Dr. Chris Sinkinson presents this DVD in a thoughtful, accessible and engaging manner, demonstrating through on site location and interviews with experts, that archaeology affirms that the Bible is reliable and fits with important events that occurred in the ancient world. He cites Jerome who considered Israel the “fifth gospel” and his avid interest and expertise in the land and history is clearly evident. Indeed if we visit and study Israel, that will illumine and enrich our understanding of the Bible. Interestingly and additionally, when Blaise Pascal was asked by Louis XIV for evidence for the existence of God, he simply similarly responded, “The Jews, your majesty, the Jews.”
Scepticism, the date of the Exodus and other events
In our post-modern era, there is a suspicion of the meta-narrative (main story) and an underlying scepticism that “history is written by the victors.” Therefore, some consider the Bible to be automatically unreliable. However, the relatively new discipline of biblical archaeology (mainly undertaken within the last two hundred years) is a meaningful place for the thinking person to piece together biblical history alongside ancient history.
In many universities the same evidence is considered in theological or archaeological faculties but is viewed through an entirely different lens. How is this possible? The reason being is the underlying emphasis or the presuppositions that govern how we make sense of the material examined. For example, I know one pastor who studied at Cambridge University who persuaded the lecturer to discuss rather than dismiss the opening eleven chapters of Genesis.
One of the great ongoing debates in the world of biblical archaeology is the date of the Exodus. That not only effects the understanding of that period but also the whole chronology and interpretation of events before and after. Nonetheless, encouragingly, many people and places thought to have never existed, have been demonstrated to be real and have been authenticated and linked with specific biblical events.
The timing of the fall of Jericho
Students and those with keen interest in biblical archaeology, may well know something of the history of the excavation of Jericho, one of the world’s oldest cities. Initial excavations appeared to concur with the account in the Bible with fallen walls of a fortified town occurring at that time. Later excavations undertaken by Kathleen Kenyon suggested that the ruin site was already established prior to the Exodus.
When I visited the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Cambridge, useful information was given of Kenyon’s methods of stratigraphy to determine the age of a site by its layers, although surprisingly little if anything was commented on regarding the significance of her findings in relation to Jericho. At the British Museum, however, more information was presented regarding the latter.
More recent findings indicate that the city was inhabited around 1400BC which is near the early date for the Exodus.
David & Solomon
Sinkinson enjoys return trips to Israel partly because there are so many excavations being undertaken and since there is so much material to sift through, discoveries continue to occur. For too long, sceptics have claimed that there is no evidence to authenticate King David as a historical person. Relatively recently, at the Tel Dan city gate, the Tel Dan Steele revealed a reference to a king of Judah and the house of David. Note, in the ancient world and especially in biblical times, the city gate was a place of commerce, trade and administering important affairs (cf. Ruth 4:1; 2 Samuel 15:2; Job 29:7; Lamentations 5:14). Also fortified cities in Judah have been carbon dated by Oxford University to the time of King David (circa 1000BC) at the Khirbet Qeiyafa excavations.
Yohanan Aharoni a co-author of “The Carta Bible Atlas”, confirmed through both stratigraphy (Kenyon’s method) and pottery (pottery is a generally effective method which gives a reasonably precise indication of the era) of cities that Solomon built including Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer (1 Kings 9:15) and it is also possible that stables built for horses have been discovered to fit that time too.
The Atrahasis Epic
Sinkinson interviewed several experts, one of which was Allan Millard, Professor Emeritus of Ancient Semitic Languages at Liverpool University. Millard discovered the Atrahasis Epic, which in some ways resembles the Gilgamesh Epic, though more importantly parallels some essential details from the biblical narrative. Though the Atrahasis Epic is a polytheistic account, it relates to the creation of mankind that mirrors the Genesis account in some respects, in particular a great flood and the building of a giant boat to preserve the lives of humans and animals.
The Assyrians and Judah
Millard also commented on the Assyrians and Judah. The black obelisk of Shalmaneser was mentioned and can be seen in Room 6 in the British Museum. On the second row from the top an ambassador of King Jehu of Judah is bowing to Shalmaneser III and paying him tribute.
The Assyrians made frequent military campaigns against Judah and although they took Lachish and other cities, despite their size and might, they were not able to capture Jerusalem. The siege of Lachish is graphically portrayed in reliefs which can again be viewed in the British Museum which show siege engines and depictions of their military conquest. Professor Emeritus Ben-Tor notes that these findings corroborate with the Biblical account, archaeology and Sennacherib’s own words. In the same museum you can view Sennacherib’s prism (Room 55) stating that he trapped Hezekiah like a bird. The Bible affirms that Hezekiah prayed to the Lord and Sennacherib was murdered by his own sons.
In 2015 over thirty bullae (clay seals) were discovered. On one the inscription read, “Belonging to King Hezekiah, son of Ahaz, King of Judah.” In Isaiah 36-37 and 2 Kings 18-19, both Hezekiah and Sennacherib are central to the narrative. In addition, the DVD features Hezekiah’s tunnel, where I have had the pleasure of walking through on one of my trips to Israel. Originally this diverted water from the Gihon spring to protect the supply of water and ended in the pool of Siloam.
One will derive maximum benefit by watching this DVD through several times and thereby gain familiarity with key biblical events and characters in their archaeological context. Sinkinson mentioned that as of late there are fifty-three biblical characters confirmed by archaeology. https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/people-cultures-in-the-bible/people-in-the-bible/50-people-in-the-bible-confirmed-archaeologically/ .There is more in this DVD that I have not mentioned, such as excavations at the periphery of the Temple Mount and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Better still, why not follow that viewing with a trip to the British Museum with “Through the British Museum with the Bible” by Brian Edwards and Clive Anderson. Best of all, why not go to Israel, see the evidence first hand and sift through the evidence? The second part of this article will follow soon in connection with the second part of the DVD.