Marco is a lay preacher of an Evangelical Church (Brethren Assemblies) in Northern Italy with a keen interest in Apologetics.
Christianity is a religion rooted in history. Unlike other belief systems that were established at a particular point in time, the Christian religion was revealed over an extended period of history. Its writings contain numerous references to people and places also known from secular history.
Those considering the Holy Scriptures simply a collection of religious myths might be disappointed to learn that archeologists have unearthed not a few pieces objectively confirming details of the biblical records.
Although these findings can't produce faith nor prove supernatural events like the resurrection and miraculous healings, they nonetheless unmistakably confirm the reliability of the biblical records.
As the word says: “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). But who would heed a word that is unreliable?
The following is a sample of ten amazing archeological findings (five from the Old Testament era and five pertaining to the New Testament) that objectively confirm the reliability of the Bible.
1. Moabite Stone (Mesha Stela)
In 1868 the French Anglican missionary Frederick A. Klein discovered a black basalt stone monument in Dhiban, Jordan that subsequently became known as the Moabite Stone or the Mesha Inscription. The stela, about three feet high and two feet wide, contains 32 lines written in Moabite, a language similar to Hebrew, recording the acts of Mesha, ruler of the small kingdom of Moab East of the Dead Sea.
The inscription describes the same events also recorded in 2 Kings 3, although from a different perspective, narrating how Mesha was first subject to and then rebelled against the king of Israel. The stela, now in the Louvre in Paris, contains the earliest known reference to YHWH, the god of the Israelites, outside of the Bible.
2. Cyrus Cylinder
Among the ruins of ancient Babylon, the Iraqi-Assyrian Assyriologist Hormuzd Rassam in 1879 discovered one of the most fascinating artifacts in biblical archeology. The baked clay cylinder inscribed in Akkadian cuneiform script contains the declaration by the Persian king Cyrus the Great allowing exiles to return to their former homeland and reestablish their respective forms of worship.
In the Bible, the opening of the book of Ezra reports Cyrus' specific proclamation to the Jews, while Isaiah prophesied about Cyrus as God's instrument to end the Babylonian captivity (Isaiah 45:1).
The Cyrus Cylinder has silenced skeptics that previously had scoffed at the biblical claim that a pagan ruler should have freed his captives.
3. Tel Dan Stele
The historicity of the Bible is crucial to its overall message and authenticity. Those trying to discredit the Word of God often try to do so by reducing its main characters to religious myths. One of their prime targets has been King David, whose life and kingdom is foundational to the Old Testament narrative.
During excavations at the ancient city of Dan in northern Israel in 1993 archeologists discovered a stone with an Aramaic inscription that had been part of a wall. The broken stone, about 32 cm high by 22 cm wide, records the victory of the King of Aram over the King of Israel and his ally, the King of the House of David.
This was the first time that a clear reference to David and his dynasty outside of the Bible had been discovered, confirming that King David had indeed been a historical rather than mythological figure.
4. Babylonian Chronicles (605-594 BC)
The fall of Jerusalem under Nebuchadnezzar and the subsequent Babylonian captivity are pivotal events in the biblical narrative. They are paralleled by the Babylonian Chronicles, a series of clay tablets now held by the British Museum.
The tablet comprising the years 605-594 BC is sometimes also nicknamed the 'Jersusalem Chronicle' as it confirms the biblical narrative of Nebuchadnezzar's siege and capture of the Holy City, the deportation of its King (Jehoiachin), and the appointment of a new king by the Babylonians (Zedekiah), as well as the heavy tribute taken to Babylon.
According to the Babylonian Chronicles, the precise date Jerusalem fell was March 16, 597 BC.
5. Hezekiah's Tunnel and Siloam Inscription
An important attraction in Jerusalem for tourists with an interest in biblical history is Hezekiah's Tunnel, a water channel leading from the Gihon Spring to the Pool of Siloam. The books of 2 Kings (20:20) and 2 Chronicles (32:30) report how, under the threat of a siege by the Assyrian ruler Sennacherib, king Hezekiah and his men closed the upper outlets of the waters of Gihon and channeled them down to the city of David.
In 1838 the ancient aqueduct was rediscovered by the Biblical scholar Edwin Robinson. Years on, some youths exploring the aqueduct by chance found an ancient inscription about the completion of the tunnel. Based on the script the inscription dates to the 8th century BC – the time of Hezekiah.
6. Pilate Stone
Jesus Christ was crucified under Pontius Pilate, the Roman Prefect of Judea who had handed him over to the Jewish religious authorities.
Aside from the gospel accounts, Pilate's name (and historicity) is also confirmed by other ancient writers like Josephus, Philo, and Tacitus.
In 1961 excavations near the amphitheater of Caesarea Maritima unearthed a limestone block that further provided archeological evidence: the inscription was part of a dedication to Tiberius Caesar, the emperor, by “Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judea”.
7. Heel Bone of a Crucified Man
In redemptive history, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ is of vital importance. This Roman method of execution had already been widely attested by historical writers and in the gospels, but then archeological evidence was discovered as well.
In 1968 a crew of construction workers near Jerusalem accidentally dug up several tombs. Archeologists were quickly called in and discovered numerous ossuaries, including one of a crucified man: “Jehohanan Son of Hagkol” was the name inscribed on the outside of the box. Inside the ossuary was found his right heel bone that still contained the rusted nail from his crucifixion.
8. Caiaphas Ossuary
Caiaphas was the high priest who presided over Jesus' trial. The gospel writers refer to him simply by his family name, but Flavius Josephus, the first-century Romano-Jewish historian, records that his full name was Joseph Caiaphas.
When in 1990 a construction crew in Jerusalem by chance discovered a first-century tomb, archeologists found a variety of ossuaries on the site. One of these bone boxes, an especially ornate one, was inscribed with the name “Joseph son of Caiaphas”. Inside were found the remains of a 60-year-old man, who may well have been the high priest who had played a prominent role in the trial of Jesus.
9. Delphi Inscription (or Gallio Inscription)
The Delphi Inscription was discovered in the early 20th century at the Temple of Apollo in Delphi, Greece, and consists of nine fragments that were part of a message written by the Roman emperor Claudius. In it, Claudius speaks about guarding the cult of Apollo, but besides also references “Junius Gallio, my friend, and proconsul”. As the text further states that Claudius is acclaimed emperor for the 26th time and proconsuls usually took office on May 1st serving for only one year, Gallo must have been proconsul of Achaia from May 1, AD 51 to the end of April the following year.
In an interesting side note in the Acts of the Apostles, it is said that “when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the tribunal.” (Acts 18:12).
The connection with the Delphi inscription has allowed to date the time the apostle Paul was brought before the tribunal in Corinth to AD 51. This in turn has become a fixed time marker for the dating of much of Paul's ministry and the history of the early church.
10. Jerusalem Temple Warning Inscription
When the apostle Paul was accused of defiling the temple because some Jews mistakingly thought he had brought Trophimus the Ephesian into its inner courts (Acts 21:27-40), it was because pagans were strictly forbidden from entering the inner precincts. Flavius Josephus describes in detail the dividing wall between the court of the Gentiles and the inner courts of the temple complex, including the warnings signs in both Greek and Latin that forbade foreigners to enter upon pain of death.
In 1871 the French archaeologist Charles Clermont-Ganneau discovered one of these inscriptions: The limestone slab, now in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum, reads: “No foreigner is to enter within the railing and enclosure around the temple. And whoever is caught will be responsible to himself for his subsequent death.”
- R.K. Harrison, Old Testament Times, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI, USA (2005)
- Merrill C. Tenney, New Testament Times, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI, USA (2004)
- Associates for Biblical Research
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Marco Pompili
Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on March 11, 2021:
Well researched article. Interesting.