This technical drawing of a stone seal depicting a kneeling diety belonged to a high government official in the service of King Uzziah of Judah. Lawrence Myktiuk, associate professor of library science, employs a system for verifying Old Testament historical accuracy by analyzing archaeological inscriptions in his new book, “Identifying Persons in Northwest Semitic Inscriptions of 1200-539 B.C.E.” (Purdue University photo/David Umberger)
Certain that there were patterns to be connected, a researcher from the Midwest region of the United States has been diligently searching for verification of people mentioned in the Bible. The Biblical figures can be confirmed by using a time consuming three-step process of matching up Biblical text with archaeological discoveries by digging through journals and carefully combing over inscriptions. A laborious task that researchers and archaeologists out in the field find little time to accomplish. Some of these Bible-connected ancient inscriptions are well known, but to catalogue the entire list is an arduous task.
With the three most recent matches, Dr. Lawrence Mykytiuk an associate professor of library science who specializes in history and Jewish studies at Purdue University, has confirmed a total of 53 persons in the Bible from the Old Testament. His latest announcement is that of Tattenai, a Persian administrator under Darius the Great; and Nebuzaradan and Nergal-sharezer, two Babylonian warriors who fought for King Nebuchadnezzar II, destroyer of the First Temple. The complete list of names is published along with details in the Bible History Daily.
Mykytiuk says that proving that someone existed does not verify all the details of their life, but it is a good start. He says of the method, “If you get the person’s name, his or her father’s name, and the person’s office or title, that doesn’t verify that they did certain things. But it can sometimes show they were in a position to do the things Scripture says they did,” he stated. “That’s often as far as you can go. Still, there are some longer inscriptions from ancient Israel’s neighbors that mention people and events in the Old Testament, just describing them from a different point of view.”
Mykytiuk explains that sometimes the complete three-step process is not needed. He illustrates an example, “…When we know that the person in an inscription and the person in the Bible are both connected to a one-time circumstance or event that fits one and only one person.”
“For example, Ahab, king of Israel, ruled during the period in which the famous battle of Qarqar was fought in 853 B.C.,” Mykytiuk said. “His Assyrian enemy wrote about ‘Ahab the Israelite,’ one of the kings he fought in that particular battle. Therefore, Ahab, king of Israel in the Bible, and Ahab, the Israelite king at the battle of Qarqar in the Assyrian inscription, must have been the same person.”
The Times of Israel highlighted another key person that has been identified. Mykytiuk’s oldest verification is of King David, who reigned around 1000 BC. He was able to see the link between 1 Samuel and the “House of David” wall inscription from the Tel Dan excavation in northern Israel.
“‘King of Israel’ was in one line,” Mykytiuk said. “The next line read ‘Melech Beit David.’ It was in Aramaic, by the enemies, the Arameans, who conquered Tel Dan and indicated a victory monument, a stele, a big sign in stone. The Israelites reconquered it, and smashed [the stele] to pieces that they used to make a wall.”
There are many places in the Bible that reference other ancient records of events and people. The efforts of Mykytiuk has helped to confirm some of these records with physical evidence.
Now the acts of King David, from first to last, are written in the Chronicles of Samuel the seer, and in the Chronicles of Nathan the prophet, and in the Chronicles of Gad the seer,– 1 Chronicles 29:29 (ESV)
And his prayer, and how God was moved by his entreaty, and all his sin and his faithlessness, and the sites on which he built high places and set up the Asherim and the images, before he humbled himself, behold, they are written in the Chronicles of the Seers.– 2 Chronicles 33:19 (ESV)
However there are many of the people in the Bible that we don’t know enough about to confirm their identity with physical evidence. “For most, all we get is a name,” Mykytiuk said. “Perhaps not more than a couple hundred have enough identifying facts in the Bible to actually identify [them] in some other written source.”
One of the scholars that holds up caution for this type of method is Marc Zvi Brettler, professor of Judaic studies at Duke University. As The Times of Israel reported, Brettler wrote in an email, “It is not surprising that certain figures who lived in [the] biblical period — though not at its beginning or middle — are also attested in non-biblical texts. But all this archeological evidence does is show that they existed. It does not prove that what the Bible says about them is true, nor does the verification of certain individuals in Kings II, for example, prove that Genesis or Judges is historically accurate.”
He continues by saying Brettler noted, “Even though David’s name is likely verified by the Tel Dan Inscription, that inscription is at least a century after David would have lived according to the biblical chronology, so all it proves is that a century or more after David might have lived, some people thought he lived, and traced a dynasty to his name. It does not prove the existence of David as a historical figure, and certainly does not verify anything said about David in any biblical book.”
Brettler also points out examples of how outside evidence can disprove (in his opinion) the accuracy of Biblical text. He says, “This is a good case, illustrating how external sources show that sometimes the Bible gets part of what happened right, and part wrong.”
One may note that the list is almost entirely made up of figures from the late portion of Israel’s history. Patterns of Evidence is seeking answers to the question of why the presence of documented figures suddenly ends around the time of David and Solomon, with this absence continuing back to earlier periods. Is this because these earlier stories are fiction (as most mainstream scholars believe) or could there be problems with some of the assumptions maintained by conventional thinking when looking at this older history?
While not mentioning a specific person, the stele erected by Merneptah the son of Ramesses II contains the second oldest known reference to the nation of Israel (right). There is disagreement over the date of this inscription and whether it was written near the time of the Israel’s conquest of Canaan or long afterward. (©2017 Patterns of Evidence, LLC)
Mykytiuk plans to work next on verifications involving the New Testament. His next article (September/October) will include 23 New Testament political figures. The list will include both men and women. So far, he has been unable to confirm any women in his Old Testament research. It is exciting to have researchers that continue to pour over the discovered evidence, carefully comparing it to the Biblical text and presenting the patterns they find. Keep Thinking!