New Testament Bible Class

Archaeology & the Bible – Issues 26-35

Archaeology & the Bible #26

Assyrian King Sennacherib murdered by his own sons – as described in Scripture.

Much of Sennacherib’s Assyrian army was lost to the angel of death (according to the Bible), the plague (according to the Greek historian Herodous) or a plague of mice (according to the historian Josephus).  Whatever the reason, the point is that Jerusalem’s miraculous salvation is supported by extra-biblical sources.  Read about it in 2 Kings 18:13 – Chapter 19.  It is quite a story and includes some very interesting detail.

2 Kings 19:35-36:  …the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp.  When the people got up on the next morning – there were all the dead bodies!  So, Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew.  He returned to Nineveh and stayed there.

So what happened after Sennacherib returned home in a militarily weakened state?

The book of Kings goes on to record what had actually happened to Sennacherib once he returned to his capital, Nineveh.  2 Kings 19:37 “Now it came to pass, as he (Sennacherib) was worshiping in the temple of Nisroch his god, that his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer struck him down with the sword; and they escaped into the land of Ararat. Then Esarhaddon his son reigned in his place.”

This same account was unearthed, having been recorded on a clay tablet, now in the British Museum: 
‘On the twentieth day of the month Tebet Sennacherib king of Assyria his son slew him in rebellion… Esarhaddon his son sat on the throne of Assyria.’ 

This clay tablet along with 2 Kings 19:37 are the last recorded mention of Sennacherib, the powerful Assyrian monarch who once ruled the world.

Bible-history.com

Archaeology & the Bible #27

Comparing the Bible to other writings considered “holy” is enlightening:

No unconditional prophecy of the Bible about events to the present day has gone unfulfilled.  Hundreds of predictions, some of them given hundreds of years in advance, have been literally fulfilled including the destruction of Edom (Obadiah 1), the cures on Babylon (Isaiah 13), the destruction of Tyre (Ezekiel 26) and Nineveh (Nahum 1-3) and the return of Israel to their land (Isaiah 11:11). 

Other books claim divine inspiration, such as the Koran, the Book of Mormon, and parts of the (Hindu) Veda. But none of those books contains predictive prophecy. 

As a result, fulfilled prophecy is a strong indication of the unique, divine authority of the Bible. 

(A General Introduction to the Bible by Geisler and Nix.)

Hebrew national tradition excels all others in its clear picture of tribal and family origins.  In Egypt and Babylonia, in Assyria and Phoenicia, in Greece and Rome, we look in vain for anything comparable.  There is nothing like it in the tradition of the Germanic peoples.  Neither India or China can produce anything similar, since their earliest historical memories are literary deposits of distorted dynastic tradition, with no trace of the herdsman or peasant behind the demigod or king with whom their records begin.  Neither in the oldest Indic historical writings (the Puranas) not in the earlierst Greek historians is there a hint of the fact that both Indo-Aryans and Hellens were once nomads who immigrated into their later abodes from the north.  The Assyrians, to be sure, remembered vaguely that their earliest rules, whose names they recalled without details about their deed, were tent dwellers, but whence they came had long been forgotten. 

 (The Biblical Period, an essay by Professor Albright)

The Bible alone provides a description of the origin of its people (the Hebrews) that is supported by historical fact.  Other “holy books” are founded on fiction.

Archaeology & the Bible #28 – He is risen!

The theft theory holds that Christ never actually died on the cross but only “swooned” (was unconscious).  So, when He was placed in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, He was still alive.  After several hours He was revived by the cool air of the tomb, arose and departed.

Refutation

  • Do you really believe that following the horrors of crucifixion (the lashing, the nails, the spear) after lying for hour after hour with no medical attention in a rock-hewn tomb in Palestine at Easter when it’s quite cold at night, that the “cool air of the tomb” would have revived him instead of proving the inevitable end to His flickering life? Do you really believe that he would have been able to loose Himself from yards of grave clothes weighted with pounds of spices, roll away a stone that three women felt incapable of tackling, fight off the Roman guard, and walk miles to Emmaus on wounded feet (the nail went through the bones of his feet) where he first appeared to disciples in such a way as to give them the impression that He was a Conqueror over death and the grave, the Prince of Life, an impression which lay at the bottom of their future ministry?
  • If Christ did not die at this time, then when did He die, and under what circumstances?  Did He withdraw from His disciples completely, to live and die in absolute seclusion leaving them with a whole series of false impressions concerning His Own Person, and their mission from Him to the world?  While His Church was rising around Him, shaking the old order to its foundation, and introducing everywhere amid many difficulties a new order of things – while it was torn by controversies, surrounded by temptations, exposed to trials, placed in short in the very circumstances that made it most dependent on His aid – was He absent, spending his days in ignoble solitude?  And then at last He must have died but no one can say either where, or when, or how? 

Conclusion:  this favorite explanation of eighteenth-century rationalism is false.

From Evidence for Christianity by Josh McDowell.

ation of eighteenth-century rationalism is false.

(Next week – the theft theory.)

Archaeology & the Bible #29 – He is risen!

The theft theory…the disciples came during the night and stole the body from the tomb.  Matthew records this as the prevailing theory of his time to explain away the resurrection of Christ.

Refutation  (There are so many that the list will continue next week.)

  • At least those who profess this theory admit that the body wasn’t there – something happened!
  • The enemies of Jesus had no motive for removing the body; the friends of Jesus had no power to do so.  It would have been to the advantage of the authorities that the body should remain where it was; and the view that the disciples stole the body is impossible.  The power that removed the body of the Savior from the tomb must therefore have been Divine. 
  • The story which the Jewish authorities told the soldiers to repeat was a story to explain how the tomb became empty.  They indirectly confirm an empty tomb!
  • Much precaution was taken in securing the tomb against the theft.  To the disciples, such measures would have been an insurmountable obstacle in any plan of grave robbery.
    • The depression and cowardice of the disciples is a hard-hitting argument that they would not have suddenly become so brave and daring as to face a detachment of soldiers at the tomb and steal the body.
    • If Christ were not risen again, He had deceived His disciples with vain hopes of His resurrection. 
      Would they have hazarded themselves by undertaking an enterprise so perilous in favor of a man who had so cruelly imposed on their credulity?
  • If the soldiers were sleeping, how could they say the disciples stole the body?  Sleeping sentinels could not know what happened.  That a whole guard should go to sleep on their watch was in the last degree improbable.  That story is so obviously false that Matthew does not even bother to refute it!  Who knows what goes on while he is asleep?
  • That the Jewish rulers did not believe what they instructed and bribed the soldiers to say, is almost self-evident.  If they did, why were not the disciples at once arrested and examined?  Why were they not compelled to give up the body?  Why were they not punished for their crime?

Conclusion – the facts of the case speak loudly against the theory that Christ’s body was moved.

Next week – the Theft Theory, Part 2.

Archaeology & the Bible #30

The theft theory…the disciples came during the night and stole the body from the tomb.  Matthew records this as the prevailing theory of his time to explain away the resurrection of Christ.

Refutation Part 2

  • The grave clothes give a silent testimony to the impossibility of theft.  No robbers would ever have rewound the wrappings in their original shape, for there would not have been time to do so.  They would have flung the cloths down in disorder and fled with the body.  Besides, the wrappings were stuck on with the myrrh a drug that adheres so to the bidy, and cleaves to the clothes, whence it was not easy to take the clothes off the body.
  • They spent the rest of their lives proclaiming the message of resurrection, as cowards transformed into men of courage.  They were willing to face arrest, imprisonment, beating, and horrible deaths, and not one of them ever denied the Lord and recant of his belief that Christ had risen.
  • If they had stolen the body and lied, it would mean that they were perpetrators of a deliberate lie which was responsible for the misleading and ultimate death of thousands of people.  It is inconceivable that, even if a few of the disciples had conspired and pulled off this theft, they would never have told the others.  Men will die for what they BELIEVE to be true, though it may actually be false:  they do not, however, die for what they KNOW is a lie and they constantly referred to the resurrection as the basis for their teaching!
  • The theory that the Jews, the Romans, or Joseph of Arimathea moved Christ’s body is no more reasonable.
    • If the Jews had issued an official order to have the body moved, why, when the apostles were preaching the resurrection in Jerusalem, didn’t they explain:  “Wait!  We moved the body – Christ didn’t rise from the grave.”  If His body could have been found, the Jews would have produced it.
    • It would have been to the governor’s advantage to keep the body in the grave.   Pilate’s main interest was to keep things peaceful.  Moving the body would have caused unwanted agitation to arise from the Jews and the Christians.  If he had had the body moved, it seems incredible that he wouldn’t have informed the chief priests when they were so upset.
    • Joseph was a secret disciple and as such would not have moved the body without consulting the other disciples first.  If he had taken the body then later he would have explained to the other disciples what he had done and they would  not have lived out the rest of their lives subject to threats of all kinds in testimony to a lie.

From Evidence for Christianity b y Josh McDowell.

Next week – the hallucination theory.

Archaeology & the Bible #31

The Hallucination Theory.  The disciples and other who “thought” they saw just was just hallucinating.

Refutation

  • When do men who are subjects to hallucinations become moral heroes? 
    • The effect of the resurrection of Jesus in transformed lives was continuous, and most of these early witnesses went to their deaths for proclaiming this truth – not a hallucination.
  • This theory contradicts certain laws and principals to which psychiatrists say visions must conform:
    • Only particular kinds of people have hallucinations:  high-strung, highly imaginative, and very nervous.  But, the appearances that Christ made were not restricted to persons of any particular psychological makeup.
    • Variability and inconstancy represent the most constant features of hallucinatory and related phenomena.  It is extremely unlikely that two persons would have the same hallucination at the same time but the appearances that Christ made were seen by many people.
    • Hallucinations usually are experienced in a place with a nostalgic atmosphere or at a time that particularly brings the person to a reminiscing mood.  The times of Christ’s appearances and their locations did not conduce the witnesses to hallucinate.  No fancied events were dreamed up because of familiar surroundings.
    • In order to have an experience like this, one must so intensely want to believe that he projects something that really isn’t there and attaches reality to his imagination.  Christ’s followers were caused to believe in His resurrection AGAINST their wills.  The states of expectancy, anticipation, or preparedness to see Him are conspicuously absent.  The faith of all had been shaken by the catastrophe of the shameful death.  And on three occasions this “hallucination” was not immediately recognized as Jesus!
    • Hallucinations tend to recur over a long period of time with noticeable regularity.  But the appearances of the Risen Body came to an end; some describe an abrupt end six weeks after the death.  (At the time of Jesus’ ascension from the Mount of Olives.)
    • Hallucinations have never stimulated people to undertake a work of enormous magnitude, and, while carrying it out, to lead others of the most rigid and consistent self-denial, and even suffering.

Conclusion:  everything we know about hallucination is violated.  The theory is refuted.

From Evidence for Christianity b y Josh McDowell.

Archaeology & the Bible #32

There is testimony about Jesus outside the Bible.  Among them…

An Arabic text of the Jewish-Roman Historian Josephus from the 300sAD (found in a manuscript copied in the 900s AD) reads:  At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus.  And his conduct was good and he was known to be virtuous.  Many people from among the Jews and other nations became his disciples.  Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die.  And those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship.  They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive; accordingly, he was perhaps the messiah concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders. 

(From the Kitab Al-Unwan Al-Mukallal Bi-Fadail Al-Hikma Al-Mutawwaj Bi-Anwa Al-Falsafa Al-Manduh Bi-Haqaq Al-Marifa)

From Pliny the Younger, a Roman author and administrator in a letter to Emperor Hadrian about 112 AD:

They (Christians) were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves with a solemn oath, not to do any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to partake of food – but food of an ordinary and innocent kind.

This reference provides solid evidence that Jesus Christ was worshiped as God from an early date by Christians who continued to follow the practice of breaking bread together as reported in Acts 2:42

In reply to Pliny’s letter, Emperor Trajan gave the following guidelines for punishing Christians:  “No search should be made for these people, when they are denounced and found guilty they must be punished, with the restriction, however, that when the party denies himself to be a Christian, and shall give proof that he is not (that is, by adoring our gods) he shall be pardoned on the ground of repentance even though he may have formerly incurred suspicion.” 

(Evidence for Christianity, Josh McDowell)

Archaeology & the Bible #33

More testimony about Jesus outside the Bible…

Talmudic (1) writings of most value concerning the historical Jesus are those compiled between 70 AD (destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem) to 200 AD during the so-called “Tannaitic” period.  The most significant text is Sanhedrin 43a:  “On the eve of Passover Yeshu was hanged. (2)  For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, “He is going forth be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy.  Any one who can say anything in his favour let him come forward and plead on his behalf”.  But, since nothing was brought forward on his favour he was hanged on the eve of the Passover!”  (Babylonia Talmud) 

This confirms the fact of the crucifixion (hanging), time (eve of Passover) and intent of the Jewish religious leaders (to kill Jesus). 

From Lucian of Samosata, a second-century (100s AD) Greek writer whose works contain sarcastic critiques of Christianity:  The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day – the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account…You see, these misguided creatures start with the general conviction that they are immortal for all time, which explains the contempt of death and voluntary self-devotion which are so common among them; and then it was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws.  All this they take quite on faith, with the results that they despise all worldly goods alike, regarding them merely as common property.

Lucian confirms:  Jesus was worshipped, introduced new teachings, was crucified, taught that his followers will never die and are brothers and sisters in Christ, and other gods are denied.

(Evidence for Christianity, Josh McDowell)

(1)     The Talmud is the central text of mainstream Judaism, in the form of a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, customs and history.

(2)     Hanged as “on a tree”, crucifixion.  

Archaeology & the Bible #34 

Roman silver denarius bearing image of Tiberius. The Latin inscription reads [clockwise from left of emperor’s ear]: Augustus Ti(berius) Caesar Divi Aug(usti) F(ilius) [“Augustus Tiberius, son of the Divine Augustus”]. According to the synoptic gospels, it was a coin like this that prompted Jesus to say: “Caesar’s things give back to Caesar and God’s things to God” [Mark 12:15-17 & parallels]. This denarius’s’ inscription identifying Tiberius Caesar as son of the divine Augustus magnifies the rhetorical irony of that saying.

In Mark 12:15, Jesus was answering a trick question concerning taxation. He asked for the coin which had been specially issued explicitly for the paying of taxes – the denarius. On one side of this coin was the depiction of Emperor Tiberius with the likeness of his mother, Livia, on the opposite. Inscribed on the coin was “Augustus Tiberius, son of the Divine Augustus.” In the eyes of a Jew, this was a pocket-sized idol. (Ironically, it was the Jewish questioners who had the coin in their possession, not Jesus.  They were “guilty” of carrying a pocket-sized idol!)

When Jesus asked the question in verse 16, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” the answer given was, “Caesar’s.” In the original language (Greek), the case of this noun is genitive, which simply means possessive. In other words, it was “of Caesar” or “belonging to Caesar.” Therefore, what they had in their custody actually belonged to someone else. This is an important point, but only in the grand context that the only reason anything belongs to anyone is because the ultimate owner (God) has deemed it so.

In the subsequent verse, Jesus told those questioning Him to give back to Caesar what belonged to Caesar. Jesus did not suggest they give to him, rather that they should return what they had. This simply meant they were to respect the state. However, the second part of this verse (“…and unto God the things that are God’s”) delineates the overarching authority. Even though the inscription on the denarius said, “son of the Divine Augustus,” the only divinity to be recognized was and still is the living God.

“The earth is the LORD’S, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it.” Psalm 24:1

– Information from http://www.gracecentered.com/renderinguntocaesar.htm & virtualreligion.net/iho/tiberius.html.

Archaeology & the Bible #35

 A perspective on the “Great Flood”…

 First, from http://www.pleaseconvinceme.com

They Recorded A Flood Too!
But of all the Biblical historical accounts, perhaps the most doubted has been the Biblical account of the Flood (as described in Genesis 6-9). Well, it just so happens that the most doubted event is also the most archaeologically documented. A number of Babylonian documents have been discovered which describe the same flood. The Sumerian King List, for example, lists kings who reigned for long periods of time. Then a great flood came. Following the flood, this Babylonian document records that Sumerian kings ruled for much shorter periods of time. This just so happens to be the same pattern that is found in the Bible. Men had long life spans before the flood and shorter life spans after the flood. In addition, the 11th tablet of the Gilgamesh Epic speaks of an ark, animals taken on the ark, birds sent out during the course of the flood, the ark landing on a mountain, and a sacrifice offered after the ark landed.

And be aware of the fact that flood stories have been discovered among nearly ALL nations and tribes. Though most common on the Asian mainland, the islands immediately south of the continent and on the North American continent, they have been found on ALL the continents. There are approximately 270 known Flood stories. Although these traditions have been modified through the ages and some have taken on fantastic elements, most of them have certain basic elements in common: 

 88% of them single out a favored individual or family.
70% point to survival due to a boat.
66% see the Flood coming as a result of human wickedness.
67% speak of animals saved along with human beings.
57 % record that the survivors end up on a mountain.
66% indicate that the hero receives warning of the coming catastrophe.

Critics sometimes claim that these flood stories came from recent contact with Christian missionaries, but this claim will not stand up; most of the stories were gathered and documented by anthropologists who were uninterested in confirming the truth of the Bible. In addition to this, these common tales of a worldwide flood are filled with fanciful and pagan elements, evidently the result of the telling and re-telling of the story for extended periods of time in a non-Biblical society. It should also be noted that the ancient accounts were written by people who very much opposed the Hebrew-Christian tradition.

Next week, a perspective from Evidence for Christianity by Josh McDowell

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