Is Archaeology Proving the Bible? | Opinion

In 1846—before archaeology even existed as a field—an Assyrian obelisk was discovered in what is today northern Iraq. It referred to Jehu, a ninth-century BC Hebrew king. For the first time, an archaeological find corroborated what was in the Bible, and Victorian society was electrified. But this was only the first in a torrent of similar discoveries that challenged secular claims that the Bible is a collection of made-up myths and folktales.

This trend of archaeology corroborating Biblical accounts continued so consistently that in 1959 Rabbi Dr. Nelson Glueck declared "no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference." Since then, the evidence has kept coming.

For example, in 1961 an inscription was found bearing the name "Pilate," the earliest known reference to this figure outside of the New Testament. In 1968, a first-century home in Capernaum was identified as that of the apostle Peter. In 1990 an ossuary was found bearing the inscription—and bones—of Caiaphas, the high priest who infamously pushed for Jesus's execution. In 1993, a stele mentioning the "House of David" was discovered, yanking King David out of the realm of myth and into the historical record.

But just two weeks ago, the details of perhaps the most astonishing of all such finds appeared in a lengthy, peer-reviewed paper in Nature Scientific Reports. It described the cataclysmic destruction of a Middle Bronze Age city north of the Dead Sea and represented years of research and technical analysis by 21 scientists, who likely never expected to author a paper in one of the world's most prestigious scientific journals that mentioned the destruction of the Biblical city of Sodom. But in the end, the parallels proved impossible to ignore.

For starters, the archaeologist who excavated the site had been guided there by what the Bible said about Sodom. Dr. Steven Collins knew if the place existed, this site—today called Tall el-Hammam—must be it. In 2006 he began excavating. When he and his team got down to about 1650 BC—when Sodom was believed destroyed—they uncovered a five-foot layer of soot. Randomly scattered throughout this vast "destruction matrix" were bits of melted brick, burned fragments of human bones and other baffling detritus. No volcanic eruption—or fire or earthquake—could have produced this.

The day they found it, Collins discovered the shard of a jar. A seasoned ceramic typologist, he tagged it instantly as from about 1700 B.C. But one side of it had a strange glassy green glaze. The technology to intentionally produce anything like that would not exist for another 24 centuries. What could it be? A lab in New Mexico concluded that the pottery had been melted by super-intense heat lasting a very short period of time. What would do that?

Israel archaeological site
Israeli researcher Filip Vukosavovic displays a missing section of the city wall of Jerusalem that the Babylonians encountered on the eve of its destruction in 586 BC, after it was excavated by the Israel Antiquities Authority at the City of David national park, in Jerusalem on July 14, 2021. - According to the researchers, this find connects additional sections of the wall, which were uncovered decades ago, and proves, that the eastern slope of the City of David was protected by a single impressive fortification line. Near the wall, a number of finds were uncovered such as a Babylonian stamp seal, a bulla (stamp seal impression) bearing a personal name in ancient Hebrew script as well as vessels that were in use on the eve of the destruction. Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP/Getty Images

Another perplexing fact: though the site was inhabited for millennia before the cataclysm, immediately afterward, there was a gap of 700 years before humans again settled there. Why would a site offering unmatched natural resources and military advantages be shunned for so long? It was unprecedented.

What Dr. Collins came to believe—and what the recent Nature article corroborated in extraordinary detail—is that what happened was a "cosmic airburst/impact event" very similar to what happened in Tunguska, Siberia in 1908. That's when an asteroid of about 180 feet in diameter entered the Earth's atmosphere at 34,000 mph, and exploded a few miles above that largely uninhabited region. The equivalent of 1,000 Hiroshima bombs, the 1908 blast flattened 80 million trees, and so disturbed the upper atmosphere that for three days people in London could read newspapers at midnight. The Nature article says the Tall el-Hammam explosion was likely even more powerful.

The destruction it wrought is hard to fathom. The most powerful hurricanes produce winds approaching 200 mph, but this explosion may have generated winds of 700 mph. Walls 15 feet thick were utterly obliterated. The heat was such that nearly all of the thousands of inhabitants were vaporized. In fact, Nature tells us that the temperature at the center of the Tunguska explosion was 18,000 degrees Fahrenheit; the Tall el-Hammam explosion was perhaps even hotter. Whatever charred bone fragments survived—along with melted pottery, plaster, and roofing tiles—indicate that for 25 seconds the temperature was roughly 3,500 degrees, hot enough to melt stainless steel and titanium.

The only events comparable to what happened at Tall el-Hammam are the atomic bomb tests in the New Mexico desert in 1945, which melted the sands into a glaze so similar to what Collins found on the Bronze Age pottery that when he first showed the fragment to the lab scientist she assumed it was from the Los Alamos testing site.

The Nature article concludes explicitly that what happened in 1700 BC bears inescapable parallels to what the Bible says about Sodom. And indeed, they are startling: "(i) stones fell from the sky; (ii) fire came down from the sky; (iii) thick smoke rose from the fires; (iv) a major city was devastated; (v) city inhabitants were killed; and (vi) area crops were destroyed." It even says that what happened "may have generated an oral tradition that...became the source of the written story of biblical Sodom in Genesis." That a prestigious journal of science would admit these things should at least make skeptics sit up and take notice. Few people—whether religious believers or skeptical scientists—ever dreamt such a thing was possible.

Archaeology has been pointing to the accuracy of the Hebrew scriptures for 170 years. But this latest find—pushing things all the way back to the Middle Bronze Age world of Abraham—is arguably the most astounding of all. And perhaps the one question to ask at this juncture is simply: whatever will they find next?

Eric Metaxas is the author of IS ATHEISM DEAD? from which much of the above information has been taken. The book may be ordered at www.ericmetaxas.com

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.