New Testament Bible Class

Archeology & the Bible – Issues 6 to 10

 

Archaeology & the Bible #6

1)  Found & excavated:  The east gate of Shechem where Gaal and Zebul watched the forces of Abimelech approach the city (Judges 9:34-38). (christiananwers.net)

2)  The fall of Nineveh, capital of Assyria, was predicted by the prophets Nahum and Zephaniah (2:13-15), and (proudly) recorded on the Tablet of Nabopolasar the king of Babylon who conquered Assyria.  (christiananwers.net) 

Interesting sidebar:  Nabopolaser’s son Nebuchadnezzar II is the Babylonian king who destroyed Jerusalem including Solomon’s Temple and took many of the people into captivity in Babylonia. 

Sidebar to the sidebar:  Many people wonder what happened to the Art of the Covenant which was kept in the Holy of Holies – until the Temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar’s soldiers.  There are opinions but no answers!

Archaeology & the Bible #7

When Nebuchadnezzar besieged and captured Jerusalem in 597 BC, Jehoiachin was on the throne of Judah.  Nebuchadnezzar took Jehoiachin, the royal family and important men in the Kingdom of Judah to Babylon. He then placed Jehoiachin’s uncle, Mattaniah, on Judah’s throne and changed Mattaniah’s name to Zedekiah (2 Kgs 24:11–17).

Jehoiachin was a young man of 18 when he became king of Judah. He reigned just three months before being carried off to Babylon, where he lived out the rest of his days (2 Kgs 24:8, 12, 15; 25:27–30).

Four tablets call the Babylonia Ration Records found in Nebuchadnezzar’s palace name Jehoiachin and his family as among those who were receiving rations from the king!  During Robert Koldeway’s excavations at Babylon at the turn of the 20th century, he discovered what archaeologists call the “Northern Palace,” most likely the royal residence of King Nebuchadnezzar. Koldeway found there a number of cuneiform-inscribed clay tablets dating to the years 594–569 BC. They list kings captured from throughout the ancient Near East who were living in the palace and receiving rations of grain and oil from the king. Four of the tablets list rations of food for “Jehoiachin, king of Judah” and his family. These tablets are today in the Pergamum Museum, Berlin. (christiananwers.net & biblearchaeology.org)

Archaeology & the Bible #8

That the King of Persia allowed peoples conquered by the Babylonians, including the Jews, to return to their home countries and rebuild their temples is confirmed in the records of Cyrus the Great.  (You will find that Cyrus thinks highly of himself!)

From The Kurash Prism (the official record from Cyrus the Great of Persia):

I am Kurash [ same as “Cyrus” ], King of the World, Great King, Legitimate King, King of Babilani, King of Kiengir and Akkade, King of the four rims of the earth, Son of Kanbujiya, Great King, King of Hakhamanish, Grandson of Kurash, Great king, King of Hakhamanish, descendant of Chishpish, Great king, King of Hakhamanish, of a family which always exercised kingship; whose rule Bel and Nebo love, whom they want as king to please their hearts. When I entered Babilani as a friend and when I established the seat of the government in the palace of the ruler under jubilation and rejoicing, Marduk, the great lord, induced the magnanimous inhabitants of Babilani to love me, and I was daily endeavoring to worship him…. As to the region from as far as Assura and Susa, Akkade, Eshnunna, the towns Zamban, Me-turnu, Der as well as the region of the Gutians, I returned to these sacred cities on the other side of the Tigris the sanctuaries of which have been ruins for a long time, the images which used to live therein and established for them permanent sanctuaries. I also gathered all their former inhabitants and returned them to their habitations. Furthermore, I resettled upon the command of Marduk, the great lord, all the gods of Kiengir and Akkade whom Nabonidus had brought into Babilani to the anger of the lord of the gods, unharmed, in their former temples, the places which make them happy.

The point is not that the Jews are mentioned specifically on the prism.  The point is that Cyrus returned other people to their homelands, returned their gods (items from Solomon’s Temple were returned with the Jews) and let them rebuild their temples so he could have done the same with the Jews – as is written in Holy Scripture!  Read on…

From The Hebrew Bible, Ezra 1:1-8:

In the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord inspired King Cyrus of Persia to issue this proclamation throughout his kingdom, both by word of mouth and in writing: “Thus says Cyrus, king of Persia: “All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord, the God of heaven, has given to me, and he has also charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever, therefore, among you belongs to any part of his people, let him go up, and may his God be with him! Let everyone who has survived, in whatever place he may have dwelt, be assisted by the people of that place with silver, gold, and goods, together with free will offerings for the house of God in Jerusalem.” Then the family heads of Judah and Benjamin and the priests and Levites—everyone, that is, whom God had inspired to do so—prepared to go up to build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem. All their neighbors gave them help in every way, with silver, gold, goods, and cattle, and with many precious gifts besides all their free-will offerings. King Cyrus, too, had the utensils of the house of the Lord brought forth which Nebuchadnezzar had taken away from Jerusalem and placed in the house of his god. Cyrus, king of Persia, had them brought forth by the treasurer Mithredath, and counted out to Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah.

            The portion in quotation marks is so similar to the official writing of Cyrus on his prism.   Coincidence?  I think not!

Note that ancient Persia is modern Iran.  Sadly, the relationship between ancient Persia and the ancient Jews is vastly different from that of modern Iran and modern Israel.

From The Hebrew Bible, Ezra 1:1-8:

In the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord inspired King Cyrus of Persia to issue this proclamation throughout his kingdom, both by word of mouth and in writing: “Thus says Cyrus, king of Persia: “All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord, the God of heaven, has given to me, and he has also charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever, therefore, among you belongs to any part of his people, let him go up, and may his God be with him! Let everyone who has survived, in whatever place he may have dwelt, be assisted by the people of that place with silver, gold, and goods, together with free will offerings for the house of God in Jerusalem.’ Then the family heads of Judah and Benjamin and the priests and Levites—everyone, that is, whom God had inspired to do so—prepared to go up to build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem. All their neighbors gave them help in every way, with silver, gold, goods, and cattle, and with many precious gifts besides all their free-will offerings. King Cyrus, too, had the utensils of the house of the Lord brought forth which Nebuchadnezzar had taken away from Jerusalem and placed in the house of his god. Cyrus, king of Persia, had them brought forth by the treasurer Mithredath, and counted out to Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah.

Note that ancient Persia is modern Iran.  Sadly,  the relationship between ancient Persia and the ancient Jews is vastly different from that of modern Iran and modern Israel.

Archaeology & the Bible #9

The Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III

In 1846 an English traveler and artist named Austen Henry Layard was digging around the ruins of ancient Nimrud (known as Calah) in northern Iraq. He discovered something amazing, a black limestone obelisk now referred to as “The Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III”.

When Layard discovered this wonderful obelisk he had no idea what it really was that he had found. He had no way of deciphering the cuneiform writing, but he did notice that it had beautifully carved images on all four sides. He also knew that obelisks were stone monuments or pillars in the ancient world, and they were usually created for public display to honor someone very important. When one scholar investigated the discovery he determined that it was a monument of one of the greatest kings in the ancient world, Shalmaneser III. Shalmaneser ruled ancient Assyria around 850 BC. They also determined that one of the carved images revealed Jehu the king of Israel, or his representative, bowing before the powerful monarch with his face to the ground. It was the same Jehu that is mentioned in the Bible!

The Black Obelisk actually has 20 hand-carved relief panels, 5 on each side from top to bottom with cuneiform writing all around. The cuneiform inscriptions contain detail about Shalmaneser’s war campaigns and the tribute of submissive kings. Each panel contains the carved images of 5 kings bringing tribute to the king of Assyria, Shalmaneser III. The panel that depicts king Jehu and the inscriptions around it make it clear that it is the same Jehu that is mentioned in the Bible, the King of Israel in 850 BC. Layard’s discovery may be the first and only image of a real Hebrew king that is mentioned in the Bible in all archaeological discoveries.

The cuneiform inscriptions reads:  “The tribute of Jehu, son of Omri: I received from him silver, gold, a golden bowl, a golden vase with pointed bottom, golden tumblers, golden buckets, tin, a staff for a king [and] spears.”

So, the reign of King Jehu, his battles with the Assyrians, the defeat of the northern ten tribes of Israel by the Assyrians, and the tribute paid to Assyria by Israel are all confirmed through archeology

Archaeology & the Bible #10

The Pilate Inscription. Not long ago many scholars questioned the actual existence of a Roman Governor with the name of Pontius Pilate, the procurator who ordered Jesus’ crucifixion. In June 1961 Italian archaeologists led by Dr. Frova were excavating an ancient Roman amphitheatre near Caesarea-on-the-Sea (Maritima) and uncovered an interesting limestone block. On the worn face is a monumental inscription which is part of a larger dedication to Tiberius Caesar which clearly says that it was from “Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judea.”

This is the only known occurrence of the name Pontius Pilate in any ancient inscription. Visitors to Caesarea’s theater today see a replica, the original is in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. It is interesting as well that there have been a few bronze coins found that were struck from 29-32 AD by Pontius Pilate.

What Happened to Pontius Pilate?  Scripture gives us no further information concerning Pilate, but Josephus, the Jewish historian records that Pilate, the Roman procurator of Judea succeeded Gratus. According to Josephus (Ant, XVIII, iv, 2) Pilate held office in Judea for 10 years. Afterwards he was removed from office by Vitellius, the legate of Syria, and traveled in haste to Rome to defend himself before Tiberius against certain complaints. Before he reached Rome, Tiberius had died and Gaius (Caligula) was on the throne, AD 36. Josephus adds that Vitellius came in the year 36 AD to Judea to be present at Jerusalem at the time of the Passover. This would indicate that Pilate had already left for Rome.

Josephus (Ant, XVIII, iv, 1, 2) gives an account of what really happened to Pontius Pilate and his removal from office. A religious fanatic arose in Samaria who promised the Samaritans that if they would assemble on Mt. Gerizim, he would show them the sacred vessels which Moses had hidden there. A great multitude of people came to the “sacred mountain” of the Samaritans ready to ascend the mountain, but before they could they were attacked by Pilate’s cavalry, and many of them were slaughtered. The Samaritans therefore sent an embassy to Vitellius, the legate of Syria, to accuse Pilate of murdering innocent people. Vitellius, who wanted to maintain friendship with the Jews, removed Pilate from office and appointed Marcellus in his place.

Pilate was ordered to go to Rome and answer the charges made against him before the emperor. Pilate set out for Rome, but, before he could reach it, Tiberius had died.

From this point onward history knows nothing more of Pilate.

Tradition and Legend – Eusebius (4th cent AD) tells us (Historia Ecclesiastica, II), based on the writings of certain Greek historians, that Pilate soon afterward, “wearied with misfortunes,” had killed himself. (Hist. Eccl. 2.7.1).  Various apocryphal writings have come down to us, written from the 3rd-5th centuries AD, giving legendary details about Pontius Pilate becoming a Christian, and his wife, traditionally named Claudia Procula, was a Jewish proselyte at the time of the death of Jesus and afterward became a Christian.  There are other traditions mentioned in the false Gospels (non-canonical Apocryphal Gospels) concerning Pontius Pilate.

Church tradition portrayed Pilate in very favorable terms. In the second century Gospel of Peter, Jesus is condemned not by Pilate but by Herod Antipas. Tertullian asserted that Pilate was a Christian at heart and that he wrote a letter to Tiberius to explain what had happened at Jesus’ trial (Apology 21).  The fourth or fifth century Gospel of Nicodemus (which contains the Acts of Pilate), does not make Pilate a Christian, but depicts him as more friendly towards Jesus than any of the canonical gospels. Pilate was canonized by the Coptic and Ethiopic churches.   (bible-history.com)

That’s right, they have a Saint Pilate!

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