Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A New Reference to a Biblical Figure

This story in The Times looks very interesting.  It's another one of those occasions when the discovery is made long after the excavators leave the field.

The British Museum yesterday hailed a discovery within a modest clay tablet in its collection as a breakthrough for biblical archaeology – dramatic proof of the accuracy of the Old Testament.

The cuneiform inscription in a tablet dating from 595BC has been deciphered for the first time – revealing a reference to an official at the court of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, that proves the historical existence of a figure mentioned in the Book of Jeremiah.

This is rare evidence in a nonbiblical source of a real person, other than kings, featured in the Bible.

The tablet names a Babylonian officer called Nebo-Sarsekim, who according to Jeremiah xxxix was present in 587BC when Nebuchadnezzar “marched against Jerusalem with his whole army and laid siege to it”.

The rest of the story is here.  I've been working for some years on a list of extrabiblical references to biblical people.  I'm not ready to share it, but I can tell you that it is long.

The stupid quote of the story goes to renowned scholar Geza Vermes, who said, according to the reporter, "the Biblical story is not altogether invented."  My response: there is not a fraction of evidence that it is invented at all.  Many scholars have many theories, but these are possible only because of the lack of evidence.  The more evidence, the less room for scholarly ideas about the invention of the Bible.  This observation is not based upon the above story, but upon years of study in the land of Israel.  The liberal case gets weaker the more I know.

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8 Comments:

  • Todd,

    This does indeed sound like an significant find, not least because it perhaps helps us translate the names in Jeremiah 39:3. I'm surprised there hasn't big more talk about it in the blogsphere.

    I've blogged a bit on it here:

    Most Important Biblical Archaeological Find in 100 Years?

    New Archaeological Evidence for the OT

    I welcome your thoughts.

    Phil

    By Anonymous Philip Gons, at Thu Jul 12, 09:38:00 AM  

  • You teased us with the reference to "a list of extrabiblical references to biblical people" that you are not ready to share. So when will you be ready!?

    I for one would be greatly interested in any part of that list. As a teacher of NT Survey, I would love to have such info for my benefit and the benefit of my students.

    Keep up the good work.

    By Blogger THG, at Thu Jul 12, 01:52:00 PM  

  • "On hearing of the discovery yesterday, Geza Vermes, the eminent emeritus professor of Jewish studies at the University of Oxford, said that such a discovery revealed that 'the Biblical story is not altogether invented'."

    I thought that was mildly entertaining. Perhaps Dr. Vermes would enjoy looking at your list as well.

    Just wanted to thank you, as well, for your lessons on Jerusalem Archaeology. I taught a VBS today to 5-6th graders about Jeremiah 36-39, coincidentally. I shared the "Berechiah, son of Neriah" bulla with the class...they loved it!

    David

    By Blogger David, at Thu Jul 12, 10:54:00 PM  

  • Hi Todd,

    I thoroughly enjoy your blog--thanks for all the effort you put into it.

    I was intrigued by your comment about your list of biblical people whose existence is verified from extrabiblical sources. I've been working on such a list for the last few years. Here's what I have so far, compiled from various sources:

    Bible figures confirmed by archaeology and/or historical records

    Old Testament

    Ahab, king of Israel
    Ahaz (Jehoahaz), king of Judah
    Apries (Hophra), pharaoh of Egypt
    Ashurbanipal, king of Assyria
    Azaliah, scribe
    Azariah, grandfather of Ezra
    Baruch, scribe of the prophet Jeremiah
    Balaam, Moabite prophet
    Belshazzar, coregent of Babylon
    Benhadad, king of Aram
    Cyaxares, father of Darius the Mede
    Cyrus II of Persia
    Darius I, king of Persia
    David, king of Israel
    Esarhaddon, king of Assyria
    Evil-merodach, king of Babylon
    Gedaliah, governor of Judah
    Gemariah, scribe
    Geshem, Nabatean dignitary
    Hazael, king of Aram
    Hezekiah, king of Judah
    Hilkiah, high priest
    Hophra, pharaoh of Egypt
    Hoshea, king of Israel
    Jehoiachin, king of Judah
    Jehu, king of Israel
    Jehucal (Jucal), court official
    Jerahmeel, prince of Judah
    Jezebel, wife of king Ahab of Israel
    Johanan, grandson of the high priest Eliashib
    Josiah, king of Judah
    Jotham, king of Judah
    Manasseh, king of Judah
    Menahem, king of Israel
    Merodach-baladan, king of Babylon
    Mesha, king of Moab
    Meshullam, father of Azaliah the scribe
    Nebo-Sarsekim, Babylonian official
    Nebuchadnezzar II, king of Babylon
    Necho, pharaoh of Egypt
    Nergal-sharezer, king of Babylon
    Neriah, father of Baruch the scribe
    Omri, king of Israel
    Pekah, king of Israel
    Rezin, king of Aram
    Sanballat, governor of Samaria
    Sargon II, king of Assyria
    Sennacherib, king of Assyria
    Seraiah, official of Zedekiah
    Shalmaneser III, king of Assyria
    Shalmaneser V, king of Assyria
    Shaphan, father of Gemariah the scribe
    Sharezer, son of Sennacherib
    Shebna, royal steward of Hezekiah
    Shelemiah, father of Jehucal (Jucal)
    Shishak, pharaoh of Egypt
    Tiglath-Pileser III, king of Assyria
    Uzziah, king of Judah
    Taharqa (Tirhakah), pharaoh of Egypt
    Xerxes I, king of Persia
    Zedekiah, king of Judah

    New Testament

    Annas, high priest
    Aretas IV, king of Nabateans
    Caesar Augustus, emperor of Rome
    Caiaphas, high priest
    Claudius Caesar, emperor of Rome
    Gallio, proconsul of Achaia
    Herod the Great
    Herod Antipas
    Herod Agrippa I
    Herod Agrippa II
    James, half-brother of Jesus
    Jesus Christ
    John the Baptist
    Nero Caesar, emperor of Rome
    Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea
    Quirinius, governor of Syria
    Sergious Paulus, proconsul of Cyprus
    Tiberius Caesar, emperor of Rome



    Scott Ashley
    Arvada, CO

    By Blogger Scott, at Fri Jul 13, 09:47:00 AM  

  • Thanks, Todd, for taking all the words right out of my mouth in this post! Would love to be that eloquent, but I know it must come from your extensive knowledge, which I lack!

    Regarding the lists, see also Wikipedia's short list of Biblical figures identified in extra-Biblical sources, though Scott's sounds more extensive. Nice job!

    By Blogger G.M. Grena, at Fri Jul 13, 11:22:00 PM  

  • One thing I don't like about Blogger is that it doesn't require email addresses, which makes it hard to reply offline.

    THG - the lists provided here may satisfy your interest, but if not, you can email me directly for my list.

    Phil - thanks for your blog posts. Unfortunately I haven't had time lately to post more on that discovery, but many other bloggers have.

    Thanks to everyone else for their input.

    By Blogger Todd Bolen, at Thu Jul 19, 10:47:00 AM  

  • "My response: there is not a fraction of evidence that it is invented at all."

    To the contrary, there is plenty of evidence that it includes both some historical fact and much human invention.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Jul 24, 05:11:00 PM  

  • Anonymous - the fact that you supplied no evidence and were unwilling to use your name is a poor start. But it's typical of those who advance this argument: assertion substitutes for evidence. Where is the evidence of much human invention? Show me the inscription which suggests that Jeremiah never lived (or anyone in the biblical record). Show me the artifact which suggests that priests wrote the books of Moses in 600 B.C. You can't. There is none. What you can supply is human interpretation of biblical books which suggests that portions were written later (and therefore is less than accurate). But it is interpretation and not evidence, and that is a big difference. A good book on the subject is Provan, Long, and Longman, A Biblical History of Israel.

    By Blogger Todd Bolen, at Tue Jul 24, 05:22:00 PM  

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