Biblical Archaeology: Year 2007 in review
Published: 28 December 2007 (GMT+10)
2007 has been a big year for biblical archaeology. In 1 Thessalonians 5:21, the apostle Paul writes, ‘but test everything; hold fast what is good.’ A slew of discoveries have provided ample opportunity to put several historical claims of the Bible to the test. Here are ten archaeological news stories from 2007, relating to the Bible.
- 10th Century BC alphabet stone—Biblical archaeologist Dr Ron Tappy spoke about his fairly recent discovery of a thirty-eight pound limestone rock with a 2,900 year old alphabet inscription.1 Utilizing pottery and carbon dating, the alphabet stone has been dated to the 10th century BC, when King Solomon reigned. This is a surprise to many scholars who had been sceptical of the Bible’s timeline.
- Nebo-Sarsekim—The British museum unveiled a clay tablet that references a court official of King Nebuchadnezzar found in the Book of Jeremiah.2 The cuneiform inscription translates as Nebo-Sarsekim and is dated to around 595 BC. The inscription reveals how Nebo-Sarsekim executed a monetary transaction in the Babylonian Temple. Thus we see evidence that an individual named in Jeremiah 39:3 was a real person, in real history—further evidence that we can trust the historicity of the Bible.
- The ‘lost Gospel of Judas’—Last year, National Geographic announced its discovery of the Gospel of Judas, a third century text that claims Jesus asked Judas to betray him.3 In return, Judas would ascend to heaven and be exalted above the other apostles. However, April DeConick, Rice University Professor of Biblical Studies, recently wrote an article pointing out that National Geographic is guilty of sloppy scholarship and inaccurate translation. DeConick explains that the third century text actually identifies Judas as a ‘demon’ who will not be exalted in any way. The traditional Gospel accounts of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus remain on solid, historical ground.
- Nehemiah’s wall—Eilat Mazar, head of the Institute of Archaeology at the Shalem Center, and her team of archaeologists have discovered evidence for what they believe to be part of the wall rebuilt by Nehemiah (Nehemiah 2:17–6:15).4 Artifacts including pottery shards and arrowheads, dating to the 5th century BC, were discovered adjacent to a tower and wall which appear to match Nehemiah’s description and time period. Previously, scholars had dated the wall and its remains to the Hasmonean period (142–37 BC), but fresh dating and archaeological digging has yielded results that support the Old Testament account.
- James ossuary—The debate regarding the authenticity of the first century ossuary with the inscription ‘James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus’ appears to be diminishing. In a recent report, Hershel Shanks, of the Biblical Archaeological Society, records that there is broad agreement among various scholars that the inscription is truly authentic.5 It is telling that a number of scholars, both Christian and non-Christian, believe this to be the ossuary of the famous New Testament historical figure.
- Seal of Jezebel—Dutch researcher Marjo Korpel presented a strong case for having identified the official seal of the wicked Queen Jezebel on an opal signet.6 Korpel’s work seems to confirm the suspicions of the late pioneering archaeologist, Nahman Avigad, who believed the royal seal belonged to Jezebel, a name documented nowhere outside the Old Testament. Such a rare find provides circumstantial evidence for the identity of Queen Jezebel in 1 Kings 16–21.
- The land of Cabul—In 1 Kings 9:11–13, King Solomon gave Hiram, king of Tyre (city of Phoenicia), twenty cities in the land of Galilee in exchange for cedar, cypress and gold. When Hiram came to see his cities that Solomon had given him, he was displeased and called the land ‘Cabul’. Mordechai Aviam, director of the Galilee Archaeological Institute, stated excavations by Dr Zvi Gal revealed a significant, Phoenician administrative and military complex atop private dwellings dating to the time of King Solomon,7 consistent with the biblical account.
- ‘Jesus tomb’—Just before Easter, Jesus’ ‘family tomb’ was announced to the world. Supposedly, the bones of Christ, his mother Mary, his supposed ‘wife’ Mary Magdalene and their alleged ‘son’, and other family members had been identified. Despite a book, Discovery Channel documentary, and lots of media fanfare, a significant number of scholars, both Christian and non-Christian alike, debunked the numerous historical, archaeological, and mathematical fallacies of the theory. See The Lost Tomb of Jesus: Another Titanic Disaster.
- Beehives—Amihai Mazar, Professor of Archaeology at the Hebrew University, revealed the first beehive colony, dating to the biblical era, has been excavated at Tel Rehov, Israel.8 Dating from the 9th to 10th centuries BC, it is the earliest known beehive colony in the archaeological record. In sixteen different places, the Bible describes Israel as the ‘land of milk and honey’. And more specifically, Judges 14:8–9 describes how Samson took bee honey from inside the carcass of a lion and 1 Samuel 14:27 describes how Jonathan, King Saul’s son, dipped his hand into a honeycomb during a battle.
- Palace of David—Eilat Mazar (see #4), continues to stand by her claim that her team has likely discovered the remains of the palace of King David.9 Arduous digging, pottery dating, and careful consideration of biblical history have led Mazar to the conclusion that this massive building likely dates to the time of King David.
These fascinating discoveries and news stories once again point to the historical reliability of the Bible. It is no wonder that Dr Clifford Wilson, former Director of the Australian Institute of Archaeology, said, ‘The Bible is the most accurate history textbook the world has ever seen.’10 No doubt further research will continue to validate the historicity of the Bible, from the very first verse.
- Roth, Mark, The Thinkers: The Bible and history of Israel shape a life, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 29 October 2007. Return to Text.
- Alberge, Dalya, Museum’s tablet lends new weight to Biblical truth, Timesonline, 11 July 2007. Return to Text.
- DeConick, April, Gospel Truth, The New York Times, 01 December 2007. Return to Text.
- Elusive biblical Jerusalem wall finally found, Israeli archaeologist says, International Herald Tribune, 29 November 2007. Return to Text.
- Bolen, Todd, Forgery Conference Report, Bible Places Blog, 20 June 2007. Return to Text.
- Liphshiz, Cnaan, Dutch researcher claims to confirm Queen Jezebel’s seal, Haaretz.com, acc. 17 December 2007. Return to Text.
- Khoury, Jack, At Galilee site, solving a mystery from the time of Solomon, Haaretz.com, 28 August 2007. Return to Text.
- First Beehives in Ancient Near East Discovered, ScienceDaily, 05 September 2007. Return to Text.
- Creation-Evolution Headlines, 09 February 2007. Return to Text.
- Wilson, C, Archaeologist Speaks Out, Creation 21(1):15, 1998. Return to Text.