Biblical Archaeology: The Window Into the Past - Discover the Book Ministries


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Biblical Archaeology: The Window Into the Past

121202PM EBI-01 Archaeology.docx

The Elements of Biblical Interpretation

Biblical Archaeology:

The Window into the Past

The Bible is a Book that came from a geographic place, that place is long ago and far away.

The origin for each of the words is from beyond earth, since God Himself breathed out each word. But the writing down of the text of each book, that makes up the Book of Books called the Bible, took place on three continents: Europe (some of Paul’s Epistles), Africa (some of Moses’ writings), and Asia (where most of the Bible was written and took place in the Middle East and Asia Minor).

Archaeology is one of the seven ways we can know that God’s Word can be trusted. There has never been any archaeological finding that has disproved any portion of the Bible.

On the contrary, it has now become common for Israeli archaeologists to study the text of the Old Testament as they dig to know where to find the places described in the Bible.

To best understand Biblical Archaeology we need to understand some of the key terms and elements of Archaeology. The first is that the longer people live in an area the deeper the levels of their occupation become. For example the Biblical city of Megiddo has over 20 layers of occupation by one group after another.

When Archaeologists come they carefully dig down one layer at a time, getting further into the past as they dig.

Periods of Biblical Archaeology 

Everything happened somewhere (that is Geography), and sometime (that is History); and when you combine those two ideas into the Land of the Book you get Biblical Archaeology (finding remains of where things happened and when).

To God the single most important geographic location on Earth is where Christ was Dedicated by His parents, where He taught many of His key teachings, where He was Tried, Condemned, Crucified & Buried, where He Rose, where He Ascended, where His Church was born, and where He will Return at His Second Coming. That location for those seven key events to God is Jerusalem.

So, to understand Biblical Archaeology: all of the Land of the Book, and especially Jerusalem, are very important.  To explain simple Biblical Archaeology, we would take the Scriptures and apply the historical framework God’s Word presents, and sort all of the various archaeological remains into their Biblical Context.

To use Jerusalem as an example, the surface of the ground would be the present and then the deeper you go, the more levels of past Biblical History you would pass through. If we were to show Jerusalem’s layers by recognized secular time periods it would look like this:

State of Israel 1948-present  
British 1917-1947 AD:  
Ottoman 1517-1917 AD:  
Mamluk 1250-1517 AD: Renaissance to Reformation  
Crusader 1099-1250 AD: Crusades to Renaissance  
Arab Muslim 638-1099 AD: Dark Ages, rise of RCC  
Byzantine 324-638 AD: monastic period, Church Councils  
Roman, Late 200-324 AD:  Persecution, church growth  
Roman, Middle 70-200 AD:  Jerusalem’s fall, Post-Apostolic Fathers  
Roman, Early 63 BC-70 AD: N.T. events, early church, Epistles  
Hasmonean 141-63 BC: Maccabeans to Pompey  
Hellenistic 332-141 BC: Alexander’s Four Generals  
Persian 539-332 BC: Daniel, Ezra, Alexander the Great  
Iron Age 1200-539 BC: Samuel, Saul, David to Daniel  
Bronze Age, Late 1550-1200 BC: Bondage, Moses, Exodus, Judges  
Bronze Age, Middle 2000-1550 BC: Patriarchs to Bondage in Egypt  
Bronze Age, Early 3300-2000 BC: Abraham visited Jerusalem  
The Global Cataclysmic Flood transformed every part of the surface of the Earth. Pre-Flood World: (Chalcolithic 4500-3300 BC & Neolilthic 8500-4500 BC)

Biblical Archaeology.

  1. This class will explain the site lingo like “Tel”,
  2. layers,
  3. eras,
  4. historic periods, and
  5. the wide number of Biblical sites that are in the Land of the Book.
  6. We will define the terms that you will hear so often like: Byzantine,
  7. Mamluk,
  8. Iron Age,
  9. ostraca, and so on. All of these will be tied to Biblical Periods and passages.


Hebrew Bible (Old Testament)

The main sources for identifying people from the Hebrew Bible are Assyrian and Babylonian inscriptions as well as seals and bullae (seal impressions) from the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. These date from the 9th century through the late 5th century BCE.

Note: fathers of biblical figures who have no important part in the biblical narrative are not listed separately. So while Baruch, son of Neriah is listed here, Neriah, Baruch’s father is not.

  • Ahab, king of Israel: Mentioned extensively in Kings and Chronicles. Identified in the contemporary Kurkh Monolith inscription of Shalmaneser III [1] which describes the Battle of Qarqar and mentions 2,000 chariots, 10,000 soldiers of Ahab the Israelite defeated by Shalmaneser.[2]
  • Ahaz (Jehoahaz), king of Judah: Mentioned extensively in Kings, Chronicles and Isaiah as well as in Hosea 1:1 and Micah 1:1. Identified in the contemporary Summary Inscription of Tiglath-Pileser III which records that he received tribute from Jehoahaz the Judahite, as mentioned in 2 Kings 16:7-8 and 2 Chronicles 28:21.[3] Also identified in a contemporary clay bulla, reading of Ahaz [son of] Jotham king of Judah.[4] (A third bulla mentioning Ahaz as the father of Hezekiah is being investigated as a possible forgery.)
  • Apries (Hophra), pharaoh of Egypt: Mentioned in Jeremiah 44:30. Identified in numerous contemporary inscriptions including those of the capitals of the columns of his palace.[5][6] Herodotus speaks of him in Histories II, 161-171.[7]
  • Artaxerxes I of Persia is widely identified with Artaxerxes in the book of Nehemiah.[8][9] He is also found in the writings of contemporary historian Thucydides.[10] Scholars are divided over whether the king in Ezra’s time was the same, or Artaxerxes II.
  • Ashurbanipal (Asenappar/Sardanapalus), king of Assyria: Mentioned in Ezra 4:10. Identified in numerous contemporary inscriptions,[11] including those that tell of his conquest of Elam and Babylon which accords with Ezra 4:9-10 where people that he exiled from these regions are mentioned.[12] Diodorus Siculus (book II, 21) preserved a fanciful account of him by Ctesias. (See Sardanapalus[13])
  • Baruch ben Neriah, a scribe in the time of Jeremiah. Two identical imprints of his seal were discovered in 1975 and 1996. They read ‘to Berachyahu son of Neriyahu the scribe’.[14][15]
  • Belshazzar, coregent of Babylon, son of king Nabonidus,[16] see Nabonidus Cylinder.
  • Ben-hadad son of Hazael, king of Aram Damascus. He is mentioned in the Zakkur Stele.[17]
  • Cyrus II of Persia, appears in many ancient inscriptions, most notably the Cyrus Cylinder.[18]
  • Darius I, king of Persia, is mentioned in the books of Haggai, Zechariah and Ezra.[19][20] He is the author of the famous Behistun Inscription.
  • Esarhaddon, son of Sennacherib, was king of Assyria. His name survives in his own writings, as well as in those of his son Ashurbanipal.[11][21]
  • Evil Merodach, king of Babylon son of Nebuchadnezzar II. His name (Akkadian ‘Amēl-Marduk’) and title were found on a vase from his palace,[22] and on several cuneiform tablets.[23]
  • Hazael, king of Aram Damascus. According to the Book of Kings, he was anointed by the prophet Elijah (1 Kings 19:15). Shalmaneser III of Assyria records that he defeated Hazael in battle and captured many chariots and horses from him.[24] Most scholars think that Hazael was the author of the Tel Dan Stele.[25]
  • Hezekiah, king of Judah enacted religious reforms, countering the idol-worshipping of his predecessors (2 Kings 18:1-6). An account is preserved by Sennacherib of how he besieged ‘Hezekiah, the Jew’, who ‘did not submit to my yoke’, in his capital city of Jerusalem.[11] A bulla was also found bearing Hezekia’s name and title.[26]
  • Hoshea, king of Israel, was put into power by Tilgath-Pileser III, king of Assyria, as recorded in his ‘Annals’, found in Calah.[11]
  • Jehoash, king of Israel, is mentioned in records of Adad-nirari III of Assyria as ‘Jehoash of Samaria’.[27][28]
  • Jehoiachin, King of Judah, was taken captive to Babylon after Nebuchadrezzar first captured Jerusalem (2 Kings 24:15). Texts from Nebuchadrezzar’s Southern Palace record the rations given to “Jehoiachin king of the Judeans” (Ya’ukin sar Yaudaya).[29]
  • Jehu, king of Israel; see: Black Obelisk[24]
  • Johanan, high priest during the reign of Darius II. His name is found in Nehemiah 12:22,23 and also in a letter from the Elephantine Papyri[11]
  • Manasseh, king of Judah, mentioned in the writings of Esarhaddon, who lists him as one of the kings who had brought him gifts and aided his conquest of Egypt.[11][21]
  • Menahem, king of Israel is recorded in the annals of Tiglath-Pileser to have paid tribute to him.[11]
  • Mesha, king of Moab, author of the Mesha Stele.[30]
  • Merodach-baladan, king of Babylon is found in the Great Inscription of Sargon II in his palace at Khorsabat.[31]
  • Nebuchadnezzar II, king of Babylon is mentioned in numerous contemporary sources, including the inscription of the Ishtar Gate, which he built.[32]
  • Necho, pharaoh of Egypt, mentioned in the writings of Ashurbanipal[11]
  • Omri, king of Israel is mentioned on the Mesha Stele.[30]
  • Pekah, became king of Israel after assassinating Pekahiah, his predecessor. (2 Kings 15:25). He is mentioned in the annals of Tiglath-Pileser III.[11]
  • Rezin, king of Aram was a tributary of Tiglath-Pileser III of Assyria.[33] According to the bible, he was later put to death by Tiglath-Pileser (2 Kings 16:7-9).
  • Sanballat, governor of Samaria the leading figure of the opposition which Nehemiah encountered during the rebuilding of the walls around the temple in Jerusalem. Sanballat is mentioned in the Elephantine Papyri.[11][34]
  • Sargon II, king of Assyria besieged and conquered the city of Samaria and took many thousands captive, as recorded in the bible and in an inscription in his royal palace.[35] His name, however does not appear in the biblical account of this siege, but in Isaiah 20:1, in reference to his siege of Ashdod.
  • Sennacherib, king of Assyria is the author of a number of inscriptions discovered near Nineveh.[36]
  • Shalmaneser V, king of Assyria is mentioned on several royal palace weights found at Nimrud.[37] Another inscription was found that is thought to be his, but the name of the author is only partly preserved.[38]
  • Taharqa, pharaoh of Egypt. Several sources mention him and fragments of three statues bearing his name were excavated at Nineveh.[39]
  • Tattenai, governor of ‘Beyond the River’ (Hebrew: ‫עֲבַר-נַהֲרָה, Ezra 5:6) during the reign of Darius I, is known from contemporary Babylonian documents.[40][41]
  • Tiglath-Pileser III, king of Assyria exiled inhabitants of cities he captured in Israel (2 Kings 15:29). Numerous writings are ascribed to him and he is mentioned, among others, in an inscription by Barrakab, king of Sam’al[11] and also in the Assyrian king list.
  • Xerxes I (Ahasuerus), king of Persia, is named in the books of Ezra and Esther.[40][42] Xerxes is known in archaeology through a number of tablets and monuments,[43] notably the ‘Gate of All Nations’ in Persepolis.


New Testament

The central figure of the New Testament is Jesus of Nazareth. Despite ongoing debate concerning the authorship of many of its books, there is a consensus[9][40] among modern scholars that at least some were written by a contemporary of Jesus,[44][45] namely the so-called ‘undisputed’ epistles of Paul. However, outside of the 27 books and letters collected into the New Testament, no contemporary references to Jesus are known, unless a very early dating is assumed of some uncanonical gospel such as the Gospel of Thomas. Nevertheless, some authentic first century and many second century writings exist in which Jesus is mentioned,[note 1] leading scholars to conclude that the historicity of Jesus is well established by historical documents.[46][47][48] First century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus also mentions John the Baptist and his execution by Herod Antipas[49] (Matthew 14:1-12), although Josephus was not a contemporary of John.



  • Annas, was a Jewish high priest (Luke 2:3), appointed by Quirinius as recorded by Josephus.[49] Although he was officially removed from office by procurator Gratus, he continued to hold considerable influence,[50] and was involved in the trial of Jesus (John 18:24). Annas was the father-in-law of Caiaphas (John 18:13).
  • Augustus Caesar, emperor of Rome (Luke 2:1), reigned between 27 BCE and 14 CE, during which time Jesus was born. He left behind a wealth of buildings, coins and monuments,[51] including a funerary inscription in which he described his life and accomplishments.
  • Caiaphas, or ‘Joseph, who was called Caiaphas’, was reigning high priest during the ministry and death of Jesus. Based on Josephus’ Antiquities,[49] it is estimated that he held the office between 18 and 36 CE.[52] He is mentioned in Matthew, Luke and John and presided over the trial of Jesus (Matthew 25:57-65, John 18:24). In 1990 Israeli archeologists discovered near Jerusalem what is believed to be the family tomb of Caiaphas. One of the ossuaries bears the inscription ‘Yosef Bar Kayafa’ and contained the bones of a 60 year old man.[53]
  • Herod the Great, king of Judea (Matthew 2:1), Galilea and Samaria is mentioned extensively in the writings of Josephus[49] and others. Among his numerous building projects was the restoration of the Temple in Jerusalem and his name is found on contemporary Jewish coins.[54]
  • Herod Archelaus, etnarch of Judea, Samaria and Edom, was the son of Herod the Great (Matthew 2:22). He is known from the writings of Flavius Josephus[49] and from contemporary coins.[54]
  • Herod Antipas, was tetrarch (Matthew 14:1) of Galilee and Perea, as recorded in Josephus’ Antiquities[49] and War of the Jews.[55]
  • Herodias was the wife of Herod Antipas[49] (Mark 6:17). According to the synoptic gospels, she was formerly married to Herod Antipas’s brother Philip, apparently Philip the Tetrarch. However, Josephus writes that her first husband was Herod II. Many scholars view this as a contradiction, but some have suggested that Herod II was also called Philip.[56]
  • Philip the Tetrarch was a son of Herod the Great and ruled over Iturea and Trachonitis (Luke 3:1). Josephus writes that he shared the kingdom of his father with his brothers Herod Antipas and Herod Archelaus.[49] His name and title appear on coinage from the period.[57][58]
  • Pontius Pilate, procurator and prefect of Judea, ordered Jesus’ execution (John 19:15-16). A stone inscription was found that mentions his name and title: “[Po]ntius Pilatus, [Praef]ectus Iuda[ea]e” (Pontius Pilate, prefect of Judaea),[59][60] see Pilate Stone.
  • Quirinius was governor of Syria (Luke 2:2). The Gospel of Luke connects the birth of Jesus with a census conducted during his governorship, which is, based on Josephus’ works, dated to 6/7 CE.[49] That Quirinius conducted a census while governing Syria is also confirmed by a tomb inscription of one Quintus Aemilius Secundus, who had served under him.[61] However the Gospel of Matthew places Jesus’ birth about a decade earlier (c. 4 BCE), during the rule of Herod the Great. Bible scholars have traditionally sought to reconcile these accounts; while most current scholars regard this as an error by the author of the Gospel of Luke.[62]
  • Tiberius Caesar, emperor of Rome (Luke 3:1), is named in many inscriptions and on Roman coins. Among other accounts, some of his deeds are described by contemporary historian Velleius (died c. 31 CE).[63]
  • Salome was a daughter of Herodias[49] (Matthew 14:6). Although she is not named in the Gospels, but referred to as ‘the daughter of Herodias’, she is commonly identified with Salome, Herodias’ daughter, mentioned in Josephus’ Antiquities.[64]

Acts of the Apostles and Epistles

  • Ananias son of Nedebaios was high priest between c. 47 and 59 CE, as recorded by Josephus.[49] He presided over the trial of Paul (Acts 23:2).
  • Antonius Felix, was governor of Judea (Acts 23:24), which is also recorded by historians Josephus,[49] Suetonius[65] and Tacitus[66]
  • Aretas IV Philopatris was king of the Natabeans from c. 9 BCE – 40 CE. According to Paul, Aretas’ governor in Damascus tried to arrest him (2 Corinthians 11:32). Besides being mentioned by Josephus,[49] his name is found in several contemporary inscriptions[67] and on numerous coins.[68]
  • Berenice, daughter of Herod Agrippa I is mentioned together with her brother Herod Agrippa II (Acts 25:23), with whom she was accused of having an incestuous relation, according to Josephus.[49] She appears to have had almost equal power to her brother and is indeed called ‘Queen Berenice’ in Tacitus’ Histories.[69]
  • Claudius Caesar was emperor of Rome (Acts 11:28) from 41 – 54 CE. Like other Roman emperors, his name is found on numerous coins[70] and monuments, such as the Porta Maggiore in Rome.
  • Drusilla, daughter of Herod Agrippa I, was married to Antonius Felix (Acts 24:24), as is also recorded by Josephus.[49]
  • Gamaliel the Elder, rabbi of the Sanhedrin (Acts 5:34), teacher of the apostle Paul (Acts 22:3). He is named as the father of Simon by Flavius Josephus in his autobiography.[71] In the Talmud he is also described as a prominent member of the Sanhedrin.[72]
  • Herod Agrippa I, grandson of Herod the Great, was king (Acts 12:1) of Judaea, Galilee, and other regions in Palestine. Although his name is given as ‘Herod’ by Luke, and as ‘Agrippa’ by Josephus,[49] the accounts both writers give about his death are so similar that they are commonly accepted to refer to the same person.[17][73] Hence many modern scholars call him ‘Herod Agrippa (I)’.
  • Herod Agrippa II, was king of Judaea (Acts 25:23), and ruled alongside his sister Berenice. Josephus writes about him in his Antiquities,[49] and his name is found inscribed on contemporary Jewish coins.[54]
  • Judas of Galilee was the leader of a Jewish revolt. Both the Book of Acts (5:37) and Josephus[49] tell of a rebellion he instigated in the time of the census of Quirinius.
  • Lucius Iunius Gallio Annaeanus, proconsul of Achaea (Acts 18:12). Seneca, his brother, mentions him, among others, in his epistles.[74] In Delphi, an inscription, dated to 52 CE, was discovered that records a letter by emperor Claudius, in which Gallio is also named as proconsul[75]
  • Porcius Festus, governor of Judea, succeeded Antonius Felix (Acts 24:27), which is also recorded by Josephus.[49]

Tentatively identified

These are Biblical figures for which tentative but likely identifications have been found in contemporary sources based on matching names and credentials. The possibility of coincidental matching of names cannot be ruled out however.

Hebrew Bible (Old Testament)

  • Azaliah son of Meshullam, scribe in the Temple in Jerusalem: Mentioned in 2 Kings 22:3 and 2 Chronicles 34:8. A bulla reading “belonging to Azaliabu son of Meshullam.” is likely to be his, according to archaeologist Nahman Avigad.[76]
  • Azariah son of Hilkiah and grandfather of Ezra: Mentioned in 1 Chronicles 6:13,14; 9:11 and Ezra 7:1. A bulla reading Azariah son of Hilkiah is likely to be his, according to Tsvi Schneider.[77]
  • Darius II of Persia, is mentioned by the contemporary historian Xenophon of Athens,[78] in the Elephantine Papyri,[11] and other sources. ‘Darius the Persian’, mentioned in Nehemiah 12:22, is probably Darius II, although some scholars identify him with Darius I or Darius III.[79][80]
  • Gedaliah son of Ahikam, governor of Judah. A seal impression with the name ‘Gedaliah who is over the house’ is commonly identified with Gedaliah, son of Ahikam.[81]
  • Gedaliah son of Pashhur, an opponent of Jeremiah. A bulla bearing his name was found in the City of David [82]
  • Gemariah, son of Shaphan the scribe. A bulla was found with the text “To Gemaryahu ben Shaphan”. This may have been the same person as “Gemariah son of Shaphan the scribe” mentioned in Jeremiah 36:10,12.[83]
  • Geshem (Gusham) the Arab, mentioned in Nehemia 6:1,6 is likely the same person as Gusham, king of Kedar, found in two inscriptions in Dedan and Tell el-Mashkutah (near the Suez Canal)[84]
  • Hilkiah, high priest in the Temple in Jerusalem: Mentioned throughout 2 Kings 22:8-23:24 and 2 Chronicles 34:9-35:8 as well as in 1 Chronicles 6:13; 9:11 and Ezra 7:1. Hilkiah in extra-biblical sources is attested by the clay bulla naming a Hilkiah as the father of an Azariah,[77] and by the seal reading Hanan son of Hilkiah the priest.[85]
  • Jehucal son of Shelemiah, an opponent of Jeremiah. Archaeologists excavated a bulla with his name,[86] but some scholars question the dating of the seal to the time of Jeremiah. According to Robert Deutsch the bulla is from the late 8th to early 7th century BCE, before the time of Jeremiah.[citation needed]
  • Jerahmeel, prince of Judah. A bulla bearing his name was found.[14]
  • Jeroboam (II), king of Israel. A seal belonging to ‘Shema, servant of Jeroboam’, probably refers to king Jeroboam II,[87] although some scholars think it was Jeroboam I.[88]
  • Jezebel, wife of king Ahab of Israel. A seal was found that may bear her name, but the dating and identification with the biblical Jezebel is a subject of debate among scholars.[89]
  • Josiah, king of Judah. Three seals were found that may have belonged to his son Eliashib.[11]
  • Jotham, king of Judah. An 8th century BCE signet ring with his name was found, but it is not certain if it belonged to the biblical Jotham.[90]
  • Nebo-Sarsekim, official at the court of Nebuchadnezzar II. A tablet was found recording a temple donation by Nabu-sharrussu-ukin, chief eunuch of Nebuchadnezzar.[91] See Nebo-Sarsekim Tablet
  • Nergal-sharezer, king of Babylon is probably identical to an official of Nebuchadnezzar II mentioned in Jeremiah 39:2.[58] A record of his war with Syria was found on a tablet from the ‘Neo-Babylonian Chronicle texts’.[92]
  • Seraiah son of Neriah. He was the brother of Baruch. Nahman Avigad identified him as the owner of a seal with the name ” to Seriahu/Neriyahu”.[77]

The so-called Shebna Lintel

  • Shebna (or Shebaniah), royal steward of Hezekiah: only the last two letters of a name (hw) survive on the so-called Shebna lintel, but the title of his position (“over the house” of the king) and the date indicated by the script style, have inclined many scholars to identify the person it refers to with Shebna.[93]
  • Sheshonq I, Pharaoh of Egypt, is normally identified with king Shishaq in the Hebrew Bible. The account of Shishaq’s invasion in the 5th year of Rehoboam (1 Kings 14:25-28) is thought to correspond to an inscription found at Karnak of Shoshenq’s campaign into Palestine.[94] However, a minority of scholars reject this identification.[95]
  • Uzziah, king of Judah. The writings of Tiglath-Pileser III may refer to him, but this identification is disputed.[96] There is also an inscription that refers to his bones, but it dates from the 1st century CE.
  • Zedekiah, son of Hananiah (Jeremiah 36:12). A seal was found of “Zedekiah son of Hanani”, identification is likely, but uncertain.[97]


New Testament

  • Sergius Paulus was proconsul of Cyprus (Acts 13:4-7), when Paul visited the island around 46-48 CE.[98] Although several individuals with this name have been identified, no certain identification can be made. One Quintus Sergius Paulus, who was proconsul of Cyprus probably during the reign of Claudius (41-54 CE) is however compatible with the time and context of Luke’s account.[98][99]
  • Lysanias, was tetrarch of Abila around 28 CE, according to Luke (3:1). Because Josephus only mentions a Lysanias of Abila who was executed in 36 BCE, some scholars have considered this an error by Luke. However, one inscription from Abila, which is tentatively dated 14-29 CE, appears to record the existence of a later tetrach called Lysanias.[100][101]

Theudas. The sole reference to Theudas presents a problem of chronology. In Acts of the Apostles, Gamaliel, a member of the sanhedrin, defends the apostles by referring to Theudas (Acts 5:36-8). The difficulty is that the rising of Theudas is here given as before that of Judas of Galilee, which is itself dated to the time of the taxation (c. 6-7 AD). Josephus, on the other hand, says that Theudas was 45 or 46, which is after Gamaliel is speaking, and long after Judas the Galilean.



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