw the Royal Steward Inscription it became my favouritearchaeological finding to support the Bible. I was so impacted at looking at this specific grave,because God Himself probably spoke about it.Another amazing archaeological finding which supports the Bible is the Annals ofSennacherib or Taylor Prism, found in Nineveh in 1830 by Colonel R. Taylor. The six sidedprism describes the first eight military campaigns of Sennacherib, King of Assyria 705-681BC.He started his Judean campaign in 701BC. Sennacherib states that he laid siege to 46 cities inJudea, deported 200,150 people and also entrenched Hezekiah in Jerusalem. This event isrecorded in 2 Kings 18: 13-19: 37, Isaiah 36-7 and 2 Chronicles 32. In the Annals, Sennacheribstates,“As for Hezekiah, the Judean who did not submit to my yoke, Isurrounded and conquered forty six of his strong walled towns Hehimself I shut up in Jerusalem, his royal city, like a bird in a cage Thewarriors and select troops he had brought in to strengthen his royalcity of Jerusalem, did not fight I reduced his country but stillincreased the tribute and the presents due to me as his overlord which Iimposed upon beyond his former tribute to be delivered6In the reliefs, the Jews have long robes. In 2 Kings 4: 29, Elijah says to Gehezi, “Tuck your cloak intoyour belt, take my staff into your hand and run.”7See, Shanks, H., The Tombs of Silwan, BAR May/June 1994, p. 47-50.3

The Bible Unearthedannually Hezekiah did send me later to Nineveh thirty talents of Gold, eight hundredtalents of silver ”Taylor Prism British MuseumAccording to the Bible, Sennacherib did threaten Jerusalem (2 Kings 18: 17-37) and thesoldiers did not fight (2 Kings 19: 9-13, 36). Cities were besieged, but Jerusalem was not. Also,tribute was paid to Sennacherib (2 Kings 18: 14-15).8 This is remarkable consistency. Takesome time to study these passages and get a sense of history by viewing the evidencessupporting the existence of Sennacherib and Hezekiah, and you will be amazed at theaccuracy of the Bible.The Siege of Lachish Reliefs werediscovered on the palace walls of KingSennacherib at Nineveh. In Palace Room 37 wasthe “Lachish Room.” This military victoryappears to have been the grandest in the mindof Sennacherib. The palace was destroyed in612BC, and some of the reliefs have beendamaged. Lachish was situated west ofJerusalem near the Mediterranean Sea. Joshuatook the city (Joshua 10: 32) and KingRehoboam (930-913BC) fortified the city (2Chronicles 11: 9-12). The inscription on therelief, above a seated Sennacherib, reads,“Sennacherib King of the universe, King ofAssyria, sat upon a throne and reviewed thespoil of the city of Lachish.” In 2 Chronicles 32:9 Sennacherib laid siege to Lachish and fromthere he made his threatening claims toHezekiah. The Lachish relief gives us a clearvisual detail of what happened during the siege.If you have the opportunity to go to the BritishMuseum, you can view the reliefs, and see thegraphic details of the battle. It is like seeing a‘film-footage’ of the capture of Lachish. It