Is the Bible a true story? Special Report…:
“Beauty and biblical evidence both lie in the eye
of the beholder, it seems. No evidence of the events described in the
Book of Genesis has ever been found. No city walls have been found at
Jericho, from the appropriate era, that could have been toppled by
Joshua or otherwise. The stone palace uncovered at the foot of Temple
Mount in Jerusalem could attest that King David had been there; or it
might belong to another era entirely, depending (on) who you ask.
Eighteen years ago, on October 29, 1999, Haaretz
published an article by Tel Aviv University’s Zeev Herzog, whose message
was spelled out in the very headline: The Bible: No evidence on the
Of what? No evidence that
the children of Israel sojourned in Egypt, passed through a miraculously
parted Red Sea, wandered the Sinai Desert for 40 years or indeed any
years, and no evidence that they conquered the land of Israel and
divided it up among 12 tribes of Israel.
The renowned archaeologist also
shared his suspicion that David and Solomons “United Kingdom,” described in the Bible as a regional power, was at most a minor tribal domain.
“Jehovah, the God of Israel, had a wife and the early Israelite religion adopted monotheism only towards the end of the period of the kingdom, not at Mount Sinai, Herzog also wrote.
The unbridgeable gap Herzog
described between the Biblical tales and the archaeological findings was
nothing new, to researchers. Israeli archaeologists have long thought
as much, based on biblical criticism theories originating in Germany
during the early 19th century. The general public, however, was shocked.
Today, 18 years on, armed with cutting-edge dating and molecular
technologies, archaeologists increasingly agree with Herzog that
generally, the Bible does not reflect historical truths.
Meanwhile, everybody wants
to know whether the Bible is literally true, from the layman to the
clergy, to the political echelon, pertaining as it does to questions of
identity and our right to the land.
Among archaeologists, the camps have split
according to academic institution: In Jerusalem the biblical
(maximalist) camp dominates, for instance arguing that the impressive
palace found in the City of David practically had to have belonged to
David. In Tel Aviv, the critical (minimalist) camp prevails in Tel Aviv,
arguing that there is no evidence to buttress the bible, and that the
palace in Jerusalem evidently doesn’t date to the Davidic era.
The founding fathers of
Israeli archaeology explicitly set out with the Bible in one hand and a
pick in the other, seeking findings from the biblical eras, as part of
the Zionist project. But as excavations progressed in the 1970s and
1980s, rather than substantiation, what began to pile up was
In Jericho no wall was found
from the era that Joshua was supposed to have lived, around the
mid-13th century B.C.E., that he could have caused to tumble down. No
evidence has been found that a large new group of people entered into
Canaan during the post-Exodus settlement period.
There is, in fact, no evidence to substantiate Exodus.
In Jerusalem, no concrete
remains have been found from the purported glorious United Kingdom, and
nowhere is there ex-biblical evidence of the kings David or Solomon
either, with the possible exception of the "Beitdavid” inscription (more
on that below). Nor do major archaeological tells conform to biblical
descriptions, until after the period of the purported United Kingdom.
The last 18 years of digging
have changed basically nothing about the very earliest Biblical
periods, for all the advances in archaeological technique.
Archaeology has not been
able to find the Patriarch Abraham, or signs of his heirs. There is no
evidence that the Children of Israel ever went to Egypt, or fled it in
Israeli archaeology was late to adopt carbon-14
dating techniques, and until recently dated sites relying largely on
pottery. Today not only is C-14 being used to date organic materials:
advanced techniques enable inorganic materials and structures to be
dated as well. And the new discoveries occasionally rock the boat, in
If anything, archaeologists
find inconsistencies between the biblical accounts and the facts. For
example, the Book of Genesis mentions camels, but the earliest domestic camel bones found in Israel date to around 930 B.C.E., about a millennia after their appearance according to the Bible.
Ditto the Philistines, who seem to have actually sailed to the Holy Land only centuries after the Bible says they did.
Genesis 21:34 for instance says, “And Abraham stayed in the land of the Philistines for a long time.” That seems anachronistic. Genesis 26:1 adds: “And
there was a famine in the land, beside the first famine that was in the
days of Abraham. And Isaac went unto Abimelech king of the Philistines
unto Gerar.” Famine was likely but the Philistines weren’t supposed to live there in Abraham’s time.
No evidence has been found
of ancient Hebrews in Egypt, or of their subsequent passage through the
Few (outside the observant community) dispute that the scripture
is not a reliable description, though some argue that even if masses of
people trooped through the desert, even for 40 years, they wouldn’t
necessarily leave any traces behind. They would have sheltered in tents,
not erected stone buildings, and their footsteps are long vanished from
Another snag is that Egypt
itself ruled the Land of Israel at that time of the purported Exodus.
Even if the Children of Israel fled from Egypt, they would just have
reached another territory under Egyptian control.
It is hard to find a
mainstream archaeologist prepared to defend the biblical description of
events. There, in 18 years, nothing has changed.
For instance, no remains
of a city wall have ever been found at Jericho from Joshua’s era (about
the mid-13th century B.C.E.) Other cities that are mentioned in the
story of the conquest did not even exist during that period.
In any case, most
archaeologists now agree that the Israelite-Jewish identity arose from
traditions that developed among the inhabitants of Canaan. It was not
brought from outside by invaders.
The most ferocious dispute is whether a united kingdom, ruled by kings David and Solomon, ever existed.
The Bible describes a
regional power with its capital in Jerusalem that controlled extensive
parts of the Land of Israel.
Five years before Herzogs
article in 1999, Avraham Biran discovered a Hebrew inscription at tell
Dan bearing the word beitdavid – the House of David. Believers claim
it’s extra-biblical evidence that the great king existed; others say
that could refer to any David. Or to something else entirely.
The critical camp argues that a century of
excavations in Jerusalem and elsewhere indicates that David and his
sons, if they existed, ruled a fairly small, remote hill town, no more.
There is no evidence of the existence of a large and powerful kingdom in
the hills in the 10th century B.C.E., they say.
Finkelstein, a father of the critical thesis, suspects the biblical
descriptions of David’s kingdom conflated two unrelated elements. One is
a historical memory of the northern Kingdom of Israel, with its capital
in Samaria: a larger, more powerful kingdom than the southern Kingdom
of Judea, which was destroyed by the Assyrians not long before the
biblical stories were compiled in Jerusalem. Refugees from the northern
kingdom came to Jerusalem, bringing with them stories that were
integrated into the text.
The second element was the
political and religious interest of kings of Judea, under whose auspices
the Davidic texts were written.
The great and glorious
kingdom was a glorious kingdom-to-be, the one that was yet to happen,“
Finkelstein postulates. "There may have been a unified kingdom, but it
was ruled from Samaria. Judean writers adopted the idea and made it
their own years after the fall of the northern kingdom [of Israel].”
Even the most enthusiastic
supporters of the biblical approach are unable to say what the name of
that glorious unified kingdom was, Herzog stresses.
Jerusalem is the critical
camps trump card. In the 18 years since Herzogs article, the historic
tell of Jerusalem, which descends from the Temple Mount
to the Kidron Stream, via the neighborhood of Silwan, including the
so-called City of David, has been dug up like never before.
Yet as the vast majority of
archaeologists would agree, with the exception of a few controversial
sites which we’ll come to in a moment – the capital of a unified kingdom
of David and Solomon has not been found.
There is evidence of
settlement, says Dr. Doron Ben-Ami of the Antiquities Authority. Weve
found the Jerusalem of the 10th century B.C.E., but it was a paltry
settlement with no monumental construction. If you are letting
archaeology speak, that is what it says. If you take the Bible and start
searching with candles, it isn’t archaeology any more.
Ben-Ami, now the chief
archaeologist for the Central District at the Antiquities Authority,
excavated the largest site in Jerusalem in recent decades, the site
formerly known as the Givati parking lot by the Old City of Jerusalem.
In the layers that have been
peeled off, evidence was found of the entire lifespan of Jerusalem: an
Ottoman baking oven, a Byzantine gold hoard, a Roman farmhouse, a Seleucid fortress, a Hasmonean
house, down to findings from the period of the Kingdom of Judea in the
9th century B.C.E. Beneath that level, nothing was found.
The Givati parking lot is not unique. For all the discovery that Jerusalem has been occupied for some 7,000 years, it hasn’t produced many findings from the period of David and Solomon, the 10th century B.C.E.
Earlier periods, the
Jebusite and Canaanite stages of the city, before it was conquered by
David, did yield many findings inside the City of David digs, including
sophisticated defense and water systems. But researchers are having
difficulty identifying an imperial capital of a mighty unified kingdom
as described in Scripture.
Most researchers therefore
suspect that at during the so-called Davidic era, Jerusalem was at most a
town, smaller than the Canaanite Jerusalem that preceded it and the
Jerusalem of the days of the independent Kingdom of Judea that came
If King David had a palace
in the City of David, its remnants have not been discovered in
excavations, despite the loud declarations, Herzog himself wrote.
Questioning the reliability
of biblical depictions is perceived as questioning of our historic right
to the land, Herzog wrote in 1999. It turns out that Israeli society is
ready in part to acknowledge the injustice that has been done to the
Arab inhabitants of the land, and is prepared to accept equal rights for
women, but it is not strong enough to embrace the archaeological facts
that challenge the scriptural myth.“
Read in full…https://www.haaretz.com/archaeology/MAGAZINE-is-the-bible-a-true-story-latest-archaeological-finds-yield-surprises-1.5626647