Category Archives: Archaeology

Was Jericho a “City” or a Military Fortification?

The ruins of ancient Jericho, scarred by over a hundred years of archaeological digs, as seen from the air.

The ruins of ancient Jericho, scarred by over a hundred years of archaeological digs, as seen from the air. It would probably take no more than an hour or so to walk around the “city.”

I had the privilege of visiting the Holy Land some years ago, and one day our tour bus drove through the modern city of Jericho. At one point during our drive, our tour guide announced that we were passing the ancient site of Jericho. But before I had enough time to pull out my camera, we were gone and left the ancient “city” far behind.

It was not quite what I had imagined. As a kid, I was accustomed to hear the story of how “Joshua fit the battle of Jericho,” and destroyed the “city.” Now, when I think of “city,” I think of a relatively large population area. My hometown, Williamsburg, Virginia, is fairly small by the standard of most cities today, about 9.1 square miles in size, or just a little under 6,000 acres. Contrast that with ancient Jericho, which is approximately only 6 acres in size.

That’s about less than half the size of my small neighborhood.

Wow…. If ancient Jericho was really a “city,” then it must have been a really, itsy-bitsy small one. I suppose the people in such a really small “city” could have been packed in like sardines, but it got me thinking about what the Bible says in Joshua 6 about the “city” of Jericho. What are we to make of this?
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A Day at the Museum

Clarke referenced the Codex Sinaiticus and the Septuagint in a couple of posts last week, so Marion and I decided to hop a plane to London and have a look at the original. (That’s not exactly how things progressed, but isn’t far from the truth.)

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We’re in London this week to learn about the Codex Sinaiticus and other artifacts that point to the veracity of the text of the Bible.

Codex Sinaiticus is one of the most important books in the world. It contains the oldest complete New Testament in existence, and dates to around 350 A.D. The Old Testament portion is a copy of the Septuagint. Codex Sinaiticus is used by scholars today to create the most accurate translations of the biblical text. The manuscript is served in high definition on the Internet, and it doesn’t take long to see how scribes painstakingly corrected the original writing. There are corrections plastered in the margins everywhere. It was obviously important for the scribes to make sure the work was as accurate as possible and up to par with the best copies of the Bible in existence at the time.

The British Library’s portion of Sinaiticus is currently on display in a special exhibit at the British Museum. We asked Clive Anderson, co-author of Through the British Museum with the Bible, if he could guide us through the exhibits. Although Clive wasn’t scheduled to conduct a tour while we were in town, he graciously agreed.

Some days are better than others. Today was the day for our tour.
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Did the Exodus Really Happen?

Is there any archaeological evidence to support the Exodus of the Bible?

This week, Jews all over the world are celebrating the Passover, the annual feast remembering God’s deliverance of the Hebrew people from the bonds of slavery in ancient Egypt. Is there a genuine historical basis for these events surrounding the Passover?

After the release of Ridley Scott’s movie, Exodus: Gods and Kings, and a new documentary film by Timothy Mahoney, Patterns of Evidence, which seeks to re-examine the archaeological evidence, there is a renewed interest in understanding how the exodus of Moses and the Israelites from underneath the yoke of slavery in Egypt might have happened.  This fascinating and highly recommended essay by Jewish scholar Joshua Berman explores the issue of the historicity of the Exodus. Berman takes a position similar to mine, in that once we dismiss the notion of a “massive” event involving 2 to 3 million people, that really should be numbered more in terms of several tens of thousands (see Numbers 3:43 for one additional piece of evidence that Berman cites), a lot of the intellectual hurdles to accepting the biblical story tend to fall off.

On the others side, over the years there have been a number of attempts made by some documentary filmmakers exploring these questions, often suggesting some rather controversial theories. How does one go about evaluating these different claims?

In a 2014 lecture, Egyptologist James K. Hoffmeier at Trinity Internation University and Wheaton College geologist Stephen Moshier consider some of the more controversial theories and review them in the light of Scripture and the available evidence.  As a follow-up to this previous extensive Veracity posting on this topic, you might find Hoffmeier and Moshier as providing a more modest perspective that nevertheless still honors the biblical record.  The bottom line: while there are a plethora of different proposals for resolving the questions surrounding the Exodus, there is enough evidence to rule out some of the more extravagant claims.


Patterns of Evidence: One Night Showing Tonight!

On Monday, January 19, 2015, selected movie theatres across the country will be showing a special documentary film, Patterns of Evidence. The story is about a filmmaker, Timothy Mahoney, who had a crisis of faith when he learned from the consensus of critically minded scholars that the Exodus, the famous story of Moses leading the people out of Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea,… NEVER HAPPENED.

Well, at least, that is the conclusion that is drawn from many archaeologists of the ancient Bible periods. True, the study of archaeology has yet to provide demonstrative evidence confirming the Biblical account of the Exodus. Therefore, many come to the conclusion that the Exodus was simply a “made up” part of the Bible. In other words, the story in the Bible is just as fictional as Ridley Scott’s version of it in Exodus: Gods and Kings, introduced with extensive background discussion to the archaeological issues involved here earlier on Veracity. But is there another way to approach this issue and arrive at a different conclusion?

In Mahoney’s documentary film, he looks at the possibility that the search for the Exodus has focused on the wrong time and place. Having not seen the film myself, I can not myself offer a review, but you may want to look at the following reviews from Answers in Genesis and the Gospel Coalition.

To find a film showing for this one night in your area according to zip code, look here. (In Williamsburg, Virginia, it is at 7pm at the High Street Movie Tavern). A 6:30 pm discussion led by Fox News commentator Gretchen Carlson and featuring author Anne Graham Lotz, Eric Metaxas, Father Jonathan Morris, and Dennis Prager precedes the film. If you attend the film, I would like hear your thoughts about it, as I am not sure myself that Mahoney’s case is without difficulties. Take a skeptical friend. It is sure to be controversial and generate plenty of conversation. Does the filmmaker make a convincing case?

UPDATE: January 20

Check out the Veracity review of the film by viewing the comments section below, given by Veracity’s own John Paine. Thanks, John!


Exodus: Gods and Kings and The Min and Max of Digging

So, what type of archaeological evidence would a mass migration of escaping Jewish slaves leave behind to be discovered some three thousand plus years later?

For whatever reason, the year 2014 has turned out to be a year of Christian-themed cinema, with movies ranging from a creative re-interpretation of the Noah story to the dispensationalist Rapture event of the End Times, Left Behind. To end off the year, film director Ridley Scott promises a real blockbuster, Exodus: Gods and Kings, with an all-star cast. Here is the theatre trailer:

The story is indeed a familiar one to students of the Bible. A Hebrew man grows up among the ancient Egyptian royalty, only to be called by God to lead his people out of slavery under the defiant eye of Pharaoh and across the Red Sea. But what will Ridley Scott’s epic deliver?

One of the main concerns of potential movie goers will be the historical accuracy of the film. A recent poll indicates that if the story is mostly consistent with the biblical account, over 70 percent of Americans surveyed will see the film, whereas if it is inaccurate, close to under 70 percent will forgo it. The problem is figuring out what is meant by “historical accuracy.” If you had a shovel over there in Egypt, what would you discover?

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