Biblical archaeology is a branch of archaeology that is associated with the study of the archaeological sites , that are located in ancient holy land including Palestine, Israel, Canaan and the land of ancient Near East. The aim of the Biblical archaeology in a practical attempt is to prove or confirm the historicity of the Bible.
Modern Countries that come under the Biblical Archaeology:
Ancient Near East had been a home of the world’s most ancient civilizations. Today the countries that come under the research of the biblical archaeology include ancient Middle East along with Mesopotamia (Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Kuwait), ancient Egypt, Anatolia, Armenian Highlands, Levant, Cyrus and the Arabian Peninsula.
Definition of the Biblical Archaeology:
The magazine “Biblical archaeology review” defines biblical archaeology in this way …
“A branch of archaeology deals with the archaeology of the biblical lands that informs our understanding of the bible and the historicity of biblical events.”
What is the Source of Biblical Archaeology?
Hebrew’s Bible is the source on which lies the foundation of the biblical archaeology. The information that it contains belong mainly to the Iron Age that is connected with the region of Palestine. The archaeologist make use of both the archaeological discoveries and the biblical account to make a comparative study.
What are the Old Testament and the New Testament?
The Christian bible is composed of two sections, the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament is the old original Hebrew bible. That was written in different times between 1200 to 165 BC. While the New Testament was written by the Christians in about first CBC.
Who are the Biblical People?
Bible has mentioned to the folks of the different races, like Romans, Greeks, the Galatians, the Cretans, the Jews, Samarritans, the Philistines, the Hittites and the Egyptians. So they all are the people of the bible.
What is meant by Leventine Archaeology ?
Leventine archaeology is a study of Levant which is also called as Syro -Palestinian archeology or Palestinian archeology. So it is a branch of archaeology that deals only with the historic centers that are located in Palestine.
How does Archaeology help to illuminate Biblical Archaeology?
Bible itself is not a full or complete historic record about the people and places that are mentioned in the bible. Thus archaeology helps to inform about the culture, tradition, material objects, economy, trade links etc of the people those are mentioned in the Bible.
Summary: Biblical archaeology is confined to the study of the stories, descriptions and discussions of the people that are available in the old and the new testaments. It covers the time from the early second millennium B.C till the time of Prophet Abrahim and the Patriarchs in early first millennium A.D.
Emergence of Biblical Archeology:
The foundations of the biblical archaeology were founded in 19th Century; by the British and the American archaeologist. In the aim to check or prove the authenticity of the Bible. Right after the First World War in the era between 1920’s the biblical archaeology became so dominant American school of Levantine archaeology; because the Palestine had come under the British rule after the First World War. William F. Albright and G. Ernest Wright were the two important figures that were engaged in this newly developed form of archaeology. At that time the funds for the excavations were provided by the churches and theologists to run this school of archaeology.
Problem Faced by the Biblical Archaeology:
In 1960’s the biblical archaeology got influenced by the modern archaeology. It resulted to push the biblical archaeologist to consider more to the scientific research of the sites instead of proving to the righteousness of the bible.
Different Stages of its Development:
The biblical archaeology has passed through different stages of development.
Before the British Mandate:
Europeans are the first who started excavations in Palestine. There are many archaeologists that were involved in the excavation and explorations. But Edward Robinson is the first who discovered number of the historic sites in this region. Many funds were also donated like the Palestinian exploration Fund that was granted by the queen Victoria. In the following years he American Palestinian Exploration society was founded in the late 19th Century. Another archaeologist known as William Matthew Flinder Petrie made exploration in this region.
That led to many great discoveries. In this reference he is called as “the father of Palestinian archaeology”.
Further more in 1889 the Dominican Order opened the French Biblical and Archaeological School of Jerusalem. In 1898 the Deutsche Orient-Gesellschaft was founded in the Berlin.
During the British Mandate:
It is the time that lies between 1922-1984. It is the time, when the course of explorations became immensely vast in this holy land. Many other organizations developed in the support of the biblical archaeology. The famous discovery of the Dead Sea scroll was also happened in the same time.
After the British Mandate:
It is the time when the state of Israel was founded in 1948. It is time of the Israeli archaeologists, who emerged to start discoveries in the holy land. Kathleen Kenyon is one of the important archaeologists of this period. Who made excavations in the Jericho and Ophel of Jerusalem.
Biblical Archaeology in the Present Times:
Today all of the excavation and exploration in the field of the biblical archaeology are sponsored by the Israeli antiquity authority. While the excavations are conducted by the international teams. Further more volunteers are also recruited to participate in the excavations.
Schools of Thoughts in Biblical Archaeology:
There are basically two schools of thoughts in the biblical archaeology.
- Biblical minimalism
- Biblical maximalism
Aim of both of the schools is to considering that whether bible is a historic document or not. Both of these schools are not different units. And it is not easy to clearly differ between them as such. Also with the passage of time differences between them have almost ceased.
Important Sites and Finds those come Under Biblical Archaeology:
Although the list of the biblical manuscripts, important burial places of the biblical figures is so long. Here is the brief description of few of the artifacts that are associated with the biblical chronology.
1. Auto Biography of the Weni:
It is a record of the earliest Egyptian military campaigns in the Sinai and the Levant dated back from circa 2280 BCE.
2. Sebek Khu Stele :
It is dated back to circa 1860 BCE. These are the Egyptian hieroglyphs and are records of the earliest Egyptian military campaign in Retjenu.
3. Statue of Idrimi:
This is an Akkadian Cuneiform records of the earliest reference that tell about the Canaan . It is dated to Circa 1500 BCE.
4. Merneptah Stele:
These are the first documented hieroglyphs about the name of Israel in the historic records . They are from Circa 1500 BCE.
5. Bubastite Portal:
These Egyptian hieroglyphs are form circa 952 BCE. It is records the military conquest of this epoch by Shoshenq 1, who is identified with the biblical name of Shishaq.
6. Mesha Stele:
It is a record in the Moabite language from Circa 850 BCE. That describes the victory of the Moabite king Misha .And it also bears the earliest biblical reference of the Isralite god Yahweh.
7. Kurkh Monoliths:
These Assyrian cuneiform writing from Circa 850 BCE, contains the description of the battle of Qarqar. It also contains the name of the Israeli king Ahab.
8. Black Obelisk of Shalmanser Third :
It is a Assariyan cuneiform artifact from 825 BCE. That contains info about a biblical figure Jehu son Omri.
9. Sabaa Stele:
It is dated back to 850 BCE. Is a Assyrian cuneiform, that records Adad Nirari Third’s Assyrian campaign.
10. Tel Dan Stele:
It Is a 800 BCE times Armiac record mentions king of Israel and a house of David.
11. Slab of Nimrud:
It is from Circa 800 BCE , an akkadian cuneiform thatdiscribes Adad Nirari iii’s early Assyrian conquest.
12. Sargon Two Prism A:
It is an inscription in Akkadian cuneiform from 710 BCE, that describes Sargon ii campaigns.
13. Siloam inscription:
It is from circa 701 BCE, and is recorded in Paleo Hebrew that mentions the construction of Siloam tunnel.
12. Lachish Relief:
It is from the 700 BCE. It is recorded in the Assyrian cuneiform. It shows the captives from Judah being led into captivity after the seigh of Lachish.
14. LMLK seals:
These are stamp impressions, translated as “belonging to the king”, they are from the circa 700 BCE.
15. Azekah inscription:
These are also from the 700 BCE, and they describe the campaign by Sennacherib against Hezekiah king of Judah.
16. Sennacherib’s Annals:
This is a record from 690 BCE; it describes the Assyrian King Sennacherib’s war of Jerusalem.
17. Ekron inscription:
This inscription is from 650 BCE, it is important as it is the first inscription from the area ascribed to Philistines.
18. Cylinder of Nabonidus:
This inscription from 550 BCE describes the Nabuchadnezzar’s first war of Jerusalem.
19. Cylinder of Cyprus:
It is from the 4th to 1st Century BCE. It is about the treatment of the religion by the king Cyprus.
20. Nabonidus Chronicals:
It describes the conquest of Babylon by Cyprus, dated back to 4th century BCE.
21. Temple warning inscription:
This inscription is from 23 BCE to 70 BCE, which is believed to be an inscription from the Herod’s Temple.
22. Trumpeting place inscription:
It is dated from 1st century BCE. It is believed that this inscription signs the priests who blew a trumpet.
23. Arch of Titus:
It is a relief that is dated to circa 82 AD. It shows the spoil from the sack of Jerusalem by Titus in 70 CE.
Acceptance of the Biblical Archaeology:
Although, many artifacts and the inscription have been claimed biblical by the supporters of the biblical archaeology. But still there are countless debates regarding the confirmation of the relationship of these findings according to the biblical record.
1. Noah’s Ark:
A claim had made that the Ark of the Noah has been found. But this claim has been refute many times.
2. Inscribed Pomegranate:
Similarly archaeologist claimed in the late 20th century that they have found the inscription that belongs to the temple of the “Lord Yahweh”. This claim was also rejected later as it was proved a forgery.
3. Jehoash Tablet:
A researcher from the Jerusalem claimed in 2002, that he has found a black stone that is mentioning the king Jehoash. Who ruled Judah from 836 to 798 BCE. Further analysis on this stone let the researchers know that the lettering and finish was created artificially.
4. James Ossuary:
A recent forgery that was claimed by an Israeli antiquity collector in 2002 was the discovery of chalk box. That was showing an inscription “James, the son of Joseph, and a brother of Jesus”. But its authenticity is also questionable.
5. Tomb with the bones of the Jesus Family:
Similarly a claim made in 2007 was clearly rejected by the archaeologist. In which it was announced that a tomb containing the bones of Jesus has found.
6. Gospel of Jesus Wife:
In 2020 a scholar claimed of finding a gospel of Jesus’ wife, which also could not get any attention being a baseless claim.
Significant museums that exhibit the antiquity from the biblical archaeology are as follow;
1. Israel Museum, Jerusalem
2. Bible Lands Museum, Jerusalem
3. Oriental Institute Chicago
4. Hecht Museum
5. British Museum
6. The Louvre
Top Ten Biblical Sites of the World:
1. Tel Megiddo:
It is considered by some Christians as a site of the end time’s battle that is mentioned in the Book of Revelation. This site is also known by the Greek name Armageddon. It is located some 30 km southeast of Haifa, Israel. It is a Bronze Age Canaanite city. It according to the Hebrew bible became a royal city, in the Kingdom of Israel.
It is a site that is currently located on the west bank of the Israel. This site on the northwestern shores of the Dead Sea gained a worldwide fame after the discovery of the Hebrew and Aramaic texts from the nearby caves containing biblical text and ancient writing. These scrolls are known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. Further during the detailed survey an aqueduct and the ruins of the buildings were also recovered from Qumran.
3. Tel Hazor:
This is a site which is considered as the largest tells of the Israel. It is a result of the centuries of human settlements consecutively. It is situated in the upper Galilee. And is spread over an area of 200 acres. Hazor is identified as a site which is mentioned in the bible as one of the Joshua’s victories in the conquest of Canaan after the death of the Moses. And he also had burnet the city. During excavation some evidences of the burnt materials and some burnt structures were found. But still many of the archaeologists are in a doubt upon the Hazor identity as a city of the biblical battle.
4. Machaerus Fort:
It is a fortress that is currently located in the Jordan. Some 30 km southwest of Madaba , on the top of a hill and is facing the Dead sea. It is said that the king Herod rebuilt this fort after its destruction by the Roman troops. And as far as the biblical references are concerned, this fortress is identified as the site where Jhon the Baptist was actually executed on the orders of the king Herods.
5. Old City of the Jerusalem:
In the Jewish belief the temple mount that lies within the walled old city is the place where the God gathered the dust to create Hazrat Adam (A.S). Secondly they also believe that it is the place where the son of the kind David Solemon built the first temple in circa 1000 BC. This is place which is claimed by both the Israel and also the Palestine. As the old city is also immensely important for the entire Muslims of the world because of the “Dome of Rock” and the Masjid-e-Aqsa.
6. Tel Beersheba:
The site of Tel Beersheba is currently located in southeastern Israel in the Negev desert. It is considered as are the ruins of a biblical town Beersheba. In the Old Testament it is narrated that the patriarch Abrahim discussed a deal with the philistine king Abimelech. And planted a tree of tamarisk here.
7. Mount Nebo:
The location of this mount is in the present day Jordan. According to the Old Testament Moses lived last years of his life on this mount.
These ancient ruins carved in the red rock cliffs are famous worldwide. The name of this mountain series is Jebel –al- Madhbah. The site is located in the southern Jordan near the Dead Sea. This place is identified as the “Sela” that is mentioned in the bible. It is said about Petra, that it was built in circa 312 B.C by an Arabic independent kingdom that were known in history as Nabteans.
9. El-Araj :
The researchers are of the view that this place is the ancient Jewish fishing village of the Bethsaida, which later became a roman city of Julias. This site is located in the delta of the river Jordan.
The city of Sidon or Saida is equally important the old and the new testaments. It is a view that this city is of the Canaanites who are the ancient inhibitors of the land that lies to the west of the Jordan. Sidon was an ancient port city and is also known as Saida, which is located in present Lebanon. This city is of a great worth in the biblical archaeology, as there are found the remains of the temple that is associated with the god Eshmun, who is a Phoenician god of healing.
As it is quit clear that biblical archaeology has concern only with the investigation of the sites and the information gathering about the people and events that are mentioned in the old and the new testaments. But at the same time many of the archaeologists and researchers avoid to use the word biblical archaeology as according to them it sounds unscientific. The name Biblical as is added to this branch of archaeology has also put a bad image on it as well. Secondly many researchers also have shown to be biased in presenting wrong proofs in the past and present in the attempt to connect the archaeological discoveries with the bible.
So in the modern times it is seen that archaeologists and the researchers are mostly agreed upon the view to create some sensible and logical connection regarding the archaeological finds I connection with the bible. This also has been accepted that bible wholly is not hundred percent authentic source of the history. So these modern archeologists are more interested in getting the information about the life of the people that are mentioned in the bible instead of trying to prove or disprove the credibility of the bible.
- Does archaeology support the Bible?
Archaeology is based on the rules of the science. Bible acts as one of the historic references used by the archaeologists for the reconstruction of the past. In this reference it may be added that bible independently cannot tell everything about the people of the holy land. So archaeology is not dependent on bible. Instead bible is dependent on archaeological research.
- What are the contributions of the archaeology to the Bible?
Archaeology with its excavations and explorations helps a great deal to the discovery of the artifacts, like pottery, weapons, seals, jewelry architecture and art etc. In this sense it is very helpful to bring forth the remains those are mentioned in the bible.