The science of archaeology has done much to confirm Biblical history and help us to understand the customs, culture and circumstances in Bible times. It has authenticated the ancient books of the Old and New Testament in many ways. It has shown the uniqueness of the Bible in its overwhelming accuracy compared to all other ancient writings. Proof of the Bible is not dependent on archaeology or any other scientific evidence. The Bible has the capacity to defend itself, and to give its positive message to those who seek God through its pages.
Nevertheless, archaeology has done a great deal to restore confidence in the Bible as the revealed Word of God. It has thrown a great deal of light on previously obscure passages, and has helped us to understand customs, culture, and background in many ways that seemed most unlikely to our fathers in a previous generation.
Narrator Ravi Zacharias quotes William Blake: “We now learn to listen with our eyes and think with our feelings. We are meant to see through the eye, with the conscience; when we start seeing with the eye devoid of the conscience, all kinds of belief can invade your imagination.”
Photo: The 2,700-year-old clay seal. Credit: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Israeli archaeologists have unearthed a 2,700-year-old clay seal with the name of Bethlehem, showing that the town existed centuries before it was revered as Jesus’ birthplace.
Discovered during the sifting of debris removed from archaeological excavations near the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, the coin-sized clay seal, or bulla, was imprinted with three lines in ancient Hebrew script: “in the seventh,” “Bethlehem” and “to the king.”
“It seems that in the seventh year of the reign of a king (it is unclear if the king referred to is Hezekiah, Manasseh or Josiah), a shipment was dispatched from Bethlehem to the king in Jerusalem,” Eli Shukron, director of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said in a statement Wednesday.
Belonging to the group of “fiscal” bullae, the clay seal was likely placed on a tax shipment of silver or agricultural produce such as wine or wheat, which was sent from Bethlehem to the King of Judah in Jerusalem in the eighth or seventh century B.C.
“This is the first time the name Bethlehem appears outside the Bible, in an inscription from the First Temple period (1006-586 B.C.), which proves that Bethlehem was indeed a city in the Kingdom of Judah, and possibly also in earlier periods,” Shukron said.
Located just south of Jerusalem, Bethlehem is first mentioned in the Bible in the verse “in Ephrath, which is Bethlehem.” It was there that Rachel, the matriarch of the Jewish people, died and was buried.
Bethlehem is also the setting for the Book of Ruth, and the hometown of King David, the most celebrated king in Jewish history. In the New Testament, Bethlehem is mentioned as the birthplace of Jesus.