Posts Tagged Archaeology
“Why should we consider the stories of Osiris, Dionysus, Adonis, Attis, Mithras, and the other pagan mystery saviors as fables, and yet come across essentially the same story told in a Jewish context believe it to be the biography of a carpenter from Bethlehem?”
— Timothy Freke / Peter Gandy, The Jesus Mysteries
This idea has been popularized by authors like Dan Brown and an internet movie called Zeitgeist; all of which claim essentially the same thing: the Christian concept of Christ was a mere copy of other pagan gods. In light of this, let’s examine some of their so-called “facts”.
Horus According to Zeitgeist:
– born on December 25th
– born of a virgin called Mary
– star in the east rose when born
– three kings adorned him
– teacher at twelve
– ministry at thirty
– had twelve disciples
– referred to as the “lamb of God” and “the light”
– dead for three days
– was then resurrected
The Actual Facts of Horus:
1a. Horus was born to Isis; there’s no mention of Isis ever being called “Mary”.
1b. Mary is an anglicized version of ‘Miryam’; so it wouldn’t make sense for an ancient Egyptian goddess to be called an anglicized name.
2. There is no reason to think that Isis was a virgin. There is no textual indication that while she was married to Osiris she remained abstinent. Therefore, the burden of proof is on the person making the claim that she was a virgin; not the other way around.
3. Of the three different birth dates Horus was arbitrarily assigned one does land on December 25th, but who cares? The tradition that December 25th is the date of Christ’s birth did not occur until the 4th century A.D. and was linked to the celebration of the Winter Solstice. The Bible never even assigns a date of birth for Christ!
4a. There are no texts that talk about three kings visiting Horus at his birth.
4b. There is no mention of the number of magi visiting Jesus in the New Testament.
4c. They weren’t called kings; they were actually magi (lit. “king-makers”) in the New Testament.
4d. The magi didn’t even visit at Jesus’ birth. Jesus was most likely around one or two at the time of magi’s visit.
5. There is no document that states that a star rose in the east that lead the undocumented three “kings” to Horus’ non-virgin birth.
6. No account of Horus being a teacher at the age of twelve.
7a. Horus was definitely not “baptized”.
7b. First of all, the term is misused; baptism refers to the ritual washing that the Jewish people started performing during the second Temple period; long after the legends of Horus.
7c. The only Horus and water incident was when Horus was torn to pieces and Isis asked for the crocodile god to retrieve his remains.
8. Horus certainly did not have a ministry of teaching on earth. Even if he did, he certainly would not have preached the same thing as Jesus did. The Egyptians didn’t have any doctrines of salvation, nor did they have a comprehensive understanding of the nature of their own gods.
9. He did not have twelve disciples, but instead had four minor gods that were followers. There is also some textual indication that he had sixteen human followers and a group of blacksmith’s that followed him into battle.
10a. Horus could not have been crucified because crucifixion originated in around 600 B.C; long after the Horus legends were written.
10b. Horus’ death is described as him being dismembered and his body parts were scattered throughout the earth. Another story states that Horus’ torn pieces of flesh were put into a river.
11. Horus obviously did not die a death for spiritual atonement of the sins of the world.
12. Horus was not buried for three days. Instead, he was dismembered and did not rise for a long period of time.
13. There are no accounts of a bodily resurrection. There are texts that state that he was miraculously healed from a poisonous scorpion sting, but nothing that comes even remotely close to what Christ went through.
14. “Great God”, “Chief of the Powers”, “Master of Heaven”, and “Avenger of His Father” are the only titles ever given to Horus. Titles like “Lamb of God” and “the light” are completely unique to Jesus.
Horus is obviously a legend from a different culture and a different time. There is absolutely no relation to the historical figure of Christ at all. There’s simply no comparison; they contradict on every main characteristic.
Want to learn more about Horus and the other Egyptian gods and goddesses? Here’s the Egyptian Book of the Dead from which much of my data stems from.
Is the Bible a book of fairy tales describing fake events in imaginary places? Uhh, no. Not only is there archeology that confirms the Bible, the Bible is used to confirm archeology!
The Bible Used To Explain Archaeological Finds…
In their book, When Skeptics Ask, Geisler and Brooks talk about a pretty fascinating archaeological find:
The excavation of Gezer in 1969 ran across a massive layer of ash that covered most of the mound. Sifting through the ash yielded pieces of Hebrew, Egyptian, and Philistine artifacts. Apparently all three cultures had been there at the same time. This puzzled researchers greatly until they realized that the Bible told them exactly what they had found.
Some archeologists found it interesting what the Bible had to say about this:
For Pharaoh king of Egypt had gone up and captured Gezer, and burned it with fire, and killed the Canaanites [Philistines] who lived in the city, and had given it as a dowry to his daughter, Solomon’s wife. So Solomon rebuilt Gezer… (1 Kings 9:16-17).
So the Bible tells us that the Egyptians captured and burned down Gezer in which the Canaanites were living. Later, the Egyptians gave the city to Solomon – who rebuilt it. This explains the fact that “a massive layer of ash” covered the site and “yielded pieces of Hebrew, Egyptian, and Philistine artifacts”.
No wonder the Smithsonian Institution’s Department of Anthropology has an official statement on “The Bible As History” that says:
… much of the Bible, in particular the historical books of the old testament, are as accurate historical documents as any that we have from antiquity and are in fact more accurate than many of the Egyptian, Mesopotamian, or Greek histories. These Biblical records can be and are used as are other ancient documents in archeological work. For the most part, historical events described took place and the peoples cited really existed.
But, Wait! There’s More!
A seven-foot stele named the Israel Stele, engraved with hieroglyphics, boasts of an Egyptian pharaoh’s conquest of Libyans and peoples in Palestine, including the Israelites. As the stone states: “Israel — his seed is not.” This is the earliest reference to Israel in non-biblical sources and demonstrates that, as of c. 1230 BC, the Hebrews were already living in the Promised Land and were recognized as an independent ethnic group.
A commemorative hieroglyphic carved on the walls of the Temple of Amon at Thebes tells of Shishak’s conquest of Judah under Rehoboam’s rule ( confirms 1 Kings 14 and 2 Chronicles 12 ).
A three-foot stone slab called the Moabite Stone, tells of the repulsion of king Mesha by the Israelites ( confirms 2 Kings: 3).
On a six-and-a-half-foot black obelisk found in Nimrud, a depiction of Jehu, king of Israel, is kneeling before the Assyrian king, Shalmaneser III (confirms 2 Kings 9-10). This is the only depiction of a Hebrew monarch ever discovered.
A burial plaque, discovered on the Mount of Olives, reads: “Here, the bones of Uzziah, King of Judah, were brought. Do not open.” King Uzziah is mentioned in 2 Chronicles 26.
In addition to these finds, Jericho, Haran, Hazor, Dan, Megiddo, Shechem, Samaria, Shiloh, Gezer, Gibeah, Beth Shemesh, Beth Shean, Beersheba, Lachish, and many other biblical sites have been discovered. Such excavations are extremely significant in demonstrating that fact, not fantasy, is intended in the Old Testament historical narratives; otherwise, the specificity regarding these urban sites would have been replaced by “Once upon a time” narratives with little to no description of actual historical sites.
The list goes on and on and on….
The New Testament…
The NT is constantly confirmed by archaeology. Instead of listing names of places, I’ll give two of the most common rejections of the NT’s historical accuracy.
The Census and Quirinius:
(1) There was no such census, (2) Quirinius wasn’t the governor at that time, and (3) people didn’t have to return to their ancestral geographic location (like Bethlehem).
(1)We know that the Romans held a census every 14 years and that it was started by Augustus. (2) An inscription found in Antioch tells of Quirinius being governor of Syria around 7 B.C.. (3) A papyrus tells us about the Roman census:”Because of the approaching census it is necessary that all those residing for any cause away from their home should at once prepare to return to their own governments in order that they may complete the family registration of the enrollment…”
Iconium a city of Phrygia?
Many archaeologists believe that Luke was completely wrong by saying that Iconium was a city of Phrygia because they believe that Phrygia was actually within Lycaonia.
Xenophon, who marched with Cyrus’ expedition through Phrygia, calls Iconium the last city of Phrygia. Other ancient authorities who knew the local conditions speak of Iconium as Phrygian.
These rebuttals shows that Luke, yet again, proves to be an excellent historian.
The New Testament, especially the writings of Luke, is filled with accurate historical data. So much that the studies of both archaeology and ancient history alike have been very impressed. The famous archaeologist and once skeptic Sir William Ramsey wrote, “Luke is a historian of the first rank . . . this author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.” The classical historian A.N. Sherwin-White writes, “ … for Acts the confirmation of historicity is overwhelming … any attempt to reject its basic historicity even in matters of detail must now appear absurd. Roman historians have long taken it for granted.” The discoveries of the archaeologist, the pen of ancient Christian historians, and tens of thousands of ancient manuscripts provide evidence that the Bible is a volume which is historically reliable and that its text has been preserved in a pure form. In other words, it is trustworthy.
|Author||When Written||Earliest Copy||Time Span||Number of Copies|
|Caesar||100-44||900 A.D.||1,000 yrs.||10|
|Plato (Tetralogies)||427-347 B.C.||900 A.D.||1,200 yrs.||7|
|Tacitus (Annals)||100 A.D.||1,100 A.D.||1,000 yrs.||20|
|also minor works||100 A.D.||1,000 A.D.||900 yrs.||1|
|Pliny the Younger (History)||61-113 A.D.||850 A.D..||750 yrs.||7|
|460-400 B.C.||900 A.D.||1,300 yrs.||8|
(De Vita Caesarum)
|75-160 A.D.||950 A.D.||800 yrs.||8|
|480-425 B.C.||900 A.D.||1,300 yrs.||8|
|Sophocles||430-406 B.C.||1,000 A.D.||1,400 yrs.||100|
|Lucretius||Died 55 or 53 B.C .||1,100 yrs.||2|
|Catullus||54 B.C.||1,550 A.D.||1,600 yrs.||3|
|Euripedes||480-406 B.C.||1,100 A.D.||1,500 yrs.||9|
|Demosthenes||383-322 B.C.||1,100 A.D.||1,300 yrs.||200*|
|Aristotle||384-322 B.C.||1,100 A.D.||1,400 yrs.||5**|
|Aristophanes||450-385 B .C.||900 A. D.||1,200 yrs.||10|
|*All from one copy. **Of any one work.|
|From Josh McDowell, Evidence That Demands a Verdict, rev ed. (San Bernardino, Calif.: Here’s Life,1979), p. 42.|
The boring chart above shows the bibliographical test in which historians seek to determine how many and how far apart the copies of ancient literature are. As you can see, on average, there are only 20 copies of each book and the average year apart is about 1,000 years. In contrast to this, the New Testament documents have both a staggering quantity of manuscripts and a very short time span apart (this increases it’s internal veracity). There are approximately 5,000 Greek manuscripts, 8,000 manuscript copies of the Vulgate (a Latin translation done by Jerome from 382-405 A.D), and more than 350 copies of Syriac (Christian Aramaic) versions of the New Testament (c. 150-250 AD). On top of this, the entire new Testament could be reproduced from various citations in other works (mostly early church fathers). So you can see, there’s a bunch out there. What about the span of time between known copies? Well, many of the manuscripts are very early. The John Rylands manuscript (c. 120) found in Egypt, contains a couple of verses from John. The Chester Beatty Papyri (c.200) contains major portions of the New Testament. The Codex Sinaiticus (c. 350) contains virtually all of the new Testament. The Codex Vaticanus contains virtually the whole Bible (c. 325-350). All of these are well under the average time of 1000 years. However this, of course, does not prove the authenticity of the Bible alone. What it does show is that we can comfortably believe in an accurate representation of the New Testament. And by comfortably, I mean very comfortably because the New Testament sits very high above the other manuscripts of antiquity.
Another form of internal criticism lies on these conditions: the document is a private letter or intended for small audiences. The absence of these qualities do not, however, diminish the documents historical standing. All they do is increase the documents prima facie acceptance. Much of the New Testament, especially the apostolic letters and some of the sources behind the Gospels, is made up of personal letters originally intended for individuals and small group and thus the NT is much easier to accept historically.
Some Eyewitness Help…
Acts 1:21-22 (NIV): “21 Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, 22 beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”
Passages like this qualify the statement that being in an apostolic position requires eyewitness status (another one is found in Hebrews 2:3). This, compounded with the fact that the NT authors claimed to be eyewitnesses (Luke 1:1-4; Gal. 1; 2 Peter 1:16), makes a very good case that the NT was written to record actual events by actual witnesses. C. H. Dodd has argued that the chronological order of Jesus’ ministry as it is given in the sermons parallels nicely to the order given in Mark’s Gospel. This shows the NT authors were interested in fine historical detail. Furthermore, Paul himself showed great interest in biographical details of Jesus’ life (Rom. 15:3, 8; 2 Cor. 8:9; Phil. 2:6-11).
Arguments For The Eyewitnesses…
1) Under the burden of proof, one must show that a historical document is false. They can’t just assume. Immanuel Kant supports this by stating that a general presumption of lying is self-refuting, since if such a presumption is universalized (one always assumes someone is lying) lying becomes pointless (lying is impossible without a general presumption of truth telling). Thus we have good reason to believe in the historicity of the NT, unless proven otherwise.
2) Did the witnesses have anything to gain from it? Nope. In fact they all suffered a life of hardship, rejection from their own community, and died martyr’s deaths (2 Cor. 11:23-29). People will die for what they believe to be true, but no one will die for what they know to be a lie. Look at human nature throughout history. No conspiracy can be maintained when life or liberty is at stake. Dying for a belief is one thing, but numerous eye-witnesses dying for a known lie is quite another. And for what? Nothing at all.
3) The presence of fake eyewitnesses would have killed the spread of Christianity. Why? Because Christianity originated, and remained for sometime, in the various areas Jesus had ministered. If the early portrait of Him was untrue, how could the apostles have succeeded there? They would have been run out of town and the birth of the “cult” would have been choked. If Jesus did not exist, there should not have been such a rapid growth of the early Church in Jerusalem. It would like me knocking on your door and telling you that you had a new neighbor and went even further by saying he was the president, you would easily find out that this was wrong (yes, that was a terrible analogy, but you get the point). This is exactly like the early Christians in Jerusalem, they could easily find out that this man never existed on the basis that he supposedly ate, slept, and taught in the very place they lived in (not to mention the resurrection). Secondly, why would they have begun there in the first place? It would have been much easier to start in a place where nobody had an opinion on Christ or the apostles, for that matter. One of the last places a fake religion flourishes is in the place where it claims that the residence saw miraculous signs.
4) The time between Jesus’s death and the writing of the gospels is just too short for legend interpolations to happen. This point has been well-explained by A. N. Sherwin-White in his books on Roman society and law in the New Testament. According to Sherwin-White, the sources for Roman and Greek history are usually biased and removed one or two generations or even a couple centuries from the events they purport to record. In the face of this, he says, historians (like himself) reconstruct with confidence the course of Roman and Greek history. As an example used by many, the two earliest biographies of Alexander the Great were written by Arrian and Plutarch 400+ years after Alexander’s death, and yet classical historians still consider them to be trustworthy documents. In fact the legend filled accounts of Alexander occur almost exactly two generations after the earliest biographies. According to Sherwin-White, the writings of Herodotus enable us to determine the rate at which legend accumulates, and the tests show that even two generations is too short a time span to allow legendary tendencies to wipe out the hard core historical facts. When Professor Sherwin-White turns to the gospel accounts, he states that for the gospels to be legends, the rate of legendary accumulation would have to be “unbelievable.” More generations would have to be necessary for legend to creep in. This point is corroborated by the fact that the fanciful apocryphal writings of Jesus appeared in the 2nd century AD – almost exactly around the time biasness was predicted to creep in by Sherwin-White.