Archaeology has been called “the Bible’s best friend,” a statement that reflects the long history of discoveries supportive of the biblical record. From the discovery of the Cyrus Cylinder in 1879, to the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947, to the Pool of Siloam in 2004, archaeology has worked hand in hand with Bible scholars to provide an independent witness to the truth of God’s Word.
Of course, there are some archaeological discoveries that seem to contradict the Bible. What then? Is it archaeology or the Bible that is in error? In such cases we remember that archaeologists are people, too, with their own limitations, biases, and proneness to error. Once an artifact is found, its existence and its location must be interpreted, and it is the process of interpretation that is liable to mistakes. Many secular archaeologists used to say that David was a legendary figure, on par with King Arthur, rather than a historical king. Rather, that was their position until they found the Tel Dan Stela, a basalt stone dating from the 9th century BC bearing David’s name and identifying him as king of Israel. So, up until the stela was found, archaeology did not overtly support the Bible’s references to David. But, eventually, an archaeological find showed that the Bible was true all along. David was a real person who was king of Israel, and archaeological naysayers turned out to be wrong.
Many more archaeological discoveries have substantiated events and people in the Bible. In fact, archaeology has on many occasions provided tangible evidence for exactly what the Bible records. Egypt’s invasion of Israel (1 Kings 14:25); the Assyrian siege of Lachish (2 Kings 18-19); the trade relations between Israel and Sheba (1 Kings 10); the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem; and the reigns of Kings Omri, Ahab, Uzziah, Hezekiah, Ahaz, Jeroboam II, and Jehoiachin (1 and 2 Kings)—all are recorded in the Bible and all have been confirmed by archaeology. And the previously mentioned discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, one of the most significant finds of the 20th century, was decisive proof of the reliability of the Bible’s manuscripts.
Christians should understand that we cannot prove that the Bible is true scientifically. No amount of archaeology will ever “prove” the Bible to skeptics. But that should not cause us to doubt God’s absolute truth. God is the author of history, and we are assured that His record of history is an accurate account of what happened. Of course, not everything that happened in history was written in His record. Only those things were recorded that further God’s revelation of Himself and are profitable to us “as examples and . . . warnings” (1 Corinthians 10:11).
In case after case, archaeology eventually catches up with the biblical account, and archaeology and the Bible come into agreement. As Christians, we must be patient and not let our faith in God’s Word be troubled by the theories of men. Archaeology has never proved the biblical account to be wrong, although, in some cases, it lacks the evidence to prove the biblical account right. As archaeologists continue to dig, we will have more and more external evidence to substantiate the historicity and truthfulness of the Bible’s record.
For more information, see our article on Christian archaeology.