The Bible

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   Critics say that the Bible is full of stories and myths, which should not be taken seriously. The validity and truth of the Bible have been questioned, and some people think that it is not a trustworthy source of information. The Bible is the historical account of the Hebrews (Jews), and is just as trustworthy as the accounts of the Persians, Romans, Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, Hittites, or any other civilization. The Bible coincides with other written work, it is historically and scientifically accurate, and it is more reliable than most other religious books.

   Through archaeology the majority of the places mentioned in the Bible have been found, showing the historical accuracy of the Bible. The places in the Bible are not fictitious places, but rather places that existed in the past and some that still exist today. Some places mentioned in the Bible are Nineveh, Persia, Italy, Egypt, Rome, and Babylon. Other civilizations also wrote about these places. These were actual locations, some of which still exist today and others whose ruins have been found.

   A very stylish statue was found of a man named Idri-mi. This statue contains the earliest known reference to Canaan, a land mentioned several times in the Old Testament. Canaan is also mentioned in Egyptian texts, the Amarna Letters, and alphabetic cuneiform tablets from Ras Shamra.

   Ruins of the city of Ur (the place where Abraham lived before he went to Canaan) have been found approximately midway between the modern city of Baghdad, Iraq, and the head of the Persian Gulf, south of the Euphrates River, on the edge of the Al Hajarah Desert.

   Handles of ancient pottery jars were found in Tell ed-Duweir. These handles, which had been stamped with seals before baking, show symbols, either a four-winged scarab or a two-winged disc, with 'belonging to the king' written above them in Hebrew script and a place-name below them. Over eight hundred of these stamped handles have been found at over twenty excavated sites in Palestine, nearly all in the territory to which Judah was confined by about 700 B.C. The place-names found on the handles are: Hebron, Ziph, and Socoh. These are Israelite territories mentioned several times in the Old Testament.

   Shechem was the name of a territory mentioned several times in the Old Testament. Shechem still exists today, and lies in a valley between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim in the hill country of Ephraim in north-central Palestine.

   Lachish was the name of a city mentioned several times in the Old Testament. Apart from the Bible, three independent sources document the fall of this city: Assyrian cuneiform texts, archaeological excavations, and pictorial reliefs found in Sennacherib's palace at Nineveh. The Amarna Letters and some Palestinian documents also mention Lachish.

   Gezer was a place mentioned many times in the Old Testament. Modern Gezer (Tell-Jezer) is located eighteen miles northwest of Jerusalem, between the Valley of Sorek and the Valley of Aijalon. The archaeologist who discovered the site suggested that the modern name for the place was a survival of the ancient name. This was confirmed by his further discovery of three bilingual inscriptions, in Hebrew and Greek, cut on surfaces of rock by a certain Alkios, apparently once the governor of the city. In one of them occurred the expression "the boundary of Gezer". A "high place" dating to about 1600 B.C. was found here as well as a tenth-century calendar containing a Hebrew inscription of seven lines and citing an annual cycle of agricultural activities. It is one of the oldest-known pieces of Hebrew writing. Gezer is also mentioned in the stele of Pharaoh Merneptah of Egypt.

   The island of Crete is mentioned in the New Testament. This is an actual island, which is located in the Mediterranean Sea, with Cythera on the northwest and Rhodes on the northeast, forming a natural bridge between Europe and Asia Minor.

   The writers of the Old Testament and the New Testament knew the geography of Israel quite well, mentioning such places as Bethlehem, the Jordan River, Galilee, the Mount of Olives, Jerusalem, and the Sea of Galilee. These are places that still exist in Palestine today.

   The people in the Bible are not fictitious people, but rather people that existed sometime in the past. The Bible contains many characters, who are also mentioned in the writings of other civilizations. The following are some of these: Herod the Great, Caesar Augustus, Herod Agrippa, Caiaphas, Cyrus the Great, Xerxes (Ahasuerus), Artaxerxes, and Nebuchadnezzar.

   The Bible speaks of the Hittites, an ancient people that are also mentioned in Egyptian records. Documents of the Hittites themselves have also been found. Archaeological excavations found the remains of the Hittite empire in the area where the Bible said it was (Turkey/Syria).

   A stone cylinder is inscribed in Babylonian cuneiform with an account of the rebuilding of the ziggurat at Ur by Nabonidus. Nabonidus concludes the inscription on the cylinder with a prayer, which ends with a plea for the piety of 'Belshazzar the son first (born) the offspring of my heart (body)'. This reference is to Belshazzar who figures prominently in the Old Testament, namely the book of Daniel, where he is described as 'king' of Babylon. It is clear from other inscriptions that Nabonidus spent several years of his reign in north-west Arabia during which Belshazzar ruled Babylon in his place, and though he is not included in the king lists, he was king in all but name during that time. The cuneiform texts show that the designation of Daniel as 'the third ruler in the kingdom' (Daniel 5:29) makes sense, Nabonidus (in Arabia) being first, and Belshazzar (in Babylon) being second.

   Jehu was one of the kings of Israel, and Shalmaneser was one of the kings of Assyria; both are mentioned in the Bible several times. The Assyrians made a monument called the Black Obelisk on which Jehu, king of Israel, is paying tribute to Shalmaneser III, king of Assyria. The inscription on the monument states that Jehu brought silver, gold, a golden bowl, a golden vase, golden trumpets, golden buckets, tin, a staff for a king, and hunting spears to Shalmaneser. The existence of both Jehu and Shalmaneser is authenticated by this stone.

   A small lump of clay was found with the impression of a seal inscribed 'Belonging to Hannaniah son of Gedaliah' and showing the impression of papyrus and thread on the back. In the Bible, Gedaliah was the name of the ruler left by Nebuchadnezzar in Jerusalem in 586 B.C. He was descended from a line of state officials having no connection with the royal family of Judah. It is more than likely that this lump of clay refers to this Gedaliah. The surface on the back of this lump shows that it was used to seal a rolled-up papyrus document. References in the Old Testament to inscribed scrolls suggest that these were papyrus rather than leather.

   An inscription referring to King David was discovered at Tel Dan, a mound in northern Galilee. This inscription from the ninth century B.C. refers both to the 'House of David' and to the 'King of Israel'. Thus, the existence of King David is authenticated both by the Bible and by other ancient writings.

   A round-topped stela or monolith was found in southeastern Turkey. This monolith records the principal events of the first six military campaigns of Shalmaneser III. In the account of his sixth year, 853 B.C., he describes his campaign to the west, where he encountered a coalition of states, including Aleppo, Hamath, Aram, Israel, and Ammon, at Qarqar on the river Orontes, where he defeated them in battle. The size of each contingent is listed, including that of Ahab the Israelite. Ahab was a king of ancient Israel found in the Bible. Thus, the existence of Ahab is authenticated both by Scripture and by this monolith.

   Uzziah is mentioned in the Bible as Judah's tenth king. A stone plaque was found marking the resting place of the bones of King Uzziah. An Aramaic inscription on the plaque reads 'Hither were brought the bones of Uzziah, king of Judah. Do not open.' Thus, the existence of King Uzziah is authenticated by this stone.

   Jotham is one of the kings of Judah mentioned in the Bible. The seal of King Jotham was discovered when the Red Sea port city of Ezion-geber was excavated. The seal reads 'Property of Jotham' and has the figure of a lion on it, the symbol of Judah. His signet ring was also found. It depicts a ram, and Hebrew inscription on it reads, '(Belonging) to Jotham'. Thus, the existence of King Jotham is authenticated by the discovery of these items. 

   The Bible speaks of Manasseh, one of the kings of Judah. Other documents also mention Manasseh. Assyrian annals record that in 676 B.C. Manasseh paid tribute to Sennacherib's son, King Esarhaddon of Assyria: 'I called up the kings of [Syria] and of the region on the other side of the Euphrates River, to wit: King Balu of Tyre, King Manasseh of Judah, King Qaushgabri of Edom, King Musuri of Moab, King Sillibel of Gaza... together twenty-two kings...'

   According to the Bible, God came in the form of a man named Jesus. Jesus is mentioned in every book of the New Testament except 3 John. Jesus is also mentioned in the writings of several secular authors. Josephus was a Jewish historian who wrote about Him, and Tacitus, Suetonius, and Pliny the Younger were Romans who wrote about Him. Celsus, a philosopher, makes reference to Jesus. The Babylonian Talmud also mentions Jesus in its writings. Today, scholars generally agree that Jesus was a historical figure whose existence is authenticated both by Christian writers and by several Roman and Jewish historians.

   The Bible says Jesus was brought before the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, who sentenced him to death. Jewish sources also speak of Pontius Pilate. The Department of Antiquity of Israel undertook an excavation of the city of Caesarea, the Roman capitol of Judea at the time of Christ. During this excavation, archaeologists found a stone plaque, apparently recording the dedication of a building, with a Latin inscription naming 'Pontius Pilate, Praefect of Judaea'.

   Statues of Augustus Caesar, Tiberius Caesar, and Claudius Caesar have been discovered. These rulers of Rome are mentioned in different books of the New Testament.

   Eusebius was a theologian who wrote about the disciples of Jesus and the early Christian church. Thus, the existence of the disciples is authenticated both by Scripture and by other writings.

   A bronze coin of the time of the Roman Empire was discovered. The Greek inscription on the obverse of the coin reads 'of Ephesians' and 'twice temple keeper'. The 'twice' indicates that Ephesus was 'temple keeper' also of the Temple of Artemis, a fact referred to in the speech of the town clerk of Ephesus, quoted in the Bible, who, having quieted the mob who were against Paul, tried to placate them by saying that everyone knew that 'the city of the Ephesians is temple-keeper of the great Artemis'. The New Testament book of 'Ephesians' is actually a letter that Paul wrote to certain people in the town of Ephesus.

   Like any book, the Bible had to be written by someone. Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Amos, Micah, Habakkuk, and Ezra are some of the authors who wrote accounts of their personal visions and experiences. These people obviously existed because they were the ones who wrote the accounts. Paul and some of the other apostles wrote letters, and these letters were made part of the Bible by the early Christian church. Paul signed every one of his letters, so obviously he existed. Peter, James, and Jude also signed their letters, so obviously they existed.

   Every ancient civilization had an account of Creation. Although the Creation account found in the Bible and the Creation accounts of other civilizations do not totally coincide, in all of them there is some similarity. A set of seven tablets giving a story of creation, called the 'Creation Epic', was found at Nineveh. This account on seven tablets could correspond to the Biblical account of seven days, six of creation and one of rest (Genesis 1:1-2:3). The sixth tablet in this series is a record of man's creation and the seventh tablet in this series refers to a special day. This corresponds to the Biblical account of man's creation on the sixth day, and to a special seventh day of rest (Genesis 1:27-31; Genesis 2:2-3). Another account of creation has been discovered, known as the Babylonian Creation account. Both the Bible and the Babylonian account have exactly the same order: Primeval chaos, Beginning of light, Creation of the firmament, Appearance of dry land, Creation of luminaries, Creation of man, and Deity rests. The Atrahasis Epic is another account of Creation. The combination of clay with blood in the Atrahasis account of the creation of man reflects similar ideas to those found in the Old Testament, where man is described as having been formed of 'dust' or 'earth' to which he would return (Genesis 3:19), and where it is stated that 'the life is in the blood' (Leviticus 17:11).

   The Bible tells of the Great Flood (Genesis 7:10-8:14). The Gilgamesh Epic, written on 12 cuneiform tablets, is an ancient Babylonian story which also makes reference to a great flood. Greek mythology also describes a great flood. Assyrian and Sumerian documents also have an account of a great flood. Among other peoples whose folklore and legends contain accounts of a devastating flood are those of southern Asia, the aborigines of North, Central, and South America, and the natives of Polynesia. The fossil record also shows evidence of a worldwide, catastrophic flood.

   The Bible states that the people of Israel were slaves in Egypt. It says that when the cities of Pithom and Raamses were built, the people of Israel were given the lowest jobs, that of making bricks and mixing mortar (Exodus 1:11-14). The use of forced labor in these Egyptian projects is also known from Egyptian documents. Egyptian officers rounded up men from Nubia and the Libyan desert areas. It would be in line with such practices if the Hebrews of the east Delta area were rounded up in a similar way and set to strenuous forced labor. An inscription at Raamses relates that it was built with Semitic slave labor from Asia. This illustrates its construction by Israelite slaves. The Bible says that Israel's labor was all the more difficult when the Pharaoh of Egypt commanded straw to be withheld in brick making, thus forcing them to go throughout the land in search of straw and stubble (Exodus 5:6-9). An ancient document found in Egypt relates the complaint of an Egyptian officer, whose duty it was to supervise construction in the land of Goshen. Work had stopped on all projects because "I do not have any materials and help. There is no one to make bricks; there is no straw in this area." The cities of 'Pi-tum' (Pithom) and Raamses have both been excavated. Bricks were found that had been made with and without straw.

   A black basalt stela bearing a 35 line alphabetic inscription was found in Dhiban. The text on the stone begins 'I am Mesha son of Chemosh..., king of Moab', and goes on to say that Omri king of Israel had oppressed Moab for 'many days' and that his son did the same, so Mesha mounted a rebellion, the details of the ensuing war occupying the rest of the inscription. This rebellion of Mesha and the war between Israel and Moab is narrated in the Bible (2 Kings 3:4-27). Mesha is mentioned as the king of Moab. Mesha's father is not named, but a fragment of another inscribed stela found at El-Kerak in Jordan has made possible its restoration as 'Chemoshyat'.

   According to the Bible, God stirred the spirit of Tiglath-pileser (Pul) to come against His people Israel (1 Chronicles 5:26). In 743 B.C., an empire began to form as the Assyrian army marched out to the Mediterranean, receiving homage and tribute from many local princes along the way. In his annals, Tiglath-pileser III boasted: 'I received tribute from... Rezon of Damascus, Menahem of Samaria, Hiram of Tyre, Sibittibili of Byblos... As for Menahem I overwhelmed him like a snowstorm and he... fled like a bird, alone, and bowed to my feet. I returned him to his place and imposed tribute on him, to wit: gold, silver, linen garments with multicolored trimmings.' The Bible records that, by exacting fifty shekels of silver from each wealthy man, Menahem was able to raise sufficient tribute "to strengthen his own hold on the kingdom" (2 Kings 15:19-20). Based on seventh-century Assyrian records, some commentators conclude that each man was asked to contribute the standard price for a slave in order to stay free. The Bible says that Menahem died about a year after he bought off the Assyrians, and his son Pekahiah ruled only briefly before joining the list of assassinated kings. This time it was Pekah, one of the men who rode with the king in the royal chariot, who murdered his way to the throne (2 Kings 15:22-26). Pekah aligned himself with Rezin of Damascus against Assyria. Tiglath-pileser III marched into Israel, destroyed cities all across Galilee and took many people captive. In 732 B.C. he moved against Damascus, devastating the country, capturing the capital city, and executing Rezin the king. It was not too long before Pekah was murdered by the next man to lust after the throne: Hoshea (2 Kings 15:30). Tiglath-pileser's annals record the accession of the final king of Israel: 'They overthrew their King Pekah and I placed Hoshea as king over them. I received from them ten talents of gold, one thousand talents of silver as their tribute, and brought them to Assyria.' The Bible and Tiglath-pileser's annals both speak of a mass deportation of Israelites.

   The Bible states that Shishak, king of Egypt, captured the fortified cities of Judah, came up against Jerusalem and took away the treasures of the house of the Lord and the king's palace; he took everything, including the shields of gold Solomon had made (2 Chronicles 12:2-4,9). Shishak inscribed his own record of this invasion of Judah. He dedicated the spoils to his god Amon, and he listed the conquered cities of Judah. Certain figures on the record represent captured Israelites. Shishak's mummy was found in a silver coffin, which had been placed inside a gold case. This gold case might have been made from Solomon's gold shields.

   Archaeology has unearthed hundreds of square feet of royal 'wallpaper' from the palace of Sennacherib, who was emperor of Assyria from 705-681 B.C. His palace was at Nineveh, and the 'wallpaper' consists of enormous stone slabs with the most intricate illustrations of Sennacherib's victories chiseled out on them. The great importance of these, together with long narrative inscriptions and clay cylinders bearing detailed accounts of all the emperor's campaigns, is that they give Sennacherib's own official version of his invasion of Israel in 701 B.C. This is also described in great detail in three books of the Bible. When comparing the two the result is a total vindication of the Bible as historical fact. The Bible says that while Hezekiah was king in Jerusalem, Sennacherib proceeded to attack his minor walled cities, and then besiege Hezekiah in Jerusalem (2 Kings 18:13,17). Sennacherib's account says the same. The Bible says that Hezekiah tried to appease Sennacherib with homage (2 Kings 18:14-16). The latter says the same (except that it exaggerates the amount of treasure which changed hands, as the Assyrians tended to do). The Bible says that Sennacherib's troops had to withdraw for a time (2 Kings 19:8). Sennacherib's records say the same. The Bible says that in the meantime Hezekiah constructed a remarkable water tunnel to supply the city from outside sources during the siege (2 Chronicles 32:3-5,30), which would inevitably be resumed when the Assyrians returned. That tunnel has been found and can be examined by anyone today. The Bible says Sennacherib returned, and his forces were destroyed by a divine act (2 Kings 19:35-36). Sennacherib's records go strangely silent about this final result. He claims no victory, and it is a historical fact that the Assyrians fought no more major battles for years.

   The Bible says that Sennacherib was murdered by his two sons, Adrammelech and Sharezer, and Esarhaddon his son succeeded him as king (Isaiah 37:37-38). Two archaeologists excavated a portion of Nineveh, and found a large baked clay six-sided cylinder inscribed with the annals of Esarhaddon, king of Assyria from 680-669 B.C. This cylinder, along with others found elsewhere, confirm and supplement the Biblical records. From them we learn that in 681 B.C. Sennacherib was murdered by his two elder sons, Adrammelech and Nergal-Sharezer, because of their jealousy of the favors shown Esarhaddon, their younger brother. Sometime after the murder of Sennacherib, a battle was fought between the armies of Esarhaddon and the forces under his brothers and Erimenas. Esarhaddon won a complete and decisive victory, after which his army proclaimed him king of Assyria.

   Sargon succeeded his brother Shalmaneser V as king of Assyria in 721 B.C., and though in his annals he appears to claim that he conquered Samaria at the beginning of his reign, it is possible that it was Shalmaneser V to whom this conquest is to be credited. Shalmaneser's invasion and siege are referred to in the Bible (2 Kings 17:5), and the final conquest of Samaria is attributed to the 'king of Assyria' (2 Kings 17:6). The 'king of Assyria' could refer either to Shalmaneser or to Sargon. When the Assyrians succeeded in conquering a city, they consolidated the position by deporting the principal inhabitants. In the case of Samaria, the 'king of Assyria' is said to have deported Israelites to Halah, in Gozan on the Habor River and in the towns of the Medes (2 Kings 18:11). Sargon claims that he deported 27,290 Israelites to Assyria, and brought in people from other conquered territories to replace them. The Old Testament states that these new settlers set up images of their own gods (2 Kings 17:29). Sargon is mentioned once in the Old Testament (Isaiah 20:1), where he is said to have sent Tartan to attack Ashdod, an event which took place in 711 B.C.

   A Babylonian tablet was discovered which summarizes the principal events of each year. This tablet forms part of a series. Each annual entry begins with a reference to the year of reign of the king in question. This particular tablet speaks of Nebuchadnezzar. The text on the tablet runs 'In the seventh year, the month of Kislimu, the king of Akkad mustered his troops, marched to Hatti-land, and encamped against the city of 'Judah' and on the second day of the month of Addaru he seized the city and captured the king. He appointed there a king of his heart, received its heavy tribute and sent (it) to Babylon'. In this passage, it is clear from the preceding entries that the 'king of Akkad' was Nebuchadnezzar, the 'Hatti-land' was Syria-Palestine, and the 'city of Judah' was Jerusalem. The text is therefore saying that Nebuchadnezzar led his army to Syria-Palestine, besieged Jerusalem and captured it. This is an event referred to in the Bible, which identifies the deposed king as Jehoiachin and Nebuchadnezzar's nominee as Zedekiah (2 Kings 24:10-17). The Bible states that 'in the eighth year of the reign of the king of Babylon, he took Jehoiachin prisoner' (2 Kings 24:12). The Babylonian year began in March-April of the western calendar, and Kislimu, the ninth of the twelve months, which corresponded to November-December, fell in this instance in winter 598 B.C. The second day of the month of Addaru corresponded to the 15th/16th (sunset to sunset) of March of the western calendar. The importance of this text is that it fixes the date of the first fall of Jerusalem to March 16th, 597 B.C., the eighth year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar. Thus, the Bible and the Babylonian tablet coincide about the fall of Jerusalem.

   According to the Bible, the kingdom of Babylon was conquered and divided between the Medes and the Persians (Daniel 5:25-31). According to other documents, in 539 B.C. the Babylonians were defeated by the Persian king Cyrus the Great, who had defeated Media. Media was politically subservient to Persia; the Persians, however, regarded the Medes as equals, and thenceforth the two peoples were considered as one. Thus, the Bible and other documents coincide about the fall of Babylon. 

   A clay cylinder is inscribed in Babylonian cuneiform with an account by Cyrus, king of Persia 549-530 B.C., of his conquest of Babylon in 539 B.C. and capture of Nabonidus, the last Babylonian king. He describes measures of relief which he brought to the inhabitants of the city, and tells how he arranged for the restoration of their temples, and organized the return to their homelands of a number of people who had been held in Babylonia by the Babylonian kings. Though this account refers only to Mesopotamia and Iran it represents a policy which he carried out throughout his newly conquered empire, and the document transcribed in the Bible authorizing the rebuilding of the Jerusalem Temple (Ezra 6:3-5), and the subsequent return of the Jews to Palestine (Ezra 2), were manifestations of this policy.

   The Bible says that Earth is a circle suspended in space (Isaiah 40:22; Job 26:7). It did this without the aid of an orbiting satellite, and it expressed this as a fact 1000 years before Columbus discovered it. The Bible also states that ocean currents or "paths" flow through the sea (Psalms 8:8). Again, Columbus discovered this when he sailed to America on one current and back to Spain on another. The Bible says that the water cycle keeps the land watered (Job 36:27; Ecclesiastes 1:7; Amos 5:8), and it says that the winds form a circulating system (Ecclesiastes 1:6). This wasn't discovered by scientists until centuries after the death of Columbus. The Bible also says that blood sustains life (Leviticus 17:11). The Bible gives a logical way of protecting oneself from diseases: "But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it." (Genesis 9:4). It is hard to believe that these men would have known these things so many years before science proved them. Thus, it is believable to say that these things were revealed to them by God.

   An important part of the spiritual aspect of the Bible is prophecy. Certain prophecies were made hundreds and even thousands of years before their fulfillment. Prophecies have been fulfilled in the Old and New Testaments, and there are still prophecies of the end times left to be fulfilled. How would these prophets know about the future unless it was revealed to them by God?

   The Bible has clearly stood the test of time, written thousands of years ago and still in use today. Many countries, including the United States, have used the Bible as a guideline for their laws. The entire law and religion of the Jews is based on the Old Testament. The Bible has had a great influence on the world, and people worldwide have considered it to be logical, valid, trustworthy, and true.


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