EXTERNAL EVIDENCE SUPPORTING THE RELIABILITY OF THE OT
Numerous skeptics felt–and many continue to believe–that archaeology would disprove the Bible. Yet discovery after discovery supports the accuracy of the Scriptures. As John Elder notes in his book, Prophets, Idols and Diggers
“It is not too much to say that it was the rise of the science of archaeology that broke the deadlock between historians and the orthodox Christian. Little by little, one city after another, one civilization after another, one culture after another, whose memories were enshrined only in the Bible, were restored to their proper places in ancient history by the studies of archaeologists . . . .Contemporary records of Biblical events have been unearthed and the uniqueness of Biblical revelation has been emphasized by contrast and comparison to newly discovered religions of ancient peoples. Nowhere has archaeological discovery refuted the Bible as history.” (p. 16)
Space limitations do not allow discussion of all the discoveries by archaeologists supporting the Bible; however, three examples are noted here, beginning with the father of the Hebrew nation. For years skeptics claimed that the Genesis accounts of the career of Abraham and his descendants are untrustworthy and often unhistorical. Then archaeologists discovered the city of Ur in Southern Sumeria. The find proved Ur to be a large and flourishing city which enjoyed an advanced civilization around 2000 B.C., which would have been precisely Abraham’s period.
The discovery of the Nuzi Tablets confirm the historicity of many of the customs practiced by Abraham and the other patriarchs prior to the Egyptian sojourn. Examples: (a) it was customary to set aside the claims of an adopted son if a natural heir was subsequently born into the family–Abraham’s reference to his servant Eliezer as “son of his house” in Gen. 15:2 (prior to the birth of Ishmael and Isaac) indicated he had adopted him as his legal heir; (b) if a wife was barren, she could give a slave girl to her husband to provide an heir, and such a child would have the right of a first-born unless the legal wife later bore a son (as Sarai did with Hagar, Gen. 16:1-3); (c) the legitimacy of selling one’s birthright (as Esau sold his to Jacob in Gen. 25:33); and, (d) the binding character of a deathbed will, such as was elicited from Isaac by Jacob.
Gleason Archer notes that the discovery of the Hittite Legal Code
“illuminates the transaction recorded in Gen. 23 where Abraham purchased the cave of Machpelah from Ephron the Hittite. Hittite law explains the reluctance of Abraham to buy the entire parcel, and his preference for acquiring only the cave itself and the territory immediately adjacent. The law required the owner of an entire tract to perform the duties of ilku or feudal service, a responsibility which doubtless included pagan religious observances. As a Jehovah-worshiper, Abraham was alert enough to prefer avoiding this involvement by purchasing only a fraction of the parcel, thus leaving Ephron responsible to perform ilku as original owner of the tract.” (A Survey of OT Introduction, p.180)
The second example revolves around the period of time the Hebrews spent in Egypt. For years skeptics maintained that there was no evidence the Israelites were ever in Egypt much less slaves there. However, with the discovery of the sites of Pithom and Raamses–the sites for which the Israelites were assigned to build (Ex. 1:11)–the archaeologist, Sir Flinders Petrie, noted some incredible things about them. According to statements made in Why I Believe by Dr. D. James Kennedy (p. 19), Sir Petrie found “they were built with mortar–something found nowhere else in Egypt. Moreover, the lower layers were built of brick that used stubble instead of straw. In the second and upper layers were bricks made without straw” (Ex. 5:6-19).
A third example is seen in the Battle of Jericho. Skeptics claim that such a battle as described in the Bible never happened. One does not just walk around a city and have the walls fall down flat. They went on to say that the biblical account is obviously foolish because the Israelites could not walk around a modern city of one hundred thousand people seven times in one day, and Jericho was described as a great city. Then Professor John Garstang, British archaeologist and authority on Hittite civilization, led a team to investigate the site of Jericho. Afterwards he stated, “As for the main fact, there remains no doubt the walls fell outward [not pushed inward] so completely that the attackers would be able to clamber up and over their ruins into the city [Gen.6:20]” (from Why I Believe, p. 20). Dr. Kennedy also adds the following: “Garstang’s investigation provided an interesting fact about Jericho–it was smaller than the sites upon which many large metropolitan churches are built. Having been to Jericho many times, I know that I could walk around it seven times in one morning and play a set of tennis before lunch!”
Many archaeologists started out as skeptics or atheists but were subsequently converted through the biblical evidence they uncovered. The following is the story of one such archaeologist:
“One of the most notable [conversions] was Sir William Ramsay. He was an atheist, the son of atheists; he was wealthy and a Ph.D. from Oxford. He gave his whole life over to archaeology and determined that he would disprove the Bible. He set out for the Holy Land and decided to disprove the Book of Acts. After twenty-five or more years (he had released book after book during this time), he was incredibly impressed
by the accuracy of Luke in his writings and finally declared that Luke was exact, down to the most minute details. In his attempts to disprove the Bible, Sir William Ramsay uncovered hundreds of things that confirmed the historicity of the Book of Acts. Finally, in one of his books [St. Paul the Traveler and the Roman Citizen] he shocked the whole critical world by declaring himself to be a Christian.” (Why I Believe, p. 21)
Skeptics should ask themselves: If Luke’s “minute details” of places and people are confirmed by archaeology, why shouldn’t his record of Christ’s life and His words be accepted as fact?