The Bibleís Documentary Evidence
The documentary evidence for the reliability of the Bible has been an area of
research which has been increasing rapidly over the last few decades. But this
hasn't always been so. The assumption by many former archaeologists was that
the Old Testament was written not in the tenth to fourteenth centuries B.C. by the
authors described within its text, but by later Jewish historians during the much
later second to sixth century B.C., and that the stories were then redacted back
onto the great prophets such as Moses and David, etc... Yet, with the enormous
quantity of data which has been uncovered and is continuing to be uncovered, as
well as the new forensic research methods being employed to study them, what
we are now finding is that many of these preconceived notions of authorship are
simply no longer valid. For instance:
(1) The skeptics contended that the Pentateuch could not have been written by
Moses, because there was no evidence of any writing that early. Then the Black
Stele was found with the detailed laws of Hammurabi which were written 300
years before Moses, and in the same region.
(2) There was much doubt as to the reliability of the Old Testament documents,
since the oldest manuscript in our possession was the Massoretic Text, written in
916 A.D. How, the skeptics asked, can we depend on a set of writings whose
earliest manuscripts are so recent? Then came the amazing discoveries of the
Dead Sea Scrolls written around 125 B.C. These scrolls show us that outside of
minute copying errors it is identical to the Massoretic Text and yet it predates it by
over 1,000 years! We have further corroboration in the Septuagint, the Greek
translation of the Hebrew text, translated around 150-200 B.C.
Yet to please the skeptics, the best documentary evidence for the reliability„ of the
Biblical text must come from documents external to the Biblical text themselves.
There has always been doubt concerning the stories of Abraham and the Patriarchs
found in the books attributed to Moses, the Pentateuch. The skeptics maintained
that there is no method of ascertaining their reliability since we have no
corroboration from external secular accounts. This has all changed; for instance:
(3) Discoveries from excavations at Nuzu, Mari and Assyrian, Hittite, Sumerian and
Eshunna Codes point out that Hebrew poetry, Mosaic legislation as well as the
Hebrew social customs all fit the period and region of the patriarchs.
(4) According to the historians there were no Hittites at the time of Abraham,
thus the historicity of the Biblical accounts describing them was questionable. Now
we know from inscriptions of that period that there were 1,200 years of Hittite
civilization, much of it corresponding with the Patriarchal period.
(5) Historians also told us that no such people as the Horites existed. It is these
people whom we find mentioned in the genealogy of Esau in Genesis 36:20. Yet
now they have been discovered as a group of warriors also living in Mesopotamia
during the Patriarchal period.
(6) The account of Daniel, according to the sceptical historians, must have been
written in the second century and not the sixth century B.C. because of all the
precise historical detail found in its content. Yet now the sixth century's East India
Inscription corresponds with the Daniel 4:30 account of Nebuchadnezzar's building,
proving that the author of Daniel must have been an eye-witness from that period.
Either way it is amazing.
The strongest case for extra-Biblical corroboration of the Patriarchal period is found
in four sets of tablets which have been and are continuing to be uncovered from
that area of the world. They demonstrate that the Biblical account is indeed
historically reliable. Let's briefly look at all four sets of tablets.
(7) *Armana tablets: (from Egypt) mention the Habiru or Apiru in Hebrew, which
was first applied to Abraham in Genesis 14:13.
(8) *Ebla tablets: 17,000 tablets from Tell Mardikh (Northern Syria), dating from
2300 B.C., shows us that a thousand years before Moses, laws, customs and
events were recorded in writing in that part of the world, and that the judicial
proceedings and case laws were very similar to the Deuteronomy law code (i.e.
Deuteronomy 22:22-30 codes on punishment for sex offenses). One tablet
mentions and lists the five cities of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim and Zoar in
the exact sequence which we find in Genesis 14:8! Until these tablets were
uncovered the existence of Sodom and Gomorrah had always been in doubt by
(9) *Mari tablets: (from the Euphrates) mentions king Arriyuk, or Arioch of
Genesis 14, and lists the towns of Nahor and Harran (from Genesis 24:10), as well
as the names Benjamin and Habiru.