HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY

The Bible is generally acknowledged as a moral adviser (The Ten Commandments, Sermon on the Mount, The Lord’s Prayer, etc.), but its historical accuracy is often questioned. However, archaeological discoveries have confirmed every part of the Bible.

The Bible describes the rise and fall of the empires of Egypt, Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome and if you examine its historical statements you will find confirmation of its authenticity in every detail. Here are just some examples of these discoveries:

The Great Flood

The Bible very clearly tells us of a global flood which destroyed all mankind, except for Noah and his family (GENESIS chapters 6-8). Stories of an immense catastrophic flood that covered the earth are found in over one hundred cultures around the world: the Greeks pass on the flood story of Deukalion; among the natives of the American continent, numerous stories from long before Columbus' time kept the memory of a great flood alive; also in Australia, India, Polynesia, Tibet, Cashmere, and Lithuania, stories of a flood are still passed on from generation to generation even today.

Apart from these historical accounts we have to consider the following as arguments for the occurrence of a deluge:

  • Numerous fossils of shells and fish can be found on high mountains (e.g. sharks' teeth were found on the Carpathian Mountains in Central Europe and fish fossils near the top of Mount Everest). Another outstanding fact is the existence in all continents of caves almost always on high ground, literally crammed with the skeletons of a strange mix of animals, which would have climbed the mountainsides to avoid the rising floodwater.
  • Dendroliths are trees that reach from their roots upwards through many coal layers. How can it be explained that a tree with a life-span of only a few decades can be placed vertically through coal sediments, which are supposed to have developed slowly over millions of years? The masses of plants that were carried along by the flood were transformed into coal by heat and an increase of pressure within a very short space of time. Nowadays you can copy this process in a laboratory, where coal can be produced from plant substance within minutes by the effects of heat and pressure.
  • Over 71% of the earth’s surface is covered by water and it is well known that huge salt-water lakes previously covered large areas of the North American and African plains.

Numerous sources throughout the centuries report of visits to Noah’s Ark and Flavius Josephus (c. 90 AD), the famous Jewish historian stated, "Its remains are shown there by the inhabitants to this day." He was quoting Berosus the Chaldean (c. 290 BC), who indicated tourists would take home pieces of the Ark for making good-luck charms.

Noah's ark found in Arrarat mountainsIn September 1960, Life Magazine published this photograph of a "boat-shaped" object on the mountains of Ararat! US Archaeologist Ronald E. Wyatt went to visit this site in 1977 and during his subsequent 24 trips he found many artefacts which authenticate it as the real Noah's Ark. Here are some of the facts:

  • The object found has the shape of a boat, with a pointed bow and rounded stern; it is not a natural stone or lava formation.
  • It has the exact length as noted in the biblical description, 515 feet or 300 Egyptian cubits (GENESIS 6:15).
  • It is located in eastern Turkey on the mountains of Ararat, exactly as the Bible says (GENESIS 8:4).
  • The object shows vertical rib timbers in its sides, comprising the skeletal superstructure of a boat. Radar scans show regular patterns of horizontal and vertical deck support beams, and even the door can be located. The scans also revealed a large amount of metal fittings and rivets used to secure the large timbers together. Some of these were of complex metal alloys. This ties in with the biblical account which states there was a school of metallurgy long before the flood occurred (GENESIS 4:22).
  • An 18-inch petrified deck timber was found, comprised of three separate layers of laminated wood. This is the only place on earth where you can find fossilized laminated wood.
  • Inside the structure "coprolites" (fossilized animal droppings) were found, as well as petrified antler horns and animal hair.
  • Huge anchor stones were found near this site which is at 6,500 feet elevation! These may have hung off the rear of the boat to steady its ride during the worldwide cataclysm.
  • The name of an occupied ancient village near the site (Kazan) translates as "The village of eight" (there were eight people on the Ark).
  • Ancient pottery shards have been found nearby which depict Noah, ravens, and fish. In ancient times the locals created these items to sell to visitors of the ark. The ark was a tourist attraction in ancient times and today the Turkish government has built a Visitor Centre there!

Sodom and Gomorrah

Sodom and Gomorrah are well-known biblical cities that were destroyed by God because of their continued immorality (EZEKIEL 16:49-50).

"Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven..." GENESIS 19:24
"And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned [them] with an overthrow, making [them] an ensample (example) unto those that after should live ungodly…" 2 PETER 2:6

The word "ensample" means an exhibit for warning! These cities (together with their three satellite cities) were still well known in the first century, as Josephus wrote: "The traces or shadows of the five cities are still to be seen." Indeed, these ashen areas still stand out from the surrounding landscape near the Dead Sea.

Recent exploration has uncovered literally millions of round balls of nearly pure sulphur (Webster's Dictionary says that sulphur = "brimstone") embedded in the whole area. These sulphur balls burn at 5,000°F and turned the whole cities into ash!

In 1924 Dr. M. G. Kyle found these sulphur balls and discovered the remains of a formerly great fortress, which had obviously been densely populated during the period 2500-2000 BC. Man-made formations (all turned into ash) are found in this area, including ziggurats, sphinxes, windows, arched doorways and walls resembling Canaanite double city walls. Furthermore, a layer of salt 50m thick, covered by a layer of lime and sulphur was discovered underneath a mountain nearby.

Exodus - The Red Sea Crossing

The traditional route of the Exodus shows the children of Israel wading in shallow water through an area north of the Gulf of Suez while the tide was out. However, how could a shallow area of water drown all of the Egyptian army? The biblical account states that the Israelites had left Egypt (which at the time included the Sinai Peninsula) before encountering the Red Sea crossing.

The children of Israel lived in the Nile delta area, and first encamped at the northern end of the Gulf of Suez or Succoth at the beginning of the Exodus. Then they travelled through "the wilderness of the Red Sea", or what we call today the Sinai Peninsula, and encountered the Gulf of Aqaba (1 KINGS 9:26 calls this the Red Sea.)

The route of the exodus

When arriving at the large beach, which could hold the estimated 2-3 million people, the children of Israel had no way out as the Egyptian army closed in on them. God caused a strong east wind to blow the waters back so the people could walk through the Red Sea to safety.

When looking at admiralty charts of this part of the Red Sea you can find a natural underwater pathway. At any other point along the gulf of Aqaba the Israelites would have faced a 45-degree drop, but only here, on the shores of Nuweiba, does the 'pathway' drop off at a gradual slope of one in fourteen, to a depth of just over 850 metres. The Bible describes it as, "a path in the mighty waters" (ISAIAH 43:16-17).

Gold-veneered chariot wheel at the bottom of the Gulf of AqabaThe Bible said all the chariots of Egypt and 600 choice chariots (or gold-veneered models), were in the army pursuing God's people. When the Egyptians started crossing the Red Sea, the Bible says God took off the chariot wheels (EXODUS 14:25).

The photograph here shows a four-spoked wheel, overlaid with gold, which was found at the crossing site. These were only used during the 18th Egyptian dynasty or 1400 BC, when the Exodus took place. There are numerous chariot wheels, plus human remains and horses hoofs found on the seabed.

After crossing the Red Sea, the Bible says they encountered the mountain of God or Mount Sinai. This can be found on maps of Saudi Arabia and is called Jabel el Lawz (literally "the mountain of the Law"). Satellite photos of the area even show its blackened peak! (GALATIANS 4:25; EXODUS 24:16-17

Babylon

Thanks to the work of Robert Koldeweys (1855-1925), the legendary Babylon of the Bible is now known as a historical and geographical fact. In 1899 he started excavations in Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) that lasted for 18 years. It was the most scientific and best-equipped expedition of that time. Koldewey's excavations confirm in detail the biblical description of the former glory of Babylon, whose Hanging Gardens are known as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

Nebuchadnezzar’s fabled Ishtar Gate at Babylon can be seen in the Berlin museum. Most of the bricks and blocks brought to light bear the seal of "Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon" and an inscription reproduces almost literally his statement that is recorded in DANIEL 4:30.

Many other objects were shipped to Germany and among them was a basket full of 300 cuneiform tablets. These administrative tablets were deciphered in 1933 and confirmed the biblical account of King Jehoiachin of Judah, who had been taken into captivity around 600 BC. Jeremiah says that after a period of suffering the Babylonian King took him out of prison and that for the rest of his life he ate regularly at the king's table. Day by day the king of Babylon gave Jehoiachin a regular allowance as long as he lived, till the day of his death. Here, on cuneiform was verification of the biblical text, listing the supplies given king Jehoiachin.

Jesus Christ

The fact that Jesus existed is nowadays as undisputed as the fact that Julius Caesar lived. There is no serious historian who would doubt it. Some religions, both ancient and modern, require no historical basis, for they depend upon ideas rather than events. Christianity stands or falls upon the person of Jesus Christ and the events of history.

"Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." ACTS 4:12

The New Testament documents; ancient Jewish sources; Roman writings; the writings of early antagonists of Christianity; the "church fathers"; and the art of the Roman catacombs all testify to the life of Christ. The New Testament is the most accurate and reliable of all the ancient books we possess, with more than 5,000 Greek manuscripts establishing the body of text. All of the New Testament had been completed within sixty years of Jesus’ death and of those twenty-seven books, no less than ten were penned by personal companions of the Lord.

FLAVIUS JOSEPHUS: The earliest non-Christian testimony to the Lord’s existence is that of the Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus (37-100 AD). He became a Pharisee at age 19 and in 66 AD he was commander of the Jewish forces in Galilee. He wrote: "The high priest Ananus assembled a council of judges, and brought before it the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ, whose name was James, together with some others, and having accused them as law-breakers, he delivered them over to be stoned." (Antiquities of the Jews, XX.9.I)

TACITUS: The Roman historian Tacitus wrote in his Annals XV.44 (c. 115 AD): "But not all the relief that could come from man, not all the bounties that the prince could bestow, nor all the atonements which could be presented to the gods, availed to relieve Nero from the infamy of being believed to have ordered the conflagration, the fire of Rome. Hence to suppress the rumour, he falsely charged with the guilt, and punished with the most exquisite tortures, the persons commonly called Christians, who were hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judæa in the reign of Tiberius: but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time, broke out again, not only through Judæa, where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also."

Not only did Nero blame the Christians for the burning of Rome in 64 AD, but also they suffered many more major times of persecution there. They had to meet in secret in the catacombs under the city, and risked being caught and thrown to the lions or crucified at any moment. The famous book ‘Foxes Book of Martyrs’, details the persecutions of Christians throughout the last two thousand years. Millions of Christians have died for their faith, and many of our great reformers endured martyrdom, to give us the rights and freedoms that we enjoy today.

The impact of the Christian movement on the history of the world is powerful testimony to the reality of its Founder. It is inconceivable that a non-existent figure could have generated a societal force as world-shaking as Christianity. There is no logical way to explain how the Christian system started, and grew so rapidly, except for the fact that its adherents knew of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection (1 CORINTHIANS 15:3-6) and the power of God in their lives through the Holy Spirit.

As we have seen, the Bible and historical events correspond in great detail. Just as it is difficult to overlook the historical truth of the Bible, you cannot ignore the words which God addresses to you personally today:

"He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." MARK 16:16

Jesus Christ shows in His Word that the following steps are necessary to obtain eternal life:

"Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call." ACTS 2:38-39

Repentance, baptism and receiving the Holy Spirit are the biblical conditions set by God for every person to obtain eternal life. Repentance stands for the inner return unto God, and turning away from your old life; baptism, by full immersion, symbolises the burial of your old sinful life.

When a person receives the gift of the Holy Spirit, they receive Christ and eternal salvation, evidenced by the sign of speaking in other tongues. See also ACTS 2:4.

These steps of obedience towards God's Word seal the act of being born again as described in the Bible. Never forget that one day you will stand before the throne of God to give an account of your life. Every moment of your life will be brought to your remembrance, and will be taken into account. God wants to redeem you, and calls on you to repent and to obey His Word.

Some more literature about this subject:

- ‘The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict’ by Josh McDowell

- ‘The Exodus Case’ by Lennart Möller

(April 2004)