THE RELIABILITY OF THE BIBLE
I) NEW TESTAMENT
A) EXTANT MANUSCRIPTS AND CITATIONS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT
The original books of the New Testament were written in the latter part of the first century from a point of view of eyewitness testimony. Hence it is evident that the authors of their respective writings used sources of information that reflect being there at the point in time that the events as they reported them occurred. Often the source was the author himself, or notes that were taken at the time. Furthermore, the skill level of oral transmission which includes accurate recall was much higher in individuals in those ancient times due to the practices of the day, hence the astounding accuracy when objective comparisons are made.
The extant manuscripts - copies of the original Greek text - all or in part; translations into other languages - all or in part; and the many thousands of citations of the New Testament from ancient times as early as the first century are available to inspect and compare today. Complete manuscripts of the entire New Testament are from the fourth century on; most of the NT, from the third century on; complete books from the second century on; and partial manuscripts from as early as the beginning of the second century on, or perhaps some were actually original. Due to the evident tradition of careful copying procedures - especially in the Alexandrian region, it was discovered that they are extraordinarily close in text to one another - fewer than 50,000 variances all told, which is less than 1% of the total of the text. Due to this tradition as well as the large number of manuscripts and translations available from many geographical points, differences have been largely resolved - with confidence that the original text has been logically arrived at in almost all cases of variance. In any case, none of the variances has effected a major or even a minor doctrine. This leaves a very small percentage of the text still in question, about which no significant teaching is effected, nor contradiction established with the rest of Scripture - Old or New Testament. To add to this, there are thousands upon thousands of citations of the New Testament from the 2nd century on, made by the early church fathers - some of whom were disciples of the Apostles themselves, which include all of the New Testament verses less eleven. This can be used to further corroborate what the original text was.
There are a number of internet sites and hard copies in libraries and bookstores of the interlinear of the Greek text of the bible, complete with definitions and parsings below each word. This can be compared to a number of accurate versions / translations and commentaries on the Bible which can also be obtained through the internet or libraries / bookstores as well. This must be done in order to arrive at an objective interpretation of what each verse in the Bible actually says. And this must be done in accordance with the normative rules of language, context and logic . And if this is done with honesty and diligence, individuals will arrive at the same intepretation of each verse examined. This only needs to be tested out to be verified. This interpretation will have the characteristic of being wholly consistent with the rest of the Bible, without contradiction, without error and often accurately predicting future events in precise detail - unlike any other book.
|1) CHART OF EXTANT MANUSCRIPTS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT|
|Extant Greek Manuscripts
|Manuscripts in Other Languages||Quantity|
|TOTAL OF ALL MANUSCRIPTS OF THE NT||24,970+|
|2) CHART OF HIGHLY SIGNFICANT NEW TESTAMENT DOCUMENTS|
|HIGHLY SIGNIFICANT NT GREEK MANUSCRIPTS||COMMENTS|
|John Ryland's MS (A.D. 130)*||John Rylands Library of Manchester, England. Oldest extant fragment of the NT. Because of its early date and location (Egypt), some distance from the traditional place of composition (Asia Minor), this portion of the Gospel of John tends to confirm the traditional date of the composition of John's Gospel about the end of the 1st century.|
|*For dating purposes, some of the factors that help determine the age of a manuscript are: materials used, letter size and form, punctuation, text divisions, ornamentation, the color of the ink, the texture and color of the parchment.|
|Bodmer Papyrus II (A.D. 150-200)||This papyrus was purchased in the 1950's and 1960's
from a dealer in Egypt and is located in the Bodmer Library of World
Literature; it contains most of John's Gospel. This most important
discovery of New Testament papryi since the Chester Beatty manuscripts
were discovered was the acquisition of the Bodmer Collection by the
Library of World Literature at Culagny, near Geneva.
"P66," dates from about A.D. 200 or earlier - perhaps in the middle if not even the first half of the second century. It contains 104 leaves of John 1:1-6:11; 6:35b-14:26; and fragments of forty other pages, John 14-21. The text is a mixture of the Alexandraian and Western types, and there are some twenty alterations between the lines that invariably belong to the Western family.
"P72" - also a part of the collection, is the earliest copy of the epistle of Jude and the two epistles of Peter. "
"P75" another early manuscript is a single-quire codex of Luke and John, estimated date between A.D. 175 and 225.
|Chester Beatty Papyri (A.D. 200)||The manuscripts were purchased in the 1930s from a dealer in Egypt and are located in Chester Beatty Museum in Dublin. Part is owned by the University of Michigan. This collection contains papyrus codices, three of which contain major portions of the NT. A detailed listing of the papyri may be seen in the Greek New Testaments published by United Bible Societies and Nestle-Aland, both printed in Stuttgart.|
|Diatessaron (About A.D. 160)||The Greek word "Diatessaron" means "a harmony of four parts." This was a harmony of the Gospels executed by Tatian (about A.D. 160). It consisted of a comparison of comparable passages in the four Gospels. Eusebius, in "Ecclesiastical History," IV, 29 Loeb ed., 1,397, wrote of this work by Tatian, an Assyrian Christian; hence corroborating its age and authenticity.|
|Codex Vaticanus (A.D. 325-350)||This MS is located in the Vatican Library. It contains nearly all of the Bible. It has been examined and critiqued for nearly a hundred years by many individuals from varied background. It is considered one of the most trustworthy manuscripts of the New Testament text.|
|Codex Sinaiticus (A.D. 350)||This MS is located in the British Museum. It contains almost all of the New Testament and over half of the Old Testament. It was discovered by Dr. Constantin Von Tischendorf in the Mt Sinai Monastery in 1859. It was presented by the monastery to the Russian Czar and bought by the British Government and people from the Soviet Union for 100,000 pounds on Christmans Day, 1933.|
|Codex Alexandrinus (A.D. 400)||This MS is located in the British Museum. It contains almost the entire Bible, most likely originated in Egypt.|
|Codex Ephraemi (A.D. 400)||This MS is located in the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris. It includes every book of the NT except 2 Thessalonians and 2 John. It is a palimpsest - a manuscript in which the original writing has been erased and written over. But through the use of chemicals and painstaking effort, the original writing has been discovered.|
|Codex Bezae (A.D. 450+)||This MS is located in the Cambridge Library and contains the Gospels and Acts, not only in Greek but also in Latin.|
|Codex Washingtonesis (of Freericanus) (c. A.D. 450)||This MS contains the four Gospels. It is located in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.|
|Codex Claromontanus (A.D. 500s)||Contains the Pauline Epistles. It is in Greek and the
tongue of the Syrians.
|3) TRANSLATIONS OF THE NT INTO OTHER LANGUAGES (from A.D. 150)||Christianity was evangelistic, hence translations were made into Syriac, Latin and Coptic (Egyptian) as early as 150 AD. Over 15,000 copies are extant today.|
|Syriac Versions of the NT||Old Syriac Version (4th century). Note that "Syriac" refers to the Aramaic language - the tongue of the Syrians.|
|.||Syriac Peshitta (A.D. 150-250)The basic meaning is "simple." The standard version of the NT in Syriac. There are also more than 350 MSS from the 400s|
|.||Palestinian Syriac (A.D. 400-450)|
|.||Philoxenian (A.D. 508) Polycarp translated a new Syriac New Testament for Philoxenas, bishop of Mabug.|
|.||Harkleian Syriac (A.D. 616) by Thomas of Harkel|
|Latin Versions||Old Latin - 4th century to 13th century. Circulated in North Africa and Europe.|
|.||African Old Latin (Codex Babiensis. A.D. 400) palaeographical marks indicate that this version was copied from a second century papyrus.|
|.||Codex Corbiensis (A.D. 400-500) contains the four gospels|
|.||Codex Vercellensis (A.D. 360)|
|.||Codex Palatinus (fifth century AD)|
|.||Latin Vulgate (meaning "common" or "popular". Jerome was secretary to Damasus, the Bishop of Rome. Jerome fulfilled the bishop's request for a version between A.D. 366-384|
|Coptic (or Egyptian) Versions||Sahidic - Beginning of the third century|
|.||Bohairic - about the fourth century|
|.||Middle Egyptian - fourth or fifth century|
|Armenian Versions||(A.D. 400+)|
|Gothic Versions||(4th century)|
|Georgian Versions||(5th century)|
|Ethiopic Versions||(6th century)|
|Nubian Versions||(6th century)|
|4) LECTIONARIES||Following the custom of the synagogue, according to which portions of the Law and the Prophets were read at divine service each Sabbath day, the Christian Church adopted the practice of reading passages from the New Testament books at services of worship which were contained in these lectionaries: a regular system of lessons from the Gospels and Epistles was developed, and the custom arose of arranging these according to a fixed order of Sundays and other holy days of the Christian year. The earliest lectionary fragments are from the sixth century, while complete MSS date from the eigth century. A detailed listing of lectionaries may be seen in the Greek New Testaments published by United Bible Societies and Nestle-Aland, both printed in Stuttgart.|
|5) EARLY CHURCH FATHERS CITED SCRIPTURE||Quotations from commentaries, sermons, and other treatises are so numerous and widespread that if no manuscripts of the New Testament were extant, the New Testament less eleven verses could be reproduced from the writings of the early Fathers alone.|
|Clement of Rome (A.D. 95 - 1st Century!)||............- Numerous quotes from seven epistles and other letters - Origen, in "De Principus," Book II chapter 3, calls Clement a disciple of the apostles. Tertullian in "Against Heresies," chapter 23, writes that he (Clement) was appointed by Peter. Irenaeus continues in "Against Heresies," Book III, Chapter 3, that he "had the preaching of the Apostles still echoing in his ears and their doctrine in front of his eyes."|
|Polycarp (A.D. 70-156)||...........- He was Bishop of Smyrna and a disciple of the Apostle John. He had ample contacts to verify the truth of Scripture, yet refused to recant his faith, and was martyred at 86 years of age.|
|Barnabas (c. A.D. 70)||................-|
|Ignatius (A.D. 70-110)||................- This Bishop of Antioch was martyred for his faith in Christ. He knew all the apostles and was a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of the apostle John. He wrote a number of Epistles. He based his faith on the accuracy of the Bible and had ample material and witnesses to support the trustworthiness of the Scriptures.|
|Hermas (c A.D. 95)||.................-|
|Tatian (c A.D. 170)||.................- Organized the order of the books of Scripture, putting them in the first "Harmony of the Gospels" entitled "The Diatessaron"|
|Justin Martyr||330 ..........-|
|Irenaeus (c A.D. 170)||1,819 .......- Bishop of Lyons (A.D. 180), who was a student of Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna; martyred in A.D. 156, had been a Christian for 86 years, and was a disciple of John the Apostle. He wrote in "Against Heresies III": 'So firm is the ground upon which these Gospels rest, that the very heretics themselves bear witness to them, and, starting from these [documents], each one of them endeavors to establish his own particular doctrine."|
|Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 150-212)||2,406 .......- From all but three books of the NT|
|Origen (A.D. 185-253/4)||17,992+ ...- Compiled more than 6,000 works.|
|Tertullian (A.D. 160-220)||7,258|
|Hippolytus (A.D. 170-235)||1,378|
|Cyprian (died A.D. 258)||1030 ......- Bishop of Carthage.|
|Others||...............- Augustine, Amabius, Laitantius, Chrysostom, Jerome, Gaius Romanus, Athanasius, Ambrose of Milan, Cyril of Alexandria, Ephraem the Syrian, Hilary of Poitiers, Gregory of Nyssa.|
|Grand Total||37, 319+|
|Patristic quotations listed in sixteen volumes in the British Museum||86,489 - these are unpublished, but are also available for further comparisons with all of the above.|
|6) EXTERNAL EVIDENCE WHICH CORROBORATES NT ACCURACY|
|Eusebius||In his Ecclesiastical History III.39, preserves writings of Papias, bishop of Heirapolis (A.D. 130), in which Papius records sayings of 'the Elder' (the apostle John). For example: "The Elder used to say this also: 'Mark, having been the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately all that he (Peter) mentioned, whether sayings or doings of Christ."|
|Papias||"Matthew recorded the oracles in Hebrew tongue"|
|Tacitus (1st Century)||A first century Roman historian referred to Nero's
burning of Rome:
"Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class haded for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular." (Tacitus, A, 15:44).
|Suetonius||He was a chief secretary to Emperor Hadrian (A.D. 117-138). He confirms the report in Acts 18:2 that Claudius commanded all Jews (among them Priscilla and Aquila) to leave Rome in A.D. 49. Two references are important: 'As the Jews were making constant disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from Rome." (Suetonius, "Life of Claudius, 25:4). Speaking of the aftermath of the great fire at Rome, Suetonius reports, "Punishment was inflicted on the Christians, a body of people addicted to a novel and mischievous superstition." (Suetonius, "Life of Nero, 16).|
|Josephus (c A.D. 37-c A.D. 100)||Josephus was a Pharisee of the priestly line and a
Jewish historian, though working under the Roman authority and with some
care as to not offend the Romans. In addition to his autobiography he
wrote two major works, "Jewish Wars" (A.D. 77-78) and "Antiquities
of the Jews" (c A.D. 94). He makes many statements that verify,
either generally or in specific detail, the historical nature of both
the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.
He refers to Jesus as the brother of James who was martyred. Referring to the High Priest Ananias, he writes: "... he assembled the Sanhedrin of the judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned.' (Josephus, AJ, 20.9.1) This passage, written in A.D. 93, confirms the New Testament reports that Jesus was a real person in the first century, that he was identified by others as the Christ, and that he had a brother named James who died a martyr's death.
Josephus also confirmed the existence and martyrdom of John the Baptist, the herald of Jesus (Ant XVIII. 5.2): "Now, some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod's army came from God, and very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John, who was called the Baptist; for Herod slew him, who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness towards one another and piety towards God, and so to come to baptism." (Josephus, AJ, 18.5.2).
Josephus gives a brief description of Jesus and His mission, as cited by Eusebius (c. A.D. 325) in "Ecclesiastical History, 1.11):
"Now there was about this time, Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him. For he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct to this day. (Josephus, AJ, 18.3.3).
|Thallus wrote around A.D. 52. None of his works is
extant, though a few fragmented citations are preserved by other
writers. One such writer is Julius Afraicanus, who in about A.D. 221
quotes Thallus in a discussion about the darkness that followed the
crucifixion of Christ: 'On the whole world there pressed a most fearful
darkness, and the rocks were rent by an earthquake, and many places in
Judea and other districts were thrown down. This darkness Thallus, in
the third book of his 'History,' calls, as appears to me without reason,
an eclipse of the sun." (Julius Africanus, "Chronography,"
18.1 in Roberts, ANF).
Africanus identifies the darkness, which Thallus explained as a solar eclipse, with the darkness at the crucifixion described in Luke 23:44-45. His reason for disagreeing with Thallus is that a solar eclipse can not take place at the time of a full moon, and the account reports that 'it was at the season of the paschal full moon that Jesus died.' "
|Pliny the Younger||He was a Roman author and administrator. In a letter to the Emperor Trajan in about A.D. 112, Pliny describes the early Christian worship practices: "They were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath, not to do any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to partake of food - but food of an ordinary and innocent kind." (Pliny the Younger, L, 10:96).|
|Emperor Trajan||In reply to Pliny's letter, Emperor Trajan gave the following guidelines for punishing Christians: 'No search should be made for these people, when they are denounced and found guilty they must be punished, with the restriction, however, that when the party denies himself to be a Christian, and shall give proof that he is not (that is, by adoring our gods) he shall be pardoned on the ground of repentance even though he may have formerly incurred suspicion." (Pliny the Younger, L, 10:97).|
|Talmudic Writings||Talmudic writings of most value concerning the historical Jesus are those compiled between A.D. 70 and 200 during the so-called "Tannaitic Period." The most significant text is Sanhedrin 43a: "on the eve of Passover Yeshu [Jesus] was Hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, 'He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy. Any one who can say anything in his favour let him come forward and plead on his behalf.' But since nothing was brought forward in his favour he was hanged on the eve of the Passover!' (Babylonian Talmud). New Testament details confirmed by this passage include the fact and the time of the crucifixion, as well as the intent of the Jewish religious leaders to kill Jesus.|
|Lucian||Lucian of Samosata was a second-century Greek writer
whose works contain sarcastic critiques of Christianity:
'The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day - the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on the account... You see, these misguided creatures start with the general conviction that they are immortal for all time, which explains the contempt of death and voluntary self-sevotion which are so common among them; and then it was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws. All this they take quite on faith, with the result that they despise all worldly goods alike, regarding them merely as common property. (Lucian of Samosata DP, 11-13).
|Mara Bar-Serapion||A Syrian, Mara Bar-Serapion wrote to his son Serapion sometime between the late first and early third centuries. The letter contains an apparent reference to Jesus: "What advantage did the Athenians gain from putting Socrates to death? Famine and plague came upon them as a judgment for their crime. What advantage did the men of Samon gain from burning Pythagoras? In a moment their land was covered with sand. What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise King? It was just after that their kingdom was abolished. God justly avenged thse three wise men: the Athenians died of hunger; the Samians were overwhelmed by the sea; the Jews, ruined and driven from the land, live in dispersion. But Socrates did not die for good; he lived on in the statue of Hera. Nor did the wise king die for good; he lived on in the teaching which he had given. (British Museum, Syriac ms, add. 14, 658; cited in Habermas, HJ 200).|
|Valentinus and the Gnostics (A.D. 135-160)||Valentinus' book confirms that Jesus was a historical
"For when they had seen him and heard, he granted them to taste him and to smell him and to touch the beloved Son. When he had appeared instructing them about the Father.... For he came by means of fleshly appearance." (Robinson, NHL, 30:27-33; 31:4-6)
"Jesus was patient in accepting sufferings since he knows that his death is life for many. ... He was nailed to a tree; he published the edict of the Father on the cross... He draws himself down to death through life. Having stripped himself of the perishable rags, he put on imperishability, which no one can possibly take away from him.' (Robinson, NHL, 20:11-14, 25-34)
|Pontus Pilate||Although a purportedly official document, "The Acts of Pontius Pilate" does not survive; it is referred to by Justin Martyr in about A.D. 150, and by Tertullian in about A.D. 200. Justin writes: "And the expression, 'They pierced my hands and my Feet,' was used in reference to the nails of the cross which were fixed in his hands and feet. And after he was crucified, they cast lots upon his vesture, and they that crucified him parted it among them. And that these things did happen you can ascertain from the 'Acts' of Pontius Pilate." (Martyr, FA, 35) Justin also claims that the miracles of Jesus can be confirmed in this document. (Martyr, FA, 48).|
|7) Archaeology||Whole books are not large enough to contain all the finds that have bolstered confidence in the historical reliability of the Bible. No archaeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference.|
|Events surrounding the birth of Jesus.||1) Archaeological discoveries show that the Romans had
a regular enrollment of taxpayers and also held censuses every fourteen
years. This procedure was indeed begun under Augustus and the first took
place in either 23-22 B.C. or in 9-8 B.C.
2) We find evidence that Quirinius was governor of Syria around 7 B.C. This assumption is based on an inscription found in Antioch ascribing to Quirinius this post... he was governor twice - once in 7 B.C. and the other time in 6 A.D. (the date ascribed by Josephus). (Elder, PID, 160).
3) In regard to the practices of enrollment, a papyrus found in Egypt gives directions for the conduct of a census. It reads: "Because of the approaching census it is necessary that all those residing for any cause away from their homes should at once prepare to return to their own givernments in order that they may complete the family registration of the enrollment and that the tilled lands may retain those belonging to them." (Elder, PID, 159, 160; Free, ABH, 285).
4) Author Luke mentions Quirinius' later census in Acts 5:37.
|Luke wrote that Iconium was in Lycaonia, (Acts 14:6).||In 1910, Sir William Ramsay found a monument that showed that Iconium was a Phrygian city. Later discoveries confirm this. (Free. ABH, 317).|
|Luke wrote that Lysanias, the Tetrarch of Abilene ruled in Syria and Palestine at the beginning of John the Baptist's ministry in A.D. 27, (Lk 3:1).||An inscription found at Abila near Damascus speaks of 'Freedman of Lysanias the Tetrarch," and is dated between A.D. 14 and 29. (Bruce, ACNT, as cited in Henry, RB, 321).|
|Paul makes mention of the city treasurer, Erastus (Ro 16:23).||During the excavations of Corinth in 1929, a pavement was found inscribed: ERASTVS PRO: AED:S:P:STRAVIT ('Erastus, curator of public buildings, laid this pavement at his own expense') 1 A.D.|
|Details of Paul's time in Corinth verified.||Also found in Corinth is a fragmentary inscription believed to have borne the words "Synagogue of the Hebrews." Conceivably it stood over the doorway of the synagogue where Paul debated (Acts 18:4-7). Another Corinthian inscription mentions the city "meat market" to which Paul refers in 1 Cor 10:25.|
|Paul's journeys in the Book of Acts verified.||Many archaeological finds verify the existence of ancient cities written about in the Book of Acts which enable historians to trace the journeys of Paul, (Bruce, NTD, 95; Albright, RDBL, 118).|
|Luke's geography verified||In all, Luke names thrity-two countries, fifty-four cities and nine islands without an error. (Geisler, BECA, 47).|
|The riot of Ephesus, corroborated||Luke writes of the riot of Ephesus, and represents a civic assembly (Ecclesia) taking place in a theater (Acts 19:23-29). The facts are that it did meet there, as borne out by an inscription that speaks of silver statues of Artemis ('Diana' in the KJV) to be placed in the 'theater during a full session of the 'Ecclesia.' The theater, when excavated, proved to have room for twenty-five thousand people. (Bruce, ACNT, as cited in Henry, RB 326).|
|The riot in Jerusalem because Paul took a Gentile into the Temple corroborated, (Acts 21:28)||Inscriptions have been found that read, in Greek and Latin, 'No foreigner may enter within the barrier which surrounds the temple and enclosure. Anyone who is caught doing so will be personally responsible for his ensuing death.' (Bruce, ACNT, as cited in Henry, RB, 326).|
|Luke's reference to Philippi as a "part' or 'district' of Macedonia corroborated.||Archaeological excavations, however, have shown that this very word, "meris," was used to describe the divisions of the district. (Free, ABH, 320)|
|Luke's use of the word "praetors," for Philippian rulers corroborated||Findings have shown that the title of praetor was employed by the magistrates of a Roman colony. (Free, ABH, 321). So Luke's choice of the word "proconsul" as the title for Gallio (Acts 18:12) is correct, as evidenced by the Delphi inscription that states in part: 'As Lucius Junius Gallio, my friend, and the Proconsul of Achaia..." (Vos. CITB, 180).|
|The time of Paul's ministry in Corinth corroborated||The Delphi inscription (A.D. 52) gives us a fixed time
period for establishing Paul's ministry of one and a half years in
Corinth. We know this by the fact, from other sources, that Gallio took
office on July 1, that his proconsulship lasted only one year, and that
this year overlapped Paul's work in Corinth. (Bruce, ACNT, as cited in
Henry, RB, 324).
|Luke's referring to Publius, as 'the first man of the island,' (Acts 28:7), is corroborated.||Inscriptions have been unearthed that do give him the title of 'first man.' (Bruce, ACNT, as cited in Henry, RB, 325).|
|Luke's usage of "politarchs" to denote civil authorities of Thessalonica is corroborated, (Acts 17:6).||Since "politarch" is not found in the
classical literature, Luke was again assumed to be wrong. However, some
nineteen inscriptions that make use of the title have been found.
Interestingly enough, five of these are in reference to Thessalonica.
(Bruce. ACNT, as cited in Henry, RB, 325). One of the inscriptions
discovered in a Roman arch at Thessalonica and in it are found the names
of six of the city's politarchs. (360)
|8) COLIN HEMER'S
Many more authentications of Luke's writing.
|Colin Hemer, a noted Roman historian, has catologued numerous archaeological and historical confirmations of Luke's accuracy in his book "The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History." Following is a partial summary of his voluminous, detailed report (Hemer, BASHH, 104-107):|
|Specialized details, which would not have been widely known except to a contemporary researcher such as Luke who traveled widely. These details include exact titles of officials, identification of army units, and information about major routes.|
|Details archaeologists know are accurate but can't verity as to the precise time period. Some of these are unlikely to have been known except to a writer who had visited the districts.|
|Correlation of dates of known kings and governors with the chronology of the narrative.|
|Facts appropriate to the date of Paul or his immediate contemporary in the church but not to a date earlier or later.|
|'Undesigned coincidents' between Acts and the Pauline Epistles.|
|Internal correlations within Acts|
|Off-hand geographical references that bespeak familiarity with common knowledge.|
|Differences in formulation within Acts that indicate the different categories of sources he used.|
|Peculiarities in the selection of detail, as in theology, that are explainable in the context of what is now known of first-century church life.|
|Materials the 'immediacy' of which suggests that the author was recounting a recent experience, rather than shaping or editing a text long after it had been written.|
|Cultural or idiomatic items now known to be peculiar to the first-century atmosphere.|
|9) ROMAN HISTORIAN A. N. SHERWIN-WHITE CORROBORATES THE HISTORICITY OF LUKE'S WRITING||"For Acts the confirmation of historicity is overwhelming ... Any attempt to reject its basic historicity must now appear absurd. Roman historians have long taken it for granted." (Sherwin-White, RSRLNT, 189).|
|10) LOCATION OF THE COURT WHERE JESUS WAS TRIED CORROBORATED||For centuries there has been no record of the court where Jesus was tried by Pilate (named "Gabbatha" or the pavement, John 19:13). William F. Albright, in "The Archaeology of Palestine," shows that this court was the court of the Tower of Antonia, the Roman military headquarters in Jerusalem. It was left buried when the city was rebuilt in the time of Hadrian, and was not discovered until recently. (Albright, AP, 141).|
|11) POOL OF BETHESDA CORROBORATED||The Pool of Bethesda, another site with no record except in the New Testament, can now be identified 'with a fair measure of certainty in the northeast quarter of the old city (the area called Bezetha, or 'New Lawn') in the first century A.D., where traces of it were discovered in the course of excavations near the Church of St. Anne in 1888.' (Bruce, ACNT, as cited in Henry, RB, 329)|
|12) NT DESCRIPTION OF CRUCIFIXION CONFIRMED||In 1968, an ancient burial site was uncovered in
Jerusalem containing about theirty-five bodies. It was determined that
most of these had suffered violent deaths in the Jewish uprising against
Rome in A.D. 70. One of these was a man named Yohanan Ben Ha'galgol. He
was about twenty-four to twenty-eight years old, had a cleft palate, and
a seven-inch nail was driven through both his feet. The feet had been
turned outward so that the square nail could be hammared through at the
heel, just inside the Achilles tendon. This would have bowed the legs
outward as well so that they could not have been used for support on the
cross. The nail had gone through a wedge of acacia wood, then through
the heels, then into an olive wood beam. There was also evidence that
similar spikes had been put between the two bones of each lower arm.
These had caused the upper bones to be worn smooth as the victim
repeatedly raised and lowered himself to breath (breathing is restricted
with the arms raised). Crucifixion victims had to lift themselves to
free the chest muscles and, when they grew too weak to do so, died by
Yohanan's legs were crushed by a blow, consistent with the common use of the Roman "crucifragium" (John 19:31-32). Each of these details confirms the New Testament description of crucifixion. (Geisler, BECA, 48)
|13) EVIDENCE OF PONTIUS PILATE||In 1961 an Italian archaeologist, Antonio Frova, discovered an inscription at Caesarea Maritima on a stone slab which at the time of the discovery was being used as a section of steps leading into the Caesarea theater. The inscription in Latin contained four lines, three of which are partially readable. Roughly translated they are as follows: Tiberium / Pontius Pilate / Prefect of Judea. The inscribed stone was probably used originally in the foundation for a Tiberium (a temple for the worship of the emperor Tiberius) and then reused later in the discovered location. This inscription clarifies the title of Pontius Pilate as 'prefect' at least during a time in his rulership. Tacitus and Josephus later referred to him as 'procurator.' The NT calls him 'governor' (Mt 27:2), a term which incorporates both titles. This inscription is the only archaeological evidence of both Pilate's name and this title. (Dockery, FBI, 360)|
|14) QUIRINIUS (CYRENIUS) WAS GOVERNOR OF SYRIA WHEN JESUS WAS BORN||Critics of the bible say that Luke wrote a
contradiction in the bible when he said that Quirinius was governor of
Syria when Jesus was born. Their stance is usually as follows: Matthew
and Luke attempt to give the time of Jesus' birth, approximately. But
between these two attempts there is a discrepancy of at least ten years;
for Herod died 4 B.C., while Cyrenius did not become governor of Syria
until 7 A.D. A reconciliation of these statements is impossible. Matthew
clearly states that Jesus was born during the reign of Herod. Luke
states that Augustus Caesar issued a decree that the world should be
taxed, that "this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor
of Syria," and that Jesus was born at the time of this taxing.
[WHEN CRITICS ASK, Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe, Victor Books, Wheaton, Illinois, 1992, p.p. 384-385]:
Luke has not made an error. There are reasonable solutions to this difficulty. First, Quintilius Varus was governor of Syria from about 7 B.C. to about 4 B.C. Varus was not a trustworthy leader, a fact that was disastrously demonstrated in A.D. 9 when he lost three legions of soldiers in the Teutoburger forest in Germany. To the contrary, Quirinius was a notable military leader who was responsible for squelching the rebellion of the Homonadensians in Asia Minor. When it came time to begin the census, in about 8 or 7 B.C., Augustus entrusted Quirinius with the delicate problem in the volatile area of Palestine, effectively superseding the authority and governorship of Varus by appointing Quirinius to a place of special authority in this matter. It has also been proposed that Quirinius was governor of Syria on two separate occasions, once while prosecuting the military action against the Homonadensians between 12 and 2 B.C., and later beginning about A.D. 6. A Latin inscription discovered in 1764 has been interpreted to refer to Quirinius as having served as governor of Syria on two occasions. It is possible that Luke 2:2 reads, "This census took place before Quirinius was governing Syria." In this case, the Greek word translated "first" (prwtos) is translated as a comparative, "before." Because of the awkward construction of the sentence, this is not an unlikely reading. Regardless of which solution is accepted, it is not necessary to conclude that Luke had made an error in recording the historical events surrounding the birth of Jesus. Luke has proven himself to be a reliable historian even in the details. Sir William Ramsay has shown that in making reference to 32 countries, 54 cities, and 9 islands he made no mistakes!"
"His full name was Publius Sulpicius Quirinus. Recent historical investigation has proved that Quirinus was governor of Cilicia, which was annexed to Syria at the time of our Lord's birth. Cilicia, which he ruled, being a province of Syria, he is called the governor, which he was de jure, of Syria. Some ten years afterwards he was appointed governor of Syria for the second time. During his tenure of office, at the time of our Lord's birth (Luke 2:2), a 'taxing' (R.V., 'enrolment;' i.e., a registration) of the people was 'first made;' i.e., was made for the first time under his government. ...(Luke 2:2; R.V., 'enrolment'), 'when Cyrenius was governor of Syria,' is simply a census of the people, or an enrolment of them with a view to their taxation. The decree for the enrolment was the occasion of Joseph and Mary's going up to Bethlehem. It has been argued by some that Cyrenius (q.v.) was governor of Cilicia and Syria both at the time of our Lord's birth and some years afterwards. This decree for the taxing referred to the whole Roman world, and not to Judea alone.
Reference for information in above charts: "The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict," Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tn, 1999, Josh D McDowell, pp. 33-68.
II) THE OLD TESTAMENT
[Josh McDowell, 'THE NEW EVIDENCE THAT DEMANDS A VERDICT', Thomas Nelson, HERE'S LIFE PUBLISHERS, San Bernadino, Ca, 1999, pp. 69-116]:
A) TEXTUAL TRANSMISSION AND MANUSCRIPT EVIDENCE
Part of discovering the historical reliability of the Old Testament has to do with examining the textual transmission (the path from the original writings to today's printed copies). As with other literature of antiquity, we do not have the original documents. But the accuracy of the Hebrew copyists is astonishing when comparing the scriptures to other literature of antiquity.
Gleason Archer states,
'It should be clearly understood that in this respect [to transmission], the Old Testament differs from all other pre-Christian works of literature of which we have any knowledge. To be sure, we do not possess so many different manuscripts of pagan productions, coming from such widely separated eras, as we do in the case of the Old Testament. But where we do, for example, in the Egyptian Book of the Dead, the variations are of a far more extensive and serious nature. Quite startling differences appear, for example, between chapter 15 contained in the Papyrus of Ani (written in the Eighteenth Dynasty or later). Whole clauses are inserted or left out, and the sense in corresponding columns of text is in some cases altogether different. Apart from divine superintendence of the transmission of the Hebrew text, there is no particular reason why the same phenomenon of divergence and change would not appear between Hebrew manuscripts produced centuries apart. For example, even though the two copies of Isaiah discovered in Qumran Cave 1 near the Dead Sea in 1947 were a thousand years earlier than the oldest dated manuscript previously known (A.D. 980), they proved to be word for word identical with our standard Hebrew Bible in more than 95 percent of the text. The 5 percent of variation consisted chiefly of obvious slips of the pen and variations in spelling. They do not affect the message of revelation in the slightest. (Archer, SOT, 23-25).
Robert Dick Wilson's brilliant observations trace the veracity and trustworthiness of Scriptures back to the surrounding cultures of Old Testament Israel:
'The Hebrew Scriptures contain the names of 26 or more foreign kings whose names have been found on documents contemporary with the kings. The names of most of these kings are found to be spelled on their own monuments, or in documents from the time in which they reigned in the same manner that they are spelled in the documents of the Old Testament. The changes in spelling of others are in accordance with the laws of phonetic change as those laws were in operation at the time when the Hebrew documents claim to have been written. In the case of two or three names only are there letters, or spellings, that cannot as yet be explained with certainty; but even in these few cases it cannot be shown that the spelling in the Hebrew text is wrong. Contrariwise, the names of many of the kings of Judah and Israel are found on the Assyrian contemporary documents with the same spelling as that which we find in the present Hebrew text.
In 144 cases of transliteration from Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian and Moabite into Hebrew and in 40 cases of the opposite, or 184 in all, the evidence shows that for 2300 to 3900 years the text of the proper names in the Hebrew Bible has been transmitted with the most minute accuracy. That the original scribes should have written them with such close conformity to correct philogical principles is a wonderful proof of their thorough care and scholarship; further, that the Hebrew text should have been transmitted by copyists through so many centuries is a phenomenon unequaled in the history of literature.' (Wilson, SIOT, 64, 71).
Professor Wilson continues,
'For neither the assailants nor the defenders of the Biblical text should assume for one moment that either this accurate rendition or this correct transmission of proper names is an easy or usual thing. And as some of my readers may not have experience in investigating such matters, attention may be called to the names of kings of Egypt as given in Manetho and on the Egyptian monuments. Manetho was a high priest of the idol-temples in Egypt in the time of Ptolemy Philadelphus, i.e., about 280 B.C. He wrote a work on the dynasties of Egyptian kings, of which fragments have been preserved in the works of Josephus, Eusebius, and others. Of the kings of the 31 dynasties, he gives 40 names from 22 dynasties. Of these, 49 appear on the monuments in a form in which every consonant of Manetho's spelling may possibly be recognized, and 28 more may be recognized in part. The other 63 are unrecognizable in any single syllable. If it be true that Manetho himself copied these lists from the original records - and the fact that he is substantially correct in 49 cases corroborates the supposition that he did - the hundreds of variations and corruptions in the 50 or more unrecognizable names must be due either to his fault in copying or to the mistakes of the transmitters of his text. (Wilson, SIOT, 71-72).
Wilson adds: 'There are about forty of these kings living from 2000 B.C. to 400 B.C. Each appears in chronological order '''...with reference to the kings of the same country and with respect to the kings of other countries...no stronger evidence for the substantial accuracy of the Old Testament records could possibly be imagined, than this collection of kings.''' Mathematically, it is one chance in 750,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 that this accuracy is mere circumstance.' (Wilson, SIOT, 74-75).
Because of the evidence Wilson concludes:
'The proof that the copies of the original documents have been handed down with substantial correctness for more than 2,000 years cannot be denied. That the copies in existence 2,000 years ago had been in like manner handed down from the originals is not merely possible, but, as we have shown, is rendered probable by the analogies of Babylonian documents now existing of which we have both originals and copies, thousands of years apart, and of scores of papyri which show when compared with our modern editions of the classics that only minor changes of the text have taken place in more than 2,000 years and especially by the scientific and demonstrable accuracy with while the proper spelling of the names of kings and of the numerous foreign terms embedded in the Hebrew text has been transmitted to us. (Wilson, SIOT, 85)
F.F. Bruce states that 'the consonantal text of the Hebrew Bible which the Massoretes edited had been handed down to their time with conspicuous fidelity over a period of nearly a thousand years.' (Bruce, BP, 178).
William Green concludes that 'it may safely be said that no other work of antiquity has been so accurately transmitted.' (Green, GIOT, 81).
Concerning the accuracy of the transmission of the Hebrew text, Atkinson, who was Under-Librarian of the library at Cambridge University, says it is 'little short of miraculous.'
For hundreds of years, Jewish rabbis have guarded the transmission of the Hebrew text with minute precautions. This chapter highlights what has resulted.
1) Quantity Of Manuscripts
Even though the Old Testament does not boast of the same quantity of manuscripts (MSS) as the New Testament, the number of manuscripts available today is quite remarkable. Several reasons have been suggested for the scarcity of early Hebrew manuscripts. The first and most obvious reason is a combination of antiquity and destructibility; two - to three thousand years is a long time to expect ancient documents to last. Nonetheless, several lines of evidence support the conclusion that their quality is very good. First, it is important to establish the quantity of manuscripts available. There are several important collections of Hebrew manuscripts today. The first collection of Hebrew manuscripts, made by Benjamin Kennicott (1776-1780) and published by Oxford, listed 615 manuscripts of the Old Testament. Later, Giovannit de Rossi (1784-1788) published a list of 731 manuscripts. The most important manuscript discoveries in modern times are those of the Cairo Geniza (1890s) and the Dead Sea Scrolls (1947 and following years). In the Cairo synagogue attic, a geniza, or storehouse, for old manuscripts was discovered. Two hundred thousand manuscripts and fragments, (Hakle, CG, 13, and Wurthwein, TOT, 25), some ten thousand of which are biblical (Goshen-Gottstein, BMUS, 35), were found.
'Near the end of the nineteenth century, many fragments from the six to eighth centuries were found in an old synagogue in Cairo, Egypt, which had been Saint Michael's Church until A.D. 882. They were found there in a geniza, a storage room where worn or faulty manuscripts were hidden until they could be disposed of properly. This geniza had apparently been walled off and forgotten until its recent discovery. In this small room, as many as 200,000 fragments were preserved, including biblical texts in Hebrew and Aramaic. The bible fragments date from the fifth century A.D. (Dockery, FBI, 162-163).
Of the manuscripts found in the Cairo Geniza, about one-half are now housed at Cambridge University. The rest are scattered throughout the world. Cairo Geniza's authority, Paul Kahle, has identified more than 120 rare manuscripts prepared by the 'Babylonian' group of Masoretic scribes.
The largest collection of Hebrew Old Testament manuscripts in the world is the Second Firkowitch Collection in Leningrad. It contains 1,582 items of the Bible and Masora on parchment (725 on paper), plus 1,200 additional Hebrew manuscript fragments in the Antonin Collection. (Wurthwein, TOT, 23) Kahle contends also that these Antonin Collection manuscripts and fragments are all from the Cairo Geniza. (Kahle, CG, 7). In the Firkowitch Collection are found fourteen Hebrew Old Testament manuscripts from between the years A.D. 929 and A.D. 1121 that originated in the Cairo Geniza.
Cairo Geniza manuscripts are scattered over the world. Some of the better ones in the United States are in the Enelow Memorial Collection at the Jewish Theological Seminary, New York. (Goshen-Gottstein, BMS, 44f).
The British Museum cagalog lists 161 Hebrew Old Testament manuscripts. At Oxford University, the Bodleian Library catalog lists 146 Old Testament manuscripts, each containing a large number of fragments. (Kahle, CF, 5). Goshen-Gottstein estimates that in the United States alone there are tens of thousands of Semitic manuscript fragments, about 5 percent of which are biblical - more than five hundred manuscripts. (Goshen-Gottstein, BMUS, 30).
The most significant Hebrew Old Testament manuscripts date from between the third century B.C. and the fourteenth century A.D. Of these the most remarkable manuscripts are those of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which date from the third century B.C. to the first century A.D. They include one complete Old Testament book (Isaiah) and thourands of fragments, which together represent every Old Testament book except Esther. (Geisler, BECA, 549)....
The Dead Sea Scrolls manuscripts are highly significant because they confirm the accuracy of other manuscripts dated much later. For example, Cairo Codex (A.D. 895) is the earliest Masoretic manuscript prior to the Dead Sea Scrolls discoveries. It is now located in the British Museum. Also called Codex Cairensis, it was produced by the Masoretic Moses ben Asher family and contains both the latter and former prophets. The rest of the Old Testament is missing from it. (Bruce, BP, 115-16).
Codex of the Prophets of Leningrad (A.D. 916) contains Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the twelve minor prophets.
The earliest complete MS of the Old Testament is the Codex Babylonicus Petropalitanus (A.D. 1008) located in Leningrad. It was prepared from a corrected text of Rabbi Aaron ben Moses ben Asher before A.D. 1000. (Geisler, GIB, 250).
Aleppo Codex (A.D. 900+) is an exceptionally valuable manuscript. It once was thought lost, but in 1958 was rediscovered. It did not, however, escape damage. It was partially destroyed in the 1947 riots in Israel. Aleppo Codex was the oldest complete Masoretic manuscript of the entire Old Testament.
British Museum Codex (A.D. 950) contains part of Genesis through Deuteronomy.
Reuchlin Codex of the Prophets (A.D. 1105). This text was prepared by the Masorete ben Naphtali.
This brings up the question of the faithfulness of the transmission of the Bible text. There are numerous types of manuscript error, which the textual critic may discover in the early manuscripts of the Old Testament... Are these of so serious a nature as to corrupt the message itself, or make it impossible to convey the true meaning? If they are, then God's purpose has been frustrated; He could not convey His revelation so that those of later generations could understand it aright-correctly. If He did not exercise a restraining influence over the scribes who wrote out the standard and authoritative copies of the Scriptures, then they corrupted and falsified the message. If the message was falsified, the whole purpose of bestowing a written revelation has come to nothing; for such a corrupted Scripture would be a mixture of truth and error, necessarily subject to human judgment (rather than sitting in judgment upon man).
B) HISTORY OF THE OLD TESTAMENT TEXT
Rabbi Aquiba, second century A.D., with a desire to produce an exact text, is credited with saying that 'the accurate transmission (Masoreth) of the text is a fence for the Torah.' (Harrison, IOT, 211) In Judaism, a succession of scholars was charged with standardizing and preserving the biblical text, fencing out all possible introduction of error:
· The Sopherim (from Hebrew meaning 'scribes') were Jewish scholars and custodians of the text between the fifth and third centuries B.C.
· The Zugoth ('pairs' of textual scholars) were assigned to this task in the second and first centuries B.C.
· The Tannaim ('repeaters' or 'teachers') were active until A.D. 200. In addition to preserving the Old Testament text, the work of Tannaim can be found in the Midrash ('textual interpretation'), Tosefta ('addition'), and Talmud ('instruction'), the latter of which is divided into Mishnah ('repetitions') and Gemara ('the matter to be learned'). The Talmud gradually was compiled between A.D. 100 and A.D. 500. It was natural that the Tannaim would preserve the Hebrew Bible, since their work had to do with compiling several centuries of rabbinic teaching based on the biblical text.
· The Talmudists (A.D. 100-500) Geisler and Nix explain the second scribal tradition, extending from about 400 B.C. to almost A.D. 1000:
'Following the first period of Old Testament scribal tradition, the period of the Sopherim (c. 400 B.C. - c. A.D. 200), there appeared a second, the Talmudic period (c. A.D. 100-c. 500), which was followed by the better-known Masoretic tradition (c. 500 - c. 950). Ezra worked with the first of these groups, and they were regarded as the Bible custodians until after the time of Christ. Between A.D. 100 and 500, the Talmud (instruction, teaching) grew up as a body of Hebrew civil and canonical law based on the Torah. The Talmud basically represents the opinions and decisions of Jewish teachers from about 300 B.C. to A.D. 500, and it consists of two main divisions: the Mishnah and the Gemara.' (Geisler, GIB, 306).
During this period a great deal of time was spent cataloging Hebrew civil and canonical law. The Talmudists had quite an intricate system for transcribing synagogue scrolls.
"Thus far from regarding an older copy of the Scriptures as more valuable, the Jewish habit has been to prefer the newer, as being the most perfect and free from damage." (Sir Frederic Kenyon).
Samuel Davidson describes some of the disciplines of the Talmudists in regard to the Scriptures. These minute regulations... are as follows:
' A synagogue roll must be written on the skins of clean animals
 prepared for the particular use of the synagogue by a Jew.
 These must be fastened together with strings taken from clean animals.
 Every skin must contain a certain number of columns, equal throughout the entire codex.
 The length of each column must not extend over less than 48 or more than 60 lines; and the breadth must consist of thirty letters.
 The whole copy must be first-lined; and if three words be written without a line, it is worthless.
 The ink should be black, neither red, green, nor any other colour, and be prepared according to a definite recipe.
 An authentic copy must be the exemplar, from which the transcriber ought not in the least deviate.
 No word or letter, not even a yod, must be written from memory, the scribe not having looked at the codex before him...
 Between every consonant the space of a hair or thread must intervene;
 between every new parashah, or section, the breadth of nine consonants;
 between every book, three lines.
 The fifth book of Moses must terminate exactly with a line; but the rest need not do so.
 Besides this, the copyist must sit in full Jewish dress,
 wash his whole body,
 not begin to write the name of God with a pen newly dipped in ink,
 and should a king address him while writing that name he must take no notice of him.' (Davidson, HTOT, 89).
Davidson adds that 'the rolls in which these regulations are not observed are condemned to be buried in the ground or burned; or they are banished to the schools, to be used as reading-books.'
The Talmudists were so convinced that when they finished transcribing a MS they had an exact duplicate, that they would give the new copy equal authority.
Frederic Kenyon in Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts expands on the above and the destruction of older copies: 'The same extreme care which was devoted to the transcription of manuscripts is also at the bottom of the disappearance of the earlier copies. When a manuscript had been copied with the exactitude prescribed by the Talmud, and had been duly verified, it was accepted as authentic and regarded as being of equal value with any other copy. If all were equally correct, age gave no advantage to a manuscript; on the contrary, age was a positive disadvantage, since a manuscript was liable to become defaced or damaged in the lapse of time. A damaged or imperfect copy was at once condemned as unfit for use.
'Attached to each synagogue was a '''Gheniza,''' or lumber cupboard, in which defective manuscripts were laid aside; and from these receptacles some of the oldest manuscripts now extant have in modern times been recovered. Thus, far from regarding an older copy of the Scriptures as more valuable, the Jewish habit has been to prefer the newer, as being the most perfect and free from damage. The older copies, once consigned to the '''Gheniza,''' naturally perished, either from neglect or from being deliberately burned when the '''Gheniza''' became overcrowded.
'The absence of very old copies of the Hebrew Bible need not, therefore, either surprise or disquiet us. If, to the causes already enumerated, we add the repeated persecutions (involving much destruction of property) to which the Jews have been subject, the disappearance of the ancient manuscripts is adequately accounted for, and those which remain may be accepted as preserving that which alone they profess to preserve - namely, the Massoretic text.' (Kenyon, OBAM, 43).
'Reverence for the Scriptures and regard for the purity of the sacred text did not first originate after the fall of Jerusalem.' (Green, GIOT, 173).
The Masoretes were the Jewish scholars who between A.D. 500 and A.D. 950 gave the final form to the text of the Old Testament. The destruction of the temple in A.D. 70, along with the dispersion of the Jews from their land, became a powerful impetus to (1) standardize the consonantal text, and (2) standardize punctuation and the use of vowels to preserve correct vocalization and pronunciation for reading. They were called Masoretics because they preserved in writing the oral tradition (marorah) concerning the correct vowels and accents, and the number of occurrences of rare words of unusual spellings. They received the unpointed (comparable to English without vowels), consonantal text of the Sopherim and inserted the vowel points that gave to each word its exact pronunciation and grammatical form. They even engaged in a moderate amount of textual criticism. Wherever they suspected that the word indicated by the consonantal text was erroneous, they corrected it in a very ingenious way. They left the actual consonants undistrubed, as they had received them from the Sopherim. But they inserted vowel points that belonged to the new word they were substituting for the old, and then inserted the consonants of the new word itself in very small letters in the margin. (Archer, SOT, 63).
The Masoretes were well disciplined and treated the text 'with the greatest imaginable reverence, and devised a complicated system of safeguards against scribal slips. They counted, for example, the number of times each letter of the alphabet occurs in each book; they pointed out the middle letter of the Pentateuch and the middle letter of the whole Hebrew Bible, and made even more detailed calculations than these. 'Everything countable seems to be counted,' says Wheeler Robinson, and they made up mnemonics by which the various totals might be readily remembered.' [F.F. Bruce, BP, 117]
There were two major schools or centers of Masoretic activity - each largely independent of the other - the Babylonian and the Palestinian. The most famous Masoretes were the Jewish scholars living in Tiberias in Galilee, Moses ben Asher (with his son Aaron), and Moses ben Naphtali, in the late ninth and tenth centuries. The ben Asher text is the standard Hebrew text today and is best represented by Codex Leningradensis B19 A (L) and the Aleppo Codex.
The massoretes (from massora, 'tradition') accepted the laborious job of editing the text and standardizing it. Their headquarters was in Tiberias. The text which the massoretes concluded with is called the 'Massoretic' text. This resultant text had vowel points added in order to insure proper pronunciation. This Massoretic text is the standard Hebrew text today.
The Masoretes were well disciplined and treated the text 'with the greatest imaginable reverence, and devised a complicated system of safeguards against scribal slips. They counted, for example, the number of times each letter of the alphabet occurs in each book; they pointed out the middle letter of the Pentateuch and the middle letter of the whole Hebrew Bible, and made even more detailed calculations than these. 'Everything countable seems to be counted,' says Wheeler Robinson, and they made up mnemonics by which the various totals might be readily remembered.' [F.F. Bruce, BP, 117]
Flavius Josephus, the Jewish historian, [first century] writes: 'We have given practical proof of our reverence for our own Scriptures. For, although such long ages have now passed, no one has ventured either to add, or to remove, or to alter a syllable; and it is an instinct with every Jew, from the day of his birth, to regard them as the decrees of God, to abide by them and, if need be, cheerfully to die for them. Time and again ere now the sight has been witnessed of prisoners enduring tortures and death in every form in the theatres, rather than utter a single word against the laws and the allied documents.' (Josephus, FJAA, as cited in JCW, 179, 180).]
The scribes could tell if one consonant was left out of say the entire book of Isaiah or the entire Hebrew Bible. They built in so many safeguards that they knew when they finished that they had an exact copy.
Sir Frederic Kenyon says: 'Besides recording varieties of reading, tradition, or conjecture, the Massoretes undertook a number of calculations which do not enter into the ordinary sphere of textual criticism. They numbered the verses, words, and letters of every book. They calculated the middle word and the middle letter of each. The enumerated verses which contained all the letters of the alphabet, or a certain number of them; and so on. These trivialities, as we may rightly consider them, had yet the effect of securing minute attention to the precise transmission of the text; and they are but an excessive manifestation of a respect for the sacred Scriptures which in itself deserves nothing but praise. The Massoretes were indeed anxious that not one jot nor tittle, not one smallest letter nor one tiny part of a letter, of the Law should pass away or be lost.' (Kenyon, OBAM, 38).
A factor that runs throughout the above discussion of the Hebrew manuscript evidences is the Jewish reverence for the Scriptures. With respect to the Jewish Scriptures, however, it was not scribal accuracy alone that guaranteed their product. Rather, it was their almost superstitious reverence for the Bible. According to the Talmud, there were specifications not only for the kind of skins to be used and the size of the columns, but the scribe was even required to perform a religious ritual before writing the name of God. Rules governed the kind of ink used, dictated the spacing of words, and prohibited wording anything from memory. The lines - and even the letters - were counted methodically. If a manuscript was found to contain even one mistake it was discarded and destroyed. This scribal formalism was responsible, at least in part, for the extreme care exercised in copying the Scriptures. It was also for this reason that there were only a few manuscripts (because the rules demanded the destruction of defective copies). (Geisler, BECA, 552)
Flavious Josephus, the Jewish historian, [first century] writes: 'We have given practical proof of our reverence for our own Scriptures. For, although such long ages have now passed, no one has ventured either to add, or to remove, or to alter a syllable; and it is an instinct with every Jew, from the day of his birth, to regard them as the decrees of God, to abide by them and, if need be, cheerfully to die for them. Time and again ere now the sight has been witnessed of prisoners enduring tortures and death in every form in the theatres, rather than utter a single word against the laws and the allied documents.' (Josephus, FJAA, as cited in JCW, 179, 180).
Josephus continues by making a comparison between the Hebrew respect for Scripture and the Greek regard for their literature:
'What Greek would endure as much for the same cause? Even to save the entire collection of his nation's writings from destruction he would not face the smallest personal injury. For the Greeks they are mere stories improvised according to the fancy of their authors; and in this estimate even of the older historians they are quite justified, when they see some of their own contemporaries venturing to describe events in which they bore no part, without taking the trouble to seek information from those who know the facts.' (Josephus, FJAA, as cited in JCW, 181).
Still, however, the earliest Masoretic manuscripts in existence, dated from about A.D. 1000 and later, awaited confirmation of their accuracy. That confirmation came with an astounding discovery off the shores of Israel's Dead Sea.
1) The Dead Sea Scrolls
The big question was asked first by Sir Frederic Kenyon:
'Does this Hebrew text, which we call Masoretic, and which we have shown to descend from a text drawn up about A.D. 100, faithfully represent the Hebrew text as originally written by the authors of the Old Testament books?' (Kenyon, OBAM, 47).
Before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the question was, 'How accurate are the copies we have today compared to the copies of the first century and earlier?' The earliest complete copy of the Old Testament dates from the tenth century. Thus the big question: 'Because the text has been copied over many times, can we trust it?' The Dead Sea Scrolls provide an astounding answer.
The scrolls are made up of some forty thousand inscribed fragments. From these fragments more than five hundred books have been reconstructed. Many extrabiblical books and fragments were discovered that shed light on the second century B.C. to first century A.D. religious community of Qumran on the shores of the Dead Sea. Such writings as the 'Zadokite documents,' and 'Rule of the Community,' and the 'manual of Discipline' help us to understand the purpose of daily Qumran life. In the various caves are some very helpful commentaries on the Scriptures. But the most important documents of the Dead Sea Scrolls are copies of the Old Testament text dating from more than a century before the birth of Christ.
2) How Were The Dead Sea Scrolls Found?
Ralph Earle gives a vivid and concise answer to how the scrolls were found, by sharing an account showing God's providential care:
'The story of this discovery is one of the most fascinating tales of modern times. In February or March of 1947 a Bedouin shepherd boy named Muhammad was searching for a lost goat. He tossed a stone into a hole in a cliff on the west side of the Dead Sea, about eight miles south of Jericho. To his surprise he heard the sound of shattering pottery. Investigating, he discovered an amazing sight. On the floor of the cave were several large jars containing leather scrolls, wrapped in linen cloth. Because the jars were carefully sealed, the scrolls had been preserved in excellent condition for nearly 1,900 years. (They were evidently placed there in A.D. 68).
'Five of the scrolls found in Dead Sea Cave I, as it is now called, were bought by the archbishop of the Syrian Orthodox Monastery at Jerusalem. Meanwhile, three other scrolls were purchased by Professor Sukenik of the Hebrew University there.
'When the scrolls were first discovered, no publicity was given to them. In November of 1947, two days after Professor Sukenik purchased three scrolls and two jars from the cave, he wrote in his diary: 'It may be that this is one of the greatest finds ever made in Palestine, a find we never so much as hoped for.' But these significant words were not published at the time.
'Fortunately, in February of 1948, the archbishop, who could not read Hebrew, phoned the American School of Oriental Research in Jerusalem and told about the scrolls. By good providence, the acting director of the school at the moment was a young scholar named John Trever, who was also an excellent amateur photographer. With arduous, dedicated labor he photographed each column of the great Isaiah scroll, which is 24 feet long and 10 inches high. He developed the plates himself and sent a few prints by airmail to Dr. W. F. Albright of Johns Hopkins University, who was widely recognized as the dean of American biblical archaeologists. By return airmail Albright wrote: 'My heartiest congratulations on the greatest manuscript discovery of modern times!... What an absolutely incredible find! And there can happily not be the slightest doubt in the world about the genuineness of the manuscript.' He dates it about 100 B.C.' (Earle, HWGB, 48-49).
3) The Value Of The Scrolls
The oldest complete Hebrew MS we possessed before the Dead Sea Scrolls were from A.D. 900 on. How could we be sure of their accurate transmission since before the time of Christ in the first century A.D.? Thanks to archaeology and the Dead Sea Scrolls, we now know. One of the scrolls in the Dead Sea caves was a complete MS of the Hebrew text of Isaiah. It is dated by paleographers around 125 B.C. This MS is more than one thousand years older than any MS we previously possessed.
The significance of this discovery has to do with the detailed closeness of the Isaiah scroll (125 B.C.) to the Masoretic Text of Isaiah (A.D. 916) one thousand years later. It demonstrates the unusual accuracy of the copyists of the Scripture over a thousand year period.
'Of the 166 words in Isaiah 53, there are only seventeen letters in question. Ten of these letters are simply a matter of spelling, which does not affect the sense. Four more letters are minor stylistic changes, such as conjunctions. The remaining three letters comprise the word 'light,' which is added in verse 11, and does not affect the meaning greatly. Furthermore, this word is supported by the LXX and IQ Is. Thus, in one chapter of 166 words, there is only one word and this word does not significantly change the meaning of the passage.' (Burrows, TDSS, 304).
Gleason Archer states that the Isaiah copies of the Qumran community 'proved to be word for word identical with our standard Hebrew Bible in more than 95 percent of the text. The 5 percent of variation consisted chiefly of obvious slips of the pen and variations in spelling.' (Archer, SOT, 19).
Millar Burrows concludes: 'It is a matter of wonder that through something like a thousand years the text underwent so little alteration. As I said in my first article on the scroll, '''herein lies its chief importance, supporting the fidelity of the Massoretic tradition.''' ' (Burrows, TDSS, 304).
4) What Do The Scrolls Contain?
It will not be possible here to survey the more than eight hundred manuscripts represented by the scrolls. The following is a sampling of the texts that have been studied for the last forty years, including most of the older works on which the scrolls were based and the recently published texts from the Cave 4. These texts can be grouped in categories: biblical texts, biblical commentaries, sectarian texts, and pseudephigraphical texts, apocalyptic texts, and mystical or ritualistic texts. (Price, SDSS, 86).
Dead Sea Scroll Discoveries. Cave 1 was discovered by the Arab shepherd boy. From it he took seven more-or-less complete scrolls and some fragments:
Isaiah A (IQIs a): St. Mark's Monastery Isaish Scroll is a popular copy with numerous corrections above the line of in the margin. It is the earliest known copy of any complete book of the Bible.
Isaiah B (IQIs b): The Hebrew University Isaiah is incomplete, but its text agrees more closely with the Masoretic Text than does Isaiah A.
Other Cave 1 Fragments: This cave also yielded fragments of Genesis, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Judges, Samuel, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Psalms, and some nonbiblical works including Enoch, Sayings of Moses (previously unknown), Book of Jubilee, Book of Noah, Testament of Levi, Tobit, and the Wisdom of Solomon. An interesting fragment of Daniel, containing 2:4 (where the language changes from Hebrew to Aramaic), also comes from this cave. Fragmentary commentaries on the Psalms, Micah, and Zephaniah were also found in Cave 1.
Cave 2: Cave 2 was first discovered and pilfered by the bedouins. It was excavated in 1952. Fragments of about one hundred manuscripts, including two of Exodus, one of Leviticus, four of Numbers, two or three of Deuteronomy, one each of Jeremiah, Job, and the Psalms, and two of Ruth were found.
Cave 4: Partridge Cave, or Cave 4, after being ransacked by Bedouins, was searched in September 1952, and proved to be the most productive cave of all. Literally thousands of fragments were recovered by purchase from the Bedouins or by the archaelogists sifting the dust on the floor of the cave. These scraps represent hundreds of manuscripts, nearly four hundred of which have been identified. They include one hundred copies of Bible books - all of the Old Testament except Esther.
A fragment of Samuel from Cave 4 (4qsam b) is thought to be the oldest known piece of biblical Hebrew. It dates from the third century B.C. Also found were a few fragments of commentaries of the Psalms, Isaiah, and Nahum. The entire collection of Cave 4 is believed to represent the scope of the Qumran library, and judging from the relative number of books found, their favorite books seemed to be Deuteronomy, Isaiah, the Psalms, the Minor Prophets, and Jeremiah, in that order. In one fragment containing some of Daniel 7:28 and 8:1, the language changes from Aramaic to Hebrew.
Caves 7-10: Caves 7-10, examined in 1955, produced no significant Old Testament manuscripts. Cave 7 did, however; yield some disputed manuscript fragments that have been identified by Jose O'Callahan as New Testament portions. If so, they would be the oldest New Testament manuscript dating from as early as A.D. 50 or 60.
Cave 11: This cave was excavated in early 1956. It produced a well-preserved copy of thirty-six Psalms, plus the apocryphal Psalm 151, previously known only in Greek texts. A very fine scroll of part of Leviticus, some large pieces of an Apocalypse of the New Jerusalem, and an Aramaic targum (paraphrase) of Job were discovered.
Several recent studies of the Dead Sea Scrolls provide detailed descriptions and inventories. Gleason L. Archer, Jr., provides an appendix to his A Survey of Old Testament Introduction.
(ACCORDING TO THE HEBREW BIBLE)
|OLD TESTAMENT BOOK
(ACCORDING TO ORDER IN HEBREW BIBLE)
|NUMBER OF QUMRAN MANUSCRIPTS
|Former Prophets||1-2 Samuel||4|
|Twelve (Minor Prophets)||10+1?|
|The Five Scrolls||Song of Songs||4|
Murabba'at Discoveries. Prompted by the profitable finds as Qumran, the Bedouins pursued their search and found caves southeast of Bethelehem that produced self-dated manuscripts and documents from the Second Jewish Revolt (A.D. 132-135). Systematic exploration and excavation of these caves began in January 1952. The later-dated manuscripts helped establish the antiquity of the Dead Sea Scrolls. From these caves came another scroll of the Minor Prophets, the last half of Joel through Haggai, that closely supports the Masoretic Text. The oldest known Semitic papyrus (a palimpsest), inscribed the second time in the ancient Hebrew script (dating from the seventh-eighth centuries B.C.), was found here ....
The significance of the Qumran documents to textual criticism can be seen in the following perspectives from Old Testament scholars:
First and foremost, the Dead Sea Scrolls take the textual scholar back about one thousand years earlier than previously known Hebrew manuscript evidence. Prior to the Qumran discoveries, the earliest complete copies of Old Testament books dated from about the early tenth century A.D. The earliest complete copy of the entire Old Testament dated from the early eleventh century A.D. The Dead Sea manuscripts thus give much earlier evidence for the text of the Old Testemant than anything previously known. (Brotzman, OTTC, 94-95).
Prior to the discovery of the scrolls at Qumran the oldest extant manuscripts were dated from approximately A.D. 900. Some manuscripts of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which included copies of Isaiah, Habakkuk, and others, were dated back to 125 B.C., providing manuscripts one thousand years older than previously available. The major conclusion was that there was no significant difference between the Isaiah scroll at Qumran and the Masoretic Hebrew text dated one thousand years later. This confirmed the reliablility of our present Hebrew text. (Ens, MHT, 173).
Together with extant material they [the Dead Sea Scrolls] will do much to extend the frontiers of knowledge in the areas of history, religion, and sacred literature. (Harrison, AOT, 115).
There can be no doubt that the [Dead Sea] scrolls have ushered in a new era of biblical study in which much that was known will be confirmed... (Harrison, AOT, 115).
'In conclusion, we should accord to the Masoretes the highest praise for their meticulous care in preserving so sedulously the consonantal text of the Sopherim which had been entrusted to them. They, together with the Sopherim themselves, gave the most diligent attention to accurate preservation of the Hebrew Scriptures that has ever been devoted to any ancient literature, secular or religious, in the history of human civilization. So conscientious were they in their stewardship of the holy text that they did not even venture to make the most obvious corrections, so far as the consonants were concerned, but left their Vorlage exactly as it had been handed down to them.
Because of their faithfulness, we have today a form of the Hebrew text which in all essentials duplicates the recension which was considered authoritative in the days of Christ and the apostles, if not a century earlier. And this in turn, judging from Qumran evidence, goes back to an authoritative revision of the Old Testament text which was drawn up on the basis of the most reliable manuscripts available for collation from previous centuries. These bring us very close in all essentials to the original autographs themselves, and furnish us with an authentic record of God's revelation... (Archer, SOT, 65).
5) Conclusion: Check Against the Dead Sea Scrolls
With the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, scholars have Hebrew manuscripts dated one thousand years earlier than the great Masoretic Text manuscripts, enabling them to check the fidelity of the Hebrew text. There is a word-for-word identiy in more than 95 percent of the cases, and the 5-per-cent variation consists mostly of slips of the pen and spelling. The Isaiah scroll (1QIs a) from Qumran led the Revised Standard Version translators to make only thirteen changes from the Masoretic Text; eight of those were known from ancient versions, and few were significant. (Burrows, WMTS, 30-59). Of the 166 Hebrew words in Isaiah 53, only seventeen Hebrew letters in the Isaiah B scroll differ from the Masoretic Text. Ten letters are a matter of spelling, four are stylistic changes, and the other three compose the word for 'light,' (added inverse 11), which does not affect the meaning greatly. (Harris, IC, 124). Furthermore that word is also found in the same verse in the Septuagint and in the Isaiah A Scroll.
6) Non-Hebrew Manuscript Evidence
The various ancient translations (called Versions) of the Old Testment provide the textual scholar with valuable witnesses to the text. The Septuagint (LXX), for example, preserves a textual tradition from the third century B.C. These and the Masoretic Text provide three Old Testament textual traditions that, when critically evaluated, supply an overwhelming support for the integrity of the Old Testament text. The witness of the Samaritan Pentateuch, and especially that of the LXX with its revisions and recensions, is a major confirmation of the textual integrity.
a) The Septuagint, or LXX
Just as the Jews had abandoned their native Hebrew tongue for Aramaic in the Near East, so they abandoned the Aramaic in favor of Greek in such Hellenistic centers as Alexandria, Egypt. During the campaigns of Alexander the Great, the Jews were shown considerable favor. In fact, Alexander was sympathetic toward the Jews as a result of their policies toward him in the siege of Tyre (332 B.C.). He is even reported to have traveled to Jerusalem to pay homage to their God. As he conquered new lands, he built new cities that frequently included Jewish inhabitants, and often named them Alexandria.
Because the Jews were scattered from their homeland there was a need for the Scriptures in the common language of that day. The name Septuagint (meaning 'seventy,' and usually abbreviated by use of the Roman numerals LXX) was given to the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures during the reign of King Ptolemy Philadelphia of Egypt. (285-246 B.C.).
F.F. Bruce offers an interesting rendering of the origin of the name for this translation. Concerning a letter purporting to be written around 250 B.C. (more realistically, a short time before 100 B.C.) by Aristeas, a court official of King Ptolemy, to his brother Philocrates, Bruce writes:
'Ptolemy was renowned as a patron of literature and it was under him that the great library at Alexandria, one of the world's cultural wonders for 900 years, was inaugurated. The letter describes how Demetrius of Phalerum, said to have been Ptolemy's librarian, aroused the king's interest in the Jewish Law and advised him to send a delegation to the high priest, Eleazar, at Jerusalem. The high priest chose as translators six elders from each of the twelve tribes of Israel and sent them to Alexandria, along with a specially accurate and beautiful parchment of the Torah. The elders were royally dined and winded, and proved their wisdom in debate; then they took up their residence in a house on the island of Pharos (the island otherwise famed for its lighthouse), where in seventy-two days they completed their task of translating the Pentateuch into Greek, presenting an agreed version as the result of conference and comparison.' (Bruce, BP, 146, 147).
The Greek Old Testament of the Septuagint differs from the Hebrew canon in the quality of its translation as well as in its contents and arrangement. In addition to the twenty-two books of the Hebrew Old Testament, the LXX contains a number of books that were never part of the Hebrew canon. Apparently those books were circulated in the Greek-speaking world but were never part of the Hebrew canon. The quality of translation in the LXX reflects the situation and provides for several observations: (1) The LXX varies in excellence, ranging from slavishly literal renditions of the Torah to free translations in the Writings (the third division of the Hebrew Scriptures). .... A. W. Adams indicates that the text of Job in the original LXX is actually one-sixth shorter than its Hebrew counterpart. There are also large variations in Joshua, 1 Samuel, 1 Kings, Proverbs, Esther, and Jeremiah, as well as lesser variations in other books. The cause of the divergencies is one of the major difficulties of the Septuagint. (2) The LXX was not designed to have the same purpose as the Hebrew text, being used for public services in the synagogues rather than for scholarly or scribal purposes. (3) The LXX was the product of a pioneer venture in transmitting the Old Testament Scriptures, and an excellent example of such an effort. (4) The LXX was generally loyal to the readings of the original Hebrew text, although some have maintained that the translators were not always good Hebrew scholars.
Regarding the Septuagint, Paul Enns notes that 'as a translation it is uneven, but it is helpful in that it is based on a Hebrew text one thousand years older than our existing Hebrew manuscripts. Moreover, New Testament writers would at times quote from the Septuagint; this provides us with further insight concerning the Old Testament text. (Enns, MHT, 174).
'As for the influence of the LXX, every page of this lexicon [A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Bauer, Arndt, and Gingich)] shows that it outweighs all other influences on our [first century A.D.] literature.' (Bauer, GELNT, xxi).
The Septuagint (LXX), the Greek translation of the Old Testament begun c. 250 B.C., ranks next to the Masoretic Text in importance. It was widely used in New Testament times, as may be seen from the fact that the majority of the 250 Old Testament citations in the New Testament are from this version. When the LXX diverged from the Masoretic Text some scholars assumed that the LXX translators had taken liberties with their texts. We now know from Qumran that many of these differences were due to the fact that the translators were following a somewhat different Hebrew text belonging to what we may call the Proto-Septuagint family. (Yamauchi, SS, 130, 131).
The LXX, being very close to the Masoretic Text (A.D. 916) we have today, helps to establish the reliability of its transmission through thirteen hundred years.
The LXX and the scriptural citations found in the apocryphal books of Ecclesiasticus, the Book of Jubilees, and others, give evidence that the Hebrew text today is substantially the same as the text about 300 B.C.
Geisler and Nix give four important contributions of the Septuagint.
' It bridged the religious gap between the Hebrew-and Greek-speaking peoples, as it met the needs of the Alexandrian Jews,
 it bridged the historical gap between the Hebrew Old Testament of the Jews and the Greek-speaking Christians who would use it with their New Testament,
 and it provided a precedent for missionaries to make translations of the Scriptures into various languages and dialects;
 it bridges the textual criticism gap by its substantial agreement with the Hebrew Old Testament text (Aleph, A, B, C, et al.).' (Geisler, GIB, 308).
F.F. Bruce gives several reasons why the Jews lost interest in the Septuagint:
1. '..From the first century A.D. onwards the Christians adopted it as their version of the Old Testament and used it freely in their propagation and defense of the Christian faith.' (Bruce, BP, 150).
2. 'Another reason for the Jews' loss of interest in the Septuagint lies in the fact that about A.D. 100 a revised standard text was established for the Hebrew Bible by Jewish scholars...' (Bruce, BP, 151).
What began as a popular Jewish translation of the Old Testament eventually lost much of its appeal to the Jewish people.
b) The Septuagint and the Masoretic Text
The Septuagint was the Bible of Jesus and the apostles. Most New Testament quotations are taken from it directly, even when it differs from the Masoretic Text. On the whole the Septuagint closely parallels the Masoretic Text and is a confirmation of the fidelity of the tenth-century Hebrew text.
If no other evidence were available, the case for the fidelity of the Masoretic Text could be brought to rest with confidence based upon textual comparisons and an understanding of the extraordinary Jewish scribal system. But with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, beginning in 1947, there is almost overwhelming substantiation of the received Hebrew text of the Masoretes. Critics of the Masoretic Text charged that the manuscripts were few and late. Through the Dead Sea Scrolls, early manuscript fragments provide a check on nearly the whole Old Testament. Those checks date about a thousand years before the Great Masoretic manuscripts of the tenth century. Before the discoveries in the Cairo Geniza and the Dead Sea caves, the Nash Papyrus (a fragment of the Ten Commandments and Shem, Deut 6:4-9), dated between 150 and 100 B.C., was the only known scrap of the Hebrew text dating from before the Christian era.
c) The Hexapla
The Hexapla (meaning sixfold) done by Origen in the second century is inextricably tied to the LXX.
The Hexapla, plus writings of Josephus, Philo, and the Zadokite Documents (Dead Sea Qumran community literature), 'bear witness to the existence of a text quite similar to the Masoretic [Text] from A.D. 40 to 100.' (Skilton, 'The Transmission of the Scripture' in The Infallible Word [a symposium], 148)
Origen's Hexapla (c. 240-50). The work of Old Testament translation led to four Greek textual traditions by the third century A.D.: the Septuagint, and versions by Aquila, Theodotoion, and Symmachus. This muddled state of affairs set the stage for the first really outstanding attempt at textual criticism, the Hexapla ('sixfold') by Origen of Alexandria (A.D. 185-254). Because of the many divergences between the existing manuscripts of the LXX, the discrepancies between the Hebrew text and the LXX, and the attempts at revising the Old Testament Greek translations. Origen appears to have settled upon a course that would give the Christian world a satisfactory Greek text of the Old Testament. His work was essentially a recension rather than a version, as he corrected textual corruptions and attempted to unify the Greek text with the Hebrew. Thus his twofold aim was to show the superiority of the various revisions of the Old Testament over the corrupted LXX and to give a comparative view of the correct Hebrew and the divergent LXX. In this he followed the view that the Hebrew Old Testament was a sort of 'inerrant transcript' of God's revealed truth to man...
The arrangement of the Hexapla was in six parallel columns. Each column contained the Old Testament in the original Hebrew or a particular version, thus making the manuscript far too bulky to be marketable in ancient times. The six columns were arranged as follows: column one, the Hebrew original; column two, the Hebrew original transliterated into Greek letters; column three, the literal translation of Aquila; column four, the idiomatic revision of Symmachus; column five, Origen's own revision of the LXX; and column six, the Greek revision of Theodotion. (Geisler, GIB, 507-508).
Although the task was of monumental significance, it is well for the modern textual critic to observe the difference between his own and Origen's objectves, as has been so succinctly stated by Kenyon:
'For Origen's purpose, which was the production of a Greek version corresponding as closely as possible with the Hebrew text as then settled, this procedure was well enough; but for ours, which is the recovery of the original Septuagint ... as evidence for what the Hebrew was before the Masoretic text, it was most unfortunate, since there was a natural tendency for his edition to be copied without the critical symbols, and thus for the additions made by him from Theodotion to appear as part of the genuine and original Septuagint. (Kenyon, OBAM, 59).
This unfortunate situation did occur, and 'the transcribed Septuagint text without the diacritical markings led to the dissemination of a corrupted Greek Old Testament text, rather than the achievement of a Septuagint version in conformity with the Hebrew text of the day.' (Geisler, GIB, 509).
F.F. Bruce writes, 'If Origen's Hexapla had survived entire, it would be a treasure beyond price.' (Bruce, BP, 155).
d) The Samaritan Pentateuch
The Samaritans separated from the Jews probably during the fifth or fourth century B.C. after a long, bitter religious and cultural struggle. At the time of the schism one would suspect that the Samaritans took with them the Scriptures as they then existed, and prepared their own revised text of the Pentateuch. The Samaritan Pentateuch is not a version in the strict sense, but rather a manuscript portion of the Hebrew text itself. It contains the five books of Moses and is written in an ancient style of Hebrew script. Some of the older biblical manuscripts from Qumran use this script, since it was revived in the second century B.C. during the Maccabean revolt against the Greeks. Textual critic Frank M. Cross, Jr. believes that the Samaritan Pentateuch probably comes from about the Maccabean period.
A form of the Samaritan Pentateuch text seems to have been known to church fathers Eusebius of Caesarea (c. 265-339) and Jerome (c. 345-c. 419). It was not available to modern Western scholars until 1616, when Pietro della Valle discovered a manuscript of the Samaritan Pentateuch in Damascus. A great wave of excitement arose among biblical scholars. The text was regarded as superior to the Masoretic Text until Wilhelm Gesnius in 1815 judged it to be practically worthless for textual criticism. More recently the value of the Samaritan Pentateuch has been reasserted by such scholars as A. Geiger, Kahle, and Kenyon.
No extant manuscript of the Samaritan Pentateuch as been dated before the eleventh century. The Samaritan community claims that one roll was written by Abisha, the great grandson of Moses, in the thirteenth year after the conquest of Canaan, but the authority is so spurious that the claim may be safely dismissed. The oldest codex of the Samaritan Pentateuch bears a note about its sale in 1149-1150, but the manuscript itself is much older. One manuscript was copied in 1204. Another dated 1211-1212 is now in the John Rylands Library at Manchester. Another, dated c. 1232, is in the New York Public Library.
There are about six thousand deviations of the Samaritan Pentateuch from the Masoretic Text, most considered to be trivial. In about nineteen hundred instances the Samaritan text agrees with the Septuagint against the Masoretic Text. Some of the deviations were deliberately introduced by the Samaritans to preserve their own religious traditions and dialectic. The Masoretic Text perpetuates Judean dialect and traditions.
The Samaritan Pentateuch, it is interesting to note, is written in an older form of Hebrew script than that of the Masoretic Bible and Jewish-Hebrew literature in general. Somewhere about 200 B.C. this older, 'paleo-Hebrew' script was superseded among the Jews by the Aramaic or 'square' character. Some of the older biblical manuscripts from Qumran still show it. The paleo-Hebrew script is of the same general style as the script found on the Moabite Stone, the Siloam Inscription, and the Lachish Letters, but the script of the Samaritans is a rather more ornamental development of it. (Bruce, BP, 120).
Paul Enns says of the Samaritan Pentateuch that 'it is a valuable witness to the text of the Old Testament.' (Enns, MHT, 174). This text contains the Pentateuch, and is valuable to determine textual readings. Bruce says that 'the variations between the Samaritan Pentateuch and the Masoretic edition [A.D. 916] of these books are quite insignificant by comparison with the area of agreement.' (Bruce, BP, 122).
Sir Frederic Kenyon states that when the LXX and the Samaritan Pentateuch agree against the Masoretic Text, 'they represent the original reading,' but when the LXX and the Masoretic Text are opposed, it is possible that sometimes the one may be right and sometimes the other; but in any case the differences is one of interpretation, not of text.
Despite the many minor variants between the Samaritan Pentateuch and the Hebrew text of the Old Testament, there is substantial agreement between them. As noted previously, the six thousand variants from the Masoretic Text are mostly differences in spelling and cultural word variation. Nineteen hundred variants agree with the Septuagint (for example, in the ages given for the patriarchs in Genesis 5 and 11). Some Samaritan Pentateuch variants are sectarian, such as the command to build the temple on Mount Gerizim, not at Jerusalem (e.g., after Ex 20:17). It should be noted, however, that most manuscripts of the Samaritan Pentateuch are late (thirteenth to fourteenth centuries), and none is before the tenth century. (Archer, SOT, 44). But the Samaritan Pentateuch still confirms the general text from which it had diverged many hundreds of years earlier.
e) Other Witnesses to the Old Testament Text
i) Aramaic Targums
The Targums (copies) appear in written form about A.D. 500.
The basic meaning of the word Targum is 'interpretation.' Targums are paraphrases of the Old Testament in the Aramaic language.
The origins of the Targums are explained by Geisler and Nix:
'There is evidence that the scribes were making oral paraphrases of the Hebrew Scriptures into the Aramaic vernacular as early as the time of Ezra (Neh 8:1-8). These paraphrases were not strictly translations, but were actually aids in understanding the archaic language forms of the Torah... The necessity for such helps arose because Hebrew was becoming less and less familiar to the ordinary people as a spoken language. By the close of the last centuries B.C., this gradual process had continued until almost every book in the Old Testament had its oral paraphrase or interpretation (Targum).
During the early centuries A.D., these Targums were committed to writing, and an official text came to the lore, since the Hebrew canon, text, and interpretation had become well solidified before the rabbinical scholars of Jamnia (c. A.D. 90) and the expulsion of the Jews from Palestine in A.D. 135. The earliest Targums were apparently written in Palestinian Aramaic during the second century A.D.; however, there is evidence of Aramaic Targums from the pre-Christian period. (Geisler, GIB, 304, 305).
Geisler and Nix go into more details on some of the important Targums:
'During the third century A.D., there appeared in Babylonia an Aramaic Targum on the Torah... It has been traditionally ascribed to Onkelos... Another Babylonian Aramaic Targum accompanies the Prophets (Former and Latter), and is known as the Targum of Jonathan ben Uzziel. It dates from the fourth century A.D. and is freer and more paraphrastic in its rendering of the text. Both of those Targums were read in the synagogues... Because the Writings were not read in the synagogues, there was no reason to have official Targums for them, although unofficial copies were used by individuals. During the middle of the seventh century A.D. a Targum of the Pentateuch appeared called the Pseudo-Jonathan Targum... The Jerusalem Targum also appeared at about 700, but has survived in fragments only.' (Geisler, GIB, 403, 305).
After the Jews were taken into captivity, the Chaldean language replaced Hebrew. Therefore the Jews needed the Scriptures in the spoken language.
The chief Targums are
(1) The Targum of Onkelas (60 B.C., some say by Onkelas, a disciple of the great Jewish scholar, Hillel). Contains Hebrew text of the Pentateuch.
(2) The Targum of Jonathon Ben Uzziel (30 B.C.?). Contains the historical books and the Prophets.
F. F. Bruce provides more interesting background on the Targums:
'...The practice of accompanying the public reading of the Scriptures in the synagogues by an oral paraphrase in the Aramaic vernacular grew up in the closing centuries B.C. Naturally, when Hebrew was becoming less and less familiar to the ordinary people as a spoken language, it was necessary that they should be provided with an interpretation of the text of Scripture in a language which they did know, if they were to understand what was read. The official charged with giving this oral paraphrase was called a methurgeman (translator or interpreter) and the paraphrase itself was called a targum.
'...Methurgeman... was not allowed to read his interpretation out of a roll, as the congregation might mistakenly think he was reading the original Scriptures. With a view to accuracy, no doubt, it was further laid down that no more than one verse of the Pentateuch and not more than three verses of the Prophets might be translated at one time.
'In due course these Targums were committed to writing.' (Bruce, BP, 133).
J. Anderson in The Bible, the Word of God states their value saying: 'The great utility of the earlier Targums consists in their vindicating the genuineness of the Hebrew text, by proving that it was the same at the period the Targums were made, as it exists among us at the present day.' (Anderson, BWG, 17).
The Mishnah (A.D. 200). 'The Mishnah (repetition, explanation, teaching) was completed at about A.D. 200, and was a digest of all the oral laws from the time of Moses. It was regarded as the Second Law, the Torah being the First Law. This work was written in Hebrew, and it covered traditions as well as explanations of the oral law.' (Geisler, GIB, 502).
The scriptural quotations are very similar to the Massoretic text and witness to its reliability.
The Gemara (Palestinian, A.D. 200; Babylonian, A.D. 500). 'The Gemara (to complete, accomplish, learn) was written in Aramaic rather than Hebrew, and was basically an expanded commentary on the Mishnah. It was transmitted in two traditions, the Palestinian Gemara (c. A.D. 200), and the larger and more authoritative Babylonian Gemara (c. A.D. 500).' (Geisler, GIB, 502).
These commentaries (written in Aramaic) that grew up around the Mishnah contribute to the textual reliability of the Masoretic Text.
The Mishnah plus the Palestinian Gemara make up the Palestinian Talmud.
The Mishnah plus the Babylonian Gemara make up the Babylonian Talmud.
Midrash (100 B.C.-A.D. 300) was made up of doctrinal studies of the Old Testament Hebrew text. The Midrash quotations are substantially Masoretic.
The Midrash (textua study, textual interpretation) was actually a formal doctrinal and homiletical exposition of the Hebrew Scriptures written in Hebrew and Aramaic. Midrashim (plural) were collected into a body of material between 100 B.C. and A.D. 300. Within the Midrash were two major parts: the Halakah) procedure), a further expansion of the Torah only, and the Haggada (declaration, explanation), being commentaries on the entire Old Testament. These Midrashim differed from the Targums in that the former were actually commentaries whereas the latter were paraphrases. The Midrashim contain some of the earliest extant synagogue homilies on the Old Testament, including such things as proverbs and parables. (Geisler, GIB, 306).
v) Other Important Discoveries
Nash Papyri. Among the earliest Old Testament Hebrew manuscripts, there is extant one damaged copy of the Shema (from Deut. 6:4-9) and two fragments of the Decalogue (Ex 20:2-17; Deut 5:6-21). The Nash Papyri are dated between the second century B.C. and the first century A.D.
Codex Cairensis. A codex is a manuscript in book form with pages. According to a colophon, or inscription at the end of the book, Codex Cairensis (C) was written and vowel-pointed in A.D. 895 by Moses ben Asher in Tiberias in Palestine. It contains the Former Prophets (Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings) and the Latter Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Minor Prophets).
Aleppo Codex. Aleppo Codex was written by Shelomo ben Baya'a (Kenyon, OBAM, 84), but according to a colophon note it was pointed (i.e., the vowel marks were added) by Moses ben Asher (c. A.D. 930). It is a model codex, although it was not permitted to be copied for a long time and was even reported to have been destroyed. (Wurthwein, TOT, 25). It was smuggled from Syria to Israel. It has now been photographed and is the basis of the New Hebrew Bible published by Hebrew University. (Goshen-Gottstein, BMUS, 13). It is a sound authority for the ben Asher text.
Codex Leningradensis. According to a colophon note, Codex Leningradensis (L) was copied in Old Cairo by Samuel ben Jacob in 1008 from a manuscript (now lost) written by Aaron ben Moses ben Asher c. 1000. (Kahle, CG, 110). It represents one of the oldest manuscripts of the complete Hebrew Bible.
Babylonian Codex of the Latter Prophets. The Babylonian Codex (V [ar] P) is sometimes called the Leningrad Codex of the Prophets (Kenyon, 85) or the [St.] Petersburg Codex. (Wurthwein, TOT, 26). It contains Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the Twelve. It is dated 916, but its chief significance is that, through it, punctuation added by the Babylonian school of the Masoretic scribes was rediscovered. Dated 1105, Reuchlin Codex is not at Karlsruhe. Like the British Museum manuscript (c. A.D. 1150), it contains a recension of Ben Naphtali, a Tiberian Masorete. These have been of great value in establishing the fidelity of the Ben Asher text. (Kenyon, OBAM, 36).
Efurt Codices. The Efurt Codices (E1, E2, E3) are listed in the University Library in Tubingen. They represent more or less (more in E3) the text and markings of the Ben Naphtali tradition. E1 is a fourteenth century manuscript. E2 is probably from the thirteenth century. E3, the oldest, is dated before 1100. (Wurthwein, TOT, 26).
7) Rules for Textual Criticism
The list below has been developed by scholars to give certain criteria for determining which reading is correct or original. Seven are suggested.
|GUIDE TO SELECTING A CORRECT READING|
|1 An older reading is to be preferred, because it is closer to the original.|
|2 The more difficult reading is to be preferred, because scribes were more apt to smooth out difficult readings.|
|3 The shorter reading is to be preferred, because copyists were more apt to insert new material than omit part of the sacred text|
|4 The reading that best explains the other variants is to be preferred.|
|5 The reading with the widest geographical support is to be preferred, because such manuscripts or versions are less likely to have influenced each other|
|6 The reading that is most like the author's usual style is to be preferred.|
|7 The reading that does not reflect a doctrinal bias is to be preferred. (Wurthwein, TOT, 80-81)|
8) Comparisons of Duplicate Passages
Another line of evidence for the quality of the Old Testament manuscripts is found in the comparison of the duplicate passages of the Masoretic Text itself. Several psalms occur twice (for example, 14 and 53); much of Isaiah 36-39 is also found in 2 Kings 18-20; Isaiah 2:24 is almost exactly parallel to Micah 4:1-3; Jeremiah 52 is a repeat of 2 Kings 25; and large portions of Chronicles are found in Samuel and Kings. An examination of those passages shows not only a substantial textual agreement but, in some cases, almost word-for-word identity. Therefore it may be concluded that the Old Testament texts have not undergone radical revisions, even if it were assumed that these parallel passages had identical sources.
9) Conclusion re: the Old Testament Manuscript Evidence
The thousands of Hebrew manuscripts, with their confirmation by the Septuagint and the Samaritan Pentateuch, and the numerous other cross-checks from outside and inside the text provide overwhelming support for the reliability of the Old Testament text. Hence, it is appropriate to conclude the Kenyon's statement, 'The Christian can take the whole bible in his hand and say without fear or hesitation that he holds in it the true word of God, handed down without essential loss from generation to generation throughout the centuries.' (Kenyon, OBAM, 23).
Since the Old Testament text is related in important ways to the New Testament, its reliability supports the Christian faith. This is true not only in establishing the dates when supernatural predictions were made of the Messiah, but also in supporting the historicity of the Old Testament that Jesus and New Testament writers affirmed. (Geisler, BECA, 552-553).
C) SUPPORT FROM ARCHAEOLOGY
1) Introduction and Definition of Archaeology
A substantial proof for the accuracy of the Old Testament text has come from archaeology. Numerous discoveries have confirmed the historical accuracy of the biblical documents, even down to the occasional use of obsolete names of foreign kings. These arahaeological confirmations of the accuracy of Scripture have been recorded in numerous books. Archaeologist Nelson Glueck asserts, 'It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference. Scores of archaeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or exact detail historical statements in the Bible.' (Glueck, RDHN, 31).
The discipline of archaeology has only recently gained relative importance among the physical sciences. However, it has made significant contributions in many areas, including biblical criticism and arguments for the reliability of the biblical text.
The word archaeology is composed of two Greek words: Archaios, meaning 'old' or 'ancient'; and Logos, signifying 'word, treatise, or study.' A literal definition is 'the study of antiquity.' Webster defines it, 'The scientific study of material remains (as fossils, relics, artifacts, and monuments) of past human life and activities.' (Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 10th edition, Springfield, Mass." Merriam-Webster, Inc., 1997). So the task of the archaeologist is to take what remains from a society and reconstruct what the artifacts tell us.
Archaeology is very different from most of modern science in that it attempts to prove a thesis. The basic premise of an experiment in modern science is that if it is repeatable, then it must be true. Archaeology, on the other hand, cannot possibly repeat its results. It can only give conjectures - not firm conclusions - concerning its finds, unless there is another outside confirmation by means of a text or other report. And this is where biblical archaeology takes on a unique twist.
In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the Bible took a beating from higher criticism. Critics have sought to destroy the foundations of the historicity of the Bible by showing that the Bible has errors and must be adjusted to fit the 'facts' of archaeology. But now the tables are turning. Reformed Jewish scholar Nelson Glueck has observed: 'It is worth emphasizing that in all this work no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a single, properly understood biblical statement.' (Glueck, as cited in Montgomery, CFTM, 6). Note that this statement was made by a Reformed Jewish scholar. He is not a Christian and yet he sees that archaeology confirms the Bible.
For the purposes of this book, archaeological confirmation is divided into artifact evidence and documentary evidence. Artifact evidence is defined as artifacts of a previous society testifying directly of a biblical event. On the other hand, documentary evidence will be defined as extra biblical texts (written documents) that confirm Old testament history directly or indirectly. Both kinds of evidence are archaeological in nature...
Joseph Free, in Archaeology and Bible History, addresses the question of archaeology and its relationship to the Bible:
'We pointed out that numerous passages of the Bible which long puzzled the commentators have readily yielded up their meaning when new light from archaeological discoveries has been focused on them. In other words, archaeology illuminates the text of the Scriptures and so makes valuable contributions to the fields of biblical interpretation and exegesis. In addition to illuminating the Bible, archaeology has confirmed countless passages which have been rejected by critics as unhistorical or contradictory to known facts.' (Free, ABH, 1)...
2) Sodom and Gomorrah
The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was thought to be spurious until evidence revealed that all five of the cities mentioned in the Bible were in fact centers of commerce in the area and were geographically situated as the Scriptures describe. The biblical description of their demise seems to be no less accurate. Evidence points to earthquake activity, and that the various layers of the earth were disrupted and hurled high into the air. Bitumen is plentiful there, and an accurate description would be that brimstone (bituminous pitch) was hurled down on those cities that had rejected God. There is evidence that the layers of sedimentary rock have been molded together by intense heat. Evidence of such burning had been found on the top of Jebel Usdum (Mount Sodom). This is permanent evidence of the great conflagration that took place in the long-distant past, possibly when an oil basin beneath the Dead Sea ignited and erupted. Such an explanation in no way subtracts from the miraculous quality of the event, for God controls natural forces. The timing of the event, in the context of warnings and visitation by angels, reveals its overall miraculous nature. (Geisler, BECA, 50, 51).
During the excavations of Jericho (1930-1936) Garstang found something so startling that he and two other members of the team prepared and signed a statement describing what was found. In reference to these findings Garstang says: 'As to the main fact, then, there remains no doubt: the walls fell outwards so completely that the attackers would be able to clamber up and over their ruins into the city. Why so unusual? Because the walls of cities do not fall outwards, they fall inwards. And yet in Joshua 6:20 we read, 'The wall fell down flat. Then the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city.' The walls were made to fall outward.' (Garstang, FBHJJ, 146).
Bryant Wood, writing for Biblical Archaeology Review (Wood, DICJ, 44-50), includes a list of collaboration between archaeological evidence and biblical narrative as follows:
1. The city was strongly fortified (Josh. 2:5, 7, 15; 6:5, 20).
2. The attack occurred just after the harvest time in the spring (Josh 2:1; 3:15; 5:16).
3. The inhabitants had no opportunity to flee with their foodsheds (Josh 6:1).
4. The siege was short (Josh 6:15).
5. The walls were leveled, possibly by an earthquake (Josh 6:20).
6. The city was not plundered (Josh 6:17, 18).
7. The city was burned (Josh 6:24).
a) The Walls Of Jericho Fell Outwards
While excavating in and around Jericho between 1930 and 1936, Prof. John Garstang wrote, "As to the main fact, then, there remains no doubt: the walls [of the city] fell outwards so completely that the attackers would be able to clamber up and over their ruins into the city." In addition to writing this independent description of this one particular find, he also signed it and had two of his co-workers witness and sign it themselves
Why did he feel it necessary to emphasize the authenticity of this statement to such a degree? Because the evidence from every other archaeological site around the ancient cities of the Middle East always showed the walls of the cities always fell inward. Every single one except, of course, Jericho's. They all fell inward rather than out for a very simple reason: when attackers besiege a city they are typically trying to get in, not out. And yet Jericho's walls clearly fell outward.
The reason for this can be found in the biblical account of the fall of Jericho when God caused the walls to "fall down flat" allowing Joshua's army to seize the city. (Joshua 6:1-20)
March 27, 1999 Jericho -
The Walls DID Come Tumbling Down!
In the spring of 1997, two Italian archaeologists conducted a limited excavation on the ancient tell of Jericho. Lorenzo Nigro and Nicolo Marchetti, working under the auspices of the new Palestinian Department of Archaeology, excavated for one month on the fringes of Kathleen Kenyon’s west and south trenches. Their dig was the first foreign expedition in the Palestinian-controlled areas of the West Bank since self-rule began in 1994.
ABR's Bryant Wood standing beside a section of the collapsed wall of Jericho.
After their excavation, Nigro and Marchetti announced they found no evidence for a destruction from the time of Joshua. While it is too soon for the academic community to see details of their discoveries, their announcement suggests their excavation was conducted to disprove the Biblical account of Joshua’s capture of the city. Is it further possible that the Palestinian Authority supported this dig for the express purpose of denouncing any Jewish connection to the site?
As to their evidence, Dr. Bryant Wood, Director of the Associates for Biblical Research and one of the leading experts on the archaeology of Jericho, recently responded. "It matters little what the Italian archaeologists did not find in their month-long dig. The evidence is already in. Three major expeditions to the site over the past 90 years uncovered abundant evidence to support the Biblical account," he said. As Wood went on to point out, John Garstang (l 930-1936) and Kathleen Kenyon (1952-1958) both dug at Jericho for six seasons and a German excavation directed by Ernst Sellin and Carl Watzinger dug for three. All found abundant evidence of the city’s destruction by fire in a layer related to the Biblical date of 1400 BC.
In September 1997, Dr. Wood visited Jericho and examined the results of the Italian excavation first hand. Incredibly, he found the Italians had uncovered the stone outer revetment wall at the base of the tell with part of the mud brick wall built on top of it still intact. In the balk of the Italian excavation, at the outer base of the revetment wall, Wood noticed the remains of the collapsed mud brick city walls which had tumbled. Not only did the Italians find the same evidence uncovered in the earlier excavations, it fits the Biblical story perfectly!
"The Italian excavation actually uncovered most of the critical evidence relating to the Biblical story," said Wood. "But even more exciting is the fact that all the evidence from the earlier digs has disappeared over time. We only have records, drawing and photos. But the Italians uncovered a completely new section of the wall which we did not know still existed. I had my photograph taken standing next to the wall where the mud brick collapse had just been excavated!"
Unfortunately, the Italian archaeologists, the Palestinian Authorities, the Associated Press and most of the world doesn’t realize any of this. It is a sad commentary on the state of archaeology in the Holy Land, when the purpose of an excavation at a Biblical site is to disprove the Bible and disassociate the site with any historical Jewish connection.
But that’s why the Associates for Biblical Research is in business. Please pray for our efforts. Pray for the removal of all obstacles blocking the publication of Dr. Wood’s technical study of the pottery of Jericho. Please pray for the continued field work ABR sponsors in Israel. Please pray for our daily efforts in presenting this truth to the world.
4) Saul, David, and Solomon
Saul became the first king of Israel, and his fortress at Gibeah has been excavated. One of the most noteworthy finds was that slingshots were one of the primary weapons of the day. This relates not only to David's victory over Goliath, but to the reference of Judges 20:16 that there were seven hundred expert slingers who 'could sling a stone at a hair and not miss.'
Upon Saul's death, Samuel tells us that his armor was put in the temple of Ashtaroth (a Canaanite fertility goddess) at Bet She'an, while Chronicles records that his head was put in the temple of Dagon, the Philistine corn god. This was thought to be an error because it seemed unlikely that enemy peoples would have temples in the same place at the same time. However, excavations have revealed that there are two temples at this site that are separated by a hallway: one for Dagon, and the other for Ashtaroth. It appears that the Philistines had adopted the Canaanite goddess.
One of the key accomplishments of David's reign was the capture of Jerusalem. Problematic in the Scripture account was that the Israelites entered the city by way of a tunnel that led to the Pool of Siloam. However, that pool was thought to be outside the city walls at that time. But excavations in the 1960s revealed that the wall did indeed extend well past the pool.
The time of Solomon has no less corroboration. The site of Solomon's temple cannot be excavated, because it is near the Muslim holy place, The Dome of the Rock. However, what is known about Philistine temples built in Solomon's time fits well with the design, decoration, and materials described in the Bible. The only piece of evidence from the temple itself is a small ornament, a pomegranate, that sat on the end of a rod and bears the inscription, 'Belonging to the Temple of Yahweh.' It was first seen in a shop in Jerusalem in 1979, was verified in 1984, and was acquired by the Israel Museum in 1988.
The excavation of Bezer in 1969 ran across a massive layer of ash that covered most of the mound. Sifting through the ash yielded pieces of Hebrew, Egyptian, and Philistine artifacts. Apparently all three cultures had been there at the same time. This puzzled researchers greatly until they realized that the Bible confirms exactly what they found. 'Pharaoh king of Egypt had attacked and captured Gezer. He had set it on fire. He killed its Canaanite inhabitants and then gave it as a wedding gift to his daughter, Solomon's wife.' (1 Kings 9:16) (Geisler, BECA, 51, 52).
A 1989 article by Alan Millard in Biblical Archaeology Review, entitled 'Does the Bible exaggerate King Solomon's Wealth?' states...
'... by setting the biblical text beside other ancient texts and archaeological discoveries we have shown that the biblical narrative is wholly in keeping with the practices of the ancient world, so far as we can ascertain them, not only in the use of gold but also in its records of quantities.' (Millard, DBEKSW, 20)
S. H. Horn, an archaeologist, gives an excellent example of how archaeological evidence helps in biblical study:
'Archaeological explorations have shed some interesting light on the capture of Jerusalem by David. The biblical accounts of that capture read: 'Now David said on that day, 'Whoever climbs up by way of the water shaft...' [(2 Sam 5:8a), referring to a water shaft leading into the city]... Jerusalem in those days was a small city lying on a single spur of the hills on which the large city eventually stood. Its position was one of great natural strength, because it was surrouded on three sides by deep valleys. This was why the Jebusites boastfully declared that even blind and lame could hold their city against a powerful attacking army. But the water supply of the city was poor; the population was entirely dependent on a spring that lay outside the city on the eastern slope of the hill.
So that they could obtain water without having to go down to where the spring was located, the Jebusites had constructed an elaborate system of tunnels through the rock. First they had dug a horizontal tunnel, beginning at the spring and proceeding toward the city. After digging for ninety feet they hit a natural cave. From the cave they dug a vertical shaft forty-five feet high, and from the end of the shaft a sloping tunnel 135 feet long and a staircase that ended at the sufface of their city, 110 feet above the water level of the spring. The spring was then concealed from the outside so that no enemy could detect it. To get water the Jebusite women went down through the upper tunnel and let their water skins down the shaft to draw water from the cave to which it was brought by natural flow through the horizontal tunnel that connected the cave with the spring.
However, one question remained unanswered. The excavations of R. A. S. Macalister and J. G. Duncan some forty years ago had uncovered a wall and a tower that were thought to be of Jebusite and Davidic origin respectively. This tract of wall ran along the rim of the hill of Ophel, west of the tunnel entrance. Thus the entrance was left outside the protective city wall, exposed to the attacks and interference of enemies. Why hadn't the tunnel been built to end inside the city? This puzzle has now been solved by the recent excavations of Kathleen Kenyon on Ophel. She found that Macalister and Duncan had given the wall and tower they discovered wrong dates; these things actually originated in the Hellenistic period. She uncovered the real Jebusite wall a little farther down the slope of the hill, east of the tunnel entrance, which now puts the entrance safely in the old city area.
David, a native of Bethlehem, four miles south of Jerusalem, ... made the promise that the first man who entered the city through the water shaft would become his commander-in-chief. Joab, who was already general of the army, did not want to lose that position and therefore led the attack himself. The Israelites apparently went through the tunnel, climbed up the shaft, and were in the city before any of the besieged citizens had any idea that so bold a plan had been conceived.' (Horn, RIOT, 15, 16).
Avaraham Biram (Biram, BAR, 26) speaks of a new discovery in 1994:
'A remarkable inscription from the ninth century BCE that refers to both the [House of David], and to the [King of Israel]. This is the first time that the name of David had been found in any ancient inscription outside the Bible. That the inscription refers not simply to a [David] but to the House of David, the dynasty of the great Israelite king, is even more remarkable... this may be the oldest extra-biblical reference to Israel in Semitic script. If this inscription proves anything, it shows that both Israel and Judah, contrary to the claims of some scholarly biblical minimizers, were important kingdoms at this time.'
6) Further Points Of Archaeology That Corroborate The Bible
Because Abraham is honoured by both Christianity and Islam it is interesting to look at the archaeological evidence concerning his time which is now coming to light in the twentieth century. What we find is that archaeology clearly places Abraham in Palestine and not in Arabia.
a) Abraham's name appears in Babylonia as a personal name at the very period of the patriarchs, though the critics believed he was a fictitious character who was redacted back by the later Israelites.
b) The field of Abram in Hebron is mentioned in 918 B.C., by the Pharaoh Shishak of Egypt (now also believed to be Ramases II). He had just finished warring in Palestine and inscribed on the walls of his temple at Karnak the name of the great patriarch, proving that even at this early date Abraham was known not in Arabia, as Muslims contend, but in Palestine, the land the Bible places him.
c) The Beni Hasan Tomb from the Abrahamic period, depicts Asiatics coming to Egypt during a famine, corresponding with the Biblical account of the plight of the sons of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob'.
There is further archaeology evidence which supports other Biblical accounts, such as:
d) The doors of Sodom (Tell Beit Mirsim) dated to between 2200-1600 B.C. are heavy doors needed for security; the same doors which we find in Genesis 19:9. Yet, if this account had been written between 900-600 B.C., as the critics previously claimed, we would have read about arches and curtains, because security was no longer such a concern then.
e) Joseph's price as a slave was 20 shekels (Genesis 37:28), which, according to trade tablets from that period is the correct price for 1,700 B.C. An earlier account would have been cheaper, while a later account would have been more expensive.
f) Joseph's Tomb (Joshua 24:32) has possibly been found in Shechem, as in the find there is a mummy, and next to the mummy sits an Egyptian official's sword! Is this mere coincidence?
f) Jericho's excavation showed that the walls fell outwards, echoing Joshua 6:20, enabling the attackers to climb over and into the town. Yet according to the laws of physics, walls of towns always fall inwards! A later redactor would certainly have not made such an obvious mistake, unless he was an eyewitness, as Joshua was.
g) David's capture of Jerusalem recounted in II Samuel 5:6-8 and I Chronicles 11:6 speak of Joab using water shafts built by the Jebusites to surprise them and defeat them. Historians had assumed these were simply legendary, until archaeological excavations by R.A.S. Macalister, J.G.Duncan, and Kathleen Kenyon on Ophel now have found these very water shafts.
Another new and exciting archaeological research is that which has been carried out by the British Egyptologist, David Rohl. Until a few years ago we only had archaeological evidence for the Patriarchal, Davidic and New Testament periods, but little to none for the Mosaic period. Yet one would expect much data on this period due to the cataclysmic events which occurred during that time. David Rohl (in A Test of Time) has given us a possible reason why, and it is rather simple. It seems that we have simply been off in our dates by almost 300 years! By redating the Pharonic lists in Egypt he has been able to now identify the abandoned city of the Israelite slaves (called Avaris), the death pits from the tenth plague, and Joseph's original tomb and home. There remain many 'tells' yet to uncover.
7) Summary and Conclusions re: Support From Archaeology
'In every period of Old Testament history, we find that there is good evidence from archaeology that the Scriptures speak the truth. In many instances, the Scriptures even reflect firsthand knowledge of the times and customs it describes. While many have doubted the accuracy of the Bible, time and continued research have consistently demonstrated that the Word of God is better informed than its critics.
In fact, while thousands of finds from the ancient world support in broad outline and often in detail the biblical picture, not one incontrovertible find has ever contradicted the Bible. (Geisler, BECA, 52).
D) DOCUMENTARY CONFIRMATION OF THE OLD TESTAMENT ACCOUNTS [- RELATIVE TO CORROBORATING ITS HISTORICITY]
Not only do we have accurate copies [of] the Old Testament, but the contents of the manuscripts are historically reliable.
William F. Albright, known for his reputation as one of the great archaeologists, states: 'There can be no doubt that archaeology has confirmed the substantial historicity of Old Testament tradition." (Albright, ARI, 176).
Professor H. H. Rowley (cited by Donald F. Wiseman in Revelation and the Bible) claims that 'it is not because scholars of today begin with more conservative presuppositions than their predecessors that they have a much greater respect for the Patriarchal stories than was formerly common, but because the evidence warrants it.' (Rowley, as cited in Wiseman, ACOT, in Henry, RB, 305).
Merrill Unger summarizes: 'Old Testament archaeology has rediscovered whole nations, resurrected important peoples, and in a most astonishing manner filled in historical gaps, adding immeasurably to the knowledge of biblical backgrounds.' (Unger, AOT, 15).
'New discoveries continue to confirm the historical accuracy or the literary antiquity of detail after detail in it [the Pentateuch] ... It is, accordingly sheer hypercriticism to deny the substantially Mosaic character of the Pentateuchal tradition.' (William F. Albright).
Sir Frederic Kenyon says: 'It is therefore legitimate to say that, in respect of that part of the Old Testament against which the disintegrating criticism of the last half of the nineteenth century was chiefly directed, the evidence of archaeology has been to re-establish its authority, and likewise to augment its value by rendering it more intelligible through a fuller knowledge of its background and setting. Archaeology has not yet said its last word; but the results already achieved confirm what faith would suggest, that the Bible can do nothing but gain from an increase of knowledge.' (Kenyon, BA, 279).
Archaeology has produced an abundance of evidence to substantiate the correctness of our Masoretic Text. Bernard Ramm writes of the Jeremiah Seal:
'Archaeology has also given us evidence as to the substantial accuracy of our Masoretic text. The Jeremiah Seal, a seal used to stamp the bitumen seals of wine jars, and dated from the first or second century A.D., has Jeremiah 48:11 stamped on it and, in general, conforms to the Masoretic text. This seal '... attests the accuracy with which the text was transmitted between the time when the seal was made and the time when the manuscripts were written.' Furthermore, the Roberts Papyrus, which dates to the second century B.C., and the Nash Papyrus, dated by Albright before 100 B.C., confirm our Masoretic text.' (Ramm, CITOT, 8-10).
Archaeologist Albright writes concerning the accuracy of the Scriptures as the result of archaeology: '...new discoveries continue to confirm the historical accuracy or the literary antiquity of detail after detail in it [the Pentateuch]' (Dodd, MNTS 224).
Albright comments on what the critics used to say:
'Until recently it was the fashion among biblical historians to treat the patriarchal sagas of Genesis as though they were artificial creations of Israelite scribes of the Divided Monarchy or tales told by imaginative rhapsodists around Israelite campfires during the centuries following their occupation of the country. Eminent names among scholars can be cited for regarding every item of Gen. 11-50 as reflecting late invention, or at least retrojection of events and conditions under the Monarchy into the remote past, about which nothing was thought to have been really known to the writers of later days.' (Albright, BPFAE, 1, 2).
Now it has all been changed, says Albright: 'Archaeological discoveries since 1925 have changed all this. Aside from a few die-hards among older scholars, there is scarcely a single biblical historian who has not been impressed by the rapid accumulation of data supporting the substantial historicity of patriarchal tradition. According to the traditions of Genesis the ancestors of Israel were closely related to the semi-nomadic peoples of TransJordan, Syria, the Euphrates basin and North Ababia in the last centuries of the second millennium B.C., and the first centuries of the first millennium.' (Albright, BPFAE, 1,2).
Millar Burrows continues:
'To see the situation clearly we must distinguish two kinds of confirmation, general and specific. General confirmation is a matter of compatibility without definite corroboration of particular points. Much of what has already been discussed as explanation and illustration may be regarded also as general confirmation. The picture fits the frame; the melody and the accompaniment are harmonious. The force of such evidence is cumulative. The more we find that items in the picture of the past presented by the Bible, even though not directly attested, are compatible with what we know from archaeology, the stronger is our impression of general authenticity. Mere legend or fiction would inevitably betray itself by anachronisms and incongruities. (Burrows, WMTS, 278).
The University of Chicago professor Raymond A. Bowman denotes that archaeology helps provide a balance between the Bible and critical hypothesis: 'The confirmation of the biblical narrative at most points has led to a new respect for biblical tradition and a more conservative conception of biblical history.' (Bowman, OTRGW, as cited in Willoughby, SBTT, 30).
Albright, in 'Archaeology Confronts Biblical Criticism,' says that 'archaeological and inscriptional data have established the historicity of innumerable passages and statements of the Old Testament.' (Albright, ACBC, 181)...
All it [Archaeology] can do is confirm the basic historicity or authenticity of a narrative. It can show that a certain incident fits into the time it purports to be from.'...
Writes G. E. Wright, 'What we can prove is that his [Abram's] life and times, as reflected in the stories about him, fit perfectly within the early second millennium, but imperfectly within any later period.' (Wright, BA, 40).
Millar Burrows of Yale recognized the value of archaeology in confirming the authenticity of the Scriptures:
'The Bible is supported by archaeological evidence again and again. On the whole, there can be no question that the results of excavation have increased the respect of scholars for the Bible as a collection of historical documents. The confirmation is both general and specific. The fact that the record can be so often explained or illustrated by archaeological data shows that it fits into the framework of history as only a genuine product of ancient life could do. In addition to this general authentication, however, we find the record verified repeatedly at specific points. Names of places and persons turn up at the right places and in the right periods. (Burrows, HAHSB, 6).
Joseph Free comments that he once 'thumbed through the book of Genesis and mentally noted that each of the fifty chapters are either illuminated or confirmed by some archaeological discovery - the same would be true for most of the remaining chapters of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments.' (Free, AB, 340).
1) The Creation
The opening chapters of Genesis (1-11) are typically thought to be mythological explanations derived from earlier versions of the story found in the ancient Near East. But this view chooses only to notice the similarities between Genesis and the creation stories in other ancient cultures. If we can propose derivation of the human race from one family, lus general revelation, some lingering traces of the true historical account would be expected. The differences are more important. Babylonian and Sumerian accounts describe the creation as the product of a conflict among finite gods. When one god is defeated and split in half, the River Euphrates flows from one eye and the Tigris from the other. Humanity is made of the blood of an evil god mixed with clay. These tales display the kind of distortion and embellishment to be expected when a historical account becomes mythologized.
Less likely is that the literary progression would be from this mythology to the unadorned elegance of Genesis 1. The common assumption that the Hebrew account is simply a purged and simplified version of the Babylonian legend is fallacious. In the Ancient Near East, the rule is that simple accounts or traditions give rise (by accretion and embellishment) to elaborate legends, but not the reverse. So the evidence supports the view that Genesis was not myth made into history. Rather the extrabiblical accounts were history turned into myths. (Geisler, BECA, 48, 49).
2) Tell Mardikh: The Discovery of Ebla
[Ebla tablets: 17,000 tablets from Tell Mardikh (Northern Syria), dating from 2300 B.C., shows us that a thousand years before Moses, laws, customs and events were recorded in writing in that part of the world, and that the judicial proceedings and case laws were very similar to the Deuteronomy law code (i.e. Deuteronomy 22:22-30 codes on punishment for sex offenses). One tablet mentions and lists the five cities of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim and Zoar in the exact sequence which we find in Genesis 14:8! Until these tablets were uncovered the existence of Sodom and Gomorrah had always been in doubt by historians. ]
One of the greatest archaeological finds in this century is the discovery of Ebla. In 1964 Professor Paolo Matthiae, archaeologist from the University of Rome, began a systematic excavation of a then unknown city. Due to the determination and foresight of Matthiae, in 1974 and 1975 a great royal palace was uncovered that eventually yielded over fifteen thousand tablets and fragments. Biovanni Pettinato, an epigrapher, had worked closely with Matthiae in helping to determine some of the paleographic significance of the find. At present, only a fraction of the tablets have been translated. It is now certain that upon this ancient site the once prestigious city of Ebla ruled the Near East as the seat of a great empire. Ebla is located near the modern-day city of Aleppo in North Syria.
The zenith of Ebla was principally in the third millennium B.C. (co-terminous with the time of the patriarchs). Although the Ebla texts, at present, do not specifically mention biblical people or events (although there is much debate over this issue) they do provide an abundance of background material and biblical place names for evaluating the biblical narratives. The importance of Ebla for Syrian history is most impressive. The significance of Ebla for biblical studies is phenomenal. So far only the tip of the iceberg has been seen. Although the evidence has taken time to surface, listed here is some of the support for the biblical narratives.
a) Biblical Towns
In reference to the identification of biblical towns in the Ebla archives, Kitchen notes:
'Not a few towns of biblical interest appear in the Ebla tablets, which preserve (in most cases) the earliest-known mention of these in written records.
More useful, potentially, are the Eblaite mentions of familiar Palestinian place-names such as Hazor, Megiddo, Jerusalem, Lachish, Dor, Gaza, Ashtarot (Qarnaim), etc. Several of these places are known archaeologically to have been inhabited towns in the third millennium B.C. (Early Bronze Age 111-IV), and these tablets confirm their early importance, possibly as local city states. Finally, Canaan itself now appears as a geographical entity from the later third millennium B.C., long before any other dated external mention so far known to us - it will be interesting to learn what extent is accorded to Canaan in the Ebla texts. (Kitchen, BIW, 53, 54).
b) Biblical Names
'The most important contributions of the Ebla occurrences of these and other such names are (i) to emphasize once more that these are names used by real human individuals (never by gods, or exclusively [if ever] by tribes, or by fairytale figures), and (ii) to indicate the immense antiquity of names of this type, and of these names in particular.' (Kitchen, BIW, 53).
Dr. Giovannit Pettinato gives clear Eblaite variations on such Hebrew names as Israel, Ishmael, and Micaiah. (Pettinato, RATME, 50).
c) Ancient Near-Eastern Tribute
Some consider the tribute received by Solomon at the height of his empire as fanciful exaggeration. But the find at Ebla offers a different interpretation of the accounts.
'Imperial Ebla at the height of its power must have had a vast income. From one defeated king of Mari alone, a tribute of 11,000 pounds of silver and 880 pounds of gold was exacted on one occasion. This ten tons [sic] of silver and over one third of a tone of gold was no mean haul in itself. Yet it was simply one 'delectable extra' so far as the treasury-accounts of Ebla were concerned. In such an economic context, the 666 talents (about twenty tons) of gold as Solomon's basic income from his entire 'empire' some 15 centuries later (1 Kings 10:14; II Chronicles 9:13) loses its air of exaggeration and begins to look quite prosaic as just part of a wider picture of the considerable (if transient) wealth of major kingdoms of the ancient biblical world.
The comparisons just given do not prove that Solomon actually did receive 666 talents of gold, or that his kingdom was organized just as Kings describes. But they do indicate clearly (i) that the Old Testament data must be studied in the context of their world and not in isolation, and (ii) that the scale of activity portrayed in the Old Testament writings is neither impossible nor even improbble when measured by the relevant external standards. (Kitchen, BIW, 51, 52).
d) Religious Practices
The Ebla texts reveal that many of the Old Testament religious practices are not as 'late' as some critical scholars have espoused.
'In matters like priests, cult and offerings the records from Ebla so far merely reinforce for Syria-Palestine what we already know for Egypt, Mesopotamia and Anatolia in the third, second and first millennia B.C., and from the records of North-Syrian Qatna and Ugarit for the second millennium B.C. Namely, that well-organized temple cults, sacrifices, rull rituals, etc., were a constant feature of ancient Near-Eastern religious life at all periods from prehistory down to Graeco-Roman times. They have nothing to do with baseless theories of the nineteenth century A.D., whereby such features of religious life can only be a mark of 'late sophistication,' virtually forbidden to the Hebrews until after the Babylonian exile - alone of all the peoples of the ancient East. There is simply no rational basis for the quaint idea that the simple rites of Moses' tabernacle (cf. Leviticus) or of Solomon's temple, both well over 1000 years later than the rituals practiced in half-a-dozen Eblaite temples, must be the idle invention of idealizing writers as late as the fifth century B.C. (Kitchen, BIW, 5).
Giovanni Pettinato comments on the source of the specifics referred to by Kitchen:
'Passing on to the divine cult, we note the existence of the temples of Dagan, Astar, Kamos, Rasap, all attested in the texts from Ebla. Among the offerings are listed bread, drinks or even animals. Two tablets in particular, TM, 75, G, 1974 and TM, 75, G, 2238, stand out because they record the offerings of various animals to different gods made by all the members of the royal family during a single month. For example, '11 sheep for the god Adad ... as an offering, ' '12 sheep for the god Dagan ... as an offering,' '10 sheep for the god Rasap of the city Edani ... as an offering.
Among the more interesting aspects of the divine cult at Ebla is the presence of diverse categories of priests and priestesses, including two classes of prophets, the mahhu and the nabiutum, the second of which finds a natural counterpart in the Old Testament. To explain the biblical phenomenon scholars have hitherto looked to mari for background, but in the future Ebla will also claim their attention. (Pettinato, RATME, 49).
e) Hebrew Words
K.A. Kitchen speaks of the critical view of Scripture held by many liberal scholars: 'Seventy or a hundred years ago, no such vast depth of perspective was possible; and to suit the purely theoretical reconstructions of Old Testament books and history by German Old Testament scholars in particular, many words in Hebrew were labeled 'late' - 600 B.C. and later, in effect. By this simple means, mere philosophical prejudices could be given the outward appearance of a 'scientific' reconstruction down to the present day.' (Kitchen, BIW, 50).
As a reply, he continues:
'However, the immense growth in our knowledge of the earlier history of words found in Old Testament Hebrew tends now to alter all this. If a given word is used in Ebla in 2300 B.C., and in Ugarit in 1300 B.C., then it cannot by any stretch of the imagniation be a 'late word' (600 B.C.!), or an 'Aramaism' at periods when standard Aramaic had not yet evolved. It becomes instead an early word, a part of the ancestral inheritance of biblical Hebrew. More positively, the increased number of contexts that one gains for rarer words can provide useful confirmation - or correction - of our understanding of their meaning.' (Kitchen, BIW, 50).
Referring to specific words, Kitchen states:
'Thus, to go back to the survey of city officials at Ebla, the term used for those scores of 'leaders' was nase, the same word as nasi, a term in biblical Hebrew used for leaders of the tribes of Israel (e.g., Numbers 1:16, 44, etc.), and applied to other purely human rulers such as Solomon (I Kings 11:34). Old-fashioned biblical criticism declared the word to be 'late,' a mark of the hypothetical 'priestly code' for example.
The word hetem, 'gold,' is in Hebrew a rare and poetic synonym for zahab, and is commonly dismissed as 'late.' Unfortunately for this misdating, the word was borrowed into Egyptian from Canaanite back in the twelfth century B.C., and now - over 1000 years earlier still - recurs as kutim in the Paleo-Canaanite of Ebla, 2300 B.C. (Kitchen, BIW, 50).
'The Hebrew word tehom, 'deep,' was not borrowed from Babylonian, seeing that it is attested not only in Ugaritic as thmt (thirteenth century B.C.) but also in Ebla a thousand years earlier (ti'amatum). The term is Common Semitic.
As an example of a rare word confirmed in both existence and meaning, one may cite Hebrew ereshet, 'desire,' which occurs just once in the Bible, in Psalm 21:2 (Heb. 21:3). Besides being found in Ugaritic in the thirteenth century B.C.) this word now appears a millennium earlier at Ebla as irisatum (Eblaite or Old Akkadian) in the Sumerian/Eblaite vocabulary tablets.
Finally, the supposed 'late' verb hadash / hiddesh, 'be new' 'to renew' goes back - again - via Ugaritic (hadath) to Eblaite (h)edash(u). And so on, for many more besides.' (Kitchen, BIW, 50, 51).
'The lessons here are - or should be - clear. Set against two thousand years of history and development of the West Semitic dialects, the whole position of the dating of the vocabulary and usages in biblical Hebrew will need to be completely reexamined. The truth appears to be that early West Semitic in the third and second millennia B.C. had in common a vast and rich vocabulary, to which the later dialects such as Canaanite, Hebrew, Phoenician, Aramaic, etc., fell heirs - but in uneven measure. Words that remained in everyday prosaic use in one of these languages lingered on only in high-flown poetry or in traditional expressions in another of the group. Thus, not a few supposed 'late words' or 'Aramaisms' in Hebrew (especially in poetry) are nothing more than early West-Semitic words that have found less use in Hebrew but have stayed more alive in Aramaic. (Kitchen, BIW, 51).
3) The Flood of Noah
As with the creation accounts, the flood narrative in Genesis is more realistic and less mythological than other ancient versions, indicating its authenticity. The superficial similarities point toward a historical core of events that gave rise to all accounts not toward plagiarism by Moses. The names change. Noah is called Ziusudra by the Sumerians and Utnapishtim by the Babylonians. The basic story doesn't. A man is told to build a ship to specific dimensions because God(s) is going to flood the world. He does it, rides out the storm, and offers sacrifice upon exiting the boat. The Deity (-ies) responds with remorse over the destruction of life, and makes a covenant with the man. These core events point to a historical basis.
Similar flood accounts are found all over the world. The flood is told of by the Greeks, the Hindus, the Chinese, the Mexicans, the Algonquins, and the Hawaiians. One list of Sumerian kings treats the flood as a historical reference point. After naming eight kings who lived extraordinarily long lives (tens of thousands of years), this sentence interrupts the list: '[Then] the Flood swept over [the earth] and when kingship was lowered [again] from heaven, kingship was [first] in Kish.'
There are good reasons to believe that Genesis gives the original story. The other versions contain elaborations indicating corruption. Only in Genesis is the year of the flood given, as well as dates for the chronology relative to Noah's life. In fact, Genesis reads almost like a diary or ship's log of the events. The cubical Babylonian ship could not have saved anyone. The raging waters would have constantly turned it on every side. However, the biblical ark is rectangular - long, wide, and low - so that it would ride the rough seas well. The length of the rainfall in the pagan accounts (seven days is not enough time for the devastation they describe. The waters would have to rise at least above most mountains, to a height of above seventeen thousand feet, and it is more reasonable to assume a longer rainfall to do this. The Babylonian idea that all of the flood waters subsided in one day is equally absurd.
Another striking difference between Genesis and the other versions is that in these accounts the hero is granted immortality and exalted. The Bible moves on to Noah's sin. Only a version that seeks to tell the truth would include this realistic admission.
4) The Tower of Babel
There is now considerable evidence that the world did indeed have a single language at one time. Sumerian literature alludes to this fact several times. Linguists also find this theory helpful in categorizing languages. But what of the tower and the confusion of tongues at the Tower of Babel (Gen. 11)? Archaeology has revealed that Ur-Nammu, king of Ur from about 2044 to 2007 B.C. supposedly received orders to build a great ziggurat (temple tower) as an act of worship to the moon god Nannat. A stele (monument) about five feet across and ten feet high reveals Ur-Nammu's activities. One panel has him setting out with a mortar basket to begin construction of the great tower; thus showing his allegiance to the gods by taking his place as a humble workman. Another clay tablet states that the erection of the tower offended the gods, so they threw down what the men had built, scattered them abroad, and made their speech strange. This is remarkably similar to the record in the Bible.
According to Scripture, 'The whole earth had one language and one speech' (Gen 11:1) before the Tower of Babel. After the building of the tower and its destruction, God confounded the language of all the earth (Gen 11:9). Many modern day philologists attest to the likelihood of such an origin for the world's languages. Alfredo Trombetti says he can trace and prove the common origin of all languages. Max Mueller also attests to the common origin. And Otto Jespersen goes so far as to say that language was directly given to the first men by God. (Free, ABH, 47).
5) The Patriarchs
While the narratives of the lives of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob do not present the same kinds of difficulties as do the earlier chapters of Genesis, they were long considered legendary because they did not seem to fit with the known evidence of that period. As more has become known, though, these stories are increasingly verified. Legal codes from the time of Abraham show why the patriarch would have been hesitant to throw Hagar out of his camp, for he was legally bound to support her. Only when a higher law came from God was Abraham willing to put her out.
[Mari tablets: (from the Euphrates) mentions king Arriyuk, or Arioch of Genesis 14, and lists the towns of Nahor and Harran (from Genesis 24:10), as well as the names Benjamin and Habiru.]
The Mari letters reveal such names as Abramram (Abraham), Jacob-el, and Benjamites. Though these do not refer to the biblical people, they at least show that the names were in use. These letters also support the record of a war in Genesis 14 where five kings fought against four kings. The names of these kings seem to fit with the prominent nations of the day. For example, Genesis 14:1 mentions an Amorite king Arioch; the Mari documents render the king's name Ariwwuk. All of this evidence leads to the conclusion that the source materials of Genesis were firsthand accounts of someone who lived during Abraham's time. (Geisler, BECA, 50).
In another study done by Kitchen (Kitchen, TPAMH, 48-95), he gives examples of archaeological factors for dating the patriarchs during the Middle Bronze Age.
'The Biblical data match objective facts from the ancient world in an almost uncanny way, establishing the general reliability of the Biblical periods. (48)
One important item involves the price of slaves in silver shekels. From Ancient Near Eastern sources we know the price of slaves in some detail for a period lasting about 2000 years, from 2400 B.C. to 400 B.C.... These data provide a solid body of evidence that we can compare with the figures in the Bible, in which the price of slaves is mentioned on several occasions (Genesis 37:28; Exodus 20 ff; Exodus 21:32; 2 Kings 15:20) ... In each case the Biblical narrative slave price fits the general period to which it relates. (52).'
Now, however, there is quietly mounting evidence that the basic inherited outline - from the patriarchs through the Exodus to the Israelites' entry into Canaan, the united monarchy and then the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah, and the Exile and return - is essentially sound. (94).
6) Geneaology of Abraham
We find that the genealogy of Abraham is definitely historical. However, there seems to be some question as to whether or not these names represent individuals of ancient cities, although ancient cities often took the name of their founding fathers. The one thing that is certain about Abraham is that he was an individual and that he did exist. As we hear from Burrows: 'Everything indicates that here we have an historical individual. As noted above, he is not mentioned in any known archaeological source, but his name appears in Babylonia as a personal name in the very period to which he belongs.' (Burrows, WMTS, 258, 259).
Earlier attempts had been made to move the date of Abraham to the fifteenth or fourteenth century B.C., a time much too late for him. However, Albright points out that because of the data mentioned above and other evidence we have 'a great deal of evidence from personal and place names, almost all of which is against such unwarranted telescoping of traditional data.' (Garstang, GBHJJ, 9).
7) Genealogy of Esau
In the genealogy of Esau, there is mention made of the Horites (Gen 36:20). It was at one time accepted that these people were 'cave-dwellers' because of the similarity between Horite and the Hebrew word for cave - thus the idea that they lived in caves. Now, however, findings have shown that they were a prominent group of warriors living in the Near East in Patriarchal times. (Free, ABH, 72).
8) Isaac: The Oral Blessing Episode (Genesis 27)
It would seem, indicates Joseph Free, a most unusual event that Isaac did not take his oral blessing back when he discovered Jacob's deception. However, the Nuzi Tablets tell us that such an oral declaration was perfectly legal and binding. One tablet records a lawsuit involving a woman who was to wed a man, but his jealous brothers contested it. The man won the suit because his father had orally promised the woman to him. Oral statements carried a very different weight then than they do today. The Nuzi texts came from a similar culture to that in Genesis. (Free, AL, 322, 323).
[*Nuzi tablets: (from Iraq) speaks about a number of customs which we find in the Pentateuch, such as: a) a barren wife giving a handmaiden to her husband (i.e. Hagar) b) a bride chosen for the son by the father (i.e. Rebekah) c) a dowry paid to the father-in-law (i.e. Jacob) d) work done to pay a dowry (i.e. Jacob) e) the unchanging oral will of a father (i.e. Isaac) f) a father giving his daughter a slave-girl (i.e. Leah, Rachel) g) the sentence of death for stealing a cult god (i.e. Jacob). ]
G. Ernest Wright explains this serious action: 'Oral blessings or death-bed wills were recognized as valid at Nuzi as well as in Patriarchal society. Such blessings were serious matters and were irrevocable. We recall that Isaac was prepared to keep his word even though his blessing had been extorted by Jacob under false pretenses. 'And Isaac trembled with a very great trembling and said: 'Whoever it was that hunted game and brought it to me and I ate... even he shall be blessed.' (Gen 27:33)' (Wright, PSBA, as cited in Willoughby, SBTT, 43).
In commenting further on the above Nuzi record, Cyrus Gordon draws three points: 'This text conforms with biblical blessings like those of the Patriarchs in that it is (a) an oral will, (b) with legal validity, (c) made to a son by a dying father.' (Gordon, BCNT, 8).
Thus a clearer light is thrown on a culture that we know inadequately at best.
a) The Purchase of Esau's Birthright
Gordon provides information on this episode in Genesis 25: 'Few incidents in family life seem more peculiar to us than Esau's sale of his birthright to his twin brother, Jacob. It has been pointed out that one of the [Nuzi] tablets ... portrays a similiar event.' (Gordon, BCNT, 3, 5).
The tablet to which Gordon refers is explained by Wright: 'Esau's sale of his birthright to Jacob is also paralleled in the Nuzi tablets where one brother sells a grove, which he has inherited, for three sheep! This would seem to have been quite as uneven a bargain as that of Esau: 'Esau said to Jacob: 'Give me, I pray, some of that red pottage to eat...' And Jacob said: 'Sell me first thy birthright.' And Esau said: 'Behold I am about to die (of hunger); what is a birthright to me?' And Jacob said: 'Swear to me first.' And he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and a mess of lentils and he ate and drank' (25:30-34).' (Writht, PSBA, as cited in Willoughby, SBTT, 43).
Free explains further. 'In one Nuzi tablet, there is a record of a man named Tupkitilla, who transferred his inheritance rights concerning a grove to his brother, Jurpazah, in exchange for three sheep. Esau used a similar technique in exchanging his inheritance rights to obtain the desired pottage.' (Free, ABH, 68, 69).
S. H. Horn, in 'Recent Illumination of the Old Testament' (Christianity Today), draws a colorful conclusion:
'Esau sold his rights for food in the pot, while Tupkitilla sold his for food still on the hoof.' (Horn, RIOT, 14, 15).
b) The Jacob and Laban Episode (Genesis 29)
Cyrus Gordon claims that we can understand even Genesis 29 by episodes in the Nuzi Tablets: 'Laban agrees to give a daughter in marriage to Jacob when he makes him a member of the household; 'It is better that I give her to thee than that I give her to another man. Dwell with me!' (Genesis 29:9). Our thesis that Jacob's joining Laban's household approximates Wullu's [a person mentioned in the Tablets] adoption is born out by other remarkable resemblances with the Nuzu document.' (Gordon, BCNT, 6).
c) The Stolen Images Episode (Genesis 31)
This event has been explained by other Nuzi discoveries. The following, from J.P. Free's 'Archaeology and the Bible' (His Magazine), gives a good explanation not only of the episode, but also of the background on the Nuzi Tablets themselves:
'Over 1,000 clay tablets were found in 1925 in the excavation of a Mesopotamian site known today as Yorgan Tepe. Subsequent work brought forth another 3,000 tablets and revealed the ancient site as 'Nuzi.' The tablets, written about 1500 B.C., illuminate the background of the Biblical patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. One instance will be cited: When Jacob and Rachel left the home of Laban, Rachel stole Laban's family images or 'teraphim.' When Laban discovered the theft, he pursued his daughter and son-in-law, and after a long journey overtook them (Genesis 31:19-23). Commentators have long wondered why he would go to such pains to recover images he could have replaced easily in the local shop. The Nuzi tablets record one instance of a son-in-law who possessed the family images having the right to lay legal claim to his father-in-law's property, a fact which explains Laban's anxiety. This and other evidence from the Nuzi tablets fits the background of the Patriarchal accounts into the early period when the patriarchs lived, and does not support the cirical view - which holds that the accounts were written 100 years after their time. (Free, AB, 20).
Thanks to archaeology, we are beginning to understand the actual setting of much of the Bible.
a) Selling into Slavery
K.A. Kitchen brings out in his book, Ancient Orient and Old Testament, that Genesis 37:28 gives the correct price for a slave in the eighteenth century B.C.: 'The price of twenty shekels of silver paid for Joseph in Genesis 37:28 is the correct average price for a slave in about the eighteenth century B.C.: earlier than this, slaves were cheaper (average, ten to fifteen shekels), and later they became steadily dearer. This is one more little detail true to its period in cultural history.' (Kitchen, AOOT, 52-53).
b) The Visit to Egypt
The possibility of Joseph's visit to Egypt has been questioned by some. Millar Burrows points out: 'Accounts of going down to Egypt in times of famine (12:10; 42:1, 2) bring to mind Egyptian references to Asiatics who came to Egypt for this purpose. A picture of visiting Semites may be seen on the wall of a tomb at Beni Hasan which comes from a time not far from that of Abraham.' (Burrows, WMTS, 266, 267).
Howard Vos (Genesis and Archaeology) also points out the presence of the Hyksos in Egypt.
'But we have much more than the pictorial representation from Knumhotep's tomb to support the early entrance of foreigners into Egypt. There are many indications that the Hyksos began to infiltrate the Nile Valley around 1900 B.C. Other contingents came about 1730 and overwhelmed the native Egyptian rulers. So if we take an early date for the entrance of the Hebrews into Egypt, they would have come in during the period of Hyksos infiltration - when many foreigners were apparently entering. If we accept a date of about 1700 or 1650 B.C. for the entrance of the Hebrews, the Hyksos would have been ruling Egypt and likely would have received other foreigners.' (Vos, GA, 102.)
Vos goes on to draw four connections between the Hyksos tribes and the Bible. One, the Egyptians considered the Hyksos and the Hebrews as different. Two, it is a possiblility that the rising Egyptian king who was antagonistic toward Joseph's people (Ex 1:8) was the nationalistic Egyptian king. Naturally such a fever of nationalism would not be healthy for any foreigners. Three, Genesis 47:17 is the first instance where horses are mentioned in the Bible. The Hyksos introduced horses to Egypt. Four, after the Hyksos expulsion, much land was concentrated in the hands of the monarchs; this fits with the events of the famine that Joseph predicted and through which he strengthened the crown (Vos, GA, 104).
c) Joseph's Promotions
The following is a summary of Howard Vos's discussion of the question of Joseph's admitedly unique rise, found in his Genesis and Archaeology:
'Joseph's being lifted from slavery to prime minister of Egypt has caused some critical eyebrows to rise, but we have some archaeological accounts of similar things happening in the land of the Nile.
A Canaanite Meri-Ra, became armor bearer to Pharaoh: another Canaanite, Ben-Mat-Ana, was appointed to the high position of interpreter; and a Semite, Yanhamu or Jauhamu, became deputy to Amenhotep III, with charge over the granaries of the delta, a responsibility similar to that of Joseph before and during the famine.
When Pharaoh appointed Joseph prime minister, he was given a ring and a gold chain or a collar which is normal procedure for Egyptian office promotions.' (Vos, GA, 106).
"Yamhamu held, then, a very prominent position in Egyptian affairs. His name appears in correspondance from princes up and down Palestine-Syria. At the beginning of the Rib-Adda period, Yanhamu seems to have been in charge of the issuing of supplies from the Egyptian bread-basket called Yarimuta, and we have already seen that Rib-Adda was apparently constantly in need of his services."
E. Campbell, commenting on the Amorna period, further discusses this parallel of Joseph's rise to power:
'One figure in the Rib-Adda correspondence constitutes an interesting link both with the princes of the cities in Palestine to the south and with the Bible. He is Yanhamu, whom Rib-Adda at one point describes as the musallil of the king. The term means, in all likelihood, the fanbearer of the king, an honorary title referring to one who is very close to the king, presumably sharing in counsels on affairs of state. Yanhamu held, then, a very prominent position in Egyptian affairs. His name appears in correspondence from princes up and down Palestine-Syria. At the beginning of the Rib-Adda period, Yanhamu seems to have been in charge of the issuing of supplies from the Egyptian bread-basket called Yarimuta, and we have already seen that Rib-Adda was apparently constantly in need of his services.
Yanhamu has a Semitic name. This, of course, suggests further parallel to the Joseph narrative in Genesis, beyond the fact that both are related to the supplies of food for foreigners. Yanhamu offers an excellent confirmation of the genuinely Egyptian background of the Joseph narrative, but this does not mean, of course, that these men are identical, or that they functioned at the same time. Indeed Joseph may better fit into the preceding period for a number of reasons, although the evidence as yet precludes anything approaching certainty. It is clear that Semites could rise to positions of great authority in Egypt: they may even have been preferred at a time when indigenous leadership got too powerful or too inbred.' (Campbell, as cited in Burrows, WMTS, 16, 17).
With regard to Semites rising to power in Egyptian government, Kitchen - with reference to various ancient papyri - comments:
'Asiatic slaves in Egypt, attached to the households of officials, are well-known in later Middle-Kingdom Egypt (c. 1850-1700 B.C.) and Semites could rise to high position (even the throne, before the Hyksos period), as did the chancellor Hur. Joseph's career would fall easily enough into the period of the late thirteenth and early fifteenth dynasties. The role of dreams is, of course, well-known at all periods. From Egypt, we have a dream-reader's textbook in a copy of c. 1300 B.C., originating some centuries earlier; such works are known in first-millennium Assyria also.' (Kitchen, BW, 74).
d) Joseph's Tomb
John Elder in his Prophets, Idols, and Diggers reveals:
'In the last verses of Genesis it is told how Joseph adjured his relatives to take his bones back to Canaan whenever God should restore them to their original home, and in Joshua 24:32 it is told how his body was indeed brought to Palestine and buried at Shechem. For centuries there was a tomb at Shechem reverenced as the tomb of Joseph. A few years ago the tomb was opened. It was found to contain a body mummified according to the Egyptian custom, and in the tomb, among other things, was a sword of the kind worn by Egyptian officials.' (Elder, PID, 54).
11) Regarding the Patriarchs - Concluding Arahaeological Evidence
The Nuzi discoveries have played a central role in illuminating different portions of this section. S. H. Horn lists six areas of influence the texts have exercised:
'Other [Nuzi] texts show that a bride was ordinarily chosen for a son by his father, as the partriarchs did; that a man had to pay a dowry to his father-in-law, or to work for his father-in-law, if he could not afford the dowry, as poor Jacob had to do; that the orally expressed will of a father could not be changed after it had been pronounced, as in Isaac's refusal to change the blessings pronounced over Jacob even though they had been obtained by deception; that a bride ordinarily received from her father a slave girl as a personal maid, as Leah and Rachel did when they were married to Jacob; that the theft of cult objects or of a god was punishable by death, which was why Jacob consented to the death of the one with whom the stolen gods of his father-in-law were found; that the strange relationship between Judah and his daughter-in-law Tamar is vividly illustrated by the laws of the ancient Assyrians and Hittites.' (Horn, RIOT, 14).
Arachaeology has indeed had an impact on our knowledge of Bible backgrounds.
12) The Assyrian Invasion
Much was learned about the Assyrians when twenty-six thousand tablets were found in the palace of Ashurbanipal, son of the Esarhaddon, who took the northern kingdoms into captivity in 722 B.C. These tablets tell of the many conquests of the Assyrian empire and record the cruel and violent punishments that fell to those who opposed them.
Several of these records confirm the Bible's accuracy. Every reference in the Old Testament to an Assyrian king has been proven correct. Even though Sargon was unknown for some time, when his palace was found and excavated, there was a wall painting of the battle mentioned in Isaiah 20. The Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser adds to our knowledge of biblical figures by showing Jehu (or his emissary) bowing down to the king of Assyria.
Among the most interesting finds is Sennacherib's record of the siege of Jerusalem. Thousands of men died and the rest scattered when he attempted to take the city and, as Isaiah had foretold, he was unable to conquer it. Since he could not boast about his great victory here, Sennacherib found a way to make himself sound good without admitting defeat. (Geisler, BECA, 52).
Historical records indicate that with a battle imminent with Tirhakah and a seige to commence upon Jerusalem, Sennacherib suddenly abandoned his campaign to conquer Egypt and destroy Jerusalem and returned to his land. According to Scripture when Sennacherib heard that Tirhakah was coming out to fight against him, he sent his messengers to Hezekiah with a second blasphemous threatening demand to surrender. And while he was moving to meet Tirhakah on the battlefield, he suddenly abandonned it all and returned to his land. A number of historical sources indicated that the great Assyrian army encamped on the Palestinian border at Jerusalem was completely annihilated at that time, leaving Jerusalem completely untouched and Egypt unconquered. Some contended that it was due to a plague of disease, others to a plague of leather eating mice as a result of prayer to the Egyptian gods. Sennacherib completely omitted reference to his retreat in his annals. Scripture indicated that the cause of the annihilation was the Angel of the LORD. Thereafter, Sennacherib did not return westward to finish his campaign. He left Egypt and Jerusalem alone to prosper, and with no further tribute to pay - precisely as prophesied by the LORD and reported in Scripture by Isaiah.
...[Josephus, Herodotus, K.A. Kitchen]
13) The Babylonian Captivity
Various facets of Old Testament history regarding the Babylonian captivity have been confirmed. Records found in Babylon's famous hanging gardens have shown that Jehoiachin and his five sons were given a monthly ration and a place to live and were treated well (2 Kings 25:27-30). The name of Belshazzar caused problems, because there was not only no mention of him, but no room for him in the list of Babylonian kings; however, Nabodonius left a record that he appointed his son, Belshazzar (Daniel 5), to reign for a few years in his absence. Hence, Nabodonius was still king, but Belshazzar ruled in the capital. Also, the edict of Cyrus as recorded by Ezra seemed to fit the picture of Isaiah's prophecies too well to be real, until a cylinder was found that confirmed the decree in all the important details. (Geisler, BECA, 52).
14) The Lachish Letters
William F. Albright, in his Religion in Life article, 'The Bible After Twenty Years of Archaeology,' introduces us to this find:
'We mention the new documents from the sixth and fifth centuries B.C., which have come to light since 1935. In 1935 the late J. L. Starkey discovered the Ostraca of Lachish, consisting chiefly of letters written in ink on potsherds. Together with several additional ostraca found in 1938, they form a unique body of Hebrew prose from the time of the Exile comes from the ration lists of Nebuchadnezzar, found by the Germans at Babylon and partly published by E. F. Weidner in 1939... Somewhat later but of decisive value for our understanding of the history and literature of the Jews in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah are the continuing finds and publications of Aramaic papyri and Ostraca from Egypt. Four large groups of this material are being published, and their complete publication will more than double the total bulk of such documents available twenty years ago.' (Albright, BATYA, 539).
'In these letters we find ourselves in exactly the age of Jeremiah, with social and political conditions agreeing perfectly with the picture drawn in the book that bears his name. The Lachish Letters take their place worthily between the Ostraca of Samaria and the Elephantine Papyri as epigraphic monuments of Biblical Hebrew history.' (William F. Albright).
R. S. Haupert wrote a survey article on these finds, 'Lachish - Frontier Fortress of Judah.' He goes into the authorship and background of the letters:
'Most of the best preserved are letters written by a certain Hoshaiah (a good biblical name: Neh 12:32; Jer 42:1; 43:2), apparently a subordinate military officer stationed at an outpost or observation point not far from Lachish, to Yaosh, the commanding officer of Lachish. That the letters were all written within a period of a few days or weeks is indicated by the fact that the pieces of pottery on which they were written were from jars of similar shape and date, and five of the pieces actually fit together as fragments of the same original vessel. The fact that all but two of the letters were found on the floor of the guardroom naturally suggest that they were deposited there by Yaosh himself upon receiving them from Hoshaiah.' (Haupert, LEFJ, 30, 31).
a) Dating and Historical Setting
Albright wrote a special article on this find, 'The Oldest Hebrew Letters: Lachish Ostraca,' in the Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, in which he deals with the setting of the letters:
'In the course of this sketch it will have become increasingly evident to the attentive reader that the language of the Lachish documents is perfect classical Hebrew. The divergences from biblical usage are much fewer and less significant than supposed by Torczner. In these letters we find ourselves in exactly the age of Jeremiah, with social and political conditions agreeing perfectly with the picture drawn in the book that bears his name. The Lachish Letters take their place worthily between the Ostraca of Samaria and the Elephantine Papyri as epigraphic monuments of Biblical Hebrew history.' (Albright, OHL, 17).
G. E. Wright, in 'The Present State of Biblical Archaeology,' dates the letters by internal evidence:
'On Letter XX are the words 'the ninth year,' that is, of King Zedekiah. That is the same year in which Nebuchadnezzar arrived to begin the reduction of Judah: 'in the ninth year..., in the tenth month' (II Kings 25:1; this would be about January 588 B.C., the siege of Jerusalem continuing to July 587 B.C. - II Kings 25:2, 3).' (Wright, PSBA, as cited in Willoughby, SBTT, 179).
Millar Burrows (What Mean These Stones?) agrees with Wright: 'At Lachish evidence of two destructions not far apart has been found; undoubtedly they are to be attributed to Nebuchadnezzar's invasions of 597 and 587 B.C. The now famous Lachish letters were found in the debris from the second of these destructions.' (Burrows, WMTS, 107).
Albright sums up the question of the dating of the finds: 'Starkey has contributed a useful sketch of the discovery, explaining the archaeological situation in which the Ostraca were found and fixing their date just before the final destruction of Lachish at the end of Zedekiah's reign. The facts are so clear that Torczner has surrendered his objections to this date, which is now accepted by all students.' (Albright, OHL, 11, 12).
b) Old Testament Background
Jeremiah 34:6, 7 reads as follows: 'Then Jeremiah the prophet spoke all these words to Zedekiah king of Judah in Jerusalem when the king of Babylon's army fought against Jerusalem and all the cities of Judah that were left, against Lachish and Azekah; for only these fortified cities remained of the cities of Judah.'
Israel had been in a futile rebellion against Nebuchadnezzar, Judah was not united in this revolt. Jeremiah preached submission, while the Jewish leaders could only speak of resistance - and resist they did, though they were soundly defeated by the powers of Nebuchadnezzar. In the final days of the rebellion, the last vestiges of Hebrew independence were embodied in a pair of outposts, Lachish and Azekah, thirty-five miles southwest of Jerusalem. From Lachish came a series of letters giving a graphic picture of what it was like to be in such a situation. These add greatly to our knowledge of Old Testament background. This discovery is known as the Lachish Letters (or Ostraca).
c) The Content of the Letters and the Gedaliah Seal
For sake of convenience, each of the letters was labeled with a number. Haupert gives an overview of Letters II through VI:
'Throughout this group of letters [Letters II-VI] Hoshaiah is continually defending himself to his superior, although the charges against him are not always clear. It is tempting to think that he is in sympathy with the Jeremiah faction which wanted to submit to the Babylonians instead of rebelling; but, of course, we cannot be sure.' (Haupert, LFFJ, 31).
He then touches on seveal of them:
i) Letter I
'Letter I ... though only a list of names, is of striking significance since three of the nine names which occur - Gemariah, Jaazanian, and Neriah - appear in the Old Testament only in the time of Jeremiah. A fourth name is Jeremiah, which, however, is not limited in the Old Testament to the prophet Jeremiah, and need not refer to him. A fifth name, likewise not limited to this period, is Mattaniah, which biblical students will recognize as the pre-throne name of King Zedekiah.' (Haupert, LEFJ, 31).
ii) Letter III
'In Letter III Hoshaiah reports to Yaosh that a royal mission is on the way to Egypt, and that a company of this group has been sent to his outpost (or to Lachish) for provisions, an allusion which points directly to the intrigues of the pro-Egyptian party under Zedekiah. Of unusal interest is the reference in the same letter to 'the prophet.' Some writers have confidently identified this prophet with Jeremiah. This is entirely possible, but we cannot be certain and should be careful about pushing the evidence too far.' (Haupert, LEFJ, 32).
iii) Letter IV
J. P. Free (Archaeology and Bible History) speaks of Letter IV, an often-mentioned one:
'In the days of Jeremiah when the Babylonian army was taking one town after another in Judah (about 589-586 B.C.), we are told in the Bible that, as yet, the two cities of Lachish and Azekah had not fallen (Jer 34:7). Striking confirmation of the fact that these two cities were among those still holding out is furnished by the Lachish letters. Letter No. 4, written by the army officer at a military outpost to his superior officer at Lachish, says, 'We are watching for the signals of Lachish according to all indications which my Lord hath given, for we cannot see Azekah.' This letter not only shows us how Nebuchadnezzar's army was tightening its net around the land of Judah, but also evidences the close relationship between Lachish and Azekah which are similarly linked in the book of Jeremiah.' (Free, ABH, 223).
Haupert sees it from another angle: 'The final statement of Letter IV affords an intimate glimpse into the declining days of the Kingdom of Judah. Hoshaiah concludes: 'Investigate, and (my lord) will know that for the fire-signals of Lachish we are watching, according to all the signs which my lord has given, for we cannot see Azekah.' This statement calls to mind immediately the passage in Jer 34:7.' (Haupert, LEFJ, 32).
Wright adds his view of the reference to not seeing Azekah: 'When Hoshaiah says that he 'cannot see Azekah,' he may mean that the latter city has already fallen and is no longer sending signals. At any rate, we here learn that Judah had a signal system, presumably by fire or smoke, and the atmosphere of the letters reflects the worry and disorder of a besieged country. A date in the autumn of 589 (or 588) B.C. has been suggested for the bulk of the letters.' (Wright, PSBA, as cited in Willoughby, SBTT, 179).
iv) Letter VI
Joseph Free points out the close relationship between Letter VI and Jeremiah's writings:
'J. L. Starkey found (1935) a group of eighteen potsherds bearing on their surface several military messages written by an army officer to his superior officer stationed at Lachish. W. F. Albright has pointed out ['A Brief History of Judah from the Days of Josiah to Alexander the Great,' Biblical Archaeologist, Vol. 9, No. 1, February, 1946, p. 4] that in one of these letters (No. 6) the army officer complains that the royal officials (sarim) had sent out circular letters which 'weaken the hands' of the people. The army officer who wrote this Lachish letter used the expression, 'weaken the hands,' to describe the effect of the over-optimism of the royal officials, wheras the officials, referred to in the book of Jeremiah (38:4), in turn had used the same expression in describing the effect of Jeremiah's realistic prophecy concerning the approaching fall of Jerusalem. The royal officials were deemed guilty of the very action which they sought to ascribe to Jeremiah.' (Free, ABH, 222).
v) Gedaliah Seal
John Elder points out yet another find in addition to the Ostraca, which adds even more weight to the biblical story of Lachish:
'The nearby city fortress of Lachish provides clear proof that it had been twice burned over a short period of time, coinciding with the two captures of Jerusalem. In Lachish the imprint of a clay seal was found, its back still show the fibers of the papyrus to which it had been attached. It reads: 'The property of Gedaliah who is over the house.' We meet this distinguished individual in II Kings 25:22, where we are told: 'And as for the people that remained in the land of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had left, even over them he made Gedaliah ... ruler.' (Elder, PID, 108, 109).
vi) Significance of Lachish Findings and Conclusion
Haupert concludes: 'The real significance of the Lachish Letters can hardly be exaggerated. No archaeological discovery to date [prior to the Dead Sea Scrolls] has had a more direct bearing upon the Old Testament. The scribes who wrote the letters (for there was more than one) wrote with genuine artistry in classical Hebrew, and we have virtually a new section of Old Testament literature: a supplement to Jeremiah.' (Haupert, LEFJ, 32)...
Free put a simple closing to his study of the subject thus: 'In summary archaeological discoveries show at point after point that the biblical record is confirmed and commended as trustworthy. This confirmation is not confined to a few general instances.' (Free, AHAS, 225).
E) NEW TESTAMENT CONFIRMATION OF THE OLD TESTAMENT
Another area where the Old Testament is confirmed is available from the New Testament. There are numerous remarks by Jesus Himself, the apostles, and various other biblical characters in the New Testament that confirm the truthfulness of the Old Testament narrative.
1) Jesus' Confirmation
The New Testament records that Jesus believed the Torah to be from Moses: Mk 7:10; 10:3-5; 12:26. Luke 5:14; 16:29-31; 24:27, 44. John 7:19, 23. Especially in John 5:45-47 Jesus states unequivocally His belief that Moses wrote the Torah: 'Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you - Moses, in whom you trust.'
'For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me.'
'But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?'
Eissfeldt states: 'The name used in the New Testament clearly with reference to the whole Pentateuch - the Book of Moses - is certainly to be understood as meaning that Moses was the compiler of the Pentateuch.' (Eissfeldt, OTAI, 158).
2) Biblical Writer's Confirmation
The New Testament writers also held that the Torah of 'the Law' came from Moses:
The apostles believed that 'Moses wrote for us a law' (Mark 12:19 NASB).
John was confident that 'the Law was given through Moses' (John 1:17).
Paul, speaking of a Pentateuchal passage, asserts 'Moses writes' (Rom 10:5).
Other passages asserting this include: Luke 2:22; 20:28. John 1:45, 8:5, 9:29. Acts 3:22; 6:14; 13:39; 15:1, 21; 26:22; 28:23. 1 Cor 9:9. 2 Cor 3:15. Heb 9:19. Rev 15:3.
|OLD TESTAMENT EVENT||NEW TESTAMENT REFERENCE|
|1. Creation of the universe (Gen 1)||Jn 1:3; Col 1:16|
|2. Creation of Adam and Eve (Gen 1-2)||1 Tim 2:13, 14|
|3. Marriage of Adam and Eve (Gen 1-2)||1 Tim 2:13|
|4. Temptation of the woman (Gen 3)||1 Tim 2:14|
|5. Disobedience and sin of Adam (Gen 3)||Rom 5:12; 1 Cor 15:22|
|6. Sacrifices of Abel and Cain (Gen 4)||Heb 11:4|
|7. Murder of Abel by Cain (Gen 4)||1 Jn 3:12|
|8. Birth of Seth (Gen 4)||Lk 3:38|
|9. Translation of Enoch (Gen 5)||Heb 11:5|
|10. Marriage before the Flood (Gen 6)||Lk 17:27|
|11. The Flood and destruction of man (Gen 7)||Mt 24:39|
|12. Preservation of Noah and his family (Gen 8-9)||2 Pet 2:5|
|13. Genealogy of Shem (Gen 10)||Lk 3:35, 36|
|14. Birth of Abraham (Gen 12-13)||Lk 3:34|
|15. Call of Abraham (Gen 12-13)||Heb 11:8|
|16. Tithes to Melchizedek (Gen 14)||Heb 7:1-3|
|17. Justification of Abraham (Gen 15)||Ro 4:3|
|18. Ishmael (Gn 16)||Gal 4:21-24|
|19. Promise of Isaac (Gen 17)||Heb 11:18|
|20. Lot and Sodom (Gen 18-19)||Lk 17:29|
|21. Birth of Isaac (Gen 21)||Ac 7:9, 10|
|22. Offering of Isaac (Gen 22)||Heb 11:17|
|23. The burning bush (Ex 3:6)||Lk 20:32|
|24. Exodus through the Red Sea (Ex 14:22)||1 Cor 10:1, 2|
|25. Provision of water and manna (Ex 16:4; 17:6)||1 Cor 10:3-5|
|26. Lifting up serpent in wilderness (Num 21:9)||Jn 3:14|
|27. Fall of Jericho (Josh 6:22-25)||Heb 11:30|
|28. Miracles of Elijah (1 Kg 17:1; 18:1)||Jas 5:17|
|29. Jonah in the great fish (Jon 2)||Mt 12:40|
|30. Three Hebrew youths in furnace (Dan 3)||Heb 11:34|
|31. Daniel in lion's den (Dan 6)||Heb 11:33|
|32. Slaying of Zechariah (2 Chr 24:20-22)||Mt 23:35|