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The stones cry out — and confirm Biblical history

   By Keith W. Stump Page 1 2 Good News Dec, 1980

Disbelieving critics have challenged the accuracy of Bible history at every turn — and have lost!


For centuries the Bible was accepted throughout the Western world as an accurate history of ancient times. It was considered to be literally true and authentic in every detail.

The events in the Garden of Eden, the Flood, the building of the Tower of Babel, the deeds of the patriarchs, the Exodus from Egypt — all were believed to have occurred exactly as recounted in Scripture.

But then came the so-called "Enlightenment" or Age of Reason of the 17th and 18th centuries. European intellectuals began to claim that only through human, "scientific" reasoning could true knowledge be acquired. Scriptural revelation came under direct attack!

On its heels arose the 19th-century theory of evolution, offering an alternative explanation to divine creation for the presence of life on earth. God and the Bible were completely excluded from the picture.

Soon many scholars began to totally dismiss Scripture as unhistorical, with no reliable basis in fact. They began to view biblical history as mere legend, primitive superstition and folklore — placing it in, the same category as the ancient Greek and Roman myths.

These scholars claimed that many Old Testament books were not contemporary records at all, but were actually written centuries after the events they described. They declared them to have been based solely on garbled, orally transmitted traditions, later put to paper by ignorant, albeit sincere men.

Some scholars and "higher critics" came to deny the very existence of such major biblical personalities as Noah, Abraham, Joseph and Moses.

These supposedly learned men were committing the same folly as those Roman scoffers of old, so aptly described by the apostle Paul: "[They] became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools" (Rom. 1:21-22). Like the ancient Roman philosophers, "they did not like to retain God in their knowledge" (verse 28).

British logician and philosopher Bertrand Russell provides a good example. He declared as late as 1944 in his History of Western Philosophy, "The early history of the Israelites cannot be confirmed from any source outside the Old Testament, and it is impossible to know at what point it ceases to be purely legendary."

Historian and philosopher R.G. Collingwood, in his posthumous book The Idea of History (1946), also dismissed the Bible, labeling it as nothing but "theocratic history and myth."

These two scholars — and many like them — unfortunately chose not to be confused by the facts. They chose to ignore other scholars' dramatic, epoch-making discoveries in the Near East, which were rapidly putting an entirely new light on the biblical record — and showing their modern ideas to be hollow, unfounded rubbish!


The Fertile Crescent

The new science of archaeology — the study of the material remains of man's past — was to severely shake

the confident anti-God prejudice of critical "scholarship."

For centuries, looters and religious pilgrims had unearthed and carried away multiple thousands of ancient artifacts from sites throughout the Near East. But few understood the real significance of these items.

Shortly after the year 1800, systematic study and evaluation of Near Eastern sites began. Archaeology enjoyed a steady and rapid growth. For well over a century and a half now, the region of the Fertile Crescent has been the object of intense archaeological scrutiny.

The term Fertile Crescent was coined by Egyptologist James Henry Breasted for the area where civilization began — a crescent-shaped region of rich, well-watered land extending from the Persian Gulf up the Tigris-Euphrates Valley, then westward over Syria and southward along the Mediterranean through Palestine. Egypt's fertile Nile Valley is sometimes included within its boundaries.

It was in the Fertile Crescent that the lands and peoples that figure so prominently in Old Testament history were found. It is not surprising, therefore, that there has been relatively strong public interest in the findings uncovered by the spade of the archaeologist in this region.

It is also not surprising that these discoveries have caused disbelieving scholars to sit up and take notice. In fact, the spectacular archaeological finds of the past century and a half by sound-minded men of learning have prompted a radical reevaluation by scholars of the Bible's reliability as a historical document!


Critics eat crow

Whereas previously many scholars held the Bible to be suspect and probably false unless substantiated by secular records and other extra biblical evidence, now increasingly the world of learning has been forced to admit that the Bible is indeed remarkably factual as a historical record!

Modern archaeology has provided solid extra biblical corroboration of historical facts otherwise known to us only from Scripture. It has proved beyond all reasonable doubt the accuracy of the Bible as a historical document.

Even still, it should come as no surprise that some scholars remain determined to discredit the Bible as a divinely inspired historical record, stubbornly overlooking the overwhelming array of proof and documentation. Carnal man is disinclined to accept and submit to God's Word.

These critics will blithely gloss over mounds of facts and plain evidence rather than accept the Bible for what it is. Some few have even chosen to pervert and twist the clear testimony of archaeology to suit their own purposes — deliberately misinterpreting and misrepresenting the facts rather than concede the authenticity of Scripture!

Nevertheless, the past 150 years have witnessed remarkable archaeological confirmation of the Old Testament. We can rely on the biblical record!


Key discovery

Let us briefly examine a few of the scores of archaeological discoveries that bear upon the history of biblical times — finds that have provided dramatic corroboration of the millennia-old Bible record.

Not all archaeological finds have been as highly publicized over the decades as the spectacular discovery in 1922 of the tomb of Tutankhamen in Egypt by Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon. Yet many less-heralded finds have proved infinitely more important to the evaluation of the Bible record.

Without question the most vital of these early discoveries was the unlocking of the secret of Behistun Rock. This 'momentous breakthrough in the last century opened wide the door to further inquiry, which has since confirmed and reconfirmed Bible history many times over.

Located on a cliff on Behistun Mountain at the foot of the Zagros Range in Persia is a smoothed rock surface with ancient cuneiform carvings in three languages — Old Persian, Elamite and Babylonian. Cuneiform was a mode of writing, employing wedge-shaped marks, used by many of the ancient peoples of western Asia.

The Behistun Inscription, dating from 516 B.C., is an account of the assumption of the Persian throne by Darius the Great (550-486). Beginning in 1835, Sir Henry C. Rawlinson, an officer in the British East India Company, painstakingly copied the three inscriptions from the rock face. He then set to work unlocking their secrets. By 1846 he had deciphered the Persian part of the inscription. As a result of this achievement, he and other scholars were able to translate the Babylonian and Elamite portions soon afterwards.

The trilingual Behistun Inscription thus proved to be the vital key to ancient cuneiform writing — just as the famous Rosetta Stone had unlocked the mysteries of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. The writings unearthed at hundreds of sites throughout the Near East could now be understood!

Excavation, however, is slow, painstaking work. A single site may be worked for a decade or more. Subsequent analysis of finds can take even longer. For this reason, Mr. Rawlinson's success did not have an immediate impact on biblical studies. Translation of previously unearthed cuneiform tablets — as well as those uncovered later — was a prolonged and time-consuming task. But gradually — year by year, decade by decade — a clear picture began to emerge.


The "mythical" Hittites

Bible critics had long scoffed at references in the biblical record to a people called the Hittites (Gen. 15:20, Ex. 3:8, 17, Num. 13:29, Josh. 1:4, Judg. 1:26 and elsewhere). Their evaluation was that the Hittites were simply ”one of the many mythical peoples" fabricated by Bible writers — or, at best, a small and unimportant tribe.

But the critics were wrong!

In the latter half of the 19th century, Hittite monuments were discovered at Carchemish on the Euphrates River in Syria, amply vindicating the Bible narrative. Later, in 1906, excavations at Boghazkoy (ancient Hattusas, capital of the Hittite empire) in Turkey uncovered thousands of Hittite documents, revealing a wealth of information about Hittite history and culture.

The Hittites, it is now known, were a very real and formidable power. They were once one of the dominant peoples of Asia Minor and the Near East, at times exercising control over Syria and parts of Palestine.

The Bible had been correct after all! Today, books abound on the history, art, culture and society of the Hittites — a strong witness by competent scholars against those critics who had once been so quick to challenge the Word of God!