It would be extremely difficult for the honest skeptic to dispute the overwhelming archaeological support for the historical accuracy of both the Old and New Testaments. Numerous items discussed in the Bible such as nations, important people, customary practices, etc. have been verified by archaeological evidence. Bible critics have often been embarrassed by discoveries that corroborated Bible accounts they had previously deemed to be myth, such as the existence of the Hittites, King David, and Pontius Pilate, just to name a few. The noted Jewish archaeologist Nelson Glueck summed it up very well:
It may be stated categorically that no archeological discovery has ever controverted a single biblical reference. Scores of archeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or in exact detail historical statements in the Bible1.
When compared against secular accounts of history, the Bible always demonstrates amazing superiority. The noted biblical scholar R.D. Wilson, who was fluent in 45 ancient languages and dialects, meticulously analyzed 29 kings from 10 different nations, each of which had corroborating archaeological artifacts. Each king was mentioned in the Bible as well as documented by secular historians, thus offering a means of comparison. Wilson showed that the names as recorded in the Bible matched the artifacts perfectly, down to the last jot and tittle! The Bible was also completely accurate in its chronological order of the kings. On the other hand, Wilson showed that the secular accounts were often inaccurate and unreliable. Famous historians such as the Librarian of Alexandria, Ptolemy, and Herodotus failed to document the names correctly, almost always misspelling their names. In many cases the names were barely recognizable when compared to its respective artifact or monument, and sometimes required other evidence to extrapolate the reference2.
I believe one of the more overwhelming testimonies regarding the depth of archaeological evidence for the New Testament is in the account of the famous historian and archaeologist Sir William Ramsay. Ramsay was very skeptical of the accuracy of the New Testament, and he ventured to Asia minor over a century ago to refute its historicity. He especially took interest in Luke’s accounts in the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts, which contained numerous geographical and historic references. Dig after dig the evidence without fail supported Luke’s accounts. Governors mentioned by Luke that many historians never believe existed were confirmed by the evidence excavated by Ramsay’s archaeological team. Without a single error, Luke was accurate in naming 32 countries, 54 cities, and 9 islands. Ramsay became so overwhelmed with the evidence he eventually converted to Christianity. Ramsay finally had this to say:
I began with a mind unfavorable to it…but more recently I found myself brought into contact with the Book of Acts as an authority for the topography, antiquities, and society of Asia Minor. It was gradually borne upon me that in various details the narrative showed marvelous truth3.
Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy…this author should be placed along with the very greatest historians4.
The classical historian A.N. Sherwin-White collaborates Ramsay’s work regarding the Book of Acts:
Any attempt to reject its basic historicity even in matters of detail must now appear absurd. Roman historians have long taken it for granted5.
Archaeological discoveries ranging from evidence for the Tower of Babel, to Exodus6, to the fallen Walls of Jericho, all the way to the tombs of contemporaries of St. Paul, have greatly enhanced the believability of the Bible. Though this vast archaeological evidence does not prove God wrote the Bible, it surely must compel the honest skeptic to at least acknowledge its historical veracity. For the believer its yet another reassuring testimony to the reliability of the Bible. In the words of the University of Yale archaeologist Millar Burrows:
…Archeological work has unquestionably strengthened confidence in the reliability of the scriptural record. More than one archeologist has found respect for the Bible increased by the experience of excavation in Palestine7.
1. Nelson Glueck, Rivers in the Desert, 1960, pg 31
2.The Veracity of the Old Testament: A Scientific Validation, by Scott Jones, 1997
3. William M. Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveler and the Roman Citizen, 1982, pg 8
4. William M. Ramsay, The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament, 1915, pg 222
5. A.N Sherwin-White, Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament, 1963, pg. 189
6. See our blog post on Evidence for the Exodus. An excellent documentary on this evidence is Patterns of Evidence: The Exodus, available here or on Netflix.
7. Millar Burrows, What Mean These Stones, 1941, p 1