This story in The Times looks very interesting. It’s another one of those occasions when the discovery is made long after the excavators leave the field.
The British Museum yesterday hailed a discovery within a modest clay tablet in its collection as a breakthrough for biblical archaeology – dramatic proof of the accuracy of the Old Testament.
The cuneiform inscription in a tablet dating from 595BC has been deciphered for the first time – revealing a reference to an official at the court of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, that proves the historical existence of a figure mentioned in the Book of Jeremiah.
This is rare evidence in a nonbiblical source of a real person, other than kings, featured in the Bible.
The tablet names a Babylonian officer called Nebo-Sarsekim, who according to Jeremiah xxxix was present in 587BC when Nebuchadnezzar “marched against Jerusalem with his whole army and laid siege to it”.
The rest of the story is here. I’ve been working for some years on a list of extrabiblical references to biblical people. I’m not ready to share it, but I can tell you that it is long.
The stupid quote of the story goes to renowned scholar Geza Vermes, who said, according to the reporter, “the Biblical story is not altogether invented.” My response: there is not a fraction of evidence that it is invented at all. Many scholars have many theories, but these are possible only because of the lack of evidence. The more evidence, the less room for scholarly ideas about the invention of the Bible. This observation is not based upon the above story, but upon years of study in the land of Israel. The liberal case gets weaker the more I know.
8 thoughts on “A New Reference to a Biblical Figure”
This does indeed sound like an significant find, not least because it perhaps helps us translate the names in Jeremiah 39:3. I’m surprised there hasn’t big more talk about it in the blogsphere.
I’ve blogged a bit on it here:
Most Important Biblical Archaeological Find in 100 Years?
New Archaeological Evidence for the OT
I welcome your thoughts.
You teased us with the reference to “a list of extrabiblical references to biblical people” that you are not ready to share. So when will you be ready!?
I for one would be greatly interested in any part of that list. As a teacher of NT Survey, I would love to have such info for my benefit and the benefit of my students.
Keep up the good work.
“On hearing of the discovery yesterday, Geza Vermes, the eminent emeritus professor of Jewish studies at the University of Oxford, said that such a discovery revealed that ‘the Biblical story is not altogether invented’.”
I thought that was mildly entertaining. Perhaps Dr. Vermes would enjoy looking at your list as well.
Just wanted to thank you, as well, for your lessons on Jerusalem Archaeology. I taught a VBS today to 5-6th graders about Jeremiah 36-39, coincidentally. I shared the “Berechiah, son of Neriah” bulla with the class…they loved it!
I thoroughly enjoy your blog–thanks for all the effort you put into it.
I was intrigued by your comment about your list of biblical people whose existence is verified from extrabiblical sources. I’ve been working on such a list for the last few years. Here’s what I have so far, compiled from various sources:
Bible figures confirmed by archaeology and/or historical records
Ahab, king of Israel
Ahaz (Jehoahaz), king of Judah
Apries (Hophra), pharaoh of Egypt
Ashurbanipal, king of Assyria
Azariah, grandfather of Ezra
Baruch, scribe of the prophet Jeremiah
Balaam, Moabite prophet
Belshazzar, coregent of Babylon
Benhadad, king of Aram
Cyaxares, father of Darius the Mede
Cyrus II of Persia
Darius I, king of Persia
David, king of Israel
Esarhaddon, king of Assyria
Evil-merodach, king of Babylon
Gedaliah, governor of Judah
Geshem, Nabatean dignitary
Hazael, king of Aram
Hezekiah, king of Judah
Hilkiah, high priest
Hophra, pharaoh of Egypt
Hoshea, king of Israel
Jehoiachin, king of Judah
Jehu, king of Israel
Jehucal (Jucal), court official
Jerahmeel, prince of Judah
Jezebel, wife of king Ahab of Israel
Johanan, grandson of the high priest Eliashib
Josiah, king of Judah
Jotham, king of Judah
Manasseh, king of Judah
Menahem, king of Israel
Merodach-baladan, king of Babylon
Mesha, king of Moab
Meshullam, father of Azaliah the scribe
Nebo-Sarsekim, Babylonian official
Nebuchadnezzar II, king of Babylon
Necho, pharaoh of Egypt
Nergal-sharezer, king of Babylon
Neriah, father of Baruch the scribe
Omri, king of Israel
Pekah, king of Israel
Rezin, king of Aram
Sanballat, governor of Samaria
Sargon II, king of Assyria
Sennacherib, king of Assyria
Seraiah, official of Zedekiah
Shalmaneser III, king of Assyria
Shalmaneser V, king of Assyria
Shaphan, father of Gemariah the scribe
Sharezer, son of Sennacherib
Shebna, royal steward of Hezekiah
Shelemiah, father of Jehucal (Jucal)
Shishak, pharaoh of Egypt
Tiglath-Pileser III, king of Assyria
Uzziah, king of Judah
Taharqa (Tirhakah), pharaoh of Egypt
Xerxes I, king of Persia
Zedekiah, king of Judah
Annas, high priest
Aretas IV, king of Nabateans
Caesar Augustus, emperor of Rome
Caiaphas, high priest
Claudius Caesar, emperor of Rome
Gallio, proconsul of Achaia
Herod the Great
Herod Agrippa I
Herod Agrippa II
James, half-brother of Jesus
John the Baptist
Nero Caesar, emperor of Rome
Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea
Quirinius, governor of Syria
Sergious Paulus, proconsul of Cyprus
Tiberius Caesar, emperor of Rome
Thanks, Todd, for taking all the words right out of my mouth in this post! Would love to be that eloquent, but I know it must come from your extensive knowledge, which I lack!
Regarding the lists, see also Wikipedia’s short list of Biblical figures identified in extra-Biblical sources, though Scott’s sounds more extensive. Nice job!
One thing I don’t like about Blogger is that it doesn’t require email addresses, which makes it hard to reply offline.
THG – the lists provided here may satisfy your interest, but if not, you can email me directly for my list.
Phil – thanks for your blog posts. Unfortunately I haven’t had time lately to post more on that discovery, but many other bloggers have.
Thanks to everyone else for their input.
“My response: there is not a fraction of evidence that it is invented at all.”
To the contrary, there is plenty of evidence that it includes both some historical fact and much human invention.
Anonymous – the fact that you supplied no evidence and were unwilling to use your name is a poor start. But it’s typical of those who advance this argument: assertion substitutes for evidence. Where is the evidence of much human invention? Show me the inscription which suggests that Jeremiah never lived (or anyone in the biblical record). Show me the artifact which suggests that priests wrote the books of Moses in 600 B.C. You can’t. There is none. What you can supply is human interpretation of biblical books which suggests that portions were written later (and therefore is less than accurate). But it is interpretation and not evidence, and that is a big difference. A good book on the subject is Provan, Long, and Longman, A Biblical History of Israel.