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Bible Archaeology 1

Bible Archaeology 1

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Published by richlion
Now that the critics had their say, lets see what secular archeology has to say about the Bible.
Now that the critics had their say, lets see what secular archeology has to say about the Bible.

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Published by: richlion on Apr 28, 2008
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03/26/2011

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Bible and Archaeology
 part 1 (of 2 parts)Over the years there have been many criticisms leveled against the Bible concerning its historicalreliability. These criticisms are usually based on a lack of evidence from outside sources toconfirm the Biblical record. Since the Bible is a religious book, many scholars take the positionthat it is biased and cannot be trusted unless we have corroborating evidence from extra-Biblicalsources. In other words, the Bible is guilty until proven innocent, and a lack of outside evidence places the Biblical account in doubt.This standard is far different from that applied to other ancient documents, even though many, if not most, have a religious element. They are considered to be accurate, unless there is evidenceto show that they are not. Although it is not possible to verify every incident in the Bible, thediscoveries of archaeology since the mid 1800s have demonstrated the reliability and plausibilityof the Bible narrative. Here are some examples.
Clay tablet from Ebla.
The discovery of the Ebla archive in northern Syria in the 1970s has shown the Biblical writingsconcerning the Patriarchs to be viable. Documents written on clay tablets from around 2300 B.C.demonstrate that personal and place names in the Patriarchal accounts are genuine. The name"Canaan" was in use in Ebla, a name critics once said was not used at that time and was usedincorrectly in the early chapters of the Bible. The word "tehom" ("the deep") in Genesis 1:2 wassaid to be a late word demonstrating the late writing of the creation story. "Tehom" was part of the vocabulary at Ebla, in use some 800 years before Moses. Ancient customs reflected in thestories of the Patriarchs have also been found in clay tablets from Nuzi and Mari.The Hittites were once thought to be a Biblical legend, until their capital and records werediscovered at Bogazkoy, Turkey. Many thought the Biblical references to Solomon's wealth weregreatly exaggerated. Recovered records from the past show that wealth in antiquity wasconcentrated with the king and Solomon's prosperity was entirely feasible. It was once claimedthere was no Assyrian king named Sargon as recorded in Isaiah 20:1, because this name was notknown in any other record. Then, Sargon's palace was discovered in Khorsabad, Iraq. The veryevent mentioned in Isaiah 20, his capture of Ashdod, was recorded on the palace walls. What ismore, fragments of a stela memorializing the victory were found at Ashdod itself.Another king who was in doubt was Belshazzar, king of Babylon, named in Daniel 5. The lastking of Babylon was Nabonidus according to recorded history. Tablets were found showing thatBelshazzar was Nabonidus' son who served as coregent in Babylon. Thus, Belshazzar could offer to make Daniel "third highest ruler in the kingdom" (Dan. 5:16) for reading the handwriting onthe wall, the highest available position. Here we see the "eye-witness" nature of the Biblicalrecord, as is so often brought out by the discoveries of archaeology.Author: Bryant Wood of Associates for Biblical Research 
 
The Merneptah Stela, now in the Cairo Museum, is probably the most analyzed ancient textoutside of the Bible. Undoubtedly, the most important mention of Israel outside the Bible is that in the Merneptah, or "Israel," Stela. Discovered in 1896 in Merneptah's mortuary temple in Thebes by Flinders Petrie,the stela is a poetic eulogy to pharaoh Merneptah, who ruled Egypt after Rameses the Great, ca.1212-1202 BC.
Of significance to Biblical studies is a short section at the end of the poemdescribing a campaign to Canaan by Merneptah in the first few years of his reign, ca. 1210BC. One line mentions Israel: "Israel is laid waste, its seed is not."
 
Here we have theearliest mention of Israel outside the Bible and the only mention of Israel in Egyptianrecords.
Since the date of the reference to Israel in the Merneptah Stela is during the time of the judges, prior to the establishment of the monarchy, it is of crucial importance to understanding Israel'sformative period. For example, a popular theory among Biblical scholars today is that Israelemerged from peoples indigenous to Canaan in the mid 12th century BC. If this is true, thenBiblical history and chronology prior to ca. 1150 BC would have to be jettisoned.Proponents of the "12th century emergence theory" maintain that the Israelites did not come intoCanaan from outside to conquer the land around 1400 BC, as the Bible indicates. The emergencescenario would also reject the historicity of the Wilderness Wanderings, Exodus, EgyptianSojourn and the Patriarchal narratives. However, if Israel were an established entity in Canaanalready in 1210 BC, as the Merneptah Stela implies, then the 12th century emergence theorywould be refuted (Bimson 1991). If Israel was well established by the end of the 13th century, itcould not have come into being in the middle of the next century.As a result, the Merneptah Stela has been meticulously scrutinized and analyzed by scholars, perhaps more so than any text outside the Bible. They are out to determine what it "really" says,not that they would want to force any preconceived notions on the text! Michael G. Hasel, adoctoral candidate at the University of Arizona, has recently reviewed the various interpretationsconcerning the reference to Israel in the stela. Furthermore, he has done an in-depth linguisticstudy to determine as far as possible the intended meaning of text.The discussion of the significance of Israel in the Merneptah stela revolves around the meaningof two words: "Israel" and "seed." A number of possibilities have been suggested, as summarized by Hasel. Scholars have implied that the name Israel could be interpreted as Iezreel or Jezreal,the valley to the north of the country. Another idea is that the name has a descriptive meaning("the wearers of the side lock") and applies to the Libyans. Or, in the time of Merneptah, thename Israel was a geographic term referring to a territory corresponding to Canaan. Haseldiscusses the problems associated with each of these interpretations and concludes,Israel, identified by the determinative for people, is a socioethnic unity powerful enough to bementioned along with major city-states that were also neutralized (1994: 51).Turning to the meaning of the Egyptian word prt, "seed," there are only two possibilities, "grain"or "offspring." Based on the use of prt in other Egyptian texts, Hasel deduces that it refers tograin. Thus, the phrase "its seed is not" indicates that Israel's food supply was no longer inexistence. Hasel observes,We may perceive Israel within the context and information of the Merneptah stela to be a ruralsedentary group of agriculturalists without its own urban city-state support system (1994:54).
 
This is exactly the picture we have of Israel from the Old Testament. Gideon lived close to thetime of the Merneptah Stela and he was a farmer living in a small village (Judges 6).Archaeological evidence supports the fact that the Israelites were agriculturalists in the late 13thcentury BC. Grain storage pits were a common feature of hill country sites of this period. Teethfrom a tomb dating to ca. 1200 BC excavated by the Associates for Biblical Research at Kh. Nisya indicate that the inhabitants of the site ate grain.Hasel's study of the Merneptah Stela is extremely important. It clears up a number of misconceptions and focuses attention on the true significance of the stela. It indicates that Israelwas well established in Canaan in the late 13th century BC and was a significant political forceto be reckoned with. Hasel concludes,Israel functioned as an agriculturally-based/sedentary socioethnic entity in the late 13th centuryB.C., one that is significant enough to be included in the military campaign against political powers in Canaan. ... While the Merneptah stela does not give any indication of the actual socialstructure of the people of Israel, it does indicate that Israel was a significant socioethnic entitythat needed to be reckoned with (1994: 54; 56, n. 12).Scholars need to come to grips with these facts, which are entirely consistent with the Bible'sdescription of Israel's origins.RECOMMENDED FOR FURTHER READING:Bimson, J.J. 1991 "Merenptah's Israel and recent Theories of Israelite Origins". Journal for theStudy of the Old Testament 49: 3-29.Hasel, M.G. 1994 "Israel in the Merneptah Stela". Bulletin of the American Schools of OrientalResearch 296: 45-61.Author: Bryant G. Wood of Associates for Biblical Research.Is there evidence that the Israelites once lived in Egypt as the Bible says? Has Joseph's originaltomb been found? 

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