Copyright © 1997, by John Lankford, Fort Smith, Arkansas

     Many people accept the idea of God but do not accept the God revealed in the Old Testament. They do not believe in the factual nature of the Old Testament. Will being "a church that does good and has nice people in it" convince anyone? No, for this could describe any humanitarian organization such as the Lion's Club, etc. What about the argument that the world was created? No, that merely shows the reasonableness that a God exists. It does not tell which God or describe that God in detail. What is needed is some way to test the factual nature of the Old Testament.


     First, Not all religions are event-based. Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism, etc., are all "teachings" that are not based in any historical events in the same way the Old Testament is. There is not this string of people, places and things like in the Old Testament narratives. Further, the "gods" of these religions do not "enter history" as the God of the Bible does. Being event-based is important because if a writing claims to be true historically, then it's contents should be verifiable as far as one is able to check.
(Note: an excellent resource to contrast world religions is The Compact Guide to World Religions, by Halverson, ed.)

     Second, as with any world view, it will ultimately rest on faith. But it will not be blind faith. It will be faith founded on fact. And if the God of the Bible is the true One, then faith is the key principle (Hebrews 11).


     First, it is not physical/biological science that gets the starring role in evidences. Many seem to think that physical/biological science is the star because this is how the case for creation is established. However, showing creation to be logical doesn't say one thing about the truth of the Old Testament narratives to the contrast of other world views. As such, the physical/biological sciences are very limited as evidence.

     Second, historical events require historical verification. Artifacts, papers, and reason all enter into the picture. So, archeological evidences are superior to those from the "creation sciences" to establish faith in the factuality of the Old Testament.

     Outstanding Old Testament events include not only creation but also the Flood, Tower of Babel, Call of Abraham, the Egyptian sojourn and EXODUS, the Sinai --event, conquest, kingdom, captivity and return narratives. All these are packed with names of people, places and cultural color. Does archeology verify the Old Testament along these lines?

     As a side note: First, the use of the term "verify" is used in the place of "proof" because none of us were present to actually see or witness the events (which would be "proof" for us). We are limited to just making checks at available points along the line. If a number of these checks pan out, then we have reason to believe in the factuality of the document. Hence, we verify points along the line rather than "prove the entire line". Second, there is always some uncertainty in the "facts" we gather. This does not mean our facts are worthless, it means that everything has a specific level of certainty associated with it. Facts are just items that have a high degree of certitude to them. Third, to establish a case, we always wish that more pieces of the puzzle were available. For example, even if one had a 100 piece puzzle of the Statue of Liberty and 12 pieces were missing in a random way, one could still "get the picture" with a good degree of certainty but we naturally wish all the pieces were present. The same holds true for any type of investigation.


     First, it is important to note that faith is in the picture. It will be faith in the testimony of the archeologists that guide us. And there are three very good works in this area that any library would benefit from having. They are (1) The New Unger's Bible Handbook, revised by G.N. Larson, (Moody Press). This is an excellent work. It surveys the Bible and gives archeological "finds" that help illuminate the text. There is much use of color photos/charts and maps. (2) Genesis and Archeology, by Howard F. Vos, (Moody). Even though it contains B/W pictures, it still is very informative and easy to read. (3) Archeology and Bible History, by Free and Vos, (Zondervan). This is an up-to-date work by noted archeologists/scholars. It follows the Bible-line of history and that makes it very useful. The work is in-depth and authoritative.


  1. Sodom and Gomorrah:

    1. Genesis 14 tells of five cities around the Salt Sea that are located close to tar pits. It is a fact that oil-based material does appear in considerable quantities around the southern end of the Dead Sea.1, 2a As such, today no one wants to live there. But excavations have shown that the area was densely populated in the past.3 Further, Josephus, the Jewish historian, writing at the end of the first century, said that traces of the five cities could still be seen at that time.2b This is independent, corroborative, testimony that verifies the Bible statement of cities being around the southern end of the Dead Sea.

    2. The area also contained lots of salt, free sulfur ("brimstone") and oil deposits. Coupled with earthquakes common to the area, this could account for the origin of the fire and brimstone "raining down from heaven."4 While there are still many details to be worked out, it is clearly seen that the Bible statements do have a factual base. Hence, faith in the story of Gen 14 and 19 are fully justified.

  2. The Bitter Waters of Marah:

         In Ex 15:23 it is stated that the Israelites could not drink the water because it "was bitter." How can water be "bitter"? Does this statement have a basis in fact? Yes, most certainly. When water is "bitter" it usually contains dissolved minerals. These are some of the same kind found in well water--calcium and magnesium. How can "bitter water" be made "sweet" (un-bitter)? Maybe the "tree" that Moses threw in had some property that could "catch" all the minerals responsible for making the water bitter. Some forms of cellulose (a constituent of wood) are able to work in this way and are used to "soften" water today.5 We do not know what actually occurred, but we can be confident that what is being told is not some fable. The writer of the story made true observations that are backed up by current knowledge. In short, the testimony rings true.

  3. The Ark:

         Using the measurements of the ark given by the Bible and the average distance of a cubit, engineers have calculated the size, stability and design of the ark. It is now know that these are not just haphazard numbers that some story-teller might have cooked up, but that they show the sign of intelligent design.6

  4. The Exodus:

         Here is where the story goes in a different direction. First, it is standard knowledge that the Egyptians had many "gods" and that even the Pharaoh was a "god." Second, common sense tells us that no nation is going to build monuments that brag about how they got defeated, especially if was by a bunch of their slaves!! And this would even be more difficult to admit if the very "gods" of their nation were defeated (and they were)! Hence, one would naturally expect the Egyptians to actually "say nothing" of the Exodus. It can almost be imagined that it would be a political mistake to erect a monument or build some sort of Egyptian "billboard" (technical: stela) to that effect. Further, it would be expected that if anything was said about the Hebrews, it would be sarcastic. What is expected is actually what is observed. No monuments or discussion of the Exodus have been found. The Egyptians literally kept their mouths shut about it. However, in the context shown, their silence speaks loudly!

         Later on, where Israel is mentioned in an Egyptian monument, it is a "put down." For example, in the case of Merneptah,7 the successor of Ramesses II, he boasted of his victory over the people of Palestine (and he names Israel). The monument of this victory has a sarcastic tone to it as per Israel. After the Exodus and "overthrow" of Egyptian gods, the sarcasm toward Israel is perfectly reasonable.

         Hence, it is seen that Egyptians report and boast of victory and are silent as a graveyard about defeat! Nothing in archeology contradicts the Old Testament record as per the Exodus.


     First, Nelson Glueck, the renowned Jewish archeologist, said that "it may be stated categorically that no archeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference" (from Rivers in the Desert; History of Neteg. Philadelphia: Jewish Publications Society of America, 1969, page 31).

     Second, Wm. F. Albright, another highly respected archeologist, has this to say ". . . discovery after discovery have established the accuracy of innumerable details, and has brought increased recognition to the value of the Bible as a source of history" (from The Archeology of Palestine. Rev. ed. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Pelican Books, 1960).

     Third, the two men mentioned above are not known to be conservatives, hence their testimony carries greater weight.

     So, we can have full confidence in the Old Testament as history. Faith can be founded on fact and not feeling.


  1. Vos, Howard F., Genesis and Archeology, Chicago: Moody
  2. Whitson, Complete Works of Flavius Josephus. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1963 (a) "Antiquities 1:9", (b) "Wars of the Jews" 4:8.4
  3. Free and Vos, Archeology and Bible History, revised ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992 (p. 52)
  4. Unger, The New Unger's Bible Handbook, Chicago: Moody, 1984 (pp. 23, 52)
  5. Stock and Rice, Chromatographic methods, Chapman and Hall, 1967
  6. Reference available on request. It contains the calculations by an engineer as per the ark and includes tests of stability for water vessels.
  7. Pfeiffer, Charles ed., The Biblical World, Grand Rapids: Baker (p. 380ff)

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