The Bible’s Buried Secrets

Has the discovery of an ancient pottery shard in excavations near Jerusalem, undone the sensational claims of a PBS documentary entitled, “The Bible’s Buried Secrets”?

In that documentary, PBS shockingly concludes that the Hebrew Bible was written hundreds of years after Abraham, Moses, Joshua, and David. It cites scholars who state that the Bible couldn’t have been written until the 6th century BC because the Hebrew language hadn’t been developed until then. So, what’s the big deal about that, you might ask? “According to PBS, the late writing of the Bible means that the entire Old Testament is based on centuries of oral tradition that changed over time. Therefore, according to the documentary, the Bible’s stories are simply myths. As examples, it concludes:

• Abraham, Sarah and their offspring didn’t exist.

• There is no archaeological evidence of the Exodus.

• Monotheism was a process that took hundreds of years.

But have the PBS documentary’s conclusions about the Bible been exposed as faulty by this new archaeological discovery? According to Hebrew expert, Professor, Gershon Galil of the Haifa University, the answer appears to be yes.

On January 7th, 2009, Professor Galil publicly announced that he had deciphered a Hebrew inscription from a 15 cm X 16.5 cm trapezoid pottery shard carbon-dated to the 10th century BC, the time of King David. The shard had been discovered earlier at an excavation in Khirbet Qeiyafa, 18 miles from Jerusalem.

Galil discovered that the inscription on the 3,000-year-old piece of pottery was inked in Hebrew, the language of the Bible. As a result, he has since concluded that parts of the Bible were written hundreds of years earlier than suspected by the PBS documentary. Galil writes,

“It can now be maintained that it was highly reasonable that during the 10th century BCE, during the reign of King David, there were scribes in Israel who were able to write literary texts and complex historiographies such as the books of Judges and Samuel.”

Just as the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls substantiated the accuracy of Old Testament writings, such as the book of Isaiah, other archaeological discoveries like the clay shard in Khirbet Qeiyafa are adding to the compelling case for the reliability of the Old Testament.

Is The New Testament Reliable?

A host of scholars have also attacked the reliability of the New Testament accounts. Some go so far as to state that Jesus himself was a mythical person. And although a few scholars question Jesus’ existence, no great historian, Christian or non-Christian has drawn that conclusion.
(see, “Was Jesus a real person?”)

As with the Old Testament, attacks on the historical reliability of the New Testament have been rampant. Yet as the evidence is discovered, the reliability of the New Testament continues to confound its skeptics:

• Jesus’ Family Tomb: A Discovery Channel documentary entitled, “The Jesus Family Tomb” speculated that the bones of Jesus had been discovered in a Jerusalem family tomb. If true, it would undermine the entire Christian message of Jesus’ resurrection. But the documentary distorted the evidence to the disdain of scholars.
(see “Jesus Family Tomb”)

• Nazareth: Several New Testament critics argued that the town of Nazareth didn’t exist at the time of Jesus. This assertion was argued in a book published by American Atheist Publishing. However, a 2009 archaeological discovery confirms that Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth did exist in the first century.
(see “Was Jesus Really From Nazareth?”)

• New Testament Documents: German higher critics of the New Testament and other liberal scholars have argued that its books weren’t written during the apostles’ lifetimes. If true, they couldn’t have been eyewitness accounts. However, textual critics have a wealth of manuscripts that support its early writing.
(see, “Are the Gospels Reliable?” )

• Archaeological Confirmation: Several skeptics pointed out that the names of key New Testament people hadn’t been discovered in archaeological excavations. They cited the lack of such facts as evidence that the New Testament accounts were invented. However, in 1962 archaeologists discovered an ancient stone inscribed with the name of “Pilate”, the governor of Judea who tried Jesus. And in 1990, the name of the Chief Priest, Caiaphas, was discovered on an ossuary.

Criticism of both the Old and New Testaments will certainly continue. Part of the reason for that is because there is so much at stake; the Bible speaks about our origin and our purpose. However, both sides of the historicity of the Bible should listen to what the evidence says. The discovery at Khirbet Qeiyafa is just one more piece of evidence supporting the case for biblical reliability.

Who was the real Jesus Christ? Is it possible to view Jesus as simply a great moral teacher? Oxford scholar, C.S. Lewis originally thought Jesus was a myth. Then he investigated the evidence, and was astounded by Jesus’ radical claims. Lewis believed that Jesus claimed to be God in the flesh. Who did this great scholar decide Jesus Christ really was?