The Bible is not a science textbook, nor even a history textbook. Mainly it is record of YHWH [Jehovah] and his choosing of a people to further the knowledge of God and what often happens when man disobeys God. However there are numerous archaeological artifacts that show evidence of something in the Biblle.
Here are a few of them.
Bible and Archaeology – Online Museum
Fifty items in approximate chronological order, oldest artifacts first.
This photo displays a reproduction of the oldest known inscription of the name “YHWH,” the personal name of God (cf. Exodus 3). The writing is in hieroglyphs and is dated to c. 1400 BC. The inscription was discovered in the temple built by the Egyptian Pharaoh Amenhotep III in Soleb, which is in modern day Sudan. The text refers to a group of wandering followers of YHWH, possibly the Israelites.
This engraved slab of granite is more than ten feet tall and was found in 1896 in Western Thebes, Egypt. It contains the oldest certain reference to “Israel” outside of the Bible, and is referred to as the Merneptah Stela.* It was carved c. 1210 BC in hieroglyphs and is currently located in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. (Note: the word “Israel” is the darkened section in the second line from the bottom, which can be seen more clearly by clicking on the photo to enlarge it.)* Merneptah was an Egyptian Pharaoh, and a “stela” is an upright engraved stone.
This inscribed basalt stone contains the oldest certain reference to King David outside of the Bible. Being roughly a foot tall, it was written in Aramaic in the mid 9th century BC and is known as the Tel Dan Stela.* The text actually refers to the “house of David,” meaning his royal family. Found during excavations in the ancient city of Dan in 1993/94, it is now located in the Israel Museum.
This wall carving within the Karnak Temple complex in Egypt commemorates Pharaoh Shishak’s military exploits, including an invasion into Israel, c. 925 BC. Most scholars believe this event is also noted in the Bible in 1 Kings 14:25. The carving displays a large image of the god Amun leading a number of captive cities by ropes. The scene is damaged; but, among others, it lists the Israelite city of Megiddo as one of many attacked by the Egyptians. Click “Read more” below to see the sequence of Egyptian pyramid development from the first pyramid to the Great Pyramid.
This limestone monument, known as the Kurkh Monolith, is approximately seven feet high and is now located in the British Museum. Discovered in 1862 in Kurkh, Turkey, it was originally carved in c. 850 BC by the Assyrians. The cuneiform text refers to a battle involving King Ahab of Israel, who is also frequently referred to in the Bible (cf. 1 Kings).
PHOTO RELEASED TO THE PUBLIC DOMAIN: Yuber (Thank you)
The Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III was made in the 9th century BC in ancient Assyria. It is about six and a half feet in height and is made of fine grained black limestone. The cuneiform text reads, “Tribute of Jehu, son of Omri….” Both Jehu and Omri were Israelite kings who are referred to in the Bible (cf. 1 & 2 Kings). A close-up photo showing an Israelite, possibly Jehu, bowing to the king of Assyria can be seen by clicking “Read more” below. The obelisk was found in 1846 in Nimrud and is now in the British Museum.
The Moabite Stone, also called the Mesha Stela, is an inscribed black basalt monument written in the Moabite language in c. 835 BC. It stands nearly four feet tall and was found in 1868 in the land of ancient Moab, now modern Jordan. It contains references to Biblical figures such as Israelite King Omri and Moabite King Mesha (cf. 1 and 2 Kings), as well as the covenant name of God, YHWH (cf. Exodus 3). It is now located in the Louvre.
In the Biblical passage found in 2 Kings 20:20 there is a reference to a “tunnel” built by King Hezekiah in Jerusalem to bring water into the city c. 700 BC. The tunnel is still open, and visitors can walk through it. It is about one-third of a mile long, and the water is roughly knee deep.
This artifact is known as the Sennacherib Prism. It was made in ancient Assyria in c. 700 BC of baked clay and is approximately 15 inches tall. The cuneiform script in the Akkadian language refers to Israelite King Hezekiah and to Assyrian King Sennacherib, both of whom are in the Biblical text (cf. 2 Kings 19:9). In the inscription the Assyrian talks about trapping Hezekiah in Jerusalem like a caged bird. The artifact was purchased from a Baghdad antiquities dealer in c. 1919 and is now in the Oriental Institute Museum, University of Chicago. It is one of eight such prisms found so far (e.g. Taylor Prism, British Museum).
This clay seal impression from c. 700 BC contains the Hebrew text, “Belonging to Hezekiah [son of] Ahaz, King of Judah.” Hezekiah is a well known Biblical king referred to frequently in such passages as 2 Kings 19:9. The impression shows a winged scarab beetle, which possibly indicates Egyptian artistic influence. The artifact is roughly one-half inch in size and is now in a private collection.
This wall relief carving depicts the siege of Lachish, telling the story from the Assyrian point of view. The carving was created in c. 700 BC and was discovered in the 1850’s in the ancient city of Nineveh, Assyria. The full original panel measured sixty-two feet in length and was nearly nine feet tall. The same events are recorded in the Bible in 2 Kings 18-19. The relief now resides in the British Museum.
(NOTE: If you click on the photo and enlarge it, the detail is really quite engaging. The defenders are throwing flaming torches, the attackers have battering rams, etc.)
This wall carving was fashioned in the 7th century BC in the Edifice of Tirhakah in the Karnak Temple complex, which is located in modern day Luxor, Egypt. The building is made of sandstone and the carving shows Pharaoh Tirhakah on the left and baboons on the right worshipping the Egyptian god Re. Pharaoh Tirhakah, originally from the Kingdom of Cush, is referred to in the Bible in both 2 Kings 19:9 and Isaiah 37:9.
Esarhaddon was an Assyrian king noted in Biblical passages such as 2 Kings 19:37. He erected the monument shown in the picture to commemorate a military victory in Egypt. The dolerite monument is over ten feet high and was made in the 7th century BC. It was found in 1881 in the modern city of Zinjirli, Turkey, and the text is written in the Akkadian language using cuneiform script. Esarhaddon himself is depicted in the carving, which is now located in the Museum of the Ancient Near East, Pergamum Museum, Berlin.
This photo displays a bronze inscription recently found in southern Arabia-the land of Sheba-that refers to “the towns of Judah.” It indicates that there were trade relations between Israel and the homeland of the Queen of Sheba. The artifact is dated to the end of the 7th century BC, after the time of Solomon, though it shows the plausibility of the contact between Israel and the land of Sheba during Solomon’s era as portrayed in such passages as 1 Kings 10. The artifact was likely a memorial inscription displayed on a temple wall, and the text is written in the Sabaean language using the South Arabian alphabet. Click “Read more” link below to see a map showing the location of Sheba at the southern end of Arabian peninsula.
This four inch scroll is one of the Silver Scrolls, which contain the oldest known Biblical passages. Written about 600 BC, they were discovered in 1979 in Jerusalem at a place outside the Old City known as Ketef Hinnom. The Hebrew language text on the pictured scroll is taken from Numbers 6:24-26 and reads, “May Yahweh bless you and keep you; May Yahweh cause his face to shine upon you and grant you peace.” The scrolls are now located in the Israel Museum. Click “Read more” below to see a close-up of the location the Scrolls were discovered.
This ceramic brick is inscribed in cuneiform with the name of Nebuchadnezzar II, who is mentioned some 90 times in the Bible (e.g. Ezra 1:7). Ancient kings often used inscribed bricks in their building projects. This one was originally made in c. 604-562 BC and was found in the ruins of ancient Babylon during excavations in 1927. It reads, “Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, Guardian of the temples of Esagila and Ezida, Firstborn son of Nabopolasser, king of Babylon.” It is now (2011) in The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York on loan from Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Vorderasiatisches Museum, Berlin.
This ceramic cylinder is inscribed in cuneiform script with the name of the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II, who is referred to in the Bible more than any other foreign king (e.g. 2 Kings 24:1). The cylinder enumerates his building activities and was made in c. 604-562 BC. The artifact is 8.38 inches long. It is now (2011) located in The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York on loan from the Yale Babylonian Collection.
This ancient Babylonian tablet is part of the Babylonian Chronicles, which, among other events, records the capture of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 597 BC. The event is also recorded in the Bible in 2 Kings 25. The tablet was written in the 6th century BC, and is made of baked clay. It is a little over three inches in height and the writing is in the Akkadian language using cuneiform script. It was discovered in the late 1800s in Babylon and is now located in the British Museum.
This clay tablet from ancient Babylon describes monthly rations allowed to Jehoiachin, a Jewish king. The Biblical account of King Jehoiachin is found in 2 Kings 25:29-30, which also states that he received a “regular allowance” from the king of Babylon. The tablet was made in c. 595-570 BC, and was discovered in Babylon in c. 1900. The text is in the Akkadian language using cuneiform script, and the tablet measures roughly 4 x 4 inches. The artifact is now located in the Museum of the Ancient Near East, Pergamum Museum, Berlin.
This arrowhead was recently found in Jerusalem in material retrieved from the Temple Mount. It is of the type used by the Babylonian army that destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem in 586 BC. The attack is recorded in the Bible in 2 Kings 24:10.
The name inscribed in hieroglyphs on this artifact is “Haaibra,” the throne name of Pharaoh Hophra (Apries) who is referred to in the Bible in Jeremiah 44:30. The sandstone block was purchased in Cairo in 1919, and is now on display in the Oriental Institute Museum at the University of Chicago.
This clay cylinder was inscribed in Akkadian cuneiform in the 6th century BC by the Neo-Babylonian King Nabonidus. It refers to his son Belshazzar, who is also referred to in the Bible in Daniel 5 and 8. The cylinder was discovered in the 19th century in Ur and is now in the British Museum. It measures about four inches in length and is one of four such cylinders.
This standard weight is from Persepolis in ancient Persia and is inscribed in three languages with text that reads, “I am Darius, Great King…” Darius is also recorded in the Bible as a Persian king in passages such as Ezra 4:5. The stone dates to c. 500 BC and weights about 10 lbs, 13 oz. It is made of diorite and is now located in the Oriental Institute Museum at the University of Chicago.
This alabaster jar comes from 5th century BC Egypt, and is inscribed with the name of the Persian King Xerxes–sometimes called Ahasuerus–who is referred to in the Bible in such passages as Ezra 4: 6. It is inscribed in both cuneiform and hieroglyphs, and is about ten inches high. It is now located in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Both the Bible and the Greek historian Herodotus speak about the same Persian kings: Cyrus, Darius, Xerxes and Artaxerxes. In the brief quotes included here the Biblical text is given first, followed by four passages from Herodotus.
BIBLE – …during the entire reign of Cyrus king of Persia and down to reign of Darius king of Persia. At the beginning of the reign of Xerxes …And in the days of Artaxerxes king of Persia.(Ezra 4:5-7) NIV.
HERODOTUS – …we inquire further about Cyrus and the Persians… (The Histories 1.95).
HERODOTUS – …after giving these orders, Darius summoned into his presence… (The Histories 5.106).
HERODOTUS – …having appointed Xerxes as King of the Persians… (TheHistories7.4).HERODOTUS – …during the reigns of… Xerxes, son of Darius, and Artaxerxes, son of Xerxes… (TheHistories 6.98).
Herodotus quotes taken from: Herodotus, The Landmark Herodotus: The Histories. Trans. Purvis, Andrea L., Ed. Strassler, Robert. New York: Pantheon, 2007. Print.
The Dead Sea Scrolls are the largest collection of ancient Biblical manuscripts ever found. Representing all books of the Hebrew Bible except Esther, they were found in Israel near the settlement of Qumran next to the Dead Sea between 1947 and 1956. In addition to copies of Biblical books, other texts such as Biblical commentaries are also included in the collection. (There is even a treasure map called the Copper Scroll, though no treasure has ever been found.) Originally written primarily in Hebrew* on parchment (animal skin) and on papyrus (a paper-like material) in c. 200 BC to AD 70, they are now for the most part located in the Shrine of the Book, a wing of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.** The Psalms Scroll is shown above; to see a photo of the Copper Scroll, click “Read more” below. To go to the Dead Sea Scrolls online site click this link: Dead Sea Scrolls online .*In addition to Hebrew, a smaller percentage are written in Aramaic and Greek. **Various limited portions exist in different locations. For example, the Copper Scroll is located in the Archaeological Museum in Amman, Jordan.PHOTO RELEASED TO THE PUBLIC DOMAIN: Israel Antiquities Authority (Thank you).
The 1st century AD Jewish writer Josephus recorded the ascension of King Herod to the throne of Judea. The Bible also refers to King Herod in such passages as Mathew 2:1, which reads, “…Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod” (NIV). A quote from Josephus concerning Herod is as follows:
“As soon as Herod was established on the throne, he conferred honors on those in Jerusalem who had supported his cause, and punished the partisans of Antigonus. Converting his valuables into money, he sent large sums to Anthony and his friends.”
Quote taken from: Josephus, Josephus the Essential Works. Trans & Ed. by Maier, Paul L. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2007. Print. P. 241.
This piece of a wine jug was found in 1996 at Masada in Israel. It refers to King Herod, who is noted in the Bible as having killed the babies of Bethlehem near the time of Christ’s birth. Click “Read more” below to see an aerial view of Masada and the Dead Sea.
The first of the three Roman emperors mentioned in the Bible is Augustus who reigned from 27 BC – AD 14. He is referred to in Luke 2:1, and is a well documented historical figure. The photo here shows a bronze bust located in the Museum of Roman Civilization, Rome.
The second of the three Roman emperors mentioned in the Bible is Tiberius who reigned from 14-37 AD. He is referred to in Luke 3:1, and his reign is also discussed by other ancient authors (e.g. Tacitus, Suetonius,etc.). The photo here shows a bust located in the Ephesus Museum, Turkey.
The third of the three Roman emperors mentioned in the Bible is Claudius who reigned from 41-54 AD. He is noted in Acts 11:28 and 18:2. Ancient historians such as Tacitus, Suetonius and Cassius Dio also wrote about him. The photo here shows a model head located in the Museum of Roman Civilization, Rome.
In Luke 20:23-25 Jesus requested a coin and then asked the crowd whose image was on it. They replied that it was “Caesar’s.” Several types of coins were in circulation at that time that showed an image of Caesar, with the one displayed here being a typical example. It contains the image of Tiberius Caesar who reigned 14-37 AD, the time of the ministry of Christ. The text on the silver platted coin is written in Latin, and the coin itself is now in a private collection. Click on “Read more” below to see the reverse side of the coin.
This quote, from the 1st century AD Jewish writer Josephus, references the execution of John the Baptist, which is also recorded in the Bible (Mathew chapter 14).“Now, to some of the Jews the destruction of Herod’s army seemed to come from God as a…punishment for what he did to John who was called the Baptist. For Herod had executed him…” (Jewish Antiquities).
Quote taken from: Josephus, Josephus the Essential Works. Trans & Ed. by Maier, Paul L. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2007. Print. P. 271.
View of the Western Wall,* which is part of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Many people from around the world come here to place written prayers into the crevices between the building blocks. The lower portion of the wall displayed in the photo represents part of the Temple complex that was rebuilt by King Herod starting in c. 19 BC. Herod’s rebuilt Temple was the one visited by Christ. The Gospels record Christ at the Temple in such passages as John 2:12-25. Click “Read more” below to see an aerial photo of the Temple Mount.
This photo displays the location of a first-century AD house in the village of Capernaum that archaeological evidence indicates was quite likely the home of the Apostle Peter with whom Jesus probably lived (Mark 1 and 2). The miracle during which a paralyzed man was lowered through the roof likely occurred at this location. Excavations were carried out on the site between 1968 and 1998, and it was learned that it was used early in the Christian era as a church and as a place of pilgrimage. Many inscriptions that refer to Jesus as Lord, Christ, the Most High, and God were found. Today the structure is still visible under a larger modern church that was built over it. To see a photo of this modern church, click “Read more” below.
This inscribed limestone slab was found in Caesarea Maritima, Israel in 1961. It was originally made in c. 30 AD. It is written in Latin and reads, “Tiberium Pontius Pilate Prefect of Judea.” Pontius Pilate is known from the Bible as the one who condemned Jesus to death (Mathew 27).The artifact is about 32 inches in height and is now housed in the Israel Museum.
The Bible refers to a proconsul in ancient Greece by the name of Gallio (Acts 18). The Greek language inscription shown to the left refers to the same Gallio noted in the Bible. It was written in the 1st century AD and was discovered in Delphi in 1905. It originally consisted of various fragments that were pieced together in 1967. The artifact is now in the Delphi museum, Greece. Click on “Read more” below to see the remains of the Temple of Apollo in Delphi.
The photo displays a view of the theater in ancient Ephesus, which is now in modern Turkey. In Acts 19:29 reference is made to this theater in which a crowd gathered to protest the ministry of the Apostle Paul. The theater had a seating capacity of approximately 24,000 and can still be visited today.
The Roman historian Tacitus wrote his book, The Annals of Imperial Rome, in c. 110 AD, roughly a decade after the death of the last apostle, John. Tacitus is one of the earliest non-Christian sources to discuss Jesus and his crucifixion. The quote by Tacitus is shown below, and by clicking “Read more” at the bottom of this post additional quotes about Christ and the early Christians can be seen.
Tacitus (Roman historian, c. 110 AD): “Their originator, Christ, had been executed in Tiberius’ reign by the governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate” (Tacitus, The Annals of Imperial Rome. Rev. ed. Trans. Grant, Michael. New York: Penguin, 1971. Print. P. 365.)