Proof Biblical King David was a real King

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King David was a pivotal character in the Old Testament. He was King of Israel and under his leadership the country was united, prosperous and powerful. David was a great military leader as well as being a very capable leader when it came to economics and political issues. Or was he? Many believers are surprised to learn that a large number of scholars do not believe King David was even real. In their eyes David was a mythical leader developed to inspire patriotism and establish a national history. If he were a actual living person, they insist he was certainly not a king over a powerful country, but more of something along the lines of a dusty crossroads settlement. 

Obviously the view of many scholars is in stark contrast to the biblical narrative. So which is correct? Was David just a myth, a powerful king, or something in between? What does the archaeological evidence tell us about David?  Is there any physical evidence that says David was a living breathing person, and perhaps the king of a powerful and influential kingdom? In this post we will look at four pieces of evidence that say David was indeed real, and very likely a powerful king.

King David’s Palace in Jerusalem

 In 2005 Archaeologist Eilat Mazar began excavations a few hundred feet south of the temple mount. While the area had been previously excavated, Mazar was looking for something she believed the original archeologist had missed, or simply had not recognized. As the excavation progressed Mazar's team slowly unearthed a stone structure. The structure was large, complex, and was believed to be a temple or palace of some type. Mazar points out a temple would have been redundant since there were plans to build a temple on the site where Abraham almost sacrificed his son Isaac (The Temple Mount). She believes the structure is instead a palace and furthermore she believes it belonged to King David. According to Mazar the structure is perfectly located to match the location and description given in the Bible. Mazar's group has dated the site to the 10th or 11th century B.C. exactly when the Bible tells us David was in power. 

“Now Hiram king of Tyre sent envoys to David, along with cedar logs and carpenters and stonemasons, and they built a palace for David.” 2 Samual 5:11

“Now Hiram king of Tyre sent messengers to David, along with cedar logs, stonemasons and carpenters to build a palace for him.” 1 Chronicles 14:1

“After David was settled in his palace, he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of the covenant of the Lord is under a tent.” - 1 Chronicles 17:1

(Note: Although Mazar dates the foundation and building to the 10th or 11th century B.C. this is not universally accepted. Other scholars want to further study the area before accepting Mazar's dating. There are also questions relating to the structure itself. Some believe the site is actual more than one structure and not a single large palace as Mazar suggests. At the time of this writing Mazar was continuing her excavations but three occupied homes sit atop the area she and others most want to explore.)

Stepped Stone Structure

One of the most famous structures in the City of David is the Stepped Stone Structure. The structure is sixty feet tall and has been dated to 1000 B.C.. Among leading archaeologists Nadav Na’aman and Elit Mazar both believe the records and archaeological evidence indicate the Stepped Stone Structure is a part of King David’s palace, or is in some way related to the palace.

The structure was first excavated in the 1920’s and was built over a series of terraces. Interestingly there is a four-room house at the base of the structure known as the House of Ahi’el. The upper section of the structure joins a wall which could have been an original retaining wall for King David’s Palace. 

The structure was also joined by several nice homes built by Jerusalem’s elite and royalties. The structure is large, properly located, associated with other Royal homes and is from the correct time period. While no actual inscriptions naming this as belonging to King David have been found, the evidence, and many leading archaeologist, believe this is indeed associated with the King of Israel.    

King David’s Citadel

This is a slightly older discovery with a new interpretation which may offer even more proof of David and his expansive kingdom. Reports have been coming out of Jerusalem concerning the discovery of King David’s Citadel. The Citadel is recorded in the book of 2 Samuel 5:6-9 as the entry point for the forces under David’s command when he attacked the city of Jerusalem. Eli Shukron, an archaeologist formerly with the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), believes the archaeological excavations in question are the location mentioned in the Bible.  As it seems with any claims associated with King David, Shukron’s theories have been met with considerable skepticism.

The king and his men marched to Jerusalem to attack the Jebusites, who lived there. The Jebusites said to David, “You will not get in here; even the blind and the lame can ward you off.” They thought, “David cannot get in here.” 7 Nevertheless, David captured the fortress of Zion—which is the City of David.

8 On that day David had said, “Anyone who conquers the Jebusites will have to use the water shaft to reach those ‘lame and blind’ who are David’s enemies.” That is why they say, “The ‘blind and lame’ will not enter the palace.”

9 David then took up residence in the fortress and called it the City of David. He built up the area around it, from the terraces inward. - 2 Samuel 5:6-9

The excavations have uncovered a set of parallel walls as well as a tower next to a pool and a second massive tower which was positioned to protect the Gihon Spring. Some of these walls were constructed using five-ton stones stacked as much as twenty-one feet across. These excavations, overseen by Shukron and his partner Ronny Reich, are not new. In fact, the excavations at this site began almost 15 years ago and were concluded 2 years ago. So the site is well known and the dates for the walls and towers do not seem to be in question. Most scholars agree the fortifications were built in the late 18th century B.C.

While the date of construction for the walls and towers is almost universally accepted, there is some debate caused by the lack of pottery shards from the 10th century B.C. Pottery is widely used to help date an archaeological site and is generally very accurate. In this case Shukron and Reich found very little 10th century pottery in their excavations, which is a point of concern for some. Reich believes the lack of pottery shards from the 10th century B.C. raises some doubts as to if the fortifications were in use at that time. As Shukron points out, the 10th century pottery shards would probably have been removed by the occupants since he believes the fortifications were in continuous use from the time of their construction until well after King David entered the city. A large number of pottery shards were discovered from approximately 100 years after the time of King David. This seems to match Shukron’s theory very well. Confidence in this time-line is not shared by all archaeologists and is the primary area of controversy regarding Shukron’s theories. This however, is not the only area of contention. 

Other archaeologists believe the citadel was in use in the 10th century B.C. but are not totally convinced it is the same fortifications mentioned in the Bible. While Shukron claims the site matches the Bible’s description perfectly and is the only possible match in the City of David, others are hesitant. The fortifications did guard the city’s water supply and there was a tunnel discovered through which excess water would have flowed out of the city. It is believed it was this tunnel which David’s men used to gain access to the heavily fortified city. On the surface the area and time-line seem to match the Biblical narrative, and while archaeologists such as Reich are willing to agree this is a significant discovery, they are not fully ready to associate it with the Biblical narrative.

Inscription Mentions King David

As mentioned, many claimed David was only a myth, more of a symbol than an actual person and certainly not a ruler of any significant kingdom. The kingdom, if it existed at all in 10th century B.C., has been described by critics as dusty backwoods cross roads made up of nomads living in tents.

This opinion began to shift in the mid-1990's after Doctor Avraham Biran's team discovered an inscribed stone while excavating at Tel Dan. The group was preparing the site for visitors when they discovered the stone fragment in a wall. It was obvious the stone was in secondary use and had not originally been intended for use in the wall. Two more pieces of the broken stone were found in the same area and the inscription began to take shape. While more than a third of the original stone has never been found, the inscription on the stone pieces discovered revealed some remarkable and historic information.

The inscription mentions Hadad, Jehoram, Ahab and the House of David. It also speaks of riots, thousands of horsemen, and laying siege. While the age of the stone is uncertain, because of the area in which it was found experts know it could not have been placed there prior to 732 B.C. It was also clear the stone had been intended as a testament to significant events, most probably a military victory. It is believed when political changes took place the new leaders did not want to be reminded of these events and had the stone broken, or so it is theorized. Regardless, it seems quite certain the stone was inscribed well before 732 B.C.

Although the entire stone has not been recovered, and its exact origin is uncertain, the inscriptions give us solid proof David was a real person and apparently a ruler since the stone refers to the 'House of David'. The inscription, as compelling and convincing as it may be, is not forced to stand alone as a written record of David.

It may come as a surprise to many, but this mention of David may not be the only inscription to note the great king. It is certainly the most accepted, but it could be just one of three that have been discovered to date. On another artifact, “The Meshe Stele”, a number of scholars believe a lower portion of the inscription reads “…in it dwelt the house of David…”. This inscription was found a full year before the Tel Dan Inscription was discovered.

Unfortunately, a portion of the inscription is considered questionable by many. The ‘D’ in David is distorted and some dispute it being read as David. The argument continues between the two groups but those who argue for it being David point out there is very little else it could be.

There is yet another potential inscription which mentions King David. This one is in Egypt and lists a series of military campaigns. The inscription is just a portion of a long lists on a wall in Karnak. The line in question has been translated by some as reading the “Heights of David”. This is believed to be in reference to the kingdom of Judah which was in the highlands of Israel. Once again, the inscription is not perfectly clear as it has been damaged and worn down through the years. Some insist there is not room for the lettering to read Heights of David, while other scholars feel confident their interpretation is accurate and it does in fact make reference to King David.  The combination of these three inscriptions, as well as the structures, provide a very compelling argument King David was indeed a real living person who was king of a significant kingdom.

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The Christmas Star and the Magi - What and Who Were They?

Christmas Star

The Christmas Story is a story of hope, redemption and Joy. It is also a story shrouded in mystery. In the Gospel of Matthew we learn of the Magi who visit the Holy Family after following a star to Bethlehem. This is an amazing story of the birth of Jesus, but can any of this story be confirmed by historical records or scientific analysis? Who were the Magi, where did they come from, and why did they make the trip? Was there an actual star or astronomical event which matches the Biblical description of the ‘Christmas Star’? Can any of these events, if confirmed, help us establish when the birth of Jesus actually took place?

"After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, Where is the one who was born King of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” (Matthew 2:1–2)

The Magi, often referred to as the wise men, traveled from the east, most probably from the area of Baghdad. Tradition tells us there were three wise men, but the actual number is uncertain. All we know for certain is there were more than one. Magi is the plural form of Magus, followers of Zoroaster, or Zoroastrianism. These men would have been highly intelligent, educated in astronomy, astrology, alchemy and other forms of esoteric knowledge. These men would not have been rulers, or kings, but it is highly probable they would have been advisors to kings and other high officials.

The Magi had been advising rulers since at least the sixth century B.C. and some believe they played a major role in selecting many kings. Since large numbers of Jews had previously been in exile in Babylon, the Magi would have certainly known a great deal about the Jewish customs and prophesies, including the prophecy of a star foretelling the birth of a great king, of the Messiah.

‘"I see him, but not now, I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel. He will crush the foreheads of Moab, the skulls of all the people of Sheth. Edom will be conquered, but Israel will grow strong. A ruler will come out of Jacob and destroy the survivors of the city.” (Numbers 24:17–19)

If such a unique astronomical event were to take place, it is understandable that a group of Magi would have been dispatched to gather more information and to pay their respects, to this new king. They would have had a keen interest in any new king in the region, but this king was prophesied to be unique, special, and someone of great importance. With this in mind it is likely the Magi would have sent some of their best and most capable members. The journey from Baghdad to Bethlehem would have been a trek of approximately 1,000 miles by the route the group would have taken. While it is unclear exactly how many Magi made the trip, it is an almost certainty they did not travel alone. Being wealthy individuals, the Magi would have certainly had servants and bodyguards to assist and protect them during the trip. This entourage could have been quite large and would have traveled an estimated ten to twenty miles per day. This would have resulted in a trip of just over 60 days, or approximately 2 months.

span style="font-family: "Times New Roman", serif; font-size: 12pt; text-align: left;">So this is who the Magi were, and why they would have made such a long and potentially dangerous journey, but what triggered this journey? We said they would have been familiar with Jewish prophecy and the coming of the Messiah, but what made them start out at this particular time in history? Matthew tells us they followed a star which travelled from east to west in the night sky. It was apparently a very visible and even a spectacular event. It would stand to reason such an event would have been recorded somewhere other than the Bible, by someone other than Matthew, and many believe it was.

The ancient Chinese closely watched the stars, planets and other heavenly bodies. Not only did they have a strong knowledge of the night skies, they were also meticulous record keepers. In 7 B.C. the Chinese recorded the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. In 6 B.C. they also recorded the massing of not only Jupiter and Saturn but also Mars. The conjunction of these three planets would have been both very rare and very brilliant. As brilliant as these events would have been, the only known astrological event which would appear to move across the sky would be a comet, not a star or a conjunction of planets.

In the year 5 B.C. the Chinese recorded yet another event, a comet which their records report appeared in the night sky for 70 days. The comet originally appeared in Capricornus and then moved to the west. This time line matches the Biblical story exactly. The census of Caesar Augustus, which is why Joseph and Mary were traveling to Jerusalem, was held in 5 B.C.

Colin Humphreys with the University of Cambridge believes the combination of all of these events spurred the Magi to action. The conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, followed by the triple alignment of Jupiter, Saturn and Mars would have signaled the Magi something major could be about to take place. When these events were closely followed by the appearance of the comet, it was seen as a sign of a great king being born in the west, in Judea. The Magi responded to these events and went in search of the new-born king.

The visit of the Magi should not be confused with the visit of the Shepherds. The shepherds visited the Holy Family while they were still in the stable. Matthew tells us the Magi found the baby Jesus in a house. It is reasonable to expect Joseph would have moved Mary, and the new-born baby out of the stable as soon as better accommodations became available. One would expect this to have been within a day or so of Jesus’ birth. Some believe Jesus may have been up to two years old when the Magi visited, but I feel this to be unlikely. Joseph and Mary would have presented Jesus at the temple eight days after His birth to be circumcised. After this there would have been no real reason for the family to remain in Bethlehem. They would have left the majority of their possessions at home and Joseph would have needed to return to work. So it seems probable the Magi visited Jesus within two weeks of His birth.

This brings up the question of why King Herod later had all the boys two years old and younger living in Bethlehem put to death. If the infant Jesus was less than ten days old, killing all infants two years old and younger would have been excessively cruel, even by Herod’s standards. The Gospel of Matthew gives us a potential answer. King Herod asked the Magi when they first saw the star which had brought them to Judea. The comet was visible for just 70 days, but the combined celestial events were much longer. The comet appeared in 5 B.C, but the conjunction of planets began in 7 B.C. two years before the Magi arrived at Herod’s palace, which may have accounted for Herod’s decision to kill all two-year-olds and younger.

The time line of the census, the astrological events, and the records of the comet all closely match the account recorded in the Gospel of Matthew. While there are certainly other possible explanations for these events, the similarity is hard to ignore and for many provides convincing evidence the story Matthew told was historical rather than a fabricated myth.

A few final thoughts before we depart the subject of the Magi. Their true purpose, the meaning of their gifts and their number are questioned by many. Some believe the Magi were each from different countries and represented the entire world as they came to worship the new-born King. As mentioned, tradition holds there were three Magi. This could have been based on the fact the Magi brought three gifts, gold, frankincense and myrrh and it was assumed each Magi gave only one gift. Many scholars believe the gifts represented the life of Jesus. Gold represented royalty, frankincense represented deity or the priesthood and myrrh was used to anoint a person who is going to die. Jesus was to be the King, the High Priest, and would die as a sacrifice for us all. It is also possible these gifts financed the Holy Family’s subsequent trip and prolonged stay in Egypt as they fled King Herod who they feared was still trying to kill the young Jesus.

In some cases these Magi or wise men are called three kings, as in the well known Christmas song. There is no evidence these men were actual kings, but as mentioned earlier it is possible their counsel was instrumental in the selection of kings in their homeland. These counselors would have been well educated and familiar with many ancient texts. This would have included copies of the ancient Jewish scriptures, today’s Old Testament, which could have been left behind during the Babylonian exile in the preceding centuries. This would help account for their knowledge of the star and its true meaning. This star, or comet, signaled the coming of the Messiah. This Christmas star was the first in a series of events which would eventually change the world, forever.

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Archaeologist Discover the cave where Lot hid with his daughters.

The book of Genesis covers a greater time period and more information than any other book of the Bible. One episode contained in the book of Genesis is the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. In the story we are told God allowed Lot and his family to escape the devastation and flee to the city of Zoar, current day Ghor al-Safi. Lot and his two daughters then took refuge in a cave as burning sulfur rained down, destroying the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah as well as their inhabitants. While debate continues over the destruction and even the existence of Sodom and Gomorrah, there have been remarkable discoveries concerning the possible location of Lot’s hiding place and the historical accuracy of Lot and his ordeal.
Lot and his Daughters Hiding

"Now Lot went up from Zoar with his two daughters and stayed in the mountains, because he was afraid to stay in Zoar; and he stayed in a cave, he and his two daughters." - Genesis 19:30

In 1986 an archeological survey south of the Dead Sea unearthed a cave. Within twelve months the site was identified as Deir Ain Abata — Monastery of the Abbot’s Spring — and a team of archeologists were assigned to the site. After further research and excavations a basilica was discovered. The basilica was built around the entrance to the cave, obviously placing the cave as the center-point of the structure. The floors were covered with white marble tiles and several mosaics were also found which offered evidence of the construction of the basilica, and its purpose.

Cave of Saint Lot

A total of four mosaics were discovered. One of the mosaics consisted of six lines of text which listed names of key people of the time such as the Bishop and the Governor. It also provided a date of May, 691 A.D. and describes the basilica as a Holy Place, which indicates it was believed to be directly associated with a Biblical episode.

Several other blocks were found inscribed mostly in Greek. One block asked for the blessing of Saint Lot. This block, inscribed by three monks, was the first evidence the cave and surrounding basilica were associated with the biblical figure of Lot.

The entrance to the cave opened to a series of steps leading down to a small 2 by 2.5 meter room (6.5 feet by 8.2 feet). The floors here too were white marble and according to evidence found in the room and in the basilica above, this small room was were Lot and his daughters were believed to have sought refuge.

Research and further archeological evidence discovered at the sight places the original construction date of the basilica near 605 A.D. Archeologist were able to dig beneath the floor from the cave’s entrance and discovered additional artifacts. There were several layers of artifacts un-earthed dating from the 6th century A.D all the way back to 3300 B.C.

Given the fact the structure was identified as a basilica indicates it was larger than the average church and would have been capable of accommodating pilgrims. This is considered further evidence of the sights perceived significance. An inscription notes renovations were completed on the structure in 691 A.D. and was abandoned at some point after this date. The structure was in excellent condition when discovered which leads researchers to believe it was peacefully abandoned. It is theorized a small portion of the structure as well as a garden area slide down the hillside in an earthquake. This may have lead to a fear the remaining facility was unstable and thus abandoned.

The inscriptions and carvings clearly show the sixth century monks believed this to be the cave of Lot and his two daughters. Why this cave was selected over several others in the area is unclear. It is largely believed local oral tradition identified the cave as Lot’s sanctuary and a holy place well before the construction of the basilica. There were additional Arabic inscriptions found at the site dating to the ninth century. This leads some researchers to surmise there was a Muslim interest in the area as well. (Lot is considered a prophet in the Koran.)

Much of the work on the basilica was completed during the period of the Umayyad Dynasty which ended in 750 A.D. It is commonly believed the Umayyad were tolerant of different religions. It is possible the site had long been considered the location where Lot took refuge but the basilica could not be constructed until the political climate permitted.

Evidence shows the cave was occupied, at least periodically, for thousands of years. Artifacts and archeological evidence also make it clear the builders of the basilica believed the site to indeed be the cave mentioned in the Bible in which Lot hid with his daughters. While calling this a confirmation for the existence of the Biblical figure of Lot would be inappropriate given the data, it certainly offers some evidence to show Lot, his place of hiding, and his biblical story as being potentially historically accurate. 

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Hezekiah's Tunnel - Engineering Marvel - (Even by todays standards)

 In approximately 700 B.C., in the city of Jerusalem, a massive attack and siege by Sennacherib of Assyria was imminent. The Assyrian army was vast, well trained and battle tested. Sennacherib had defeated every advisory that stood in his way, and now his army posed a grave danger to Jerusalem and her people. The city walls were formidable and would not be easily penetrated, so a lengthy siege of Jerusalem was expected. King Hezekiah knew if the city were to survive a siege it would need a constant supply of drinking water as well as additional fortifications. For the moment we will focus strictly on the water supply. Without fresh water the city would fall. To accommodate this need Hezekiah developed a masterful plan that was ingenious and at the same time filled with risk and danger.

"It was Hezekiah who stopped the upper outlet of the waters of Gihon and directed them to the west side of the city of David. And Hezekiah was successful in everything that he did." 2 Chronicles 32:30

The Spring of Gideon is located outside the city walls of Jerusalem and could not be protected from the advancing armies. Rather than attempt to protect the water supply at its source, Hezekiah decided to bring the precious water into the city. This would be accomplished by digging a tunnel through the bedrock from the spring all the way to the Pool of Siloam inside the city walls, a distance of over a third of a mile. In order to accomplish this monumental task in the time available, Hezekiah had two teams of men digging, one from each end of the planned tunnel.

These Teams worked in extreme conditions to complete their task in a very limited amount of time. The only light source were small oil lamps and the tunnels had a limited air supply. On average the tunnel was only three feet wide so the task of digging and removing the ruble to the surface was no small feat. Even more remarkable is the fact the tunnel did not go in a straight line but had several major bends and turns. Somehow, without modern technology, these two teams were able to meet and create what appears to be an almost seamless tunnel. How they were able to line up properly, side to side as well as at the proper depth, is somewhat of a mystery.

Hezekiah's Tunnel
The tunnel, when completed, was some 1,800 feet in length, or approximately a third of a mile. Even today the tunnel still carries water into the city and modern tourist can walk the full length of the tunnel. At certain times such a trek is very difficult and not for the timid as the water can be chest deep and your only source of light are hand held flashlights. In the time of Hezekiah the end of the tunnel located at the spring was carefully disguised to hide the spring and the water diverted into the tunnel. This prevented the Assyrian army from having a local water supply as well as allowing the city to receive a fresh and constant water supply throughout the siege. Through his ingenuity Hezekiah had provided the life giving water the city desperately needed. He also supplied the city with additional fortifications and the Bible tells us he also had help from a higher authority.

As well as digging the water tunnel Hezekiah also built new walls to help fortify the city. These walls were excavated by archaeologist in 1970 and they are massive. The portions excavated are twenty-three feet thick and stand as much as ten feet in height. It is believed several homes were torn down in order to make room for the wall as well as to supply raw materials for the walls. In one excavation it was found where the wall had been built over a demolished home. This action matches almost exactly with what is recorded in the book of Isaiah regarding these troubled times

“And ye have numbered the houses of Jerusalem, and the houses have ye broken down to fortify the wall.” Isaiah 22:10

The Assyrians were record keepers and keep a detailed account nearly all of their conquests and military campaigns. The campaign which included the siege of Jerusalem was recorded on what is known as the Taylor Prism which was discovered in Nineveh in 1830. With some 500 lines of writing the prism tells of the cities and armies defeated by the Assyrian forces as well as of their siege of Jerusalem. It does not record the Assyrian victory over Jerusalem. This is because the great Assyrian army could not conquer the city. This could be in part attributed to the fact there was no adequate water supply for their troops, or perhaps the additional fortifications kept them out, but the Bible records yet another reason the Assyrians were not victorious.

In the Book of Isaiah the author records how God sent out an angel who struck down 185,000 in the Assyrian camp. Additionally it tells how the angel destroyed every mighty warrior and commander in the Assyrian army. The Assyrian King Sennacherib retreated in shame and was eventually killed by his children. 

Just why did the Assyrians leave without a victory? Why could they not achieve the victory which seemed almost a certainty given the size of their army? Is it possible the events in the Bible actually took place just as they are recorded? The physical facts, as revealed by archeological excavations, show the Bible recorded these details correctly and with amazing accuracy. Why then would we doubt the remainder of the text simply because it discusses events which cannot be confirmed by any archaeological discovery? It is somewhat interesting however, that history records Sennacherib died just as the Bible tells us, at the hands of his own sons.

In addition to the Biblical account of Hezekiah’s tunnel, archaeologist also discovered an engraving in the rock wall near the tunnel outlet. The inscription was apparently carved by the workers who dug the tunnel. The engravings was removed and is on display in the Archaeological Museum in Istanbul Turkey. The inscription reads;

“… the tunneling through. And this is the account of the tunneling through. While [the workmen raised] the pick each toward his fellow and while there [remained] to be tunneled [through, there was heard] the voice of a man calling to his fellow, for there was a split in the rock on the right hand and on [the left hand]. And on the day of the tunneling through the workmen struck, each in the direction of his fellow, pick against pick. And the water started flowing from the source to the pool, twelve hundred cubits. And the height of the rock above the head of the workmen was a hundred cubits.”

This tunnel played a major role in the history of Israel and Jerusalem. It was a marvel of engineering which helped hold off a massive army and even today is still performing the task it was designed and built for nearly 3,000 years after its construction. An amazing feat by a group of men armed with picks and shovels and working under a timeline, which if not meet, could mean the fall of Jerusalem and the deaths or enslavement of their families and countrymen. While not considered one of the major archaeological finds, the Hezekiah Tunnel must be considered one of the most intriguing and unique discoveries related to Biblical Archaeology ever to be brought to light.

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Archaeological Mysteries in Biblical Lands

There are many unknowns in archaeology. While these scientists have the ability to reconstruct many elements of ancient life and cultures, it is not an exact science and some definitions still elude them. Biblical lands and the people who inhabited them are no exception to these mysteries. There are a great many unknowns from the lands of the Bible and the areas surrounding them. This is due in large part to the vast amount of time the land has been inhabited and by the number of different cultures that have lived in, shaped, and been a part of the landscape. In this post we will examine just four of these mysteries. The first is from the region of southern Turkey and could be the sight of the earliest organized religious center known to man. Then we will move on to a massive underwater structure in the Sea of Galilee, a mysterious tomb in Pella and strange outlines in the deserts of Jordan. All of these defy an easy or scientific explanation. While not always elaborate in nature, they are outside the norm either in time, location or construction.

We will examine what these structures could mean, how they were used, and there ultimate meaning. These will all be educated guesses, as no one can provide conclusive evidence for any given theory. These are just a sampling of the archaeological mysteries of the biblical lands. 

Gobekli Tepe

Just north of Syria, in Southern Turkey, archaeologist have been excavating a site which they believe represents the earliest religious center ever discovered. The excavations began in 1994 and have thus far uncovered at least four monumental stone circles. These circles somewhat resemble the well-known ‘Stonehenge’ but pre-date that monument by as much as 7,000 years. Archaeologist who are unearthing these huge stones place the original construction of the monuments at somewhere between 8,000 and 10,000 B.C. or approximately 7,500 years before the advent of agriculture.

Gobekli Tpe

The advent of Agriculture is of vital importance in regards  to Gobekli Tepe for a very simple reason. According to the physical evidence, when man first made his appearance on earth he did so as a hunter/gatherer. Early man is thought to have roamed an area or region searching for food in the form of eatable vegetation or wild game. At this stage man is not thought to have had a central home, or den. He would instead find shelter on a daily basis. If food was plentiful in a certain area he may remain there for a more extended period, but when the food supply was depleted, he would move on to another area. A migratory species so to speak, following the food supply.

At some point, approximately 4,500 years ago (2,500 B.C.), man began to change his habits. Rather than roaming to find food, man began to plant crops. As agriculture developed man began to settle into certain areas or regions in order to care for and protect these crops which were rapidly becoming his primary food source. It was at this stage that the first villages or settlements began to emerge. Life in a community is believed to have brought on the need for religion. This need was twofold. The first need religion helped to satisfy was to control how people worked and cohabitated with one another. How man treated one another was apparently believed to be important to the divine and a set of morals were established. Not only pleasing to the divine being, it made the village safer, more pleasant, and more productive. The second use of religion was to please the divine in order to insure a good and bountiful crop. This theory was almost universally accepted by most modern day scholars. This theory is now being reexamined and may need to be completely discarded.

While the stone monuments at Gobekli Tepe pre-date any form of agriculture, there is another interesting fact concerning these excavations. Thus far no residential areas or structures have been discovered associated with these monuments. It appears these monuments were not a part of any village and were used by people who had not yet begun to function as a community. It is also clear these structures were spiritual or religious centers and appear to disprove the theory man did not develop religion until after they began to gather into communities and men were, it seems, concerned with pleasing a divine being, God, while they were still wandering nomads.

Tests have revealed the possibility of as many as a dozen more circles remain buried at the site. It has also surprised many that while the stones are ancient, placed more than 6,000 years before the Egyptians built the first pyramid, they contain amazing detail and show great craftsmanship was used in their construction. Carvings on the stones depict birds, snakes, lions, bulls, foxes, and many other types of animals. They also show arms and hands, all of which show great detail. The stone circles are arranged with as many as twelve stones in circles from 30 to over 60 feet in diameter. Some of the massive stones are as much as 18 feet tall and can weight over 40 tons. Just how the stones were quarried, moved and erected remains a mystery as well. In 10,000 B.C. even simply hand tools were rare, and it must be remembered this was not the work of a village or organized community, but a group of nomad hunter/gatherers apparently worked together on a massive building project. Just the amount of planning and coordination of resources needed would have been enormous/

The monuments at Gobekli Tepe are thought to have been in use by their builders/worshippers for over 1,500 years. The sites were then filled with sand and the people seem to have simply walked away, never to return. Filling in this 20 acre site would have taken a considerable amount of time, effort, and resources to accomplish. It is unclear why the site was abandoned, why it was deemed necessary to bury the site, or even who these builders and worshippers were. Much more work remains to be done as only 10 percent of the site has been excavated, but for now at least, the structures at Gobekli Tepe remain a mystery.

Underwater Structure in Sea of Galilee

The discovery of an ancient submerged structure in the Sea of Galilee was announced in late 2013. The age, origin and use of the structure remains shrouded in mystery. Scientist discovered the structure using sonar but no true excavations have been conducted. The nature of the structure and its depth make easy examination difficult, but efforts are underway to raise funding for further study. There are several questions concerning this structure as it relates to Biblical Archaeology. First, how old is the structure? who built it? what was it used for and does it support or conflict any information found in the Bible? Answers to some of these questions are problematic at best.

Currently scientist have no idea who constructed the underwater structure that measures 50 meters (164 feet) across , nor do they agree on how the structure was made. One theory is the structure was made while the area was dry land and the lake later rose to cover the structure and surrounding area. This would have made the construction of the round stone mound much easier, but the theory is not without its detractors.

Others theorize the structure is actually intended to attract and support aquatic life. The Sea of Galilee has a long history of an economy based on fishing which is referenced to several times in the New Testament. Other stone fish hatcheries have been discovered in the Sea but nothing of this size. Most are no more than four meters across and are very close to shore. (A fish hatchery can be nothing more than a pile or mound of rocks that provides safety for small fish and allows them to breed and re-populate the lake more easily.) If indeed the structure was intended as a fish sanctuary/hatchery it was most likely constructed while the lake was at its current level. If this second theory is correct, and it certainly seems the most plausible theory, it drastically changes the difficulty of construction. It would have required a great deal of effort and coordination to haul the vast numbers of stones needed out into the lake. It would also be difficult to form the nearly perfect circle of stones by simply dumping a boat full or rocks into the lake one at a time.

Who is Buried in the Pella Tomb?

In Pella a Byzantine era church was excavated and in the north apse was discovered a stone lined tomb. This is significant for a number of reasons. In a Byzantine church the north apse was almost exclusively reserved for the tomb of a martyr. Secondly, the tomb was dated to the late first century, perhaps around 80 A.D. This places the tomb in the proper time frame for the Christians who Eusebius said fled to Pella. It is also extremely interesting that it appears the Byzantine church was built around the tomb. The layout of the church seems to have been designed as to accommodate and thus not disturb the tomb below. This seems to signify the builders of the church felt the person buried in the tomb was not only a martyr, but someone of significant importance to warrant a church being constructed around the tomb. But just who was buried in the tomb remains a mystery.

[Byzantine Era - Begun in 330 A.D. and lasted until approximately 1453 A.D. It was basically the continuation of the Eastern Roman Empire. Its capital was Constantinople and it was primarily Christian. The Byzantine empire had Greek origins and is credited with great works of learning and art.]

Map to Pella

While the tomb itself was dated to the late first century A.D. the skeletal remains found inside were dated far differently. Carbon dating of the remains gave a date in the sixth century, some five hundred years too late for the remains to belong to a first century Christian. This was confusing to researchers who had to question how someone who died in the sixth century ended up in a tomb dated to the first century? While the remains were tested, the issue of the age of the remains is till a point of debate. Dr. Bourke points out the bones were severely damaged, as if they had been subjected to a harsh chemical. It is theorized there was a natural chemical reaction within the tomb which caused this damage and Dr. Bourke believes this may have rendered the original carbon dating results invalid. Attempts are currently underway to have the remains re-tested using more modern and hopefully more reliable dating methods. If the original dating is found to be in error, it is felt the age of the remains will likely match the age of the tomb, placing them around 80 A.D.

[Early church historian Eusebius tells of how the followers of Jesus fled the Romans in 70 A.D. - According to Eusebius one of the areas these early Christians fled to was Pella.]

Very little is known about the tomb’s occupant. It is known the remains were those of a man who was considerably taller than the average man in those days. He was not only a tall man but apparently a very large man as well. It is also believed he was well advanced in years at the time of his death. If in fact he was buried in the tomb in 80 A.D. and was between 70 and 85 years of age, he would have been in his mid to late thirties during the time when Jesus was alive. Was this man an important figure in the early church? Did he know and follow Jesus during His lifetime? Was he martyred for his faith in Christ? These are questions we simply do not have the answers to. We do know that the tomb was felt to be important enough that a church was designed and built around it. The tomb was also located at a position within the church normally reserved for a martyr. While we may never know the identity of the occupant of the Pella tomb, one thing is very clear. At the time the church was planned and constructed this person was believed to have been a very significant figure to the people of Pella and most probably a significant figure in the early Christian church. Excavations at Pella continue so we can only hope additional clues as to the identity of the occupant of the tomb may be forthcoming .

Kites of Israel, Jordan and Egypt

Early in the 20th century archaeologist discovered a series of low stone walls located in the deserts of Jordan, Israel and Egypt. These walls are only visible from the air and were nicknamed ‘kites’. The

Desert Kites of Israel
walls date back to at least 300 B.C. and have puzzled experts for decades. Who built them and why remains a mystery although recently some scholars have announced they may have found the purpose of the kites.

It is now believed the walls were meant to funnel wild animals into a pit where they could be killed in a much more efficient manner. Rather than chase the animals across the desert they were allowed to come or be driven to the hunters. Scholars point out if this theory is correct it would mean ancient man knew a great deal more about animal behavior than previously known. The kites, while simple in design, were not simple to build. Some of the kites stretched as far as forty miles (64 kilometers) across the desert. Simply walking forty miles into the desert is no simple task, but add to this the fact they were transporting or gathering stones for construction complicates the process considerably.

The theory the kites are intended to entrap animals seems to fit the evidence, but it remains only a theory of a fascinating mystery which has perplexed the experts for decades.

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Scandals in Biblical Archaeology

There have been a great many archaeological and scientific discovers associated with the Bible, biblical lands, and the people involved. These discoveries have helped us confirm various historical elements of the Bible and also to bring the Bible to like for many. Believers all over the world devour news of new discoveries and new artifacts. This eagerness, both on the part of onlookers and scientist as well, creates the potential for mistakes. In some cases the mistakes are honest, people coming to the wrong conclusion or stating something as fact before all of the evidence is in. In other cases, the mistakes are intentional, done with the sole purpose to deceive. In some cases it is just to promote a certain ideology or to discredit another. In most of these instances the motivation is pure and simply, greed.

In recent years there have been a number of scandals involving biblical artifacts as well as scientific findings relating to the Bible, or to biblical stories. Such instances are not new, but with modern technology forgeries are much more convincing and false information can travel at an amazing speed. I thought it would be interesting to look at just a few of these incidents as well as the people and artifacts involved. Amazingly, some of these fooled the scientific and scholarly community for decades. 

Dead Sea Scrolls Exposed as Fake 

The Dead Sea Scrolls are among the most important archaeological discoveries in history. They have given us invaluable insight into biblical times and the people and cultures who inhabited the biblical lands. With the importance, both historically and scientifically of the scrolls, it has made them quite valuable. As with anything of great value, certainly something from antiquity, there is the constant danger of fraudulent replicas. 

In March of 2020 the Museum of the Bile announced that its collection of 16 fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls were all modern day forgeries. Despite being examined by biblical scholars, scientist and academics, the forgeries were so well done, they  were passed on as authentic for years. The museum was concerned with the authenticity of the artifacts and called in a team of independent scientists to evaluate the fragments. The bad news was soon to follow, the museum had been the victim of fraud. 

The fragments purchased by the museum were a portion of scroll fragments that came on the market in the 2000's and are referred to as the 'post 2002 scrolls'. All of these scrolls are not considered to almost certainly be frauds. This would mean that not only the Museum of the Bible, but a number of other private collectors fell victim to the scam. - It must be noted this revelation does not put the original Dead Sea Scrolls authenticity in doubt. 

70 Lead Codices

This discovery, made in eastern Jordan, originally claimed to be possibly the oldest Christian writing ever discovered and may record the last days of Jesus, and the resurrection. The discovery was made in 2006. Sounding very much like the story of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the codices were found in a remote cave. In all there were 70 lead codices which some believe come from the first century A.D.


70 Lead codices

The codices are each approximately the size of a credit card and are wire bound together. The pages contain writing, diagrams and maps which had experts excited at the prospect of deciphering their meaning. The text, some of which is in code, appears to tell about the life of Jesus, His last days on earth, His crucifixion as well as the resurrection. If found to be authentic this would be the oldest Christian writing ever found.

 The small size of the codices indicate they were intended for personal use/study and not for use in teaching. If the writings are as old as some claim, they were made shortly after the death of Jesus and most probably before the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D. Christians fled to the caves of eastern Jordan, where the codices were found, when the temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D.

 One of the codices shows a cross and what appears to be a depiction of Jesus' tomb and the ancient city of Jerusalem in the background. Some of the codices were sealed which led to speculation they were associated with the sealed book referred to in the Book of Revelation which was shown only to the Messiah. Others warned not to become excited and urged caution. Indeed, some scholars have raised serious questions concerning the codices with some going as far as calling them outright fakes. They claim the artwork and images are inaccurate for the time and were copied from other sources, indicating the codices are yet another attempt to deceive collectors, and the world.

There have been remarkable claims made about the codices and what some call the secret code contained within. One scholar who says he has viewed the codices and is working on deciphering them, claims there have been attempts made on his life in order to halt his work. The majority of experts now seem convinced the codices are fakes and the product of a modern-day forger, and some have even gone as far to say the forger was a bit lazy in where he copied the material from. Authentic or fraud, there have been no translations of the codices made public. As of 2017 the codices are considered to be fake by both the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA) as well as the Jordanian Archaeological Department.

 Reiner Protsch - Neanderthal Hoax 

At the University of Frankfurt professor Reiner Protsch apparently falsified reports of the age of certain skulls given to him to examine. His motives may never be fully known, but it seems he was attempting to claim certain artifacts were far older than they were. This was perhaps in support of evolutionist and his own beliefs or something else entirely. Protsch apparently falsified information throughout the 1980's and 1990's. In one instance Protsch claimed a skull was discovered in Switzerland, which is a rarity. It was later discovered the skull was found in France, in which case it was not so rare. Unfortunately, this was one of Protsch's more minor offences.


"History of Humans Unravels As Scholar Exposed As Fraud"

While the total extent of Protsch's deception may never be fully known, three examples of his scandalous activity show to just what extent his deception extended. One skull, reportedly a Neanderthal skull was dated by Protsch as being 36,000 years old. It was later proved to be 7,500 years old. Another skull, given the title of "Binschof-Speyer Woman" was said to be 21,300 years old, a significant find. In reality the skull was only 3,900 years old. The final example was the "Paderborn-Sande Man" which Protsch said was 27,400 years old. Upon further investigation it was found the skull actually belonged to a man who had died in the 1700's.

Professor Thomas Terberger of the University of Greifswald spoke about the false claims presented by Protsch. "Anthropology is going to have to completely revise its picture of modern man between 40,000 and 10,000 years ago. Professor Protsch's work appeared to prove that anatomically modern humans and Neanderthals had co-existed, and perhaps even had children together. This now appears to be rubbish."

Rony Wyatt - Archaeologist -or- Something Less? 

All archeologist are not created equally, and all who claim to be an archeologist are not. Ron Wyatt was an arm-chair archeologist who made a number of remarkable claims of discovery in regards to Biblical items. By profession Wyatt was a nurse anesthetist who took up an interest in archeology in the late 1970's. Over the next twenty years Wyatt made trips to the middle east and claimed to make a wide range of archeological discoveries associated with Biblical events and peoples. 

When Wyatt first announced some of his reported findings he became something a cult hero with Christian fundamentalist. His discoveries were providing hard physical evidence of nearly everything written in the Bible, or so it seemed. Some of Wyatt's discoveries were of moderate importance, but for the most part Wyatt discovered, or claimed to discover, large important sites. These include Noah's Ark, anchor stones from Noah's ark as well as the gravestones for Noah and his wife along with their post-flood home. Wyatt also claimed to find the true location of Sodom and Gomorrah, the Tower of Babel and even worked out how the Egyptians constructed the pyramids. But his claims did not stop there.

Wyatt also found where the Israelites crossed the Red Sea and even discovered chariot wheels from the Egyptian army on the floor of the Red Sea. Wyatt was also able to discover the location of Mount Sinai, the rock at Horeb which Moses struck to obtain water and he was able to find the crucifixion site of Jesus. He also reported the discovery of the lost Ark of the Covenant, complete with the original ten commandments and then went on to find the blood of Jesus at the crucifixion site. By testing the blood Wyatt was able to determine Jesus was born from a virgin. A remarkable career for an amateur archeologist.

 In truth any one of these discoveries would be the high-point and crowning achievement in the career of any archeologist. It is therefore hard to comprehend just how an amateur who did not have any credentials which would allow him to oversee an archeological dig in Israel could make such significant discoveries. It becomes even harder to understand when you consider the lack of physical evidence. It seems at nearly ever discovery Wyatt met with some type of misfortune. On one occasion the batteries died on his camera, preventing him from obtaining photographic evidence. On another site Wyatt's evidence was confiscated by government officials, preventing him from displaying his proof. Wyatt's work, and discoveries have never been published in any scholarly publication and were consistently refuted by the archeological community.

While Wyatt's reports of discoveries earned him temporary favor and even celebrity status with many Christian fundamentalist, his work has since been almost unanimously rejected by the Christian community as well as the IAA (Israel Antiquities Authority) who said Wyatt's claims are the kind of trash found in tabloids. The IAA also points out Wyatt has never carried out a legally licensed excavation in either Israel or Jerusalem. While Wyatt's claims can make for interesting reading, they offer no real proof of the historical accuracy of the Bible and in fact damage the credibility and efforts of those attempting to do serious work in these areas.

The Piltdown Man - The Greatest Scientific Hoax in History 

In 1912 a man named Charles Dawson claimed to have found portions of a human skull in a small gravel pit at Piltdown. The gravel pit is located in East Sussex, England and this discovery would touch off a scientific scandal which would not be fully disclosed for over forty years. His claims of discovery would fool scientist, writers, and confound even his most animate skeptics for decades. NOVA called it "The Boldest Hoax" when they produced a documentary on the subject, going on to say it was the greatest scientific hoodwinking of all time. The only thing more confusing than how Dawson managed to fool so many scholars, is the length of time it took to expose the fraud. 

Piltdown Man Meeting

The discovery was of a skull complete with jawbone. When the skull pieces were assembled it was proclaimed as the great missing link in the evolutionary chain. It was thought someone had finally found the proof man evolved from apes. It was also thought the human brain was smaller in early man. The brain cavity of the Piltdown skull was smaller than modern man and the jaw bone matched that of an ape. Even teeth were found which seemed to confirm the skull and jawbone were part of something science had never seen before. The skull had been broken into several small pieces and was re-assembled by Arthur Woodward. Woodward was the keeper of the geological department at the British Museum and he claimed the smaller size of the skull showed it came from early man and the jawbone, with the exception of two human teeth, perfectly matched the jawbone of an ape. Despite the claims of Woodward, many critics felt the claims were in error. One source of criticism was the Royal College of Surgeons, which assembled duplicate skull pieces and produced a completely different model. To prove his theory and Dawson's discovery were genuine, Woodward needed more proof if he were to silence his critics.

In 1913 Dawson, Woodward and a Jesuit priest named Teilhard began searching for additional artifacts. Amazingly, they were able to find additional teeth that Woodward expected to end any debate regarding his theory and reconstruction of the skull. Surprisingly to Woodward, Professor Arthur Keith disputed the new findings claiming the teeth did not properly match the jawbone and original teeth. Keith presented his findings at a meeting of the Royal Society. After hearing the evidence, the members accused Keith of having a rabid ambition and thus his disagreement with Woodward. It was in fact a case of Keith attempting to fight the establishment which desperately wanted the discovery to be authentic, evidence be damned.


Woodward continued to have a number of critics, even as the scholarly mainstream touted the find as authentic. Before the entire scam fell apart, more than 250 scholarly papers were written based on the Piltdown skull and jawbone. Some scholars based their entire careers on the Piltdown Man discovery. The support for the authenticity of the find was bolstered even further when a second skull was discovered, amazingly this skull was also found by Dawson. Woodward did not, however, present this second find until five months after Dawson's death in 1916.

With the discovery of a second skull so closely matching the first the critics had to fall silent. To this point critics had claimed the skull and jawbone did not belong together, that they had simply been found together by chance. The chance of an ape jawbone being found with a human skull would be rare, for it to happen twice in such a limited area was considered mathematically impossible. To this point the critics had been claiming Woodward's interpretation of the findings were in error, they were not yet claiming the find was a complete hoax.

The deception continued until 1953 when the scandal finally began to unravel. While most critics had been silenced, they secretly remained convinced the find was a mistake, and some now even began considering the possibility of the find being a deliberate hoax. Investigations launched in 1953 found the fossil was actually a composite of three distinct species. The skull was that of a modern man, the jawbone had belonged to an orangutan and the teeth came from a chimpanzee. It was also found the bones had been aged with a mixture of a solution of iron and chromic acid. One of the primary reasons the fraud was exposed were file marks found on the teeth. Apparently, the teeth had been filed down in order to make them compatible with the jawbone.


Interesting Side Note: Some scholars believe the true culprit is neither Dawson nor Woodard. Some believe the true mastermind behind the hoax was Sir Author Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes stories and novels. Doyle lived only a short distance from where the artifacts were found and he had a grudge against the scientific community, giving him both motive and opportunity. (Doyle had been criticized by the scientific community for his spiritualist research.) If in fact Doyle was behind the hoax it may have well been one of his greatest mysteries, one which would not be solved for more than forty years.


A further investigation of other artifacts provided by Dawson determined at least 38 different samples were fakes. Some of the items were teeth which it was found had the same type of file markings as the teeth in the Piltdown fraud. Dawson had also exchanged a collection of flints with another collector. These were later found to have been aged with chemicals, again somewhat similar to the process used with the Piltdown artifacts. With this evidence it seemed obvious Dawson was the culprit behind this fraud, but many people believe if he was behind the scam, he was not working alone.

 It does seem strange Dawson, with a somewhat spotted past, could convince a scholar of such an astounding discovery. The blame seems to rest mostly on the shoulders of Dawson and Woodward. It appears Woodward was either aware of the hoax, or was so blinded by his ambition and desire to be a part of a significant find he ignored the evidence and pushed forward. Unfortunately, the action of these men damaged the reputation and work of other honest hard-working scholars. Even today, 100 years after the original discover was made, some critics of evolution use the Piltdown Man fraud as a warning against accepting the findings of scholars. They would have you believe scholars will modify their findings and deceive the general public in order to advance their own personal beliefs. It was certainly true in this case, but it is unfair to say the scholarly community as a whole is dishonest. Of course, when working with the unknown and with limited evidence, a person's work will always be subjected to second guessing and criticism.

 It should be noted that in the early twentieth century there was a strong sense of competition between many scholars based on nationality, gender and even race. In the case of the Piltdown Man there had been several discoveries made on mainland Europe which were considered significant. It was therefore very important to some to have a discovery of equal or greater importance to be made in England. The majority of British scientist claimed the Piltdown man finding to be the "Earliest Englishman". Their eagerness to be first, to have something no one else had, and to make England first, blinded them to the reality of the situation. It turns out to have been nothing more than a lie meant to advance the beliefs and ambitions of a hand-full of dishonest men.

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The Miracles of Jesus

During His time on Earth Jesus preformed a number of miracles, sometimes called signs. These miracles were recorded in the Gospel accounts w...