Ouria Tadmor Eilat Mazar
Atheists tend to see the Old Testament as an easy target when it comes to Biblical skepticism. They expect that the many miraculous events and displays of God’s power will be easy to disprove. To their chagrin, however, archaeology and other scientific disciplines have been uncovering increasing amounts of evidence that support the Jewish and Christian claim that the Old Testament describes not fairy tales but actual historical events.
Asteroid Impact at KofelsOne of the most incredible stories in the Bible is the tale of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The two cities were overwhelmingly sinful and were, according to Genesis, smited by God in a hail of near-literal fire and brimstone. Skeptics liked to characterize the events as fanciful and overwhelmingly unlikely. Then, a clay tablet that had frustrated archaeologists for over a century was finally translated. The tablet contained an eyewitness account of an asteroid strike. Upon further investigation, the asteroid in question was found to have impacted at Kofels in the Austrian Alps. The meteorite fragmented before hitting the mountains and thus did not leave a traditional impact crater. Another one of its unusual features was that the meteor was unusually low-flying. Rather than falling from high in the atmosphere at a steep angle, it hurtled along close to the earth’s surface. This spelled disaster for anything and everything nearby. The land under its trajectory would have been subjected to temperatures of more than 750 degrees Fahrenheit. It would have ignited everything and everyone in its path. To make matters worse, the explosion that ripped it apart would have thrown debris back over an area of nearly 400,000 square miles. In addition to temperatures so high that pottery at Tall el-Hammam was melted into glass and flaming chunks of asteroid that fell on the cities of ancient Israel, the shockwave from the explosion would have pushed the water of the Dead Sea over its banks and into the nearby communities in a hypersalinated tsunami. The water was then absorbed by the soil meaning that at Sodom and Gomorrah, God literally salted the earth.
The HyksosSkeptics have pointed out before that it is strange that there are no Egyptian records of Joseph, the man who supposedly saved the nation from a catastrophic famine. There are a variety of theories that explain why Joseph would not have been recorded in Egypt, including one that a man named Imhotep with a very similar story was actually the name Egyptians used for Joseph. One popular theory for why the Egyptians did not know of Joseph, however, is that Joseph was not actually advising the Egyptian pharaoh. He was advising the Hyksos pharaoh.
The Hyksos were a group of invaders who conquered portions of Egypt and established their own dynasty in Avaris. When the Hyksos were eventually forced out of the Nile delta by the Egyptians, the remaining allies of the Hyksos might well have been enslaved, including the descendants of the man who saved their civilization from famine.
Semitic Pottery in EgyptRegardless of how the Israelites were enslaved, science supports the fact that there were Semitic peoples enslaved in Egypt. Pottery that matches Israelite styles but not Egyptian has been found in Egypt, and a leather scroll from the time of Ramesses II describes the manner of brickmaking used by slaves. The method sounds almost exactly like that described in the biblical account. The scroll even states that there were taskmasters watching over the slaves who were given a specific quota of bricks to create.
Unfortunately, the mud-brick buildings of the Nile delta were known for “melting” back into the mud and silt of the area, so there are no surviving samples of the bricks created by the slaves. There are, however, a number of scrolls and paintings that show foreign slaves using straw in mudbricks or working under Egyptian overseers, just as described in Exodus.
Tel Dan SteleWhen in doubt, claim that people did not exist, or so some skeptics seem to think. This was the case with David and the entire line of Israelite kings. There were no neon signs advertising their existence, so skeptics felt comfortable claiming that the entire lineage was a folk tale. Then, a broken stele was unearthed at Tel Dan. The stele was written by a king bragging that he had defeated “the king of Israel” and “the king of the House of David.” Skeptics have tried to argue that the David described on the inscription is a place, not the famous king of the Bible, but most scholars and archeologists have accepted the inscription as hard proof that David and his dynasty did exist.
The Lion GateAccording to skeptics, the writers of the Old Testament did not just invent a fictional dynasty, they also created a whole race of people for their fictional kings to battle. The joke, however, was on skeptics when the Lion Gate and other Hittite monuments were discovered near the Euphrates River. Atheists had claimed that the Hittites were simply a creation of the Israelites, but excavations uncovered the capital of this ancient empire. Hittite monuments, exquisitely carved gates and artifacts were found as well as thousands of cuneiform tablets that described the culture, history and language of a people who once controlled an empire that stretched from Turkey to Syria.
The Old Testament is a popular target for atheists and biblical skeptics simply because it seems too incredible to be true. The idea of fire raining down on a sinful city or an entire people leaving slavery at once is overwhelming. Still, science has increasingly supported the words of the Old Testament. It simply goes to show that when God is involved, even the impossible becomes possible.