One of the clearest kinds of evidence about the reliability of the Bible is the evidence
provided by archaeology. The Bible contains descriptions of people, places and events,
and sometimes has descriptions with considerable detail. Archaeologists may uncover
sites which are relevant to the narrative of the Bible and when this occurs one can
compare the Bible account with the physical evidence in the ground. The correspondence
between the two is often startling.
In the Middle East ancient towns were often built on the ruins of earlier towns.
The result is a mound called a “Tell” which is the indication of long habitation.
The archaeologists dig through the tell and identify places where the ground changes;
the divisions between layers usually mark a major destruction such as a fire or the
end of a siege; they are called horizons. By matching the artefacts found inside
the different layers (often pottery fragments) archaeologists have built up a chronology
of the levels. Occasionally an inscription will be found which allows a level to
be dated even more precisely. Looking at clues of this kind, the history of the site
can be constructed.
The discoveries made in this manner can be compared with the Bible. This gives an
independent check that the accounts in the Bible are reliable. However, it is important
to remember that archaeology is a human study and that sometimes archaeologists make
mistakes. One would therefore expect a small amount of mismatch between the findings
of archaeology and the Bible, even if the Bible is 100% accurate. In reality the
degree of correspondence between archaeology and the Bible is very high.
Some of the most spectacular correspondences between the Bible and archaeological
finds include the evidence of Assyrian invasion of Judah during the reign of King
Hezekiah (around 700BC), the Moabite Stone and its account which matches the Bible
account of a campaign against Moab (2 Kings 3) and the find of houses and other buildings
in Jerusalem from the time of Jesus. These have a detailed correspondence with the
accounts in the Bible.
More controversial, but still impressive are the correspondence between the detail
of the destruction of Jericho in about 1400BC and the account of Joshua’s conquest
of the town in Joshua 6 and the multiple finds related to the reign of King David
(King of Israel just before 1000BC).
The Bible is full of incidents which are directly confirmed by archaeology and there
are very few places where archaeology appears to contradict the Bible. New finds
are often presented as undermining the Bible, but when they are fully considered
an put into context it is usually the case that they confirm rather than contradict