By: Kenneth L. Vine

Once ridiculed as a collection of tribal myths,

 the Bible stands today confirmed as the world’s

 most reliable ancient history.

* * * * * * * *



We were on an archaeological dig in the Middle East, and the wind had whipped up the ancient powder of crumbling bricks and had settled it all over our perspiring bodies. What a sight!

But we didn’t care at this great moment what we looked like, for we were straining to see the new find. It was not gold or silver, but something in the mosaic floor of a building destroyed in A.D. 640.

There in the middle of the floor, encircled with a ring of black mosaic, was an inscription in large capital Greek letters directly quoted from Romans 13:3, “Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise.”

Bible discovery

We were digging at the ancient site of Caesarea, built by Herod the Great to be a masterpiece of architectural planning and beauty. Today, nearly 2,000 years after Herod’s death the ancient city is but a mound covering 8,000 seaside acres.

At one time Caesarea housed 700,000 people and was the proud capital of Palestine.

Here in Caesarca was the governor’s palace of the Procurator Pontins Pilate. Here, too, proud Herod Agrippa I came to speak one day in the theater. Josephus tells us that he was dressed in a “garment made wholly of silver, and as he rose to speak the silver caught the sun and flashed with dazzling splendor in the eyes of the waiting people. Accustomed to worshiping the sun-god Helious, the superstitious audience immediately declared him a god. -----Acts 12:22.

The applause was still ringing through the hall when Agrippa was suddenly smitten by the angel of the Lord ---Acts 12:23. Five days later he “ gave up the ghost.” The archaeologists spade has found the very theater where Herocl was smitten! It was not very far from where we were working.

Caesarea was the home of Cornelius and his family, the first Gentile converts of Peters ministry. —Acts 25. Here the apostle Paul defended his faith, appealed to be tried by Caesar, and finally left on his journey to Rome. ---- Acts 25.

What a thrill it was to be digging up history where so many events of the early church took place. Ettsebius, the noted church historian, was bishop here in the fourth century A. D. We could go on and on proclaiming the fame of the place. But to us the greatest thrill was to see how the archaeologist’s spade so often brought to light artifacts and tablets that helpe(l confirm faith in the Bible, God’s revelation to man.

I was thtinkiuig of this one night as I lay on my bed after a hard days digging. My mind went back to the time when archaeologists were digging in Iraq, a part of ancient Mesopotamia. They found clay tablets--—the writing material of ancient Mesopotamia---—which, when deciphered , proved to be lists of the ancient kings of Assyria.

To the surprise of these scholars, nowhere in the king lists could they find the name of Sargon, the great king mentioned by Isaiah in chapter 20. Search as they might in all the historical materials of the day, Sargon’s name appeared only in Scripture. This led to the unfortunate conclusion that whoever wrote Isaiah 20 didn’t know his history, for there was no evidence for the existence of King Sargon. . Isaiah, obviously, must be wrong.

flood of materials was written by ranking scholars using this and other “facts” to undermine faith and confidence in the validity of Isaiah as inspired Scripture. This resulted in destroying the faith of many people, not only in Isaiah but in the rest of the Bible as well. It was a high day for the unbelieving critic.

The French vice-consul in Mosul, Iraq, at this time was Paul Emil Botta, an amateur archaeologist. One day a peasant knocked on his door and offered to sell him a clay tablct he had found. The first thing Botta noticed was the name Sargon. He was so excited that he arranged with the peasant to show him exactly where he had found the tablet.

The peasant led him to Khorsabad, about 14 miles north of Mosul. Here Botta found a mound and made arrangements for an immediate archaeological campaign. Tablets, inscribed clay cylinders, and alabaster bas-reliefs proved that the mound covered the palace and capital city of Sargon, king of Assyria from 722 to 705 B.C. Sargon had completed the destruction of Samaria and had scattered the ten tribes of the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 B. C. Yet he had been so completely overlooked by ancient literature that his name had been forgotten. Except, of course, for Isaiah 20:1. Isaiah had remembered him. And Isaiah was right. The Bible was vindicated again!


Then my mind went to the king lists of ancient Babylon. Clearly the last king of neo-Babylon was Nabonidus , yet Daniel 5 tells us that Belshazzar was ruling on that fateful night when Babylon fell.

I saw again the consternation on the face of Belshazzar as a hand appeared, as if from nowhere, and wrote those fateful words upon the wall: “MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHABSIN.” Daniel, quickly called to the banquet, interpreted the flaming letters: “God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. -----Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting. .....Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.” ---- Daniel 5:25-28. Then Belshazzar made Daniel the third ruler of Babylon.

Was the story not true ? Bible-believing Christians were told it was not. Books and articles repeated the condemnation, to the frustration of many Christians. For years the validity of the book of Daniel was denied. Then two major clay documents were unearthed, and they showed that Nabonidus was indeed the last official king of Babylon. But that wasn’t all that those clay documents revealed! Because Medo-Persia was rapidly rising to power, Babylon’s major trade routes to India were cut off, so Nabonidus conjured up a plan. 

In the third year of his reign he transferred the rulership to his son, Belshazzar, and then left Babylon for Tema in Arabia, hoping to open up new trade routes there. As long as he lived he remained officially the king of Babylon even though Belshazzar actually reigned in the city of Babylon. Seventeen years after Nabonidus left for Tema, Belshazzar held his great feast, and the city fell. Nabonidus, with a small army, rushed to within a few miles of Babylon to help his son but was defeated and killed.

Thus, Daniel was right, and the king lists were right. Naboniclus was the last official king, and Belshazzar was ruling in Babylon. why was Daniel promoted by Belshazzar to be the “third ruler in the kingdom” (Daniel 5:29) instead of the “second”? Because Nabonidus was first; Belshazzar was second; “third ruler was the highest promotion possible at the time.


Continuing to reminisce, my mind went back to 1947 when a young bedouin boy, Muhammed ed-Dhib, was throwing stones as he watched his goats and sheep. He had little else to do. It was hot in the Jordan Valley. A heat haze hovered over the Dead Sea. In the side of the hills bordering the sea Muhammed saw a hole. A good target, he thought, and proceeded to test his throwing skills.

Could he get a stone into that hole? He could, and did! But, to his surprise, after the stone entered the hole he heard what sounded like pottery smashing. Fear gripped him. Had his stone invaded the habitation of some local spirit? He ran quickly to his bedouin encampment and told a ciose friend what had just happened.

The friend was far less superstitious. Together the boys returned to the spot to investigate, and with considerable difficulty entered the small hole. Inside was a dark cave. As their eyes adjusted, they saw that indeed the stone had broken pottery. With the broken pieces of pottery, moreover, there were dried up rolls of leather and other materials that had been contained within the jars. Also, as their eyes became thoroughly accustomed to the darkness, they saw whole pottery jars tanding around, some with lids. Excitedly they opened them, but to their great disappointment found some to be empty and others to have more dried up rolls of material. They had hoped fo r gold and jewel s bu t had found only “useless”


They decided to take a pot with some materials to their tent. The father saw no real value in any of the items but planned a trip to a business friend of his in Bethlehem. In the back of the little store he showed the items to his dealer friend, who assured him that they had but little or no value. To cut a long story short, the items were passed from one person to another for small sums until eventually their real importance came to light.

As the items of dried materials were carefully studied, they were found to be early manuscripts of Books of the Old Testament in Hebrew, along with non-Scriptural works. When the bedouin tribesmen found that there was value in their discoveries, they kept secret the location of these items and did as much searching as they could of the original cave and then looked for others. Eventually archaeologists located the area and systematically excavated 11 caves, with the result that today we have portions of every book in the Old Testament except the book of Esther.

In addition, the archaeologists found fascinating works describing the life and beliefs of the little community a t Qumran to whom the manuscripts belonged.

The task of persuading the bedouin people to bring the items in their possession to light so that they could be studied has resulted in some success, but also in what must be the world’s most difficult jigsaw puzzle. The bedouin were offered nearly three dollars for every square half-inch of material they submitted. This turned the scrolls (for that is what the materials were) into a type of bank account. When the bedouin needed money, all they had to do was break off enough square half-inches of scroll to cover their financial needs.

This way they were assured of income for some time to come, but it made one inglorious task for the scholars. I wish you could come with me someday to the scrollery to see the hundreds and hundreds of small pieces of manuscript, under glass, that scholars are trying to put back together.

But what is so important about these scrolls and all these bits of manuscripts? Until 1947 the oldest copies of the original Hebrew manuscript of the Bible dated back only to the tenth century A. D. These cave scrolls, however, have been dated by scholars back to the second century B.C., thus pushing the history of the Old Testament text back 1,100 years.


This was a miracle of preservation, because it was a Jewish custom that when a scroll became old a new one was copied with extreme care, was checked and rechecked to be sure that no error in copying had taken place; then the old one was dutifully burned to save it from falling into unclean hands. Thus in the ordinary course of events the only scroll to survive was the one currently being used.

What then had happened that the scrolls from the caves near the Dead Sea had survived so long? Why had they not been burned to save them from falling into alien hands?

The Dead Sea Scrolls, for that is what they are currently called, used to be the library of a small monastic group called the Essenes who lived in the little community at Qumran. In A.D. 68, when the Romans were on their way to Jerusalum via the Jordan Valley, the community sought to hide their library by putting the scrolls in pots, sealing them, quickly stashing them away in caves, and then running for their lives.

The Essenes did not escape the Roman anger and were completely destroyed, so that no one remained who even knew their library had been hidden. There the scrolls sat through the centuries, and God watched over them so that they would be an outstanding witness to the reliability of the Scriptures.

Comparison of the Dead Sea Scrolls with the much later tenth century Hebrew manuscripts has revealed no significant differences between the two.

Archaeology has thrown light on the validity of most facets of the Scriptures, so that the believer can now say with confidence that while “the grass withereth” and the “flower fadeth,” “the word of our God shall stand for ever. ----- Isaiah 40:8.

                                                                        Kenneth Vine was participating

in a dig at Caesarea when a mosaic

                                                                        Bible text was unearthed.



February 1974. Vol. 101, No . 2 (pgs. 2 - 5)

                    A publication of the

                              Seventh-day Adventists

                              Pacific Press Publishing Association,

                              1350 Villa Street,

                              Mountain View, California 94042

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