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 Vol. 2, No. 9                                        Page 16                                                September, 2000

Priscilla's Page

Priscilla's Page

Editor's Note

Archaeology and the Bible

By Rebecca Rushmore

I believe in the spade. It has fed the tribes of mankind. It has furnished them water, coal, iron, and gold. And now it is giving them truth -- historic truth, the mines of which have never been opened til our time. (Blaiklock, p. ix.)

This view of archaeology was given by Oliver Wendell Holmes. The subject of archaeology is a relatively new field of study. This term has been defined by Blaiklock as "that branch of historical research which draws its evidence from surviving material traces and remains of past human activity" (p. v.). More specifically, Bible archaeology studies things as they relate to the Scriptures and the times in which the Bible was written. (Vos, p. 9.)

In a broad sense, Bible archaeology has only been around for one hundred fifty years (Unger, New, p. 18). Clyde Woods said that "Although archeology [sic] was more or less a treasure hunt when it began, it may now be classified as a science because of its strict methods." (Woods, p. 4.) In the last fifty years, archaeology has continually brought forth new contributions to the study of ancient times and has gradually grown in significance. (Unger, New, p. 18.)

The purpose of this article is to show, through archaeology, that the Bible is historically accurate. Proof of the Bible's accurateness will lend credence to the claim that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. To establish the claim of historical accuracy, the fall of Jericho (from the Old Testament) and the journeys of Paul (from the New Testament) will be discussed.

With the exception of the Bible, there are no literary works describing the time covered by the Old Testament. Until excavations began in the Bible lands, many did not believe much of the events described in those pages. In the last half century, there has been much work done to excavate these areas. Scholars are now faced with proof that the Bible is accurate. (Unger, Old, p. 10.)

One such situation involves the city of Jericho as described in Joshua 3-6. Excavations have shown that this is probably the oldest city in Palestine. (Vos, p. 86.) Three major works have been completed at this site. The first was overseen by the German Oriental Society from 1907 through 1909. The conclusion of this study was that a walled city did not exist at the time Joshua arrived in Canaan. (Vos, p. 86; Woods, "Israelites," p. 47.) In 1930, a man named John Garstang began another excavation at the site. His work used updated methods of dating (pottery chronology) and other advances in the field. Garstang found a double wall fortification, much pottery, food and great evidence of a conquered and torched city. (Wood, "Israelites," p. 49; Vos, p. 87.) He used this evidence to date the destruction of Jericho by Joshua at 1400 B.C., a date that raised much controversy. (Free, p. 131.)

The controversy arose because many scholars did not want to assign such an early date to the Israelites in Canaan. Garstang defended his date of conquest. He attributed the opinions of scoffers to lack of firsthand information and a preconceived idea of the date the Israelites left Egypt. Garstang claimed that his evidence would not have been called in question if scholars had not already decided when the exodus and conquest occurred. (Free, p. 132.)

A third excavation was begun in 1952 by Kathleen Kenyon. Her work lasted until 1958 and resulted in the conclusion that Jericho was not a walled city at the time of Joshua. She places the fall of Jericho 150 years before Garstang's date. (Wood, "Israelites," p. 52.) However, a detailed report of her work was not published until 1981, several years after her death. Dr. Bryant G. Wood used this publication and one from 1982 and 1983 to reexamine the evidence at Jericho. (Wood, "Israelites," p. 49.)

Wood found that Kenyon's work was extremely meticulous and carefully performed. The problem he found was in her analysis. Kenyon based her date of the fall of Jericho mainly on the pottery that was not present at the site instead of the more than 150,000 pieces that were. (Wood, "Israelites," p. 50; Free, p. 132.) Her search was mainly in a poorer part of town where the expensive imported pottery would not be expected. (Wood, "Israelites," p. 50.)

Kenyon discovered a double wall system, a very significant find not made by Garstang. At the bottom of the mound was a revetment wall. Above it reaching to the top of the mound was a plastered rampart on which the poor part of the city was built. Above this was a mudbrick wall. Remnants of this wall have been eroded away. However, bricks from it were found at the outside base of the revetment wall. Kenyon concluded that the walls had fallen down and made a ramp for conquerors to climb into the city. (Wood, "Israelites," pp. 53, 56.)

The evidence of ceramic pottery, a radiocarbon date of charcoal, the  stratigraphy of the site and Egyptian amulets (scarabs) found nearby all support the date given by Garstang for the conquest of Jericho. In his article on the subject, Wood states, "The correlation between the archaeological evidence and the Biblical narration is substantial." (Wood, "Israelites," p. 57.) Wood's conclusions have been questioned by others such as Piotr Bienkowski, but he has shown the objections to be invalid. (Wood, "Bienkowski," p. 49.) There is no reason to believe Joshua's conquest of Jericho as recorded in the Bible is not true.

New Testament archaeology centers around the Mediterranean Sea and closely follows the journeys of the apostle Paul. (Wiseman and Yamauchi, p. 65.) Focus is placed on the areas of Palestine, Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Greece and Italy. Items under study are those which relate to the Bible in language, message or meaning. (Unger, New, p. 13.)

Several things mentioned by Luke in his account of Paul's journeys have been subject to criticism over the years. Many of these objections to Luke's words have been defended in light of archaeological findings. One such instance is the use of "proconsul."

Paul visited the island of Cyprus on his first missionary journey. In Acts 13:7-8 and 12, Luke used the word "proconsul" in reference to Sergius Paulus. Many scholars believed this to be a mistake on Luke's part. An inscription was found north of Paphos; it is believed to have been carved around A.D. 52 or 53. The inscription "under Paulus the proconsul" proves Luke was correct. (Unger, New, p. 185.)

Luke's locations of cities have been the cause of some debate. Acts 13:14 tells of Paul's arrival in Pisidian Antioch for the first time. A Phrygian inscription was found here that can be translated "Antioch toward Pisidia" or "Pisidian Antioch." It is now known that Antioch was at one time the capital of the new province of Phrygia. Both districts were in the province of Galatia (Unger, New, p. 190.) Inscriptions found during excavations by William Ramsay have also shown the city of Iconium to be Phrygian. Historians like Cicero and Strabo placed the city in the district of Lycaonia. (Unger, New, pp. 195-196; Ramsay, p. 78.)

The city of Thessalonica has not been excavated very extensively because the modern city is built over the ancient one. (Thompson, p. 396.) In Acts 17:6 and 8, Luke refers to the rulers of the city as "politarchs." As classical writers did not use this term, critics of Luke claimed this wording a mistake. Seventeen inscriptions found around Thessalonica, including one on an arch, prove that Luke was correct in his choice of words. (Wiseman and Yamauchi, p. 91.) Luke has also been proven correct in his use of the term Asiarch (Acts 19) in reference to officials at Ephesus. (Wight, p. 169.)

Acts 16:12-40 records the visit of Paul to Philippi. Scholars believed for many years that Luke made two mistakes in this passage. In verse twelve, Luke used the Greek word "meris" to mean "region." Until Egyptian papyri were found proving this a Macedonian idiom, this was a highly criticized verse. (Wiseman and Yamauchi, p. 90.) It has also been discovered that the term "politarch" in this passage is not technically correct, but in Paul's time it was used as a title of respect in Roman colonies. (Wight, p. 174.) Discoveries along the paths Paul traveled have shown that Luke used current phraseology and vocabulary for his time. It is evident that Luke's account of Paul and his work for the church is true in all respects.

The items mentioned above are but a few evidences for the accurateness of the Bible in both the Old and New testaments. Numerous books and articles have been written in much greater detail showing biblical truths through archaeology. Men such as Sir William Ramsay have been convinced of the accurateness and trustworthiness of the Bible as a result of archaeological findings. (Wiseman and Yamauchi, p. 64.) General New Testament archaeology, as well as the archaeology of Paul's missionary journeys, proves that "both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established." (Vos, p. 106.) The same can be said of the Old Testament as well. There is no doubt that archaeology proves an accurate Bible and gives credit to an inspired revelation from God.


Blaiklock, E.M., Litt. D., The Archaeology of the New Testament, Grand Rapids, Zondervan Publishing House, 1970.

Free, Joseph P., Archaeology and Bible History, Wheaton, IL, Scripture Press Publications, Inc., 1950.

Ramsay, William M., The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament, Grand Rapids, Baker Book House, 1979.

Thompson, J.A., The Bible and Archaeology, Grand Rapids, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1982.

Unger, Merrill F., Archaeology and the New Testament, Grand Rapids, Zondervan Publishing house, 1962.

Unger, Merrill F., Archaeology and the Old Testament, Grand Rapids, Zondervan Publishing house, 1954.

Vos, Howard F., Beginnings in Bible Archaeology, Chicago, Moody Press, 1973.

Wight, Fred H., Highlights of Archaeology in Bible Lands, Chicago, Moody Press, 1955.

Wiseman, Donald J. and Edwin Yamauchi, Archaeology and the Bible, Grand Rapids, The Zondervan Corporation, 1979.

Wood, Bryant G., "Dating Jericho's Destruction: Bienkowski Is Wrong on All Counts," Biblical Archaeology Review, 16 (September-October 1990), pp. 45, 47-49, 68.

Wood, Bryant G., "Did the Israelites Conquer Jericho? A New Look at the Archaeological Evidence," Biblical Archaeology Review, 16 (March-April 1990), pp. 44-58.

Woods, Clyde, "The Function of Archeology [sic] in Apologetics," a paper presented to Professor Carl Spain of the Bible Department of Abilene Christian College, 1957.

Copyright 2000 Louis Rushmore. All Rights Reserved.
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