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Archaeology and the Bible

The Oxford Companion to the Bible What is This? Provides authoritative interpretive entries on Biblical people, places, beliefs, events, and secular influences.

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    Archaeology and the Bible

    History of Archaeology.

    Archaeology is the study of the remains of ancient civilizations uncovered through excavations. It is a relatively young discipline, for the first excavations in Mesopotamia were those of Paul Emile Botta at Nineveh in 1842 and Austin Henry Layard at Nimrud in 1845, while the first in the Aegean area were conducted by Heinrich Schliemann at Troy in 1870 and at Mycenae in 1876.

    Egyptian antiquities had been brought to the attention of Europe by Napoleon's invasion in 1798. Most of the activities in Egypt in the nineteenth century, such as those by Giovanni Belzoni, were treasure hunts and not excavations. At the end of the nineteenth century, William Matthew Flinders Petrie introduced some semblance of order.

    It was Petrie who was the first to excavate in Palestine at Tell el‐Hesi in 1890. From his prior experiences in Egypt, Petrie recognized the value of pottery for dating the strata. The first American excavations in Palestine were at Samaria in 1908–1910 by George A. Reisner and Clarence S. Fisher, who introduced systematic methods of recording discoveries.

    William Foxwell Albright, the dean of American archaeologists in the first half of the twentieth century, established a sound basis for pottery chronology in his excavations at Tell Beit Mirsim in 1926–1932. Nelson Glueck, Albright's student, conducted extensive surface surveys in Transjordan from 1933, and in Israel's Negev from 1952.

    At excavations at Samaria (1931–1935) and at Jericho (1952–1958), Kathleen Kenyon introduced more precise methods of analyzing soils and debris. She later excavated in Jerusalem (1961–1967). Significant work has also been carried on by many French and German scholars.

    Since 1948, Israeli scholars have assumed leading roles in the exploration of their homeland. Yigael Yadin conducted large‐scale excavations at Hazor (1956–1958) and at Masada (1963–1965). At the latter site, Yadin initiated the practice of using volunteers rather than paid workers. After 1968, Benjamin Mazar, Nahman Avigad, and Yigal Shiloh directed major excavations in Jerusalem.

    G. Ernest Wright, in his excavations at Shechem (1956–1964), and William G. Dever, in his work at Gezer (1964–1971), trained scores of young American excavators. It was in the 1966 season at Shechem that a geologist was first added to the staff. Since 1970, Palestinian archaeologists, influenced by New World archaeology, have also enlisted the help of architects, photographers, and pottery restorers, numerous scientific specialists such as osteologists, paleobotanists, and paleozoologists to reconstruct ancient ecologies and societies. Specialized laboratories are used for such processes as carbon‐14 dating and neutron activation of pottery to determine its place of origin.

    Ironically, often the most spectacular discoveries have been made by chance rather than by scientific deduction. At Ras Shamra in Syria a peasant's plow struck a tomb, which led to the discovery of ancient Ugarit. Bedouin in search of a lost goat discovered the cave at Qumran which contained the Dead Sea Scrolls. Peasants seeking fertilizer in Egypt discovered the Amarna tablets in 1887 and the Coptic Gnostic codices at Nag Hammadi in 1945.

    Archeological Methods.

    The first important attempt to identify sites in Palestine with biblical cities was made by Edward Robinson and Eli Smith in 1838 on the basis of modern Arabic place names. In a few cases, inscriptions have confirmed the identity of ancient sites, as at Gibeon, Gezer, Arad, Lachish, Dan, and Abila. In some cases, proposed identifications are in dispute, such as Albright's identification of Tell Beit Mirsim as Debir and Glueck's identification of Tell el‐Kheleifeh as Ezion‐geber. According to Yohanan Aharoni, out of the approximately 475 place names mentioned in the Bible only slightly more than half have been identified with any degree of certainty.

    Recent surveys indicate how many new sites of ancient settlements may be discovered by systematic searches. Israeli surveys in 1965 in the Haifa area and the Negev uncovered two hundred previously unknown sites. Benno Rothenberg discovered two hundred new sites in the Negev and Arabah and a hundred in the Sinai in 1966–68. Surveys of the Golan Heights and the West Bank since 1968 have plotted hundreds of other new sites.

    Most ancient Near Eastern cities have left their remains behind in stratified mounds called “tells” (“tell” is the transliteration of the Arabic, while the spelling “tel” is from Hebrew; cf. Josh. 11.13). These trapezoidal mounds are to be found in the Near East because settled urban populations have existed there for millennia, with generation after generation rebuilding upon earlier rubble; the debris was kept in a compact shape by the city wall. The height of a tell can be considerable. In Mesopotamia the tells range from 17 m (56 ft) at Kish up to 43 m (140 ft) at Tell Brak. In Palestine, the depth of debris at Jericho is about 18 m (60 ft), and at Beth‐shan and Megiddo about 21 m (70 ft).

    The excavator's first step is to secure permission from the country's Department of Antiquities. The next step, if the land is privately owned, is either to purchase the area to be excavated, as at Megiddo and Dothan, or more usually to rent it with the understanding that the land will be restored to its former condition after the termination of the excavations. Not only must rent be paid for the use of the land but compensation must be given for the crops destroyed. The cost of excavating areas occupied with houses is prohibitive. Only where generous funding is available, such as for the excavations of the Athenian Agora, is this possible.

    The cost of financing excavations has varied greatly. At one extreme was the luxury of the University of Chicago's expedition after World War I at Megiddo with its budget of sixteen million dollars. At the other extreme was the fabled austerity of Petrie's camp in Egypt, where a little more than a dollar per week was spent for provisions. Kenyon's excavations at Jericho cost about twelve thousand dollars per year, and her later work at Jerusalem about thirty thousand dollars per year. On average, the cost of a season's expedition now runs well over one hundred thousand dollars.

    In the nineteenth century, individual subscribers in Britain supported the Palestine Exploration Fund and the Egypt Exploration Fund, which sponsored surveys, excavations, and publications. Wealthy patrons such as John D. Rockefeller, Charles Marston, Jacob Schiff, and Leon Levy have helped pay for excavations respectively at Megiddo, Lachish, Samaria, and Ashkelon.

    Recent excavations have depended upon consortia of schools and other organizations. Funds for Kenyon's work at Jericho came from forty‐three universities, societies, and museums. Along with securing the necessary funds the director must assemble a staff of trained supervisors and a work crew of laborers.

    The site to be excavated is surveyed, both horizontally, in a grid marked with pegs, and vertically, in elevations from a benchmark. The supervisor then determines which fields should be excavated, for example, over the probable sites of the gate, the wall, the chief residences. In some recent cases, the use of a magnetometer or aerial/satellite photography has facilitated the location of such structures. Each field is then subdivided, often into a series of six‐meter (ca. 20 ft) squares. Each of the square areas will be worked by an area supervisor and six or eight workers or volunteers.

    The digging season varies from two weeks to six months. Most expeditions take place in the summer for the sake of participating professors and students. The exception would be work at sites such as Jericho or Susa, which are unbearably hot in the summer.

    The average workday is a strenuous one, beginning long before sunrise to avoid having to work in the hot afternoon. Workers often rise before five A.M., dig for three hours, have breakfast, and then work for another three hours before lunch. After lunch, pottery is washed and sorted. The director and his staff will often work late into the night, recording their finds.

    The object of the excavator is to dig stratigraphically, that is, to remove the debris and associated objects layer by layer. Bulldozers have sometimes been used to remove modern remains or ancient fill. But even those who are interested chiefly in earlier levels are obliged to record carefully later occupations, such as those of Byzantine and Islamic periods.

    Since successive strata were not deposited at a uniformly level rate over a flat surface, absolute heights are not chronologically meaningful. Added complications arise from intrusions such as pits. The archaeologist often finds “robber trenches,” where stones have been removed for reuse.

    Picks are used to break up the soil, and large oversized hoes to scoop up the dirt into baskets. For finer work a small pick is used together with a trowel and a brush. Also essential are meter‐sticks, levels, strings, tags, and labels for measuring and recording; computers are being used more and more in the field for registering excavated materials, as well as in preparing them for publication after the digging has come to an end. When a special object is found, its exact location and level are recorded. Ordinary sherds are placed in carefully labeled buckets for washing and later examination.

    It is often worth sieving the soil to retrieve small objects such as coins. Most bronze coins appear as tiny spots of green in the soil. During the first three years of the Mazar excavation at Jerusalem ten thousand coins were found.

    The earlier Fisher‐Reisner methods had included the careful recording of objects and of building levels. But between levels their diagrams often showed empty spaces where attribution to a stratum was made according to the absolute height of the deposits. Kenyon introduced improved methods, which involved the careful cutting of balks (unexcavated strips between squares) and the minute analysis of the different types of soils that appeared in the vertical sections created by the balks. Her methods are best suited to small areas where sizable architecture is not present, although attention to stratigraphy is essential in any context.

    One of the important problems facing the excavator is the location of the dump for depositing the earth that has been dug up. Care must be taken that nothing of value is thrown away. From the Chicago dump at Megiddo, for example, Israeli shepherds recovered an invaluable fragment of the Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic.

    Special difficulty attends the excavations of sites where buildings are made of stones, which are almost invariably reused. On the other hand, the detection of mud brick walls is also difficult. Tombs present special problems: they have often been reused and may be tightly packed with skeletons and objects that must be removed with special care. Tombs often reward the excavator with whole vessels and even jewelry. Caves are often packed deep with noxious bat droppings.

    It is highly desirable that the areas excavated should, if possible, be tested to bedrock or to virgin soil. When, however, the water table is reached, the entire trench turns quickly into a quagmire. This is why Robert Koldewey in his work at Babylon could explore only the later Neo‐Babylonian level of Nebuchadrezzar and not the Old Babylonian level of Hammurapi.

    The development of underwater archaeology was made possible by the invention in 1942 by Jacques‐Yves Cousteau and Emile Gagnan of the aqualung and depth‐compensating regulator. The advent of scuba (Self‐Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) diving made the process much cheaper and simpler. Underwater explorations have clarified the Herodian seaport of Caesarea, and other coastal sites and harbors throughout the Mediterranean.

    Archaeological Finds.

    The most common objects to be found are sherds of broken pottery in enormous quantities. James Pritchard estimated that four seasons at Gibeon produced in excess of two hundred thousand sherds. All the pieces of pottery are washed and sorted, but often only a fraction are saved and recorded. Of almost one hundred fifty thousand sherds washed in the first season at Dothan, Joseph Free recorded six thousand pieces.

    A tiny fraction of sherds may have inscriptions on them. Over fifty thousand pieces were washed at Gibeon before an inscribed ostracon appeared. Important inscriptions have been preserved on ostraca from Samaria, Arad, and Lachish.

    An ivory from Megiddo depicts nude captives being brought before a king seated on a throne. Hundreds of decorated ivory fragments have been found, fittingly enough, at Samaria in view of the reference to Ahab's “ivory house” (1 Kings 22.39). These illustrate the “beds of ivory” denounced by Amos (6.4). Carved ivories from Arslan Tash and elsewhere depict an alluring goddess or woman peering out of a window (cf. 2 Kings 9.30).

    From the Assyrian siege at Lachish in 701 BCE excavators found an extraordinary assemblage of fifteen hundred to two thousand skeletons over which animal bones, mostly of pigs, had been scattered. Human skeletons can provide medical information. Three skulls from Lachish had been trephined, that is, holes had been cut into their skulls, perhaps to drain fluids resulting from trauma or disease. Evidence of gold, silver, and even bronze implants have been found in teeth from Egypt, Phoenicia, and Palestine. Measurements of skeletons found in tombs of the Herodian period indicate that the average person of that day was quite short, about 1.6 m (5 ft 3 in) tall.

    Highly perishable objects, such as textiles, have been found but rarely in Palestine, and only in the dry Dead Sea region. For example, wooden boxes, coils of flax, basketry, and the oldest preserved toga were found in the caves occupied during the Second Jewish Revolt (ca. 135 CE). Even the tresses of a woman were preserved at Masada.

    The many figurines found are generally interpreted as cultic, especially the nude female figurines. Representations of riders and horses found at Jerusalem may have been related to a solar cult; animal figurines from Beth‐shan may have emanated from the cult of Nergal/Mekal/Seth.

    Many small seals bear not only important inscriptions but also fine artistic representations. The seal of Shema found at Megiddo has a magnificent engraving of a roaring lion, the seal of Jaazaniah from Tell en‐Nasbeh depicts a fighting cock, and a seal from Arad bears the outline plan of the citadel.

    Metal objects vary greatly in their state of preservation. Gold objects are the best preserved; silver is usually covered with black tarnish, and bronze with a greenish patina. Iron rusts badly—often to a residue of reddish powder. Among the most significant objects in silver ever found are two amulets (ca. 600 BCE) inscribed with the priestly benediction of Numbers 6.24–26—the oldest biblical text discovered to date.

    Among the most valuable metal objects are coins, usually made of silver, copper, or bronze. Coinage, which was invented in the seventh century BCE, was introduced into the Levant by the sixth century and was being minted locally by the fifth. Discoveries of coins in Palestine from the Persian period indicate that references to coins in Ezra 2.69; 8.27 and Nehemiah 7.70–72, whether they are interpreted as Persian darics or Greek drachmas, are not anachronistic. The earliest Greek coins (sixth century BCE) found in Palestine include one from Thasos found at Shechem, one from Athens, and another from Cos found at Jerusalem. (See also Money.)

    Archaeological Evidence and Biblical Traditions.

    To appreciate the impact that archaeology has had on our understanding of biblical history and times, one must recall that pervasive skepticism about ancient traditions prevailed among biblical scholars in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Working only with the literary sources, Julius Wellhausen and Ferdinand C. Baur respectively discounted the historical validity of the Pentateuch and Acts (See Interpretation, History of, article on Modern Biblical Criticism). Archaeological discoveries subsequently convinced scholars such as William Foxwell Albright and William M. Ramsay of the presence of sound traditions preserved in those biblical texts.

    In some cases, the lack of expected archaeological data still poses problems. Often, however, excavations illuminate the background of the biblical narratives, and occasionally dramatically confirm them. But archaeology cannot “prove” the Bible: archaeological materials are for the most part rubble whose survival, discovery, and publication is fragmentary. Without inscriptional finds, the evidence is mute and requires interpretation. Furthermore, the biblical perspective is essentially religious. Archaeology may uncover the splendid structures built by Solomon, Ahab, or Herod, but will not help us understand why the Bible condemns those monarchs. Archaeology may give us a better understanding of the crucifixion and the tomb of Jesus Christ, but can say nothing of his resurrection.

    Chronological terms.

    Beginning with the fourth millennium BCE, the following is the usual division of eras for the Levant: Early Bronze Age (EB) = ca. 3200–2000 BCE; Middle Bronze Age (MB) = ca. 2000–1550 BCE; Late Bronze Age (LB) = ca. 1550–1225 BCE; Iron Age = ca. 1225–539 BCE; Persian Period = 539–332 BCE; Hellenistic Period = 332–363 BCE; Roman Period = 63 BCE – 324 CE.

    Primeval history.

    Mesopotamian literature provides some parallels to the biblical stories of the creation and the Flood. Genesis, however, differs from the polytheistic cosmology of Enuma Elish, the “Babylonian creation epic” (ca. 1100 BCE), which describes how Marduk, the god of Babylon, created the heavens and the earth from the carcass of Tiamat, the goddess of the deep.

    The publication by George A. Smith in 1872 of the Babylonian flood story from the Gilgamesh Epic created something of a sensation because of its parallels with the biblical Flood story (Gen. 6–9). In 1965, W. G. Lambert and Alan Millard published another epic, Atrahasis, which contains both a creation and a flood account. The Babylonian gods sent the flood because they could not sleep due to the noisy tumult of human beings.

    Leonard Woolley believed that he had found evidence of the flood in a three m (ten ft) water‐borne layer of sediment at Ur dated to roughly 4000 BCE. But this does not correlate with other flood deposits, such as those at Fara and Kish, dated to about 2700 BCE, and flooding in the Mesopotamian river basin was a frequent occurrence. Thus, while there is general support for a background of catastrophic flooding, there is no certain correlation of a sediment layer with the biblical Flood.

    Ancestral age.

    Although Julius Wellhausen and many later scholars have questioned the historicity of the narratives of the ancestors of Israel as found in Genesis 12–50, evidence from Mesopotamia and Syria tends to support the antiquity and authenticity of many of the biblical traditions.

    Woolley's excavations revealed the advanced civilization of Ur in the third millennium BCE. Ur‐nammu, a king at the end of the third millennium, promulgated the earliest known law code. Ur and Haran, where Abraham and Terah are said to have sojourned, were both centers of the worship of Sin, the moon god.

    The MB royal palace at Mari on the Euphrates has yielded an archive of twenty‐five thousand tablets, which provide evidence that names in Abraham's genealogy were current in the area in the early second millennium CE. The Mari texts illustrate the system of power alliances prior to the rise of Hammurapi, similar to the alliance related in Genesis 14.

    Texts from Alalakh (eighteenth century BCE) and Nuzi (fifteenth century BCE) have been cited to illuminate the social customs of the ancestors. Sarah's provision of her handmaid to Abraham (Gen. 16) to procure a son was an accepted custom, also attested in the Code of Hammurapi.

    Many scholars date Abraham and Isaac to the MB I period (also called EB IV and Intermediate EB/MB). A number of nonwalled villages and hundreds of smaller settlements from this period in the Negev may illustrate the kind of seminomadic sites implied in Genesis.

    The story of Joseph (Gen. 37–50), which contains what may be called “Egyptianisms,” can be set in the Hyksos period (seventeenth century BCE) or earlier. A papyrus in the Brooklyn Museum dated to the eighteenth century BCE contains a list of Semites sold as slaves to Egypt; a Ugaritic text tells of a man who was sold by his companions to some passing Egyptians (Gen. 37.25–28). Many scholars, however, date to the first millennium the Joseph narrative because of its attestation of the personal names. But one should note the loss of papyri from the Delta region, which may have contained earlier evidence.

    The Exodus.

    The sojourn of the Israelites in Egypt is not recorded in Egyptian documents. The sole reference to Israel comes from the stele of Merneptah (late thirteenth century BCE), which refers to them in the land of Canaan. The storehouse of Ramesses (Exod. 1.11) has been identified with Qantir (Map 2:Q2).

    Canaanite parallels have led many scholars to argue for the antiquity of the Song of the Sea (Exod. 15). Literary comparisons between the Mosaic covenant and second‐millennium treaties, especially those of the Hittites, support arguments for its antiquity.

    Two dates for the Exodus have been proposed: an early date of about 1440 BCE, and a late date of about 1270. No definitive archaeological evidence confirms the traditional southern route through the Sinai peninsula or the location of Mount Sinai.

    The Israelites passed from the Sinai through the Transjordanian kingdoms of Edom and of Moab. A glistening bronze snake found at Timnah illustrates the episode recorded in Numbers 21.9. The account concerning the prophet Balaam, called by the king of Moab to curse the Israelites (Num. 22–24), is remarkably paralleled by an Aramaic inscription from Deir ʿAlla in Transjordan, dating from the late eighth century BCE.

    One of the arguments for the late date of the Exodus was Nelson Glueck's conclusion from his surveys of Transjordan that there were no settled populations in Edom and Moab in the Middle and Late Bronze Ages. More recently, evidence of settlement in these periods has been found.

    The conquest.

    Palestine before its conquest by the Israelites was occupied by the Canaanites, whose culture has been illuminated by texts from the Syrian coastal site of Ugarit, destroyed around 1200 BCE. Ugaritic literary texts feature such Canaanite deities as Baal, El, and Astarte. Canaanite temples have been uncovered at many sites, including several at Hazor, the greatest city in ancient Palestine.

    The date of the conquest of Canaan hinges on the date of the Exodus. The fourteenth‐century BCE Amarna letters discovered in Egypt include correspondence from Palestinian kings, asking for Egyptian aid against the Habiru. Although it is not possible to equate the Hebrews with the Habiru, the former may have been a part of the larger movement of the Habiru.

    Archaeological evidence for the conquest is problematic. Evidence for LB settlements at Jericho, Gibeon, and Ai are nonexistent, scanty, eroded, or not yet discovered. The destruction in the thirteenth and twelfth centuries of strong Canaanite cities such as Hazor, Bethel, and Tell Beit Mirsim has been attributed to the Israelites. Some of the destructions of western cities at this time may have been caused by the Egyptians or invading Philistines. The evidence of early Iron Age newcomers in Upper Galilee and in the Negev may indicate a peaceful infiltration of Israelites in those areas. Since Shechem shows no evidence of destruction in this period, it may have passed peacefully into Israelite hands (see Josh. 24).

    The judges.

    The archaeological record of random destructions correlates with the picture of political chaos that prevailed in the era of the judges. The miraculous victory over Canaanite chariots celebrated in the archaic Song of Deborah (Judg. 5) may be the explanation of the destructions around 1125 BCE of the sites of Taanach and Tel Qedesh in the Jezreel Valley. A twelfth‐century ostracon with an abecedary from Izbet Sartah demonstrates the literacy of the day (cf. Judg. 8.14). The late twelfth‐century destruction at Shechem may come from the violent episode of Abimelech (Judg. 9). Micah's household shrine (Judg. 17.5) may be compared to a shrine found at Tel Qiri. The destruction of the Canaanite city of Laish (Dan) may be attributed to the migration of the tribe of Dan (Judg. 18.29).

    Much of Judges and 1 Samuel are occupied with the conflict between the coastal Philistines and the Israelites over the Shephelah territory between them. The plan of the Philistine temple that Samson overthrew (Judg. 16.29) has been illuminated by the discovery of such a temple with two column bases at Tell el‐Qasile. Philistine pottery from Ashdod and elsewhere, which resembles Mycenean prototypes, betrays their Aegean origins (Amos 9.7).

    The united monarchy.

    The twelve Israelite tribes were united briefly under three kings, Saul, David, and Solomon. Saul won renown by his triumphs over the Philistines, who had dominated the Israelites by their monopoly of metallurgical technology (1 Sam. 13.19–22). An iron plow point was discovered in the excavations of Saul's fortress at Gibeah.

    David succeeded in capturing the Jebusite city of Jerusalem. Kenyon's excavations at the base of Ophel, the city of David, uncovered a corner of the wall of the Jebusite city. A sloping, stepped structure on Ophel has been attributed to David by Shiloh. The “filling” (Hebr. millôʾ) built by both David (2 Sam. 5.9) and by Solomon (1 Kings 9.15) was identified by Kenyon as the series of terraces on the slope of Ophel.

    Earlier scholars had doubted the attribution of many of the Psalms to David, and had dated many to a late period of Israel's history. Striking word parallels to Ugaritic poetry now indicate that many of the Psalms may indeed date to a period as early as David's era. Ugarit has also produced the oldest musical annotation.

    Solomon's celebration (1 Kings 8.65) may be compared with the feast that Ashurnasirpal II gave at Nimrud for 69,574 guests! Though Solomon built a splendid Temple and palace in Jerusalem, no remains of these have been found. Solomonic palaces have been uncovered at Megiddo. With brilliant insight, Yadin proved that identical triple gates were built by Solomon at Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer (1 Kings 9.15–17). A sanctuary at Arad was dated by its excavator Aharoni to the Solomonic period.

    Solomon's trading and fame were on an international scale. An ostracon from Tell Qasile speaks of “the gold of Ophir” (1 Kings 10.11), imported by Solomon. A ninth‐century South Arabian stamp seal found at Bethel may be evidence of the trade established by the queen of Sheba. Solomon's prestige is highlighted by his marriage to the daughter of a pharaoh (1 Kings 9.16), probably Siamun.

    The divided monarchy.

    Jeroboam I, who led the revolt against Rehoboam, Solomon's son, had taken refuge in Egypt under Shishak. In the fifth year after Solomon's death, Shishak invaded Palestine, as the Bible (1 Kings 14.25–26) and his own inscriptions at Karnak attest. A stele of Shishak has been found at Megiddo.

    The polytheism that characterized popular religion in both Israel and Judah has been amply attested. A startling example from the eighth century BCE is a painting with an inscription of “Yahweh and his Asherah” found at Kuntillet ʿAjrud near Kadesh‐barnea. Images of riders on horses found at Jerusalem may have belonged to a cult of the sun.

    Jeroboam's northern city of Dan has yielded impressive structures, including a monumental gate with benches, a pedestal for a throne, and a high place. Excavators found at Samaria magnificent buildings of Ahab and his Phoenician wife Jezebel, including Proto‐Aeolic columns and ivory fragments.

    From Ahab's reign come also the elaborate underground water system at Hazor and the “stables” at Megiddo. Ahab's military might is attested outside the Bible by texts of the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III, which credit Ahab with two thousand chariots and ten thousand infantry at the battle of Qarqar (853). One of the rare monumental inscriptions from the area is the Moabite Stone of Ahab's enemy, King Mesha (cf. 2 Kings 3.27).

    The famous Black Obelisk depicts King Jehu (843–816 BCE) of Israel prostrating himself before Shalmaneser III. A stele of Adad‐Nirari III lists Joash of Samaria as offering tribute to the Assyrians. Menahem of Israel also paid tribute to Tiglath‐pileser III (2 Kings 15.19–20).

    Sargon II claimed that he captured 27,290 prisoners and “their gods,” when Samaria fell in 722 BCE. The exiles were taken to places like Gozan and Calah (2 Kings 17.6); ostraca from these places list Israelite names like Menahem, Elisha, and Haggai. Sargon's army later (712) invaded Judah (Isa. 20.1), as a fragment of his stele at Ashdod confirms. The Assyrian presence is evidenced by a fortress at Tell Jemmeh, and a standard found at Tell esh‐Shariʿa.

    The Assyrian juggernaut of Sennacherib invaded Judah in 701 and overwhelmed city after city, including the key southern fort of Lachish (2 Kings 18.13–17). The assault with battering rams up a ramp is illustrated in detail by reliefs from Sennacherib's palace at Nineveh. Excavations at Lachish have uncovered the siege ramp, a counter ramp, arrowheads, the crest of a helmet, chain mail, and a chain used by the defenders against the ram.

    Sennacherib, though he claims to have received tribute, does not claim the capture of Jerusalem. Hezekiah had built the Siloam Tunnel to provide water to the city. His inscription describes how workers dug from both ends to meet in the center. Segments of the “broad wall” (Neh. 3.8), which he probably built to the west of the Temple area to enclose the “Second Quarter” (2 Kings 22.14) have been discovered. A funerary inscription from Silwan may belong to Shebna(yahu), who was rebuked by the prophet Isaiah (22.15–16) for building an ostentatious tomb.

    Invasions of Judah.

    The early reign of Nebuchadrezzar, including his attack on Syria and Palestine in his first year in 605 BCE, has been greatly illuminated by the publication in 1956 of the Babylonian Chronicles. These reveal a hitherto unknown battle of 601 BCE that may have misled the Judeans to rely on help from Egypt, against the advice of Jeremiah (Jer. 37.6–10). The Chronicles also describe the Babylonian attack on Jerusalem in 597 (2 Kings 24.8–17), but the portion describing the final attack in 587/586 is missing.

    The advance of the Babylonian army is dramatically announced by a Lachish ostracon, which reports “we cannot see Azekah” (see Jer. 34.7). Evidences of the devastation wrought by the Babylonians have been found at numerous Judean sites, including Jerusalem itself.

    A number of seals or seal impressions probably belong to personages from this era; these bear names of such biblical figures as Baruch, son of Neriah, Jeremiah's scribe (Jer. 36.4); Jerahmeel, Jehoiakim's son (Jer. 36.26); Jaazaniah (Jer. 40.8); and Gedaliah (Jer. 40.8).

    An ostracon from Arad implies an imminent attack from the direction of Edom. The reason Obadiah denounced the Edomites must stem from their taking advantage of Judah during the Babylonian attack. A poignant expression in Yahweh's faithfulness even after the destruction of Jerusalem has been found at Khirbet Beit Lei (cf. Lam. 3.22–23).

    Some of the splendors of the great city of Babylon erected by Nebuchadrezzar (Dan. 4.30), such as the Ishtar Gate, have been recovered. At Babylon tablets dated 595–570 BCE explicitly confirm the biblical account that the exiled Jewish king Jehoiachin received rations from the Babylonian court (2 Kings 25.30).

    The puzzling role of Belshazzar (instead of his father Nabonidus) in the book of Daniel has been clarified by Babylonian and Aramaic documents that reveal that Nabonidus spent ten years in self‐imposed exile in Arabia.

    The capture of Babylon by the Persians in 539 BCE resulted in the liberation of the Jews by Cyrus. The magnanimity of the Persian king (Ezra 1) to other religions is fully corroborated by such documents as the Cyrus Cylinder. The Murashu texts, which list about a hundred Jewish names from the reigns of Artaxerxes I and Darius II, document the prosperity of the Jews who chose to remain in Mesopotamia.

    The events recounted in Ezra‐Nehemiah have been illuminated by the Elephantine papyri from Egypt, by the Xanthos inscription from Lydia, and by tablets from Persepolis. Inscriptions or papyri can be correlated with Nehemiah's opponents (Neh. 2.19)—Geshem, Tobiah, and Sanballat. Some seventy bullae acquired in 1970 reveal the names of governors of Judah who preceded Nehemiah (Neh. 5.15). Kenyon's excavations in Jerusalem clarified the line of the wall that was rebuilt (Neh. 3) and uncovered the tumble that blocked Nehemiah's donkey (Neh. 2.14).

    The Hellenistic and Roman periods.

    The greatest discovery is the cache of Dead Sea Scrolls, which includes our oldest manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible. In addition, Hebrew and Aramaic originals of apocryphal works such as Sirach and pseudepigraphical works such as Enoch were found.

    The extensive building projects of Herod the Great are found everywhere in Palestine: at Jerusalem, Sebaste, Caesarea, Masada, Machaerus, Jericho, and Herodium. The magnificent ashlars (see Mark 13.1) are visible at the Temple platform in Jerusalem. Excavations nearby have uncovered a 64 m (210 ft) wide stairway, a limestone object inscribed qrbn (see Mark 7.11; See Corban), and debris from Titus's capture of Jerusalem. Work in the Upper City has revealed homes of the wealthy high priests, including an inscription of Bar Kathros, the head of a priestly family accused in the Talmud of exploitation.

    The magnificent remains of the synagogue at Capernaum (Mark 1.21) have been dated to the fourth century CE on the basis of coins. Basalt remains of an earlier synagogue are visible. The second/third‐century synagogue at Chorazin contains a so‐called seat of Moses (Matt. 23.2). Buildings or structures identified as rare first‐century CE synagogues have been found at Gamla, Herodium, and Masada. Near the Capernaum synagogue, a first‐century CE fisherman's house, later venerated as Peter's house, has been uncovered.

    In Jerusalem the twin pools of Bethesda (John 5.2) and the pool of Siloam (John 9.7–11) have been identified. Some scholars have placed the site of the praetorium (John 18.28), where Jesus was tried before Pilate, north of the Temple area, where flagstones under the Sisters of Zion building have been identified as the lithostraton (John 19.13) of the Fortress Antonia. The more probable site of the trial, however, is near the Jaffa Gate, where remains of Herod's palace have been found in the citadel area. In 1961, an inscription of Pilate was found at Caesarea.

    In 1968, Israeli archaeologists discovered the first physical evidence of a victim of crucifixion. In an ossuary, a limestone box for the redeposition of bones, were discovered a young man's calcanei or heel bones still pierced by an iron nail. His right tibia or shin bone had been fractured into slivers by a blow (cf. John 19.32). A crease in the radius indicates that the victim had been pinioned in the forearms rather than in the palms. Accordingly, the Greek word cheiras in Luke 24.39–40 and John 20.20, 25, 27, usually translated “hands,” should perhaps be translated “arms.”

    Several rolling‐stone type tombs may be seen in Jerusalem. Excavations in and around the Church of the Holy Sepulcher suggest that the site was outside the walls in Jesus' day. The Greek “Nazareth” inscription, thought by some to date from the reign of Claudius, warns against tampering with tombs (Matt. 28.13–15).

    Many discoveries have illuminated the far‐flung missions of Paul. Excavations at Nea Paphos have uncovered an inscription of Sergius Paulus (Acts 13.7), the governor of Cyprus converted by Paul. A text dedicated to Zeus and Hermes near Lystra illustrates the episode of Acts 14.12. Inscriptions from Thessalonica confirm the accuracy of Luke's use of the term “politarchs” for rulers of that city (Acts 17.6).

    Paul's speech at Athens may have been addressed to the Areopagus council (Acts 17.22), which met in the royal stoa recently uncovered in the agora. The reference in Paul's speech to the “unknown God” (Acts 17.23) is illustrated by an inscription from Pergamon referring to “unknown gods.”

    The date of Paul's ministry in Corinth (51 CE) has been fixed by the inscription of Gallio, the governor who tried him (Acts 18.12–17). An inscription of Erastus is probably that of one of the few wealthy members of the Corinthian church (Acts 19.22; Rom. 16.23). An inscription of a butcher marks the site of the “meat market” (1 Cor. 10.25). At Corinth, the average space available in typical triclinia (dining rooms) and atria not only limited the size of the house churches but could cause divisions when the wealthier Christians would be invited into the triclinium for the love‐feast, leaving the rest of the Christians outside in the atrium (1 Cor. 11.20–22).

    Athletic facilities have been excavated at Isthmia, east of Corinth, the site of the Pan‐Hellenic games probably observed by Paul (1 Cor. 9.24–27). A first‐century harbor has been traced at Corinth's eastern harbor, Cenchreae, the home of Phoebe (Rom. 16.1).

    Magnificent remains have been exposed at Ephesus. The foundation of the temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, was discovered after a search of six years by J. T. Wood. In front of the temple a U‐shaped altar has been uncovered. Inscriptions speak about the silver images of Artemis (Acts 19.24), and the garment dedicated to the goddess. Statues of the famed goddess (Acts 19.27) have been found in thirty different places, including Caesarea. One can observe the theater that Luke gives as the scene for the assembly provoked by Paul's preaching (Acts 19.29). A fresco from a house nearby depicts scenes from Greek dramatists, including Menander, whom Paul cites (1 Cor. 15.33).

    Though most New Testament cities have been excavated, there are still a number of key sites associated with Paul, such as Derbe and Colossae, which have been identified but are as yet unexcavated.

    Edwin M. Yamauchi

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