At first the ancient cities were the targets of study, but soon there were found names and places that are in the OT. Persian governors spoke through their letters and Egyptian Pharaohs in gold-lined coffins can now be identified. Scholars found rich discoveries about the neighbors of the early Israelites. Reliability of the Bible has been affirmed in a number of important areas, substantiating the claims of the Bible.
Mostly the goal is to verify some specific biblical events that were doubted or ridiculed. Another is to help explain biblical culture and practices. When an apparent conflict exists, rather than conclude that the Bible is wrong, it is best to admit the problem exists and hold it open to further discoveries.
Sources for archaeologists:
There have been over 25,000 sites excavated in the Holy Land. Some sites the names have changed and others have remained the same for 3500 years, like Damascus.
How can these finds be dated?
Cities were rebuilt on top of the previous one. Fashions of pottery change. King’s had inscriptions on temple door hinges, and the names of the gods were written. Sumerian scribe had a catalogue system. A few miles from Ur there was found an inscription of a king with an unknown name, of the first dynasty of Ur, which the scribes speak as the third dynasty after the great flood. This is 3100 years before Jesus and 1000 years before Abraham.
Places could not be identified until in 1933 a party of Arabs unearthed a stone statue that revealed a name of an elaborate palace called Mari (covering six acres and 260 rooms). 20,000 cuneiform tablets were found describing the culture. Another city, Nuzi, east of Mari on the Tigris River, discusses the customs that Abraham faced in Genesis 15:4 and Genesis 16:1-2, regarding Ishmael and Isaac. Hammurabi’s code required the slave’s child be kept, which was preempted by God’s command for Hagar to flee with Ishmael.
Writing in the patriarchal times:
The city of Ebla has the most extensive discovery unearthed in the New East, dating back to the third millennium BC. It was a modern city, a highly developed culture. There was a room that had been burned, discovered in 1975, with 20,000 clay tablets on the floor; 5000 years of history. We know that biblical history took place in a world where writing was common.
The biblical kings:
Solomon’s splendor had been questioned, the large navy with no suitable coastline for a harbor. An army of 1400 chariots, and 1200 horses. Huge building projects… confirmed by excavations.
Solomon’s gold – 1 Kings 10:21
The description is breathtaking – 1 Kings 6:21-22, 9:11. This is not a scribe’s exaggeration, but a reflection of ancient times.
A conflict described:
In 1868, the Moabite Stone was discovered and the local Arab men thought they could get better prices by selling more pieces, so they heated it and then poured on cold water to break it. The archaeologists had already made an impression of the stone so the story was not destroyed. Chemosh is confirmed – 1 Kings 11:33, 2 Kings 23:13, Jeremiah 48:3. The stone also mentioned the God Israel, YHWY.
Daniel and Belshazzar:
Daniel names Belshazzar as the last king of Babylon, while Nabonidus is named in ancient Babylonian documents. Later discoveries were that Nabonidus removed himself for a ten-year stint in Arabia, leaving his son Belshazzar in charge, for all purposes he was the king. Prior to the Babylonian chronicles, Daniel is the only one that named Belshazzar as the king.
New Testament accuracy:
This is not so much digging for ancient civilizations, but finding written documents, with public or private inscriptions: shopping lists, private notes, legends on coins. Turns out the NT Greek was very similar to the language of the common people.
Luke took history very seriously and was right on all accounts. He includes many lines of historical details – Luke 2:1, 3:1.
No pious forgery:
Paul’s timeline confirmed at Felix’s replacement by Festus (Acts 24:27) in Nero’s fifth year, before October AD 59. Jerusalem was destroyed in AD 70 and a new pagan city was built on the site in AD 130. Keith Schoville, “Archaeological excavations have produces ample evidence that the Bible is not a pious forgery.” Basically, he says the Bible has never been proven false.