It was the trip of a lifetime.
We had enjoyed a gorgeous yet brutally hot day in Jerusalem and were now in the City of David located to the south of what is known as the Old City and the Temple Mount. Just to my right were the Kidron Valley and the Mount of Olives which sits to the east of the city. The Upper Room where Jesus and the disciples ate the Last Supper was a few hundred yards away up the hill to my left.
After leaving supper, Jesus’s group would have traveled from there to the Garden of Gethsemane, which is located somewhere on the Mount of Olives. Therefore, the most direct route would have taken them down the steep and rocky slope into the Kidron Valley just across from where I was standing. Only a hundred or so feet away, I saw some old stairs uncovered during the excavation of the City of David. These stairs were roughly dated to around the time of Christ and could have been used by the group to travel from the Upper Room to the garden on the night Jesus was betrayed.
The intersection of archeology and the Bible was the most fascinating and encouraging aspect of my trip to Israel – the land where the Bible comes alive. Our group visited many amazing sites while we were there. This site was underwhelming compared to many other locations; however, I was overwhelmed by the knowledge that Jesus may have walked those well-worn stairs. While there was nothing special about the ground or those stone steps, this place is where God and man came together—the natural and mundane met the supernatural.
Lack of Evidence for the Bible?
There is a steady drumbeat in our culture and in the mainstream media that the Bible cannot be trusted. They trot out expert after expert saying that we should understand the Scriptures like any other ancient text – a good source of history and possibly wisdom – but we cannot trust them as the inerrant word of God. They say that the Bible is full of contradictions and modern archaeology has disproven much of it. In an editorial column posted in the USA Today, Oliver Thomas, a retired Baptist minister admonishes:
“Here’s the corner we have painted ourselves into. The Bible says it. I believe it. That settles it. Yet, the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures did not float down from heaven perfect and without error. They were written by men, and those men made mistakes.”
As logical men and women, we must answer these obvious questions. Can we trust the Bible? Was it written by God or by men? Is it perfect and without error, or is it full of contradictions? Does archaeology disprove it? We cannot answer all of these questions in this post, but we will briefly explore the intersection of archaeology and the Bible.
Archaeological Evidence for the Bible
Many people do not realize the many amazing discoveries which confirm the veracity of the Bible. Many of these would give Christians high confidence in the canon of scripture if they were better known.
Before 1948, Israel did not exist as a sovereign nation. The area had been part of the Ottoman Empire from 1517 to 1917. When World War I ended in 1918, the British took control and governed Palestine as a military authority until 1922. At that time, the League of Nations awarded them the mandate to govern and prepare its citizens for self-government.
Before Israel became a nation, archaeological digs were generally not allowed. So, there were many seeming contradictions in Scripture compared to what could be empirically proven. Doubters pointed to the lack of archaeological evidence as proof that the Bible is full of myths and contradictions; therefore, we cannot trust it.
For example, in Mark 10:46, Jesus had an encounter with a blind man named Bartimaeus. In Mark’s account, he says that Jesus was leaving Jericho when he encountered the blind man while Luke describes Jesus as approaching the city. Surely, this contradiction disproves the Bible, right?
In another example, many have said that there is a lack of evidence for King David’s life and reign. In a sense, this is true, however, as is often mentioned in the world of biblical archeology, “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”
The Bible confirms that David existed and ruled Israel circa 1101–971 B.C. In other words, the Bible speaks of a man named David the son of Jesse who ruled in Israel for thirty years. Despite the Scripture’s affirmation of his reign, cynics point to an absence of archeological finds particularly in the city of David. This area is on the hillside just below the Temple Mount where the city sat during David’s reign. Admittedly, there is a dearth of clear evidence for a monarch of David’s purported stature though there is some.
However, the story does not end there…
Archeology Proves the Bible!
The apparent contradiction in the Bartimaeus story shows that the Bible contains errors, right? Well, not so fast! Modern archaeology has demonstrated that there are two different locations for Jericho – the old walled portion which existed in Joshua’s time and the newer city which was settled in the NT era. Therefore, the description of Jesus’s movements depends upon one’s perspective, so there is no contradiction at all. And, as a bonus, excavations at Old Testament Jericho show two walls which have fallen outward save for one small section which stands intact. I will leave you to study the story of Rahab to see the significance of this incredible find.
Concerning David, contrary to what the skeptics say there have been some stunning finds which prove that he existed just as the Bible describes.
Before 1993, many people doubted David’s existence because there was zero archeological evidence of his life. At best, they say he was merely a tribal chieftain which is a far cry from the Bible’s glorious description of him as a king who united the nation under his rule and led Israel on brilliant military campaigns as they routed many of their foes.
In 1993, the Tel Dan inscription was discovered at the site of Tel Dan in northern Israel. This stone was a fragment of an upright slab or column called a stela which typically bore commemorative inscriptions such as we would see on a gravestone. This stela contained an inscription which commemorated the victory of an Aramean king over his two southern neighbors described as the “king of Israel” and the “king of the House of David.” This incredible find is the first giving clear evidence of a ruler named David.
On the stela, the Aramean king boasts that he conquered several thousand soldiers who were outfitted with horses and chariots. Then, he defeated both kings of the northern and southern kingdoms all as the god Hadad guided him. The stela does not contain the actual names of his vanquished foes, but most scholars believe that the stela commemorates a campaign of Hazael of Damascus in which he defeated both Jehoram of Israel and Ahaziah of Judah. This find is stunning and proves that David not only existed but was a national ruler just as the Bible depicts!
The Bible is True!
These archaeological finds are just two of the many archaeological proofs of the Bible, which give us the confidence of the truth of the word of God. However, outside of these proofs, we can have an assurance that the Scriptures are true. Jesus proclaimed to His Father in John 17:17, “Sanctify them in truth, Thy word is truth” and the Apostle Paul declared to Timothy his protégé, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16).
We can have great confidence in the truth of the word of God because it was inspired by God—literally God-breathed. Peter described this process by saying that “no prophecy of scripture was ever borne of human impulse; rather men carried along by the Holy Spirit spoke from God (2 Peter 1:21).
So, we should not be surprised that slowly but surely archeology has proven the Bible to be true. As Christians, we should have great confidence that God’s word is accurate because God cannot lie. Even so, we should rejoice every time a discovery such as a stone fragment proves that our confidence in His word is not misplaced.
On that hot day in Jerusalem, I was rejoicing as I contemplated Jesus and His disciples descending those worn old steps before they traversed the Kidron valley and ascended the Mount of Olives exactly as the Bible describes. It also tells us that on the next day, Jesus would die on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins. Moreover, on that coming Sunday, he would rise from the grave!
While we can have certainty in these facts through the witness of Jesus’s disciples, we can also find great encouragement that archeology has enhanced our understanding of these great truths. For this, we can be very thankful!
 Thomas, Oliver (2019, April 29). American churches must reject literalism and admit we go it wrong on gay people. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2019/04/29/american-church-admit-wrong-gays-lesbians-lgbtq-column/3559756002/
 History.com editors (2018, August 21). Palestine. Retrieved from https://www.history.com/topics/middle-east/palestine
 Llewellyn, Tim (1998, April 20). The return of the Jews to the promised land. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/events/israel_at_50/history/78597.stm
 West, Jane C. “Jerusalem’s Stepped-Stone Structure.” Ten Top Biblical Archaeology Discoveries. Ed. Joey Corbett. Washington D.C. Biblical Archaeology Society. 2011.
 Biblical Archaeology Society Staff (2019, May 2). Retrieved from https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-artifacts/the-tel-dan-inscription-the-first-historical-evidence-of-the-king-david-bible-story/
 Wood, Bryant (2008, June 09). The Shiloh Excavations. Retrieved from: https://biblearchaeology.org/research/conquest-of-canaan/3625-the-walls-of-jericho?highlight=WyJ3YWxscyIsIndhbGxzJyIsIid3YWxscyIsIid3YWxscyciLCJvZiIsIidvZiIsIm9mJyIsImplcmljaG8iLCJqZXJpY2hvJ3MiLCInamVyaWNobyIsImplcmljaG8nIiwiJ2plcmljaG8nIiwid2FsbHMgb2YiLCJ3YWxscyBvZiBqZXJpY2hvIiwib2YgamVyaWNobyJd