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Proof of the Exodus Story

Twelve+ Findings That Prove the Exodus Story 

The story of the Exodus is central to the formation of Israel. For decades, even centuries, the story of the Exodus was accepted as historically accurate. Somewhat recently a new movement known as the minimalist brought the entire story of the Exodus and the person of Moses into question. They are convinced the person of Moses was a fictional character and the story of the Exodus never really happened. Moreover, the story of the Patriarchs is also fiction and never took place. You might ask, what new information or archaeological discoveries brought about these dramatic change in attitude?

The unfortunate truth is that these new thoughts and theories are not based on new archaeological discoveries or even new discoveries of old manuscripts or scrolls. Most, if not all, of the claims made by this group are based on a lack of evidence. Their argument states that no archaeological evidence exist to confirm the biblical story and it must therefore be false. History has shown that any argument made from the absence of evidence is at best a weak one, and is certainly prone to error. There have been many instances when new discoveries have been made which confirm biblical events that were previously in question and were claimed to be fictional tales. 

 First, simply because no evidence currently exist does not mean the Bible is not accurate. As an example, it has been estimated that less than one percent of ancient Egypt has been excavated. In a recent program using infrared imaging, scientists were able to locate seventeen previously unknown pyramids, more than 1,000 tombs and as many as 3,000 ancient settlements. The study was undertaken by Egyptologist Doctor Sarah Parcak. This study shows how much there is left to discovery just within the borders of Egypt. Any argument based solely on the absence of evidence in regards to Egyptian history is obviously precarious at best. Still, the ultimate question remains, is there evidence supporting the Bible, or are the minimalist right?

While many more discoveries are possible and all but certain to take place, is there any current evidence which supports the biblical story of the Exodus? Fortunately, there is a great deal. If you research this subject you will quickly learn all of the evidence is not universally accepted. This is not unusual. What is unusual is that with so much evidence supporting an ancient document (The Bible), it continues to be denied and dismissed. Listed here are just twelve examples of the evidence supporting the biblical story of, The Exodus.

Seti War Relief

In the Karnak Hypostyle Hall the northern exterior wall is covered in war scenes which represent the military achievements of Seti I. A portion of the relief shows the starting point for Egyptian advancements into Canaan. Seti I reigned in ancient Egypt from 1290 B.C. until 1279 B.C. He celebrated several victories in Canaan and each of these are recorded on the war relief. Another portion of the relief shows Seti I forcing the chiefs of Lebanon to cut down cedar trees for his use. 

In the text the relief mentions an ancient road known as the Horas Way. It also mentions several fortresses along the way. Some scholars believe this road is a reference to a road which would have been taken by the Israelites when they were fleeing the Egyptians during the Exodus. 

Additionally, the relief shows a man-made waterway that connects lakes in the region. These waterways were not necessarily intended for navigation, but instead are thought to have been a defensive barrier on Egypt's eastern border. Today, these waterways have been replaced by a vast desert but geologists have confirmed the man-made waterways did exist in ancient times. Some scholars believe these waterways and lakes may have been the waterway which the Israelites crossed to escape the pursuing Egyptian army. The idea of the "Sea of Reeds" referring to a series of lakes and canals rather than the Red Sea is difficult for some to accept. The perception of the Sea of Reeds being the Red Sea has been debated for many years and this is yet another possibility to consider.

While the Seti Relief does not directly mention Moses, the Exodus, or the Israelites, it does confirm several aspects of the biblical story. There was indeed an ancient road which the fleeing Israelites would have taken just as told in the Bible. The relief also gives a possible location for the crossing of the Sea of Reeds, another very important element in the Exodus narrative. Taken by itself, these are anything but conclusive, but taken with the other evidence it begins to create a compelling argument.

Papyrus Brooklyn 35.1446

A key point to the Exodus story is the fact the Hebrew people were in Egypt. Not only is this critical to the Exodus story, but directly relates to the story of the Patriarchs. If there were not Hebrews in Egypt, then the story of the Patriarchs is in question and the Exodus could never have happened. For this reason scholars are constantly looking for any evidence of an Hebrew presence in Egypt. There are several artifacts and archaeological discoveries that show the Hebrewss were present in Egypt. One of these is an ancient papyrus which is dated to the 13th dynasty, which places it between 1809 B.C. and 1743 B.C. This would have been just after the time of the Patriarchs, perhaps during the time Joseph was in power or just afterwards.

The Papyrus, which is housed in the Brooklyn Museum, provides a list of 95 household slaves. Among the names listed are several which are unquestionably Hebrew. The slaves were owned by an Egyptian named Senebtisi. Of the ninety-five household slaves, forty names are considered to be Hebrew. This papyrus proves there were Hebrews in Egypt at the time of the Exodus, but it also proves an additional element of the biblical story. As mentioned, all of the names were those of household slaves. Not only were there Hebrew people in Egypt, they were being kept and used as slaves, just as the Bible tells us.  

Egyptian Records of Slaves Making Bricks

We have seen proof that Hebrew people were being kept as slaves. The Exodus story tells us the Hebrew people were kept as slaves, but it also specifically tells us they were forced to make bricks for Pharaoh's building projects. In the tomb of Rehkmiore, who was vizier under both Thutmose III and Amenhotep II, there are many paintings and engravings. One of these paintings shows workers who are obviously slaves, forming and making bricks. 

It has been established that Hebrew people were being kept as slaves in Egypt and this evidence confirms slaves were used to make bricks. When these two elements are combined they are conclusive evidence of the biblical text. Slaves making bricks for Pharaoh does not prove the Exodus happened, but certainly confirms another key element of the story. 

Quota of Bricks made using straw

The Bible story gives us some specifics concerning the Hebrew slaves and their duties. They were to build a certain number of bricks, a quota, and they used straw to make the mud bricks stronger. Eventually Pharaoh ordered the slaves to make bricks without straw and even worse, their quota of bricks was not reduced. These details of the Exodus story have been confirmed by another archaeological discovery. 

Two Egyptian papyri known as Anastasi IV and V are not biblical, but they do offer context to the biblical story. In these ancient documents it mentions how the mud bricks were made with straw. It does not reference the Hebrew people directly, but it does state a problem in another district. It states there are no men to make bricks and no straw in the district. This is a clear indication that making bricks without straw was most certainly a problem, as apparently was a inconsistent labor force, which perhaps facilitated the need to use slaves, Hebrews, to remain on quota.

Housed in the Louvre is a leather scroll which also mentions brick production. In the document it mentions a group of stablemasters who have been given a quota of 2,000 bricks to be completed by themselves and those working under them. It should not come as any surprise that a work quota was assigned, but it is nice to have these elements of the Exodus story confirmed by ancient documents.

Record of Slaves being Brutally Worked to Death

We have shown proof that Hebrews were in Egypt, they were being kept as slaves, and slaves in Egypt were forced to make mud bricks using straw. Along with these elements, the Bible tells us the Hebrew people were treated very poorly by their Egyptian masters. Some scholars point to this as an historical error. Evidence shows many of the workers were treated very well. They were provided with housing, medical care, and some would even receive a weekly allotment of beer while working on a project. While these are all true, it was apparently not always the case.

[Builders of the Giza Pyramids wages included bread and beer rations. Even some of the workers' graves had preserved jars of beer contained in them. The Egyptians made the beer from barley and it is believed it was their daily beverage.]

In 1346 B.C. Pharaoh Akhenaten decided to build an entirely new capital city. The city, which was to be called Amarna, covered a vast area of almost eight miles. Once Akhenaten died, the city was abandoned and many portions of it were destroyed.  Archaeologist who excavated Amarna found massive evidence that the workers, who were mostly slaves, were brutally worked. Skeletal remains show the effects of the brutal conditions and even indicate some of the slaves were worked to death. This sounds very similar to the biblical narrative.

"The Egyptians used violence to compel the sons of Israel to labor; and they made their lives bitter with hard labor in mortar and bricks and at all kinds of labor in the fields, all their labors which they violently had them perform as slaves." - Exodus 1:13-14

While the Hebrew people were not present at Amarna, the archaeological evidence shows slaves, at least on occasion, were brutally treated, even to the point of death. 

Soleb Inscription

Once again, this inscription does not directly reference the Exodus story, but it does confirm certain information or elements contained in the Bible. The Soleb Inscription provides a list of military conquests of Pharaoh Amenhotep III. The inscription contains images of prisoners from each nation or territory Amenhotep III conquered. Most of the images seem to be from African nations, with the exception of one. In each scene the prisoner is seen kneeling with their hands bound behind their backs. The image in question clearly shows a Semitic individual whose characteristics are far different from the other conquered individuals. 

Aside from the difference in physical appearance, below each image is a name ring. The name ring associated with the Semitic image is "the land of Shasu (nomads) of Yahweh". This mention of Yahweh is the earliest mention of the name outside of the Bible. This inscription shows there were a Semitic people living in the area of Canaan and they were worshipping Yahweh. Both of these are critical to the Exodus story. Some people point out that this information also helps date the Exodus. (Some scholars have identified Amenhotep II as the Pharaoh of the Exodus.)

Proto-Sinaitic Inscriptions

Moses is certainly a key figure in the Exodus story. Moses is not only a character in the story itself, he is considered the author. Tradition tells us Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible, telling the story of God's interaction with man from creation up to when the Hebrew people reached the promised land. This tradition was questioned by many for a very simple reason. It was believed that in the time of Moses there was no alphabetic writing system in place. Scholars who questioned the biblical tradition felt it highly likely Moses was like the rest of the general population who was completely illiterate. They argued Moses, if he existed at all,  could not have written the books because he was illiterate and moreover, the tools he needed to do so had not yet been invented.

This argument began to lose support in the early 20th century when several discoveries were made. These discoveries included stones carved with examples of alphabetic writing. Even more interesting was where they were found, and their suspected origin.

The stones were found near an Egyptian turquois mine which just happened to be worked by Semites. The language it uses was at first a combination of the Egyptian hieroglyphics and a Semitic language. It is believed the language was invented by Semitic people who lived and worked at the mine and has been dated to as far back at the 19th century B.C. The language is known as the Proto-Sinaitic script and was used for a variety of writing purposes.

[Semites - a member of the people who spoke a Semitic language, including the Jews and Arabs.]

One of the more interesting Proto-Sinaitic inscriptions to be found is known as Sinai 361. The script was translated by Dr. Douglas Petrovich and his potential findings were amazing. It should be noted that Petrovich's translation of Sinai 361 is not without its critics and a vast amount of controversy. This aside, the translation of Sinai 361 possibly shows the name of Moses. Doctor Petrovich's translation reads;

"Our bound servitude had lingered, Moses then provoked astonishment, it is the year of astonishment because of the lady."

As mentioned, this translation is not universally accepted. Even if the translation is incorrect, the writings show there was an alphabetic language in use during the time of Moses, thus removing the major objection to Moses as the probable author of the book of Exodus. It should also be remembered that according to the Bible Moses was raised in the house of Pharaoh, so we should expect him to be well educated and certainly not as illiterate as some critics would like to believe. 

Egyptian Words in the Hebrew Language

We have seen that an alphabetic language was in use during the time of Moses and have shown that Moses could have written the book of Exodus. Another element of the writing style used is seen by many as additional evidence of the Hebrew people in Egypt at the time of Moses. Intertwined in the Exodus text are numerous Egyptian words. 

These words, even including the Egyptian roots for the name Moses, are considered a strong indication the author of Exodus had an Egyptian background and was possibly educated by Egyptians. This profile fits perfectly with Moses childhood and upbringing. Moses would have certainly known the Egyptian language and it is only reasonable to assume some of that language would be transposed into his writings. While the evidence fits Moses perfectly, it does not fit the minimalists' theory.

According to the minimalists the book of Exodus was written sometime during the Babylonian Exile (597 B.C) in an effort to give Israel a glorious and historic past. It is highly unlikely any writers during the Babylonian Exile would have known or used Egyptian words in their writings. Even had they been familiar with the words, it is highly unlikely they would have incorporated these Egyptian words into a text meant to glorify Israel's history.

Berlin Pedestal

Berlin Pedestal

The Berlin Pedestal refers to an Egyptian relief which is housed in the Egyptian museum in Berlin. The stone inscription was purchased from an Egyptian merchant in 1913 and was likely part of a pedestal base, thus its name. The inscription has three name rings which show three captives with their hands tied behind their backs. Below each captive is a name referencing where they are from. 

The first name ring clearly states "Ashkelon". This is a reference to the Philistines coastal city which was a part of their Pentapolis. The second, or middle ring, clearly reads "Canaan". The third ring, which is farthest to the right, is damaged and as much as a third of the inscription is missing. Despite this damage, many scholars believe it is possible to properly interpret the writings. The most probably reading is "Ishrael" but this is disputed by some. If accurate, and if the inscription is just a slightly different spelling of the name Israel, then this would be the oldest known mention of the state of Israel to exist. 

[Pentapolis - is a group of five cities. In ancient times this would have been done for political reasons, improved trade and military protection.]

Not only is this inscription important because of its possible mention of Israel, but also its timing in relation to the Exodus. This inscription indicates the people of Israel were occupying the lands in Canaan at exactly the time the Bible records them being there. 

[Canaan - a Semitic speaking civilization in the ancient Near East. - Canaan also means the son of Ham, who was Noah's grandson.] 

Merneptah Stele

The Berlin Pedestal mentioned above is perhaps the oldest known mention of the state of Israel, however it is disputed by some. Just slightly newer, by approximately two hundred years, is the oldest undisputed mention of Israel. The Merneptah Stele was discovered in 1896 by Sir Flinders Petrie and has been dated to 1208 B.C.

The large stone was erected in the temple at Thebes and stands ten feet in height. The message on the stele is basically a list of military conquest by Pharaoh Merneptah. One section of the stele states that "Israel is wasted, its seed is not; and Hurru is become a widow of Egypt." (Hurru refers to Canaan). Egyptian Pharaohs loved to boast about their victories and often made them far grander and sounding more impressive than they actually were. 

While Pharaoh Mereptah did invade Israel, and was victorious, his victories were limited to just three cities rather than the entire country of Israel. Israel was not laid to waste, but was left mostly intact. Despite the fact the victory was a bit overstated, scholars agree this is the oldest undisputed mentioned of the country of Israel. This helps to date the Exodus to sometime in the 15th century B.C. rather than a much later date favored by some. 

Mittelsaal House at Avaris

As mentioned, one of the great debates concerning the old testament is the story of the Hebrew people living in Egypt and their eventual departure during the Exodus. Many historians point to a complete lack of evidence of any Hebrew or Semitic people living in Egypt. In regards to this debate an interesting piece of evidence has been found in the Nile valley.

The item is a structure, or home, and is believed to be a Mittelsaal house, or middle room house. These are the types of homes built and occupied by Semitic or Hebrew families. The house, which is located in the Nile Delta at the site of Avaris, is believed to have been a part of a Semitic community that settled in the grasslands. The artifacts found indicate the inhabitants were allowed to settle in the region with permission. It is also notable that the community did not have any surrounding walls. This would indicate they did not feel threatened in their community, and the Egyptians were not trying to contain them to a particular area. 

[Avaris - was the capital city of the Hyksos when they occupied Egypt. It is located at the modern day site of Tell el-Dad'a in the Nile Delta.]

One theory of who these people were can be traced to writings of the historian Josephus. According to Josephus, the Hyksos people, well known to history, were actually the ancestors of the Israelites. According to Josephus the Hyksos were Hebrew. The Hyksos were enemies of the Egyptians and were eventually forced out of Egypt in 1550 B.C. 

While the connection between the Israelites and the Hyksos is also debatable, it remains very interesting to find a Hebrew community in the Nile valley dating back more than 3,500 years. This home and community offer some very intriguing possibilities and raises very interesting questions regarding who they were and why they were there.

The Bahr Yussef - (The Joseph Canal)

One of the key figures of the presence of the Hebrew people in Egypt is Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his brothers and forcibly taken to Egypt. We are told Joseph was second in Egypt [Vizier] only to the Pharaoh himself. When history is written, it is generally written by the winners, in this case the Egyptians were not victorious, but they did often wrote their own versions of history. It is very doubtful any Egyptian leader would ever want to highlight the Exodus and the events leading up to it. For this reason, there should be no surprise there is little if any Egyptian record of these events. Unfortunately, Egyptians have a history of attempting to remove unflattering events from history. Queen Hatshepsut was the ruler of Egypt and is today known as one of the great builders. However, when her step son became Pharaoh, he attempted to have all traces of Hatshepsut removed. Statues of Hatshepsut were destroyed or altered to hide her image and her name was stricken from most official listings. The effort was very nearly successful as the Great Queen was almost forgotten by history.

 Was Joseph really a ruler in Egypt as the Bible tells us? For this entry the evidence is in the way of a major engineering endeavor and legend. There is an ancient canal which connects the Nile river with Fayyum. This waterway has been known as the Joseph Canal since ancient times. The canal is also known as The Bahr Yussef. This is the Quranic counterpart of the Biblical Joseph. 

There is an ancient story of unknown origin which tells of the construction of the canal. The story tells of how the Pharaoh who Joseph served under eventually died. When the new Pharaoh took the throne, he was urged by other counselors who were jealous of Joseph's power to test Joseph. He eventually asked Joseph to prove himself by supplying water to an area of dryland. Joseph’s response was to design and construct the canal which was then named in his honor.

This is certainly not absolute proof of the existence of Joseph in Egypt, but it certainly fits his profile of problem solving and providing original long-term solutions. The facts and legends align to give a very interesting insight into one of the oldest stories in the Biblical text. Can a canal named after a person named Joseph be called proof? No, it is certainly not absolute proof, but when combined with other pieces of the puzzle, it has a good deal of merit and possibilities.

Other Discoveries / Theories 

Many people have searched for evidence both of the time spent in Egypt, as well as the Exodus. These expeditions have met with varying degrees of success. During one of these excavations in Egypt, Sir Flinders Petrie discovered a large number of wooden boxes concealed under the floors of homes. The homes belonged to slaves and within the small wooden boxes were discovered the skeletal remains of infants, most only a few months in age. This is thought to be a possible connection to the mandate of the King of Egypt to have all of the newborn Israel males killed by throwing them into the river. (In fairness infant mortality rates were far higher in ancient times and it is possible this area could have experienced an unusually high mortality rate for a variety of reason. One of these potential reasons could have been because of the order of Pharaoh.)


Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Every Hebrew boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.” (Exodus 1:22)

 

Petrie found large amounts of evidence of the slave population as well as the infant remains, but he did not associate these findings with the Hebrew people. It is interesting that with an adjustment of the time-line of the 12th dynasty these new findings match the Bible narrative extremely well. This theory, and the evidence supporting it, is seen as solid evidence for the Bible story by archaeologist David Down who has been promoting the theory for more than fifteen years. The theory was proposed well before Down by Doctor Donoville Courville and Doctor Immanuel Velikovsky. Down claims the theory is slowly gaining acceptance by more and more archaeologist and he believes it clearly shows there is evidence for the people of Israel not only being in Egypt, but being subjected to slavery as well.

Another piece of fascinating evidence which seems to support the Bible was also found by Petrie. In the same area where he discovered the evidence of forced labor and the infant skeletons, he found another interesting element. The evidence indicated the slaves working in the city departed very rapidly. Moreover, it seems the departure was not only sudden, but was certainly not a planned event. Doctor Rosalie David wrote a book covering the findings of Petrie and recorded this concerning the apparent rapid departure.

 

"... inhabitants eventually deserted the town, abandoning their tools and other possessions in the shops and houses.... The quantity, range and type of articles of everyday use which were left behind in the houses may indeed suggest the departure was sudden and unpremeditated."

 

Why would a large group of slaves leave so suddenly? Why would they leave behind their tools and other everyday objects? Once again, the evidence so closely matches the Bible text it is hard to believe there is no connection.

 

The Egyptians urged the people to hurry and leave the country. “For otherwise,” they said, “we will all die!” (Exodus 12:33)

 

It is also possible the people of Israel had their hands full carrying other objects and felt they no longer needed the tools of their slavery.

 

The Israelites did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing. The LORD had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians. (Exodus 12: 35-36)


Conclusions

Any one piece of evidence taken by itself may seem weak or even unrelated. When everything is looked at together the picture becomes much more convincing. As with anything that happened thousands of years ago, we are likely never to have a complete picture with all details included and all questions answered. What we do have are a series of archeological discoveries which tend to support the biblical narrative.

When all elements are examined it seems clear the Hebrew people were in fact living in Egypt, were being kept as slaves, and at some point left (somewhat rapidly) and settled in the land we now know of as Israel. The time line, events and historical evidence match up very well if not exactly with the Bible. Given the amount of evidence listed here, plus additional evidence not listed, we can conclude the Bible is in fact a historically accurate document and the Exodus did take place.


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Ivory Pomegranate from Solomon's Temple - Authentic or Fraud?

 Solomon's Temple

The Temple of Solomon was completed in 957 B.C. and would stand for an amazing 410 years before it was destroyed in 587 B.C. by King Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon. The Temple would be replaced by the second temple in 516 B.C. Nearly 500 years later, King Herod would build another grand temple on the same location in 37 B.C.  This temple would stand for just over 100 years before being destroyed in 70 A.D. by the Romans. The original (first) temple was conceived by King David, but God decided David would not be the one to actually construct the Temple.

“Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord says: You are not the one to build me a house to dwell in" 1 Chronicles 17:4 

The reason for God not allowing King David to build the Temple is explained latter in the book of 1 Chronicles.

 "But the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘You have shed much blood and have waged great wars; you shall not build a house to My name, because you have shed so much blood on the earth before Me." 1 Chronicles 22:8

After the death of King David, his son Solomon built the temple on what we know of today as the Temple Mount. It had been determined that David would not be the one to build the Temple, but he did prepare materials for Solomon to enable him to build a magnificent Temple. The Bible lists some of the materials and preparations that David made for the Temple. 

"Now behold, with great pains I have prepared for the house of the Lord a hundred thousand talents of gold and a million talents of silver, and bronze and iron beyond measure, for they are in great quantity; I have also prepared timber and stone, and you may add to that. Moreover there are many workmen with you, stonecutters, masons of stone, and carpenters; and all of them are skillful in every kind of work. Of the gold, silver, bronze, and iron there is no limit. Arise and work, and may the Lord be with you.” - 1 Chronicles 22: 14-16

With this list of supplies the Temple would have been magnificent. Once complete it would have been the central point of worship in Israel and would hold the most holy of objects. Eventually, the Ark of the Covenant would be brought to the Temple and placed in the Holy of Hollies. The Bible tells us the construction of the First Temple took a total of seven years to complete.

There is a great deal of debate and controversy surrounding Solomon's Temple which is also known as the First Temple Period. Some scholars do not believe Solomon actually built a temple and some even insist Solomon never really existed. Even if Solomon did exist, they say he was at best the leader of a small tribe of wandering herdsman living near a dusty crossroads. A great deal of this controversy centers on the lack of artifacts from the First Temple. 

Scholars insist that if such a grand structure was built and then destroyed, there should be a huge number of artifacts and archaeological remains. This is a completely true statement. There should be artifacts, and a great many of them. In fact, if it were possible to excavate the Temple Mount these artifacts would almost certainly be found. The problem is, the Temple Mount cannot be excavated and in fact has never been truly excavated.

The current political climate in Israel makes any archaeological excavation on the Temple Mount impossible. It must also be remembered that a second and even a third temple were built on top of the first. For his construction King Herod doubled the size of the Temple Mount area, moving tons of earth and covering over vast amounts of area, and potential artifacts. He even filled in a deep valley which had been known as Bezatha Valley. As an example of the expansion that took place, the Western Wall of the Temple Mount was moved out 82 feet. Herod also built the Antonia Fortress on the Northwest corner of the Temple Mount and on the south he built the magnificent Royal Stoa. With this amount of construction over the top of the First Temple and no excavations having ever taken place, it should not be surprising that no, or at least very few, artifacts from the First Temple period have been discovered. While artifacts from the First Temple period are rare, there is one well-known artifact which some believe is from Solomon's Temple.

The Artifact - The Ivory Pomegranate

Reconstruction of Ivory Pomegranate
In 1979 a small artifact came to the attention of experts and was eventually acquired by the Israel Museum. This has become known as the Ivory Pomegranate and measures approximately 1.5 inches in height and 1 inch in diameter. The artifact is not actually ivory but instead is made of Hippopotamus bone and is carved in the shape of a pomegranate. Due to its construction it is believed the artifact once was the tip, or point of a priest's scepter. 

Around the top of the artifact is an inscription  which reads; "Holy (sacred) to the priest of the house of God (YHWH)." This inscription, along with the fact the artifact was believed to have been found at an excavation near the Temple Mount lead experts to believe it may have been used in the Temple. When dated, it was found the artifact could date back to the time of Solomon, or perhaps even earlier. All of these facts, according to many scholars, make it highly likely the tiny artifact was used in the first temple constructed by Solomon.  This made it one of the most significant and sensational archeological discoveries in the region. As mentioned, excavations at the Temple Mount are forbidden so artifacts associated with the First Temple are very rare. 

The artifact was placed on display in the Israel Museum where it was a prized and important exhibit. The story of the Ivory Pomegranate took an unexpected turn some fourteen years later when several experts were allowed to re-examine the artifact and ultimately found what they believed at the time to be evidence of forgery.

The Controversy

As mentioned, the artifact is approximately 1.5 inches in height and is about the size of a persons thumb. Unfortunately there is also a small section which has broken off. In fact, there are two breaks, one fairly recently, the other appears to be ancient. This second break is the root of the controversy.

The engraving on the artifact travels across the breaks so a portion of three of the letters are missing. The problem area is where the letters cross the ancient break. Some experts, after examining the artifact in 2004, came to the conclusion that the engravings stopped just before reaching the break. There are only two reasons this would happen. The first, which is highly unlikely, is that the item was broken in ancient times and the engraver put the partial letters on anyway, being careful not to engrave all the way into the break. (There is no logical reason why this would have been done.) The second possibility, which is far more probable, is that the engraving was done by a modern day forger and he was careful not to engrave into the break in fear it would cause more damage or possibly make it obvious the engraving happened well after the break. 

With these observations the artifact was declared a forgery. In fact, if the engraving does not enter the break, there is almost no argument that can be made for the authenticity of the artifact. The only argument that can be made is, were the experts' observations in error? Did these scholars get it wrong and the engraving does in fact travel into the ancient break? A number of experts believed an error had taken place and there was no actual evidence of forgery. Additional observations would take place in 2015 in an effort to resolve this issue once and for all. 

Is the Artifact Authentic

In 2015 Hershel Shanks, the former editor of Biblical Archaeology Review, arranged for some of the top paleographers in the world to examine the artifact at the Israel Museum. These experts included Andre Lemaire, Ada Yardeni and Robert Deutsch. They all examined the artifact together using the museums high powered microscope. The examination was lengthy and involved a great deal of back-and-forth discussion between the experts.

[Paleographer - a person who studies old handwriting in an effort to decipher, localize and date ancient text and engravings.]

There are a total of three of the letters in the engraving which enter, or should enter the break. The first clearly enters the new break. This in no way helps to prove the artifact is authentic. This only proves the engraving was done prior to the new break which took place recently. The remaining two letters should have entered the ancient break. If they do not, the item is almost certainly a forgery. If they do enter the break, there is no evidence of forgery and the item could be considered authentic. 

The Experts 

André Lemaire is a epigrapher, philologist and historian. He is the Director of Studies at the École pratique des hautes études, teaches Hebraic and Aramean philology as well as  epigraphy. Lemaire specializes in West-Semitic old civilization and is a member of the Academie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres.

 Ada Yardeni was a widely published scholar in the field of Hebrew Paleography. She was also one of the experts who examined the artifact in 2014 and believed they had found evidence of forgery. Yardeni was educated at Bezalel and the Hebrew University. During her lifetime Dr. Yardeni authored or co-authored nine books and 59 articles, including perhaps her best known work "The Book of Hebrew Script." Dr. Yardeni passed away in 2018.

Robert Deutsch - is an antiquities dealer in Israel and studied archaeology at Tel Aviv University and at the Hebrew University.  Deutsch has served as the President of the Israel Numismatic Society since 2016. Deutsch was accused of forgery in Israel but the charges in one case were acquitted and dropped in all others. 

After careful examination the group could not determine if the first of the two letters did or did not enter the break. Their conclusions were inconclusive as they could not render an opinion either way. This left only the final letter to resolve the controversy. After a long examination and much discussion the experts determined, unanimously, that the engraving did in fact enter the ancient break. This was excellent news for those hoping for the artifact to be authentic. If the lettering does in fact enter the break, it removes the suspicion of forgery.

While these findings remove the reason the artifact was considered a forgery, it does not prove the item is authentic. Hershel Shanks, a strong proponent of the Ivory Pomegranate artifact points out that it is impossible to prove any ancient inscription is authentic. Even with discoveries made at proper excavation sites the possibility of a forgery still exist. All we can do is look at each piece of evidence and determine if there is any evidence of forgery. In this case, there does not appear to be any evidence, and thus the artifact could in fact be an authentic relic from Solomon's temple.


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The Veil of Veronica - True Image of Jesus

What is the Veil of Veronica

The Veil of Veronica was first mentioned in the 4th of 5th century and has since become most associated with the Stations of the Cross. The Veil is believed by some to hold the image of Jesus' face, obtained while Jesus was being taken to the cross. The remarkable story, if true, would make Veronica's Veil one of, if not, the most valuable and sensational relics of all time. As with any relic or artifact of this kind, it is shrouded in mystery and has no shortage of critics. 

A nearly two thousand year old artifact prompts many questions. Is the Veil real? Where did it come from? Why and when did it become associated with the Stations of the Cross? Who is Veronica, and why was she chosen to receive the Veil? Does the Veil still exist, and if so, where is it today?   

Via Dolorosa

Cross of Jesus
The story of Veronica's Veil starts near the end of Jesus' earthly ministry. On Good Friday Jesus was condemned to death and eventually lead to Calvary where He was crucified. As a condemned prisoner Jesus was paraded through the streets of Jerusalem in full view of the people, some of whom ridiculed Him, others were His followers. The passage through Jerusalem to Calvary is traditionally known as the Via Dolorosa.  Visitors to Jerusalem today can follow the traditionally pathway Jesus took through the old city.

During the middle ages a new tradition began which was done in remembrance of the path Jesus walked. This procession not only remembered the route Jesus walked, but also the events of the entire day. These became known as the Stations of the Cross. The original tradition had only seven stations. Around 1731 these were expanded to fourteen which are still celebrated in many Christian churches today.

Stations of the Cross

  1. Jesus is condemned to death.
  2. Jesus takes up His cross.
  3. Jesus falls for the first time.
  4. Jesus meets His mother.
  5. Simon of Cyrene helps carry cross.
  6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
  7. Jesus falls for the second time
  8. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
  9. Jesus falls for the third time.
  10. Jesus is stripped of His garments.
  11. Jesus is nailed to the cross.
  12. Jesus dies on the cross.
  13. Jesus is taken down from the cross.
  14. Jesus is laid in the tomb.
(The original 'Stations of the Cross' only included numbers 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 11 and 14)

Each of the fourteen stations of the cross recount a significant event on Good Friday. It begins when Jesus is condemned and concludes with Jesus being laid in the tomb. Of the fourteen stations of the cross, there are five which are not specifically mentioned in the Bible. These include the stations which recount Jesus falling three times as well as Jesus meeting His mother and His encounter with a woman named Veronica.

In some versions of the Stations of the Cross number 13 includes Jesus being taken down from the cross and laid in His mother's arms. While this is possible, the Bible does not specifically tell of this event. The Bible simply tells us that Joseph of Arimathea took Jesus' body down and buried Him. We know Jesus' mother Mary was at the crucifixion so she may have held her Son one last time, but it is not mentioned in the Bible. Also not mentioned in the Bible is the person of Veronica who is named in Station 6 when she wipes Jesus' face. 
 

Who was Veronica?

A quick search of the Bible does not find anyone named Veronica. While no Biblical reference exist, we do have early church tradition. We in fact do not need to look for a person named Veronica, since that was not the woman's name. The name, or term, Veronica comes from Vera Icon which means "True Image", sometimes called the Sudario. 

[Sudario - means a canvas or other cloth which was used to cover the face of a dead person.]

Early church tradition tells us the woman associated with the veil is the same woman Jesus healed of a prolonged bleeding problem. This miracle is recorded in the Gospel of Matthew. In the Eastern church the woman who would become Veronica is known as Berenike. In the western church she is given the name of Martha of Bethany.

'And behold, a woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years came up behind Him, and touched the border of His cloak; 21 for she was saying to herself, “If I only touch His cloak, I will get well.” 22 But Jesus, turning and seeing her, said, “Daughter, take courage; your faith has made you well.” And at once the woman was made well.' - Matthew 9:20-22

It would seem the woman who has become known as Veronica, may have had a history with Jesus. He had healed her of a long term physical ailment and it is reasonable she became a follower. Being a follower and in His debt, Veronica may have wanted to repay at least a portion of her debt. Veronica could not save Jesus from the cross, and she could not relieve His pain, but she did what she could to comfort Him and take away a very small part of the ridicule He was experiencing. 

Angel Holding the Veil of Veronica

Veronica is mentioned in the Apocryphal book known as "The Acts of Pilate" which was written sometime in the 4th or 5th century. The story of Veronica however, did not become well known until much latter. In approximately 1844 a Carmelite nun reported having a series of visions of Jesus and Mary. In these visions the nun, Sister Marie of St. Peter, claimed to have seen Saint Veronica wiping away the spit and mud from Jesus' face. Sister Marie reported that Jesus spoke to her in the visions and told her, "Those who will contemplate the wounds on My face here on earth, shall contemplate it radiant in heaven." While these reported visions helped bring the Veil of Veronica much more attention, the legend of Veronica's actions had been well known for several centuries prior to the visions.

The veil, and the image it held, were revered and many artist copied the image in their paintings. Eventually, in the year 1629, Pope Urban VIII prohibited any new copies to be made and he even ordered all known copies to be destroyed. The Veil of Veronica would eventually be taken out of the public eye and misplaced. It is reported that in the 17th century the Veil of Veronica was discovered in a hidden relic chamber which had been built by Bernini in one of the piers supporting the dome of St, Peters.  

Some scholars believe the Veil is not an authentic but is instead a copy of the image on the Shroud of Turin. They believe this could be the reason for the term "True Image" associated with the Veil. Interestingly, if this is in fact true, it pushes the date for the Shroud of Turin back to at least the 4th or 5th century when the first recorded mention of the Veil is recorded. This would be in direct contrast to tests which say the Shroud could not have been made before the middle ages. (Note: New tests show the Shroud may indeed be a 1st century artifact.)

Mandylion of Edessa

Some people associate the Veil of Veronica with another similar relic known as the Mandylion of Edessa. Both of these relics are acheiropoietons and both hold what many believe is an image of Jesus. While similar, these two artifacts have very different stories.

[Acheiropoieton - a religious relic or icon which was not crafted by the hands of man. These icons are considered miracles and are beyond the realm of science. In most cases these involve images of either Jesus or His mother Mary. Perhaps the best known acheiropoieton is the Shroud of Turin.]

The Mandylion of Edessa was considered the most important relic in Constantinople. It was reportedly brought to Constantinople on August 15th in the year 944 by Emperor Romanos I. Legend tells of a Prince who wished to meet Jesus but was unable to travel to Jesus. The Prince sent a servant to request Jesus to come to the Prince. Jesus declined, but wiped His face on a cloth which He gave to the servant to take back to the Prince. When the Prince received the cloth he found it held the image of Jesus' face. 

A second legend is also associated with the Mandylion of Edessa. Rather than Jesus being visited on the road by a servant of the Prince, it is reported that Jesus wiped his face while in the Garden of Gethsemane. After His agony in the garden, Jesus wiped his face and it resulted in the image of His face being transferred to the cloth. Regardless of which legend is considered, they are both referencing a completely different event and relic than the Veil of Veronica.

Where is Veronica's Veil?

As mentioned earlier, Veronica's Veil was misplaced for a period of time. When and where it was found, if it was found, is disputed by many. While there are many stories and theories concerning the current location of the Veil, four locations are most closely associated with the Veil, but a number of these are known to be copies. 

1) Matilda Chapel in the Vatican - Kept in a small chapel in St. Peter's Basilica, the Vatican claims to have the original Veil of Veronica. The Veil is not accessible to the public but it is displayed, so to speak, once a year. On the fifth Sunday of Lent the Veil, still in its frame, is brought out onto the balcony above the statue of Saint Veronica. From the floor below it is impossible for the onlookers to make out any details.

In 1907 an art historian was allowed to view the Veil of Veronica up close. The Veil was even removed from its heavy metal frame for a better viewing. He later reported he could not make out an actual face. Instead, there were two faint rust-brown stains that were connected. The material itself was much lighter in color and reportedly faded by age. It the historian's report is accurate, even if this is the authentic Veil of Veronica, it would seem there is not much to see.

2) Hofburg Palace in Vienna - This Veil is not the original, nor does it claim to be. It is a copy of the original painted by P. Strozzi. He was hired by the Vatican to make six copies of the Veil in 1617. While this is certainly not the original it does offer hope the original is still in existence. Rome was sacked in 1527, so if this copy was made in 1617 it would indicate the original Veil survived the sacking of Rome.

3) Jaen Cathedral in Spain - The Veil of Veronica housed in this Cathedral is another copy. It was acquired by Bishop Nicholas de Biedma for the Cathedral in the 14th century. The copy is displayed on Good Friday and the Feast of the Assumption. Known as the Santo Rostro, the copy is also displayed in a chapel beside the cathedral every Friday for 90 minutes.

4) Monastery of the Holy Face in Alicante Spain - This Veil, known as the Holy Face of Alicante was acquired by Pope Nicholas V in 1353 and then given to a Spanish priest who took it to Alicante. Upon its arrival in Alicante the relic was credited with ending a long drought. There are some who believe this Veil is the original which was originally in the Vatican before being gifted to the monastery. Proponents of this being the original Veil make a very strong and persuasive case, but others find it unlikely the Vatican would have ever given away such an iconic artifact. 

There are other claims to the Veil but all are lacking credibility. It seems most likely that if the Veil of Veronica still exists, or if it ever existed, it is the cloth which is housed in the Vatican. While there is certainly a possibility the Veil could be real, there is no mention of it, or even the encounter between Jesus and the woman, in the Bible. While tradition has it place and can help put things into proper context, it would seem such an important event, had it taken place, would have been recorded in one or more of the gospel accounts. 

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