Corroboration of events in the OT

What if any events mentioned in the Old Testament have any independent corroborating evidence for their authenticity?

I assume that the esteemed is referring, at least obliquely, to the controversies that erupted with The Bible Unearthed and its challenges to Old Testament descriptions of the power and significance of Israel and Judeah. I found the book and the argument fascinating, but it seems to have dropped off the radar to some degree (not surprising, given the difficulty in “comfort levels”).

If anyone has a case to make, I am eager to hear it, esp. if cites are profusely offered. Right now, I’m leaning to the revised opinion, that the descriptions of Israel’s power and significance are largely mythical.

I’m pretty sure that Babylon did invade and occupy Judea. Do you mean historical events happening during the time the Bible was being written, historical events long before the Bible was being written, or miracles?

The majority of Biblical events are not documentable from other sources – reasonable, since the Books of Samuel and Kings are abridged versions of the contemporary histories, preserving what aspects people felt worth recalling after the reign was over. Obviously none of the supernatural events from Genesis are documentable – Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, the Flood, the Tower of Babel*, the assortment of events in the lives of the Patriarchs. There is very little evidence of the remainder of the Pentateuch, Joshua, or Judges, or of the lives of any of the prophets. The stories in Esther and Daniel, set in the royal courts of Babylonia and Persia, are not paralleled by anything in those countries’ history.

There are a few historical markers here and there: a reference to the House of Omri (a king of the Northern Kingdom) in Assyrian chronicles; an inscription about the Bene Dauyd (“sons of David”-- i.e. the Royal House of Judah); the Moabite Stone of Mesha, which makes reference to warfare with Israel. But effectively there is no external documentation of much of anything from the Old Testament.

  • the Tower of Babel is a special case: there’s pretty good consensus that the historical analog on which the fabulous story was founded was the Great Ziggurat of Babylon – but the Biblical tower hardly matches that still-existent (unless the U.S. Army has destroyed it lately) historical ruin in any significant way.

elucidator I actually have no idea about what The Bible Unearthed is having never heard of it before, but appreciate the politeness of your message. Could you point me to a decent site about the controversy. (I guess Wiki would have something, but I wouldn’t know if it were accurate or not).

Polycarp thanks, is there so little archaeological evidence for the existence of the Kings of the Israelites? Are there so few contemporary pottery shards naming King David, Solomon, or others.

Is this an expected lack of evidence, or is it considered unusual for so little archeological evidence to have been found. Considering the seemingly large amount of evidence for Gilgamesh and the cities mentioned in the story of him?

Were the Babylonians good record keepers like the Egyptions seem to have been?

The Bible Unearthed

Wikipedia article

Brief summary by the authors

Review from Harper’s

Old GD thread discussing the book

Another GD thread (go to post #39)

Western culture has placed the Bible in a unique position, revering it as possibly the single most important historical document. Many people believe that every every word is true, or at least wish that to be so. Others maintain that if even part of it is fiction, then it’s all suspect.

This opens up a larger question: that of how ancient history is verified in general.

(bolding mine)

How do we know whether the Assyrian chronicles or the Moabite Stone are fact or fiction? How do we determine the fact/fiction status of any historical document?

Well, the OP asked for corroboration, not definitive proof.

Well, definitive, incontrovertible proof gets harder and harder to come by the further back in history one goes. I suppose its all a matter of degree.

What I’m getting at is: how do we evaluate the fact/fiction status of any historical document? Do historians apply the same standards to all historical documents, or does a higher standard apply to the Bible because of the status Western culture has given it? If the authors made up stories about various Israeli and Judean kings, might not the Assyrian documents also contain various combinations of fact and fiction?

For me and ancient history, it boils down to how do we really know what we know?

Yes – but if they agree on some point and there’s no reason to suppose the one derived from the other, then it suggests that point might be factual.

OTOH, we have good reason to doubt the events described in Exodus are factual, precisely because there is no mention of them in Egyptian records or histories, and such catastrophic events would almost certainly be mentioned if they happened.

I would nominate a strong contender to be:

Isaiah 20
1 In the year that the supreme commander, sent by Sargon king of Assyria, came to Ashdod and attacked and captured it
There really isn’t any doubt today - after 1847 when we discovered his ginormous palace - that Sargon II (722 BC-705 BC) was an Assyrian king whose forces fought against Asdod and took it… and took most of Judea as well but that is another story.

[nerd hat on]
Sargon is a Star Trek Character (a bad one at first)
[/nerd hat off]

Good wiki place to start – but there are no cites for most of these – you need to take the wiki editor’s word for a lot of them.(I am suggesting more research is needed - don’t take the editor’s word for it).

I just wish the History Channel would stop running “documentaries” which cite Biblical passages as historical fact.

Poly has pretty much covered it. There is little corrobration for pre-exhilic Biblical events and virtually nothing before Omri. There is the disputed Tel Dan Inscription which may or may not refer to a “House of David.” That’s pretty much the entirety of archeological evidence for David.

The Bible Unearthed links should give you an idea of where the archaeology is right now. The books of Genesis and Exodus, in particular, have kind of fallen by the wayside as far as scholarly belief that they document any literal history.

We start by looking at the possible motives of the author. Is the author making a serious effort to record history, or is the author possibly jazzing up the facts in the interest of national myth-building or propaganda or proselytization?

(The Bible is not the only suspect text in this regard. For example, ancient accounts of battles are usually presumed to exaggerate the numbers of the enemy forces.)

Then we look for corroboration from other sources- for example, contemporaneous written records or the archaeological record.

No. The Bible is subjected to the exact same standard as any other ancient text. That’s what drives traditionalists crazy.

One thing I can tell you is that all supernatural claims of any sort are automatically assumed to be ahistorical no matter what the text.