Special Guest D.M. Johnson

When someone places faith in the Bible, they place it in the direction of evidence, not against the evidence

[Karen] Welcome back! We’re back in the saddle at I Believe Podcast, and I’m eager to be with you for this, the next of our series of casts on the reliability of the Bible. We’re here again with our special guest, D. M. Johnson. Dave, welcome back!

[D.M.] It’s good to be back.

[Karen] We are going to get into some of the examples where archaeology shows corroboration with the Bible and talk about some of the artifacts. So stay with us. We’re really glad that you’re back with us.

Evidence and Proof

I think we need to state at the outset of this cast that there is no way for archaeology to corroborate everything in the Bible or prove any theology to be true. So the purpose of this series is really to show some of the evidence that supports belief in a Biblical Christian faith. Dave, did you want to say anything before we dive into some of the examples on this.

We were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 2 Peter 1:16

[D.M.] I just think it’s important that we differentiate between evidence and proof. Sometimes [people] on the skeptical side–or people who are on the faithful side–they both kind of throw around the word “proof.” And that’s different than evidence. Ultimately, archaeology can show a corroboration for historical events. Sometimes this can help us to understand a person or a culture, or affirm certain things in terms of people being actual historical people or cultures.

[Karen] Thanks. True, Dave. And let’s not forget to underscore that there are also spiritual evidences as well as physical. That said, let’s just dive in.

The Dead Sea Scrolls

I’d love to talk about the Dead Sea Scrolls. We touched on this a little in the overview cast, and this is probably the biggest archaeological find in terms of the information we gained that relates to the Bible.

Many of our listeners may know that in the spring of 1947 these Bedouin goat-herds, searching the cliffs along the Dead Sea for, actually, a lost goat, came upon a cave containing jars filled with manuscripts. That find really caused a sensation when it was released to the world, and it continues to fascinate the scholarly community and the public to this day.

Qumran, near the Dead Sea.

Qumran, near the Dead Sea, where the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered.

There was a real thorough examination of the area then that occurred, and that led them to discover even more caves which were found in the hills around Qumran, caves that yielded several more scrolls, as well as thousands of fragments of scrolls: the remnants of over 900 manuscripts dating from approximately 200 B.C. to 68 C.E.

We have over 100,000 fragments. These are so important to us because, as you mentioned, Dave, in our overview cast, they give us empirical data that shows these Messianic prophecies were written before the time of Jesus. Among the scrolls, we have all of the books of the Old Testament, with the exception of Esther, as well as some other writings from that time period [1]. So, can you address some of the revelatory, corroborative findings implicit there?

[D.M.] The scrolls really gave us also evidence that we have a solid copy of the Old Testament. We even have them radiocarbon dated [2]. In addition to this, we’ve had a lot of other discoveries:

  • The Pool of Siloam, for example, has been corroborated. This, of course, is in the Bible; a couple of times, it’s mentioned in Isaiah [3] and also in the Gospel of John [4]. This is the place where John describes Jesus healing a man who had been born blind. Scholars hadn’t been able to locate the pool until 2004. There was even a story in the press in 2004 [5]. It was interesting to see things like this even coming up in the media now [6].

  • We also had the Pool of Bethesda [7] that’s been corroborated. This was the place where Jesus healed the man who had been lame for 38 years [8] [9].

So a lot of different things are being found.

Biblical People Corroborated by Archaeology

[Karen] Great. I think some people might think it’s interesting to see where archaeology has corroborated certain individuals also of interest to us, biblically. I also think it also might be good for our listeners to see where, given the same archeological findings, we see some individuals drawing different conclusions around those.

As Christians, we sometimes see people overstate their case on both sides of these issues, actually. In other cases, I think sometimes we can be timid in sharing information because we haven’t learned to distinguish facts from conclusions based on those facts. So can you speak to that for a minute and maybe talk about a particular piece of archaeology, as an example of those points?

Erastus of Corinth

[D.M.] We have a piece of pavement that a lot of folks think go back to Erastus of Corinth. So in 1929, this inscription was found, and it mentioned Erastus, and it was found near a paved area in the northeast of the theater there in Corinth. The inscription reads, “Erastus, in return for his ship, laid the pavement at his own expense.” So this is one of those examples that we have where everybody agrees [on] the antiquity of this. It dates to middle of the 1st Century; everybody agrees on what the text says. But skeptics will say, “Well, this could have been another Erastus.”  Believers and apologists point out, “Well, it could have been the Erastus mentioned by Paul.” There’s things like that [10].

Sergius Paulus

We have Sergius Paulus who was mentioned in the book of Acts [11]. We have an inscription that corroborates him.

Caiaphas

We have an ossuary for Caiaphas. This is a stone box that says on it, “Joseph son of Caiaphas.” We don’t know with 100% certainty that it’s the same Caiaphas; however, it fits the Biblical narrative perfectly. We don’t know of any other Joseph, son of Caiaphas, in the 1st Century who would be in an ossuary like that. It’s kind of an ornate ossuary–somebody that would have been in the upper class. They even have a lot of these findings that a lot of forensics go into [12] [13]. They have osteologists who will look at the bones: We know that the bones of that individual [were those of] a 60-year-old man [14].

[Karen] Amazing.

Pontius Pilate

Ancient inscription about Pontius Pilate.

Ancient inscription about Pontius Pilate

 

[D.M.] Yeah, we have Pontius Pilate. We all know the story of when Jesus was taken before Pontius Pilate in the Bible. We have had literary evidence of him outside the Bible, as we mentioned in our other cast. We didn’t really have physical evidence until 1961, when an archaeologist discovered an inscription. The inscription has, “Pontius Pilate as the Prefect of Judea.” Historians have sometimes referred to Pilate as a procurator, but that’s usually [a reference] for later governors of the area [15]. Emperor Claudius [was] known as that, but earlier governors like Pilate were known as prefects, just like in the inscription that we have.

Nebuchadnezzar

[Karen] So cool. A lot of people probably remember Nebuchadnezzar from the book of Daniel in the Old Testament [16]. We have a Babylonian brick with the inscription of Nebuchadnezzar [17], too, don’t we, Dave?

[D.M.] Yup.

Archaeology and the Crucifixion

[Karen] I know there are, also, at times people who try to say that Jesus didn’t die when He was crucified! There is clear evidence from the Biblical record, we’d like to say, that He was indeed dead. It is also why they didn’t break His bones, which was also prophesied. Victims of the crucifixion would push up with their feet so that they could breathe better. And it’s interesting–we have prophecies that Jesus would be pierced through for our transgressions.

The heel bone of a crucified man.

The heel bone of a crucified man.

There is archaeological evidence of a crucified man where we have a heel bone with a spike going through the bone and the wood [18].

[D.M.] That’s amazing, you can actually see that validation of how they used to do that.

Archaeology about Paul

We also have archaeology around the apostle Paul. And just to remind folks again, Paul is kind of the darling of scholars. We have letters that are undisputed by Paul that are accepted by people across the spectrum–even atheists. We have a lot of different things about Paul; he [was] an enemy to Christ.

We also have archaeology around some of the things that happened to Paul:

  • So the theater in Ephesus is an amazing site. You can Google it. It’s where the riot broke out  [19] because of some of Paul’s preaching there in Acts 19 [20].

  • We also read in Acts 19 about Artemis of the Ephesians–basically a goddess or a deity that they worshipped. And you can see the ruins of Hadrian’s temple there in Ephesus where it was basically dedicated to Artemis [21].

  • We have the Parthenon on the Acropolis [22], and below the Acropolis is the sanctuary of the Ancient Agora. It was basically there where the Apostle Paul met the Epicureans and some of the philosophers [23].

  • And we have Mars Hill there where Paul delivered that great sermon about the unknown god [24]. So we have a lot of this different stuff that corroborates that storyline that we hear with Paul in the New Testament.

View of the Parthenon from Mars Hill.

View of the Parthenon from Mars Hill.

[Karen] Yeah, pretty significant. It’s also very interesting to think about the various coins that we hear about in the Bible. Some coins include the inscriptions of rulers such as Herod Antipas, and Herod Agrippa, Emperor Claudius, and Caesar Augustus [25].

I know sometimes people probably see the Western wailing wall on the news or every time they do an Israel show on TV.  It seems like we see it so much that it can be really easy to forget that it’s real archaeology there.

The Cyrus Cylinder

Dave, I know you had mentioned, speaking of that, that you had a chance to see an artifact in person recently. Did you want to talk about the Cyrus Cylinder and its significance?

[D.M.] I was able to go see the Cyrus Cylinder when it came to the Getty Villa there in LA in California, and it was a really neat experience [26]. It was amazing.

The Cyrus Cylinder.

The Cyrus Cylinder verifies that Cyrus was an historical figure.

It’s a clay cylinder, and it basically talks about King Cyrus and gives a parallel to some of the things that we see in the biblical account of the Persians [as they] conquered the Babylonians. And Cyrus, we have him talked about in several books of the Bible, and what happened with the Persians when they conquered Babylon is predicted by Isaiah [27]. We will post a translation in the notes for people to read [28].  It’s very interesting. The edict of Cyrus for the rebuilding of Jerusalem was really a great epoch in the history of the Jews [29].

We also have Belshazzar who is mentioned in Daniel chapter 5 [30]. He has been corroborated as well. This was interesting because earlier artifacts had been discovered which had lists of kings, and Belshazzar was not on that. And so the critics jumped in at that, “Ah-ha!” and tried to say that Belshazzar was a literary invention and he was mythological and that it couldn’t be corroborated. Then we had the discovery of the Nabonidus Cylinder, and it contained the name of Belshazzar. We learn from this text that Belshazzar was the son and co-regent king of the Babylonian king Nabonidus [31]. So he would leave for a time and then Belshazzar would be there, so it ends up fitting in with the Biblical account.

[Karen] That’s just so cool. It is interesting as we go through these different things on archaeology, just how they support the Bible–as you said, it fits with the storyline and the narrative and all the details.

Bible Study and Archaeology

I know for some, though, this can be intimidating and confusing in terms of how to approach studying something like this. Maybe the average listener out there would benefit from some thoughts on a fun way to integrate this kind of learning with their own family or personal Bible study. Can you speak to that?

[D.M.] I used to study this, and it never really clicked that well until I started using study Bibles. I really love study Bibles, and the NIV version has a really good archaeology study Bible. It’s neat. When I do my Bible study with my kids, you open up the pages and there’s articles woven right into the pages there so when you get to the point where there’s a relevant archaeological finding, you’ll see nice color pictures and it will explain how it relates.

I also really recommend the book The Popular Handbook of Archaeology. I like to see: Here’s an artifact; here’s what it corroborates; and here’s where I can look it up in the scriptures. It [also] has really good tables where you can see that kind of information.

[Karen] Very helpful. That’s awesome–thanks Dave. I use several different study Bibles myself and commend those to our listeners. I haven’t picked that one up, but I think I will.

It’s interesting when you look at the pictures of some of these artifacts and sites, it brings the up the Bible in 3D and becomes so much more real to us.

I know the ruins of the synagogue in Capernaum, for example, are still there. This is one of the many places Jesus taught, as we know [32]. It’s also in Capernaum that Jesus heals the centurion. In that synagogue, Jesus gave the sermon on the bread of life [33] [34]. So these are significant sites and artifacts.

The Hittites

I know Dave, on the overview cast we mentioned the Hittites as well as King David. Did you want to touch on those as well?

Ancient clay tablet with cuneiform writing.

This ancient clay tablet verifies that the Hittites were an historical group.

[D.M.] Yeah, the Hittites were an amazing story. They were doubted by the skeptics and secular historians and even archeologists. Then in 1876, while they were excavating in Turkey, they found a bunch of human artifacts. They found five temples; they found over 10,000 clay tablets that had all this information about the Hittites–names and everything [35]. It was basically announced, “Okay, the Hittites existed.”

King David

Skeptics long asserted that King David wasn’t real and he was mythological. In 1993, The Tel Dan inscription was found, and it had on there, “King of Israel” and, “King of the House of David.” And that affirmed the historicity of David. And there are people who will try to doubt things, but the majority of scholars accept that as affirming the historicity of David [36].

Ancient Tel Dan inscription: House of David.

The Tel Dan inscription verifies that David was an historical figure.

[Karen] That’s great. I know we could probably do a dozen casts on just archaeology, right? There are so many things that we see as clear evidence that the Bible was based on real historical events.

Biblical Events Corroborated by Archaeology

Dave, could you just list quickly for our audience some of the the of events that were in the Bible and also corroborated outside the Bible in archaeology? And then we’ll post specific references on site.

[D.M.] Sure.

  • We have the Campaign into Israel by Pharaoh Shishak in 1 Kings(1 Kings 14:25-26), recorded on the walls of the temple that’s in Egypt.

  • We have the Revolt of Moab against Israel in 2nd Kings(2 Kings 1:1; 3:4-27), and that’s on the inscription called the Mesha Inscription.

  • We have the Fall of Samaria in 2 Kings to Sargon II, King of Assyria. That’s recorded on palace walls.

  • We have the Defeat of Ashdod by Sargon II. This was prophesied by Isaiah in Isaiah 20. We have that recorded on his palace walls.

  • We have the Campaign of the Assyrian king, Sennacherib, against Judah in 2 Kings, and that is recorded on a really cool-looking Prism called the Taylor Prism.

  • We have the Siege of Lachish by Sennacherib in 2 Kings. That’s recorded on the Lachish reliefs.

  • We have the assassination of Sennacherib by his own sons in 2 Kings, and that’s recorded in the annals of Esarhaddon. (I always have an issue remembering that name.)

  • We have the Fall of Nineveh as predicted by Nahum and Zephaniah. We have that recorded on the Tablet of Nabopolasar [37].

And so we have a lot of different things like that where it’s said in scripture and then we have evidence outside the scripture for them in terms of archaeological findings.

[Karen] Great. This has been a good exercise in walking though just some of the evidence that shows archaeological corroboration with both the Old and the New Testaments of the Holy Bible.

You know, I know there are a lot of skeptical people out there who can sometimes bring our faith into question, and I’d like to share a quote from a famed archaeologist who was featured in Time Magazine [38]. In his book, he stated something that I think is quite striking, and it’s this:

“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. And, by the same token, proper evaluation of Biblical descriptions has often led to amazing discoveries” [39].

Dave, is there anything you would like to add as we wind up this cast?

Keeping an Open Mind

[D.M.] I think it is really important if you are someone who has doubted or you’re searching for truth, just to approach things with an open mind. There is no way that you could ever have archaeological evidence for every single event in the Bible. But, as we mentioned before, if you think about it, in the Gospel of John, we have 59 historically confirmed or historically provable eyewitness details [40].

Craig Blomberg talks about this in his book, The Reliability of John’s Gospel. Luke, we talked about, is a great historian; also and some of the research that Colin Hemer did shows 84 historically confirmed details in the second half of Acts alone [41].

I like to think of William Ramsay and what he said. I am totally fascinated by people when they do a 180 in their thinking. Whichever way they go, it just intrigues me when they go do a total 180. Remember Ramsay, he set out to disprove the biblical record–to disprove Luke–and instead he becomes converted. And Ramsay wrote this, he said, “Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy… [he] should be placed with the very great historians” [42].

So the question I would put out there to people today is that if the Bible is correct in all the places that we can check it, shouldn’t we be open minded for areas we can’t? If Luke is so meticulous in getting all these little things right, I think it is totally reasonable that he could be accurate in getting the big things right as well.

[Karen] Thank you for joining us on I Believe Podcast. Again, we’ll post the transcript and we invite you to submit questions or comments for Dave or myself, or visit us on site at ibelievepodcast.com. Email me at karen@ibelievepodcast.com, or visit us on YouTube, Facebook, or Google+ and submit your thoughts. We would really love to hear from you.

In closing, God bless you in your spiritual walk and journey. And Dave, thanks again for being with us.

[D.M.] Thank you for having me.

Additional Episodes:

{Overview} 8 Points to Consider: The Authenticity of the Bible

{Extra-Biblical Evidence} 8 Points to Consider: The Authenticity of the Bible

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Sources

1. Randall Price, The Stones Cry Out: What Archaeology Reveals About the Truth of the Bible. (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1997), 277-294.

2. Israel Carmi, “Radiocarbon Dating of the Dead Sea Scrolls,” in The Dead Sea Scrolls: Fifty Years After Their Discovery. Ed. Schiffman, Lawrence, Tov, Emanuel & James VanderKam. Jerusalem: IES, 2000. 881.

3. Isaiah 8:6

4. John 9:1-12

5. Shanks, Hershel. “The Siloam Pool Where Jesus Cured the Blind Man,” in Biblical Archaeology Review. Sept.-Oct. 2005. 31.5. 16-23.

6. “Archaeologists identify remains of ‘miracle’ pool.” NBC News. 23 Dec. 2004.  http://www.nbcnews.com/id/6750670/#.UtR-U2eA3IU. Accessed Jan13 2014.

7. John 5:1-9

8. Charlesworth, James H. Jesus and Archaeology. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 2006), 566.

9. Gibson, Shimon. The Final Days of Jesus: The Archaeological Evidence. (New York: HarperCollins e-books, 2009), 2537-2543.

10. NIV Archaeology Study Bible. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1973), 1728.

11. Holden, Joseph M. and Norman Geisler. The Popular Handbook of Archaeology and the Bible. (Eugene OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2013), 358.

12. Holden and Geisler, Popular Handbook of Archaeology, 347.

13. Price, The Stones Cry Out, 305-306.

14. Holden and Geisler, The Popular Handbook of Archaeology, 348-350.

15. Specter, Michael. “Tomb May Hold the Bones of Priest who Judged Jesus.” New York Times. 14 Aug. 1992.

16. Holden and Geisler, The Popular Handbook of Archaeology, 347.

17. Daniel 4

18. NIV Study Bible, 1391.

19.Price, The Stones Cry Out, 309.

20. Acts 19:21-41

21. NIV Study Bible, 1808.

22. Acts 17:17-18

23. NIV Study Bible, 1804.

24. Acts 17:15-34

25. Holden and Geisler, The Popular Handbook of Archaeology, 364.

26. “Final Stop of the Tour: Cyrus Cylinder Now in Los Angeles.” Cyrus Cylinder 2013. 2 Oct. 2013.  http://cyruscylinder2013.com/2013/10/final-stop-of-the-tour-cyrus-cylinder-now-in-los-angeles/

27. Ezra 1:1-4; 4:3; 5:13-17; 6:3-5; Isa 44:28, 45:1; Dan 1:21, 6:28

28. “Cyrus Cylinder.” Bible History Online.

http://www.bible-history.com/archaeology/persia/cyrus-cylinder.html

29. 2 Chr. 36:22, 23;

30. Daniel 5:1-30

31. Holden and Geisler, The Popular Handbook of Archaeology, 276-77.

32. Mark 1:21

33. John 6:35-59

34. http://www.bibleplaces.com/capernaum.htm

35. Price, The Stones Cry Out, 83.

36. http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-artifacts/artifacts-and-the-bible/the-tel-dan-inscription-the-first-historical-evidence-of-the-king-david-bible-story/  Accessed 16 Nov. 2013.

37. http://christiananswers.net/q-abr/abr-a009.html Accessed 14 Jan. 2014.

38.  http://content.time.com/time/covers/0,16641,19631213,00.html

39. Glueck, Nelson. Rivers in the Desert. (New York: Farrar, Strous, and Cudahy, 1959), 136.

40. Blomberg, Craig. The Historical Reliability of John’s Gospel. (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2001), 69-281.

41. Hemer, Colin J. The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellensitic History. (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1990), Last 16 chapters.

42. Ramsay, William. The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament, (1915), 222.

About karenrose
Living out a great season of my life, thanks to Jesus Christ, and two wonderful daughters, a great life's work. Loving this opportunity to share faith online... I'm a single Mom, convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, second-gen Italian, from the East coast originally. Love the fine arts, dance, frozen yogurt, temples, scriptures, writing, jazz, helping others reach their potential, king salmon, ....and not in that order. God is good. I feel it deeply when people have a misconception of Heavenly Father or Jesus Christ, His Son, that lessens or cheapens Them and blinds one's ability to feel His presence or to trust in an ultimately good eternal end to life's circumstances.

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