Artifact of the Month: Tel Dan Stela

(Posted by Michael J. Caba)

This inscribed basalt stone contains the oldest reference to King David outside of the Bible.*  Being roughly a foot tall, it was written in Aramaic in the mid 9th century BC and is known as the Tel Dan Stela.  The text actually refers to the “House of David,” meaning his royal family. Found during excavations in the ancient city of Dan in 1993/94, it is now located in the Israel Museum.

The artifact is particularly significant in the discussions related to the historicity of the Biblical accounts of the kingdom of David. Prior to its discovery some critics had maintained that the Biblical figure of King David was mythological in nature. However, subsequent to this finding scholarly opinion is now summed up well by Eric Cline from The George Washington University: “At a single blow, the finding of this inscription brought an end to the debate and settled the question of whether David was an actual historical person.”

It is of course true that the Bible is an ancient source in itself that can be trusted outright; still, support such as this further strengthens the case for the Bible’s reliability on historical matters.

(Photo: BiblePlaces.com. Significant resource for further study: The Context of Scripture, Volume 2, pages 161-162.)

*Possible additional references to David which are contemporaneous, or older, than the Tel Dan Stela are found on the Moabite Stone (Mesha Stela) and at Karnak Temple in Egypt (10th century BC).


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