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Old 21st March 2002, 12:52
El_Jibaro El_Jibaro is offline
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For the past few decades, a group of scholars known variously as biblical minimalists or deconstructionists have made a big splash in the field of biblical archeology.

Minimalists regard biblical narratives as propaganda, not history. In their view, the Bible was written centuries, even millennia, after the events described and written for the purpose of creating a mythical glorious past.

Most reputable scholars disagree. Even those who don't regard the Bible as inerrant believe that the Bible is a reliable source of information about the history and culture of Israel and of the ancient Near East.

By contrast, minimalists believe that there never was a King David, a King Solomon, or a unified kingdom of Israel. And they insist that Jerusalem was never more than a backwater town on the fringes of the Assyrian and Babylonian empires.

But biblical archeologists are proving them wrong. In 1993, a group of archeologists found an Assyrian stone tablet near the city of Dan in northern Israel dating from the ninth century B.C. The inscription lists Assyria's foes. Included on the list are "king of Israel" and "house of David."

Those two inscriptions, dating less than a century after David's reign, are clear proof that the biblical writers didn't invent David.

As for the city of David, archeological digs in and around Jerusalem have uncovered evidence of what one scholar terms a "major city." The walls of the city at the time of the First Temple extend four times further than was previously believed. And the Jerusalem that emerges from this physical evidence has grandeur and scale commensurate with its reported status.

Evidence such as this led Anson Rainey of the Tel Aviv Institute, writing in BIBLICAL ARCHAEOLOGY REVIEW, to call the minimalist school "a circle of dilettantes." He labeled their ideas a "figment of their vain imaginations" and concluded that findings such as the one at Dan should sound the "death knell to their conceit" about David and other biblical figures.

Deconstructionists replied that the inscriptions in Dan could mean "House of Uncle" or even "House of Kettle." But no reputable scholar agrees with them. It's a case of refusing to look the evidence squarely in its face.

That's because minimalism, like its equivalents in other disciplines, isn't a product of the evidence; it's the product of assumptions about the author's motives. In other words, it's an ideology. Like literary deconstructionists, minimalists look at the text and see a hodgepodge of political motivations and power arrangements.

The problem is that, whereas no amount of digging can ever prove that there was a mayor of Casterbridge, it can prove that there was a king David. And that makes deconstructing the biblical text a completely different thing from deconstructing the work of Thomas Hardy.

Over the next few days, I'll be citing other examples of archeology helping to confirm the words of Scripture. It's a case of the stones crying out, and their message is: Believe what you see and read, and not the vain imaginings of ideologues.

For further reading:

Jeffrey Sheler, IS THE BIBLE TRUE? (HarperCollins, 1999).
< http://www.pfmonline.net/products.ta...tem_Code=BKIBT >

Read more about biblical archeology at the BIBLICAL ARCHAEOLOGY REVIEW website.
< http://www.bib-arch.org/bswb_BAR/indexBAR.html >

< http://www.parable.com/breakpoint/it...sku=1565076400 >
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Old 21st March 2002, 13:07
El_Jibaro El_Jibaro is offline
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Lightbulb Evidence #1



by Bryant Wood
26 January 2001

First published in:
Creation Ex Nihilo 21(2):36–40
March–May 1999


The name ‘Jericho’ brings to mind Israelites marching, trumpets sounding and walls falling down. It is a wonderful story of faith and victory, but did it really happen? The sceptic would say no, it is merely a folk tale to explain the ruins at Jericho. The main reason for this negative outlook is the excavations at the site carried out in the 1950s under the direction of British archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon. She concluded,

‘It is a sad fact that of the town walls of the Late Bronze Age, within which period the attack by the Israelites must fall by any dating, not a trace remains …. The excavation of Jericho, therefore, has thrown no light on the walls of Jericho of which the destruction is so vividly described in the Book of Joshua.’

Thomas A. Holland, who was editor and co-author of Kenyon’s excavation reports, summarized the apparent results as follows:

‘Kenyon concluded, with reference to the military conquest theory and the LB [Late Bronze Age] walls, that there was no archaeological data to support the thesis that the town had been surrounded by a wall at the end of LB I [ca. 1400 BC].’

However, a careful examination of the archaeological evidence collected throughout this century leads to quite another conclusion.


Before the Israelites entered the promised land, Moses told them that they were now about to cross the Jordan river, to dispossess nations which were greater and stronger than themselves, with large cities having walls that reached, as it were, to the sky (Deuteronomy 9:1). The meticulous work of Kenyon showed that Jericho was indeed heavily fortified and that it had been burned by fire. Unfortunately, she misdated her finds, resulting in what seemed to be a discrepancy between the discoveries of archaeology and the Bible. She concluded that the Bronze Age city of Jericho was destroyed about 1550 BC by the Egyptians. An in-depth analysis of the evidence, however, reveals that the destruction took place around 1400 BC (end of the Late Bronze I period), exactly when the Bible says the Conquest occurred.

The mound, or ‘tell’ of Jericho was surrounded by a great earthen rampart, or embankment, with a stone retaining wall at its base. The retaining wall was some four to five metres (12–15 feet) high. On top of that was a mudbrick wall two metres (six feet) thick and about six to eight metres (20–26 feet) high.
4 At the crest of the embankment was a similar mudbrick wall whose base was roughly 14 metres (46 feet) above the ground level outside the retaining wall (see diagram). This is what loomed high above the Israelites as they marched around the city each day for seven days. Humanly speaking, it was impossible for the Israelites to penetrate the impregnable bastion of Jericho.

Within the upper wall was an area of approximately six acres, while the total area of the upper city and fortification system was 50% larger, or about nine acres. Based on the archaeologist’s rule of thumb of 200 persons per acre, the population of the upper city would have been about 1,200. However, from excavations carried out by a German team in the first decade of this century, we know that people were also living on the embankment between the upper and lower city walls. In addition, those Canaanites living in surrounding villages would have fled to Jericho for safety. Thus, we can assume that there were several thousand people inside the walls when the Israelites came against the city.


The citizens of Jericho were well prepared for a siege. A copious spring which provided water for ancient, as well as modern, Jericho lay inside the city walls. At the time of the attack, the harvest had just been taken in (Joshua 3:15), so the citizens had an abundant supply of food. This has been borne out by many large jars full of grain found in the Canaanite homes by John Garstang in his excavation in the 1930s and also by Kenyon. With a plentiful food supply and ample water, the inhabitants of Jericho could have held out for perhaps several years.

After the seventh trip around the city on the seventh day, Scripture tells us that the wall ‘fell down flat’ (Joshua 6:20). The Hebrew here carries the suggestion that it ‘fell beneath itself.’
5 Is there evidence for such an event at Jericho? It turns out that there is ample evidence that the mudbrick city wall collapsed and was deposited at the base of the stone retaining wall at the time the city met its end.

Kenyon’s work was the most detailed. On the west side of the tell, at the base of the retaining, or revetment, wall, she found,

‘fallen red bricks piling nearly to the top of the revetment. These probably came from the wall on the summit of the bank [and/or] … the brickwork above the revetment.’

In other words, she found a heap of bricks from the fallen city walls! An Italian team excavating at the southern end of the mound in 1997 found exactly the same thing.

According to the Bible, Rahab’s house was incorporated into the fortification system (Joshua 2:15). If the walls fell, how was her house spared? As you recall, the spies had instructed Rahab to bring her family into her house and they would be rescued. When the Israelites stormed the city, Rahab and her family were saved as promised (Joshua 2:12–21; 6:17, 22–23). At the north end of the tell of Jericho, archaeologists made some astounding discoveries that seem to relate to Rahab.

Schematic cross-section diagram of the fortification system at Jericho based on Kenyon's west trench.

The German excavation of 1907–1909 found that on the north a short stretch of the lower city wall did not fall as everywhere else. A portion of that mudbrick wall was still standing to a height of over two metres (eight feet).4 What is more, there were houses built against the wall! It is quite possible that this is where Rahab’s house was.
7 Since the city wall formed the back wall of the houses, the spies could have readily escaped. From this location on the north side of the city it was only a short distance to the hills of the Judean wilderness where the spies hid for three days (Joshua 2:16, 22). Real estate values must have been low here, since the houses were positioned on the embankment between the upper and lower city walls. Not the best place to live in time of war! This area was no doubt the overflow from the upper city and the poor part of town, perhaps even a slum district.

After the city walls fell, how did the Israelites surmount the four to five metre (12–15 foot) high retaining wall at the base of the tell? Excavations have shown that the bricks from the collapsed walls formed a ramp against the retaining wall so that the Israelites could merely climb up over the top. The Bible is very precise in its description of how the Israelites entered the city: ‘the people went up into the city, every man straight before him [i.e., straight up and over],’ (Joshua 6:20). The Israelites had to go up, and that is what archaeology has revealed. They had to go from ground level at the base of the tell to the top of the rampart in order to enter the city.


Dr Wood stands at the base of the stone retaining wall uncovered by Italian archaeologists at the southern end of Jericho in 1997. The Israelites marched around this wall when they attacked the city as described in Joshua 6.

The Israelites burned the city and everything in it (Joshua 6:24). Once again, the discoveries of archaeology have verified the truth of this record. A portion of the city destroyed by the Israelites was excavated on the east side of the tell. Wherever the archaeologists reached this level they found a layer of burned ash and debris about one metre (three feet) thick. Kenyon described the massive devastation as follows.

‘The destruction was complete. Walls and floors were blackened or reddened by fire, and every room was filled with fallen bricks, timbers, and household utensils; in most rooms the fallen debris was heavily burnt, but the collapse of the walls of the eastern rooms seems to have taken place before they were affected by the fire.’

Both Garstang and Kenyon found many storage jars full of grain that had been caught in the fiery destruction. This is a unique find in the annals of archaeology. Grain was valuable, not only as a source of food, but also as a commodity which could be bartered. Under normal circumstances, valuables such as grain would have been plundered by the conquerors. Why was the grain left at Jericho? The Bible provides the answer. Joshua commanded the Israelites that the city and all that is in it were to be dedicated to the Lord (Joshua 6:17, lit. Heb.).

The grain left at Jericho and found by archaeologists in modern times gives graphic testimony to the obedience of the Israelites nearly three-and-a-half millennia ago. Only Achan disobeyed, leading to the debacle at Ai described in Joshua 7.

Such a large quantity of grain left untouched gives silent testimony to the truth of yet another aspect of the biblical account. A heavily fortified city with an abundant supply of food and water would normally take many months, even years, to subdue. The Bible says that Jericho fell after only seven days. The jars found in the ruins of Jericho were full, showing that the siege was short since the people inside the walls consumed very little of the grain.


Jericho was once thought to be a ‘Bible problem’ because of the seeming disagreement between archaeology and the Bible. When the archaeology is correctly interpreted, however, just the opposite is the case. The archaeological evidence supports the historical accuracy of the biblical account in every detail. Every aspect of the story that could possibly be verified by the findings of archaeology is, in fact, verified.

Artist's reconstruction of the north side of ancient Jericho, based on the German excavations of 1907-1909. Note the houses built against the mud brick city wall, which rests on top of the stone retaining wall. The Bible says that Rahab's house was built against the city wall (Joshua 2:15).

There are many ideas as to how the walls of Jericho came down. Both Garstang and Kenyon found evidence of earthquake activity at the time the city met its end. If God did use an earthquake to accomplish His purposes that day, it was still a miracle since it happened at precisely the right moment, and was manifested in such a way as to protect Rahab’s house. No matter what agency God used, it was ultimately He who, through the faith of the Israelites, brought the walls down. After the people had marched around them for seven days, it was ‘by faith the walls of Jericho fell down’(Hebrews 11:30).

As well as showing us how vital it is not to discount the Bible because of some apparent conflict with secular scholarship, Jericho is a wonderful spiritual lesson for God’s people yet today. There are times when we find ourselves facing enormous ‘walls’ that are impossible to break down by human strength. If we put our faith in God and follow His commandments, He will perform ‘great and mighty things’ (Jeremiah 33:3) and give us the victory.


Dr Bryant Wood is an internationally recognized authority on the archaeology of Jericho. He is director of the Associates for Biblical Research, and also director of the Kh. el-Maqatir Excavation in Israel.

For more information on archaeology and the Bible, or to go on a dig in Israel with Dr Wood, contact the Associates for Biblical Research, 31 East Frederick St., Suite 468, Walkersville MD 21793–82324. Visit the ABR web site. Return to top.



1 - Kathleen M. Kenyon, Digging Up Jericho, London, Ernest Benn, pp. 261–62 1957. Return to text.

2 - Thomas A. Holland, ‘Jericho’, pp. 220–24 in The Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Near East, Vol. 3, ed. Eric. M. Myers, New York, Oxford University Press, p. 223, 1997. Return to text.

3 - Bryant G. Wood, ‘Did the Israelites Conquer Jericho?’, Biblical Archaeology Review 16(2):44–58, March–April 1990. Return to text.

4 - Ernst Sellin and Carl Watzinger, Jericho die Ergebnisse der Ausgrabungen, Osnabrück, Otto Zeller Verlag, p. 58, 1973 (reprint of the 1913 edition). Return to text.

5 - The root of the word tahteyha in Jos 6:5, 20 is tahath, meaning ‘underneath,’ ‘below’ with a reflexive 3rd feminine singular pronominal suffix ha referring back to hômah, ‘wall.’ Return to text.

6 - Kathleen M. Kenyon, Excavations at Jericho, 3:110, London, British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem, 1981. Return to text.

7 - The Hebrew phrase in Jos 2:15 is beqîr hahômah. Usually qîr means a small wall, but can also indicate the vertical surface of a wall. Brown, Driver and Briggs’ lexicon suggests this for Jos 2:15 (p. 885), and in this case the preposition be would mean ‘against’(p. 89). Thus, literally, ‘her house [was built] against [the] vertical surface of the [city] wall.’ Return to text.

8[b] - Kenyon, Excavations at Jericho, 3:370. Return to text.
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Old 22nd March 2002, 11:26
El_Jibaro El_Jibaro is offline
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In modern English up to a generation ago, the word "Philistine" was used as an idiomatic term to refer to an "uncouth" or "uncultured person". The term PHILISTINE is taken from the Bible as the name of the people who were Israel's biggest rivals in the period between the Exodus and the reign of David, which in ancient Latin was pronounced PALESTIN, from which we now get the geographical label "Palestine".

Until recently, many scholars doubted the existence of the Philistines. But, as with so much of the biblical text, the more archeologists dig, the more they confirm the historical character of the biblical narratives .

As Jeffrey Sheler writes in his book, IS THE BIBLE TRUE?, recent archeological discoveries have not only proven the existence of the Philistines, they have also revealed much about how they lived.

What's even more exciting is that much of what the archeologists have learned confirms what the Bible says about the Philistines.

For instance, ancient Egyptian inscriptions indicated that the "Sea Peoples"
-- the ancient Near Eastern name for the Philistines --[b] most likely came from the island of Crete.

Well, the books of Deuteronomy and Jeremiah say that the Philistines were originally from the land of Caphtor. And, as Sheler points out, scholars believe that "Caphtor" is another name for Crete.

The Bible characterizes the Philistines as the best metal workers in the ancient Near East -- so much so that they exercised a virtual monopoly in the sword-making trade.

The archeological record has substantiated this characterization. The record confirms both the Philistines' skills in metallurgy and the advantage that their superior weaponry gave them in their battles with the Israelites -- as described in 1 Samuel.

As Sheler documents, there is a remarkable consistency between what the Bible says about the Philistines and what archeologists are finding. This consistency prompted William Dever of the University of Arizona to say:
"That all [the archeological findings] 'fit' the many biblical allusions so well . . . and show that a post-exilic editor cannot simply have invented these passages, that they are genuinely archaic."
In other words, archeology is debunking the once-dominant idea that books such as Judges and 1 Samuel were the product of some post-exilic writer's fertile imagination. The author of these books wasn't inventing some glorious past for Israel out of whole cloth. Instead, he was working with real history -- both oral and written.

The narratives from the time of the Judges aren't the only ones being verified by biblical archeologists. So many finds in recent years have lent credence to the biblical text that critics are becoming suspect of the archeologists' motives. According to the BIBLICAL ARCHAEOLOGY REVIEW: "Archeologists have been . . . heavily criticized [for] being biased, for trying to prove the Bible."

But, as the magazine also points out, that's not what's going on. They're simply following where the evidence leads, and this is all that anyone can ask of a scientific endeavor.

Many people -- Christians and non-Christians alike -- believe that science is the enemy of biblical faith. But these discoveries in the desert show that scientific knowledge doesn't have to come at the expense of faith. It can buttress biblical faith, and that's something your neighbors need to understand.

Because, as it turns out, the true Philistine is the person who dismisses the Bible without first looking at the evidence.

For further reading:

Go visit: http://www.jpost.com/Editions/2001/0...res.32478.html .

Jeffrey Sheler, IS THE BIBLE TRUE? (HarperCollins, 1999).
< http://www.pfmonline.net/products.ta...tem_Code=BKIBT >

Visit the Biblical Archaeology Society website.
< http://www.bib-arch.org >

< http://www.parable.com/breakpoint/it...sku=1565076400 >
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Old 26th March 2002, 08:55
El_Jibaro El_Jibaro is offline
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A few years ago, people exploring caves outside Jerusalem came across the find of a lifetime: an ancient burial cave containing the remains of a crucified man.

This find is only one in a series of finds that overturn a century-old scholarly consensus. That consensus held that the Gospels are almost entirely proclamation, and contain little, if any, real history.

The remains belonged to a man who had been executed in the first century A.D., that is, from the time of JESUS. As Jeffrey Sheler writes in his book IS THE BIBLE TRUE? the skeleton confirms what the evangelists wrote about JESUS' death and burial in several important ways.

First, location -- scholars had long doubted the biblical account of JESUS' burial. They believed that crucified criminals were tossed in a mass grave and then devoured by wild animals. But this man, a near contemporary of JESUS, was buried in the same way the Bible says JESUS was buried.

Then there's the physical evidence from the skeleton. The man's shinbones appeared to have been broken. This confirms what John wrote about the practice of Roman executioners. They would break the legs of the crucified to hasten death, something from which JESUS, already dead, was spared.

This point is particularly noteworthy, since scholars have long dismissed the details of John's Passion narrative as theologically motivated embellishments.

Another part of John's Gospel that archeology has recently corroborated is the story of JESUS healing the lame man in John 5. John describes a five-sided pool just inside the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem where the sick came to be healed. Since no other document of antiquity -- including the rest of the Bible -- mentions such a place, skeptics have long argued that John simply invented the place.

But as Sheler points out, when archeologists decided to dig where John said that the pool had been located, they found a five-sided pool. What's more, the pool contained shrines to the Greek gods of healing. Apparently John didn't make up the pool, after all.

The dismissal of biblical texts without bothering to dig points to a dirty little secret about a lot of scholarly opinion: Much of the traditional suspicion of the biblical text can only be called a prejudice. That is, it's a conclusion arrived at before one has the facts.

Scholars long assumed that the Bible, like other documents of antiquity, was essentially propaganda, what theologian Rudolf Bultmann called "kerygma" or proclamation.

But this prejudice does an injustice to biblical faith. Central to that faith are history and memory. Christians believe that God has acted, and continues to act, in history. For us, remembering what God has done is an act of worship -- something that brings us closer to God.

Thus, while these discoveries in the desert may come as a surprise to some skeptics, they're no surprise to Christians.

While archeology alone cannot bring a person to faith, these finds are an eloquent argument for not dismissing the truth of Scripture before at least examining the evidence -- because, as we are learning every day, JESUS meant it when he said that "the very stones will cry out."

For further reading:

Jeffrey Sheler, IS THE BIBLE TRUE? (HarperCollins, 1999).
< http://www.pfmonline.net/products.ta...tem_Code=BKIBT >

Visit the Biblical Archaeology Society website.
< http://www.bib-arch.org >

< http://www.parable.com/breakpoint/it...sku=1565076400 >
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