The writers of the Bible strove to be accurate in what they wrote.
For example, Luke, the writer of the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, carefully investigated the life of Jesus and the history of the early church that he records. This is how Luke explains his careful historical research: “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught. (Luke 1:1-4 NIV)
Luke traveled with the Apostle Paul, and it is likely that, as he traveled, he interviewed eyewitnesses to the life of Jesus. His detailed writing indicates that he had access to primary sources, including Mary, the mother of Jesus. Of the Gospel writers, he is the one who gives the most detailed account of the nativity. He mentions Mary twelve times—more than any of the other Gospel writers—and he includes the story of Elizabeth, the cousin of Mary, who gave birth to John the Baptist. For his account of the history of the early Church in Acts, besides his own first-hand knowledge of many of the events he records, he would have been able to get first hand accounts from the other Apostles and personalities of the early Church that his travels and associations brought him in contact with.
Where the Bible records historical detail, it has been found to be accurate in its record. Luke accurately records details of the people, places, dates, and events he writes about. The famous archaeologist, Sir William Ramsay, traveled to Asia Minor in order to prove that Luke was an inferior historian. However, after retracing the steps of Paul’s missionary journeys, he concluded: “Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy, he is possessed of the true historic sense; in short, this author should be placed along with the greatest of historians.” A.N. Sherwin-White looked at Luke’s references to thirty-two countries, fifty-four cities, and nine islands, and found no mistakes. If Luke was careful to accurately record names, places, and dates, we can be confident that he was also accurate in recording the facts of Jesus’ life.
Likewise, the many historical details, including of kings and pharaohs and places and customs, that are found in the Old Testament prove the Bible’s accuracy. Consider the following twenty-five archeological and historical discoveries that support the Biblical record:
1. The oldest known inscription of the name “Yahweh” was written by the Egyptian Pharaoh Amenhotep III c. 1400 BC. The inscription refers to a nomadic group of people who worshiped “Yahweh” (undoubtedly, the Israelites). It was found in Soleb, a town in modern day Sudan.
2. The Merneptah Stela was carved c. 1210 BC and contains the earliest reference to “Israel” in hieroglyphs. It was found in Thebes in 1896.
3. The Tel Dan Stela was written in Aramaic in the ninth century BC. It refers to the “House of David.” It was found on the site of the ancient city of Dan in northern Israel in 1993. This artifact is now in the Israel Museum.
4. The invasion of Pharaoh Shishak into the land of Israel (c. 925 BC) mentioned in 1 Kings 14:25 has been confirmed by wall carvings in the Karnak Temple complex in Egypt.
5. The Kurkh Monolith is a seven-foot-tall limestone monument that was discovered in 1861 in Kurkh, Turkey. It was carved c. 852 BC by the ancient Assyrians and refers to a battle with Ahab, king of Israel, who is frequently mentioned in the Bible (1 Kings 16-22).
6. The Moabite Stone is a four-foot-tall monument made of black basalt that mentions the Israelite King Omri and Moabite King Mesha (both mentioned in 1 and 2 Kings). It also refers to “Yahweh.” Carved in the Moabite language c. 835 BC, this primary historical source is now in the Louvre.
7. The Obelisk of Shalmaneser III, a six-and-a-half foot-tall was monument in black limestone from c. 827 BC, pictures an Israelite king bowing to the king of Assyria. The cuneiform text on the obelisk reads, “Tribute of Jehu, son of Omri.” Both of these kings are mentioned in the books of 1 and 2 Kings.
8. In 1904, a jasper seal (eighth century BC) was discovered at Megiddo that reads, “belonging to the Shema, servant of Jeroboam.” Two Israelite kings by this name are mentioned in the Bible (1 Kings 12-14; 2 Kings 14).
9. What is referred to as “Hezekiah’s tunnel” was built by that King of Judah in 700 BC. in order to bring water into Jerusalem (2 Kings 20:20). The tunnel has been found with an ancient Hebrew inscription.
10. The Sennacherib Prism mentions Sennacherib’s attack on King Hezekiah that is recorded in 2 Kings 19:9. The prism was found in 1919 and is now in the Oriental Institute Museum at the University of Chicago.
11. The siege of Lachish, mentioned in 2 Kings 18-19 was documented on a wall relief found in Nineveh. It is now in the British Museum.
12. 2 Kings 19:37 mentions an Assyrian king named Esarhaddon. A ten-foot monument commemorating a victory in Egypt was made in the seventh century BC, and was found in 1881 in Zinjirli, Turkey. It can be seen in the Museum of the Ancient Near East, Pergamum Museum, Berlin.
13. The Esarhaddon Prism, from c. 673 BC, is named after this same Assyrian king. The prism mentions “Manasseh king of Judea” who can be read about in 2 Kings 20 and 2 Chronicles 33.
14. Pharaoh Tirhakah is mentioned in the Bible in 2 Kings 19:9 and Isaiah 37:9. A wall carving that has a picture of the Pharaoh from the seventh century BC was found in the Edifice of Tirhakah in the Egyptian city of Luxor.
15. According to 2 Kings 25:29-30, King Jehoiachin of Judah was given a regular alliance from the king of Babylon. This historical detail is confirmed by a clay tablet written in the Akkadian language (c. 595-570 BC) that was found in Babylon in 1900.
16. Belshazzar, a Babylonian king, is mentioned in the Book of Daniel—see chapters 5 and 8. Clay cylinders in the Akkadian language that mention his name were found in the city of Ur in the nineteenth century and can now be seen in the British Museum.
17. A silver scroll written in 600 BC contains the oldest known quote from Hebrew scripture taken from Numbers 6:24-26. It was found in 1979 in Jerusalem and is now in the Israel Museum.
18. The Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1947 and 1956 at Qumran near the Dead Sea. They were originally written c. 200 BC to AD 70. Portions of every book in the Old Testament (except Esther) were found. The nearly complete text of the book of Isaiah proves that it was accurately transmitted for more than a thousand years.
19. King Herod, who plays a significant role in the narratives around the nativity and childhood of Jesus, is a well-documented historical figure, infamous for his ruthlessness. The execution of John the Baptist, recorded in Matthew 14, is also mentioned by the Jewish historian Josephus.
20. The emperors of Roman history are accurately recorded in the New Testament including Augustus (27 BC- AD 14; Luke 2:1), Tiberius (14-37 AD; Luke 3:1), and Claudius (41-54 AD; Luke 11:28, 18:2).
21. A house, thought to be the home of the Apostle Peter, was found under the ruins of a church in the village of Capernaum during excavations in 1968 and 1998.
22. The pool of Siloam, mentioned in John 9:7, was found in 2004.
23. A slab of limestone from 30 AD and found in 1961 on the site of the Roman port of Caesarea Maritima (in Israel) mentions “Tiberium Pontius Pilate Prefect of Judea.” This is undoubtedly the same Pontius Pilate who sent Jesus to his death (Matthew 27).
24. Mars Hill, where Paul preached in Acts 17, can still be found in the center of Athens, Greece.
25. The ancient theater of Ephesus where Paul preached in Acts 19:29 can still be seen today. It seats up to twenty-four thousand people. His preaching of the Gospel caused a riot as the people of Ephesus responded to him by chanting “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” (Acts 19:34). The importance of the ancient city as a site for the worship of this pagan goddess is well documented in history and the archeological record. A nine-foot-tall marble statue of the goddess can be seen at the museum in Ephesus.
Instances of archeological and historical evidence for the accuracy of the Bible abound. The above are only a few examples of why the Bible is reliable where it documents history. If the books of the Bible are accurate in the areas we can check, then this indicates a strong possibility that they are also accurate in the areas we cannot check.
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About the Author: Dr. Daniel King is a missionary evangelist who has traveled to over seventy nations in his quest for souls. His goal is to lead 1,000,000 people to Jesus every year through massive Gospel Festivals, distribution of literature, and leadership training. Because of his experience and research on evangelism, he is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading experts in mass evangelism. As an evangelist, he has a deep interest in using apologetics to convince skeptics that God is real.