July 2011


In 1861 archeologists discovered a 7.2’ stele recording the first six years of the reign of Assyrian King Shalmaneser III (859-824 BC).[1]  The stele is dated to dated 853 BC, and describes Shalmaneser’s campaigns in western Mesopotamia and Syria.  At the end of the stele, however, it gives an account of the Battle of Qarqar.

Twelve kings allied themselves together against Shalmaneser at the Syrian city of Qarqar, one of whom was King Ahab of Israel.  The relevant portion of the stele says, “I approached the city of Qarqar. I razed, destroyed and burned the city of Qarqar , his royal city. 1,200 chariots, 1,200 cavalry, and 20,000 troops of Hadad-ezer of Damascus; 700 chariots, 700 cavalry, 10,000 troops of Irhuleni, the Hamathite; 2,000 chariots, and 10,000 troops of Ahab, the Israelite; 500 troops of Byblos; 1,000 troops of Egypt; 10 chariots and 10,000 troops of the land of Irqanatu; 200 troops of Matinu-ba’al of the city of Arvad; 200 troops of the land of Usanatu; 30 chariots and X,000 troops of Adon-ba’al of the land of Shianu, 1,000 camels of Gindibu of Arabia; X hundred troops of Ba’asa, the man of Bit ruhubi, the Ammonite–these twelve kings he took as his allies.”

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David is celebrated as the greatest, and most famous king of Israel.  It was quite interesting, therefore, that archaeologists had never turned up any reference to David outside of Biblical records.  The absence of evidence led many to conclude that David was not a historical figure.  That changed in July 1993 when archaeologists discovered three stone fragments while excavating the city gate at Dan.[1]  The stones contained an Aramaic inscription dating to the mid 9th century BC that mentions “the house of David.”  The 13 extant lines of text read:

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A pottery shard measuring 4” x 3.5” with Hebrew writing on it showed up on the antiquities market.   It reads, “As Ashyahu the king[1] commanded you to give into the hand of [Ze]chariah silver of Tarshish for the House of Yahweh: three shekels.”

It appears to be a receipt for a donation of three shekels of silver to the “House of Yahweh,” a reference to a temple.  It is dated between 835 and 796 BC, and thus likely refers to Solomon’s temple.  If so, this receipt was written approximately 130-160 years after the Temple was built.  

Significance:

  1. This is the oldest mention of Solomon’s temple ever discovered.

[1]The identity of this king is not clear, but it could be Jehoash or Josiah since it is similar in form and both kings had a temple official named Zechariah.

Discovery News & Views has a good post on the problem sex presents for Darwinism.  No, not the act of sexual intercourse, but the origin of sexual organisms (male and female).  Asexual organisms have the ability to produce offspring at twice the rate as sexual organisms, and they never fail to reproduce on the grounds that they can’t find a mate.  Given these clear biological advantages of asexual reproduction, how did sexuality ever evolve?  How did it come to dominate in the struggle for survival?  Sexuality should have been outcompeted very early on.  Even more intriguing is the question of how asexual organisms could gradually evolve into sexual organisms without dying out in the process.  A partially formed reproductive system does not result in progeny.  Even if we find a way to hurdle the problem of a gradual transition, what is the likelihood that random mutations would create two different, and completely complimentary reproduction systems?  And what is the likelihood that this would happen at the same time?  Apparently chance is just really lucky.

A couple of new Darwinian explanations have been offered to solve this long-standing Darwinian conundrum.  The post explores these explanations and shows how they fall short of explaining what needs to be explained.  Check it out.

In 2010 Jerry Fodor, a philosophy professor at Rutgers University, and Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini, a biophysicist, molecular biologist, and cognitive scientist at the University of Arizona, published What Darwin Got Wrong.  Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini (FPP) are, by their own admission, died-in the-wool atheists and committed to a fully naturalistic account of evolutionary development.  And yet, they admit that they do not know how evolution proceeds.  One thing they are sure of is that Darwin’s account of natural selection cannot be it.  Natural selection fails as an explanation on both scientific and philosophical grounds.

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The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts recently released a video series on NT textual criticism oniTunesUniversity.  I’ve delayed blogging about it until after I could watch all the videos.  I assumed they would be superb given the presenter: Daniel Wallace.  My assumption was correct.  Not only is the content tremendous, but the video quality is great as well.  If you would like a good, well-rounded introduction to NT textual criticism, do yourself a favor and watch these videos.  You won’t be disappointed.

2 Kings 3:4-6,24  Now Mesha king of Moab was a sheep breeder, and he had to deliver to the king of Israel 100,000 lambs and the wool of 100,000 rams. 5 But when Ahab died, the king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel. 6 So King Jehoram marched out of Samaria at that time and mustered all Israel. [The account goes on to talk about an alliance with Jehoshaphat of Judah and the king of Edom.  When they run out of food and water, they consult Elisha who prophesies that the Lord will provide water for them, and defeat Moab.] 24 But when they came to the camp of Israel, the Israelites rose and struck the Moabites, till they fled before them. And they went forward, striking the Moabites as they went. … 26 When the king of Moab saw that the battle was going against him, he took with him 700 swordsmen to break through, opposite the king ofEdom, but they could not. 27 Then he took his oldest son who was to reign in his place and offered him for a burnt offering on the wall. And there came great wrath against Israel. And they withdrew from him and returned to their own land.

In 1868, at Dhiban in Jordan, archaeologists uncovered a black basalt stone measuring 3’8” x 2’3” with an inscription recording the acts of Mesha, King of Moab around 850 BC.  It contains 34 lines of text written in Moabite: (more…)

Pharaoh Shishaq's invasions recorded on the Karnak Temple

2 Chron 12:2-4,9  “Because they were unfaithful to the Lord, in King Rehoboam’s fifth year, King Shishak of Egypt attacked Jerusalem. 3 He had 1,200 chariots, 60,000 horsemen, and an innumerable number of soldiers who accompanied him fromEgypt, including Libyans, Sukkites, and Cushites. 4 He captured the fortified cities of Judahand marched against Jerusalem. 9 King Shishak of Egypt attacked Jerusalem and took away the treasures of the Lord’s temple and of the royal palace; he took everything, including the gold shields that Solomon had made.” (NET)  See also 1 Kings 14:25-26.

When archaeologists discovered the Karnak Temple of the god Amun in Egypt, on its walls there was a record of Pharaoh Shishak’s (Shoshenq I, 943-922 BC) raid of 140 different places, including cities in Judah and Israel (925 BC).  The Judahite section of the wall is mostly ruined, so we can’t see many of the names.  The engraving is dated to 924-922 BC.

Significance:

  1. Confirms the Biblical account of the invasion of Judah (the Bible does not mention Shiskak’s raids in Israel).
  2. Confirms some of the place names mentioned in the Biblical accounts.

2 Samuel 2:12-17  Abner the son of Ner, and the servants of Ish-bosheth the son of Saul, went out from Mahanaim to Gibeon. 13 And Joab the son of Zeruiah and the servants of David went out and met them at the pool of Gibeon. And they sat down, the one on the one side of the pool, and the other on the other side of the pool. 14 And Abner said to Joab, “Let the young men arise and compete before us.” And Joab said, “Let them arise.” 15 Then they arose and passed over by number, twelve for Benjamin and Ish-bosheth the son of Saul, and twelve of the servants of David. 16 And each caught his opponent by the head and thrust his sword in his opponent’s side, so they fell down together. Therefore that place was called Helkath-hazzurim, which is at Gibeon. 17 And the battle was very fierce that day. And Abner and the men of Israel were beaten before the servants of David. (ESV)

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In 1896 archaeologists discovered a stele in Pharaoh Merneptah’s mortuary temple in Thebes,Egypt.  The stele measures 10’4” x 5’4”, and is written in Egyptian Hieroglypics.  It dates to 1209-1208 BC, which places it during the time of the Judges.

The stele was originally erected by Pharaoh Amenhotep III, but later inscribed by Merneptah (1213-1203 BC), the son of Ramses II.

Mummy of Pharaoh Merneptah

And we have Merneptah’s mummy!

The stele describes Merneptah’s victories over the Libyans et al, but the last two lines mention a prior military campaign in Israel (this campaign is not mentioned in the Bible): “Canaan is captive with all woe. Ashkelon is conquered, Gezer seized, Yanoam made nonexistent; Israel is wasted, bare of seed.  (more…)

Judaism and Christianity are unique among the world’s religions in that they stand or fall on the veracity of their historical claims.  If the Exodus did not occur, then Judaism is false, because the God of Judaism is the God who revealed Himself to the Hebrew people through the Exodus.  If Jesus did not exist or was not resurrected from the dead, then Christianity is false.  Other religions may incorporate historical elements into their religion, but the religious claims of the system are not based on such historical details.  If you removed the historical elements, the philosophical, ethical, and ritual teachings would still remain.  They are able to stand on their own fully apart from any historical context.  

Given the centrality historical events play in the Judaeo-Christian religions, it is important to establish the reliability of the historical accounts in order to lend credibility to the veracity of the spiritual claims that are tied to such events.  It’s important to establish that the stories we read about in the Bible are not mere stories or myths, but genuine historical events that transpired in a specific time and locale.  Can this be done?  Yes.  The historical claims of Judaism and Christianity can be corroborated by archaeological discoveries. 

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“Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” (1 John 3:15, ESV)

When I was a young boy I spoke to my mother of hating some particular thing.  While I no longer remember what it was I expressed my hatred toward, I vividly remember the dialogue that ensued.  My mother told me I should not hate anything, to which I responded, “Well then, I dislike it completely.”

While my mom found my wordsmithing humorous, it raises an interesting question: What is the difference between a mere dislike and hatred?  How does one know when they have crossed the line from disliking someone or something to actually hating that thing or person?

Short thought. Hatred can never be self-contained. If someone is filled with hatred regarding one person, that venom will always spill over into their other relationships and poison them as well.

Mt 6:5-6  “Whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray while standing in synagogues and on street corners so that people can see them. Truly I say to you, they have their reward. 6 But whenever you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.” (NET)

Jesus’ words here have been interpreted by many to mean vocalized prayers in public settings should be avoided.  The only acceptable form of prayer in a public setting is silent prayer.  Is this what Jesus meant?  No, as Biblical examples of prayer make clear.

The first thing to observe is that Jesus went on to instruct the disciples how they should pray.  He told them they should say, “Our Father, who is in heaven…” (6:9)  Jesus’ use of the plural possessive implies that this prayer would be prayed aloud in a community setting.  There would be no need for a single person praying alone, or a single person praying silently in a group to use “our.”  In both cases “my Father” would be more appropriate.

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