Practical Bible Studies

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Biblical Archaeology

     While you can't convert someone based on evidence, there are a lot of discoveries that may help to strengthen and encourage someone's faith. On this page, we will be curating some of the most interesting and compelling archaeological discoveries that support the Bible's claims.

Gideon's Jug

Original Article: Christianity Today 12/21/2021


       “Jerub-baal” is the nickname given to Gideon in Judges 6:31–32 after Gideon destroyed an altar to the pagan god Baal. It means “Let Baal contend with him.” It’s also the name found written on a pottery jug fragment excavated at Khirbat er-Ra'i, a site near Tel Lachish in southern Israel.

     It is unlikely the jug belonged to Gideon himself. Khirbet er-Ra'i is located about 100 miles south of the Jezreel Valley, where the Bible says Gideon took a tiny army and routed a much larger force of Midianites. The archaeologists excavating at Khirbat er-Ra'i dated the stratum where the pottery was found to 1100 B.C., the period of the judges, but likely about a century after Gideon, based on the internal chronology of the Bible.

       There is little archaeological record of this period, though, so the discovery linking a biblical name to the era is notable.

Archaeologists also say the discovery provides evidence for the spread of the alphabetic writing first developed by Canaanites living in Egypt around 1800 B.C. Nearby Lachish, where a few other Late Bronze Age Canaanite alphabetic inscriptions have been found, may have been a center for the preservation of alphabetic writing. The discovery of an alphabetic inscription at Lachish, dated to the 15th century B.C., was also announced in 2021.

       The level of literacy in the Old Testament is still a matter of debate among scholars. Interestingly, the story of Gideon references a young man who “wrote down the names of the 77 elders of Sukkoth”(Judges 8:14).



New Dead Sea Scrolls Discovery

Original Article: Christianity Today 3/18/2021


       Israeli researchers and archaeologists unveiled this week several groundbreaking discoveries, including dozens of biblical scroll fragments that represent the first newly uncovered Dead Sea Scrolls in more than half a century.

The Dead Sea Scrolls contain some of the earliest known Jewish religious documents, including biblical texts, dated from the third century B.C. to the second century A.D. The manuscripts were first unearthed in the immediate aftermath of World War II in the caves near Qumran and the Judean Desert.

Even an initial review of the new fragments—which will be analyzed and scrutinized for years to come—offers some exciting findings about how the earliest biblical texts were translated and adapted in ways like our own.

       

       The discovery comes at a time when demand for antiquities has skyrocketed, spurring looting and forgeries over the past several years as wealthy collectors hope to acquire any remaining scraps of the priceless scrolls.

Starting around 2002, a number of widely publicized “Dead Sea Scroll” fragments emerged with questionable origin stories. After a series of illegal attempts to acquire artifacts and scrolls, Israeli Antiquities Authority conducted a series of archaeological surveys to reexamine the interiors of the caves along the cliffs of the Judean Desert.

       Beginning in 2017, its researchers uncovered two dozen scroll pieces, each measuring only a few centimeters across, from the so-called Cave of Horror near the western shore of the Dead Sea. It’s a site where insurgents were believed to have hidden during the uprising led by Simon bar Kokhba against the Roman empire in A.D. 133–136. It gets its name from the discovery of 40 bodies during initial excavations decades before.



Tel Dan Stele (Inscription)

Fragment A (Tel Dan Excavations, Hebrew Union College, Jerusalem; photograph: Z.Radovan).

     It probably doesn't look like much to most people, but this piece of stone contains pretty solid (no pun intended) evidence of the House of David.


Fragment A: Translation
    (Al)      [............] you will rule ov[er ....................................................................]
    (A2)      [and because of the p]iou[s act] s of my father, may [?] go up [.................]
    (A3)      and my father will repose. May he go to [.....................................at every]
    (A4)      ancient [h]earth on ground of El-Bay[tel...............................................am]
    (A5)      I, so Hadad would go before me [................................................the day-]
    (A6)      -s of my reign, and I would slay a kin[g] and [.................thousands of cha-]
    (A7)      -riots and thousands of horsemen[.............................................................]
    (A8)      the king of Israel, and [I] killed [him....................................................kin-]
    (A9)      -g of Bayt-Dawid. And [the] name of [.....................................................]
    (A10)      their land to[.............................................................................................]
    (A11)      another and to [........................................................................Jehoash r-]
    (A12)      -eigned over ls[rael...........................................................................I laid]
    (A13)      siege to [Samaria.....................................................................................]

Athas, G. (2003). The Tel Dan inscription: a reappraisal and a new interpretation (Vol. 360, p. 193). Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.