First Person: Is “Bible” a Dirty Word?

As published in the September/October 2015 Biblical Archaeology Review

hershel-shanksDoes Near Eastern politics affect archaeology? Unfortunately, yes.

I was reminded of this during a recent interview I had with two leading American archaeologists, Eric and Carol Meyers.a From them, I learned that one of America’s premier archaeological organizations, ASOR (the American Schools of Oriental Research), changed the name of its popular magazine Biblical Archaeologist to Near Eastern Archaeology over the objection of its members because this was the only way they could get articles about archaeology being conducted in Arab countries; these sources apparently objected to anything “Biblical,” as in the name Biblical Archaeologist.

Similarly Oxford University Press, I learned from the Meyerses, changed the name of its new archaeological encyclopedia from The Oxford Encyclopedia of Biblical Archaeology to The Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Near East to enable the editors to obtain entries about archaeology in Arab countries.

A pattern begins to emerge. Another prominent American archaeologist, Øystein (“Sten”) LaBianca, digs in Jordan at Tall Hisban, probably the site the Biblical writer had in mind when referring to Heshbon, a city in Moab that refused to allow Moses to pass through on the Israelites’ trek to the Holy Land (see Numbers 21:21–31; Deuteronomy 2:24; Joshua 12:1–2; Judges 11:19–26). Sten told me that he once persuaded the Jordanian authorities to post a sign near the site directing visitors to “Tall Hisban—famous biblical, classical and Islamic archaeological site.” Soon after the sign was posted, the word “biblical” was obliterated.b “Biblical” was apparently not kosher.

While this might not be surprising in Jordan, it would be in England. A conference was recently held at University College London titled “Digging Up Jericho.” Scholars from England, the United States, Holland, Italy, Denmark and the Palestinian Department of Antiquities presented papers. No scholars from you-know-where were on the program.

Although the two-day conference was called “Digging Up Jericho,” none of the papers dealt with whether the excavation revealed any information—positive or negative—about the Biblical account of the destruction of Jericho. The Bible was apparently verboten. No one would ever know the Bible dealt with the site.

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The keynote address was given by Professor Lorenzo Nigro of the Sapienza University of Rome, who has led a major new excavation at Jericho. This reminded me of my own brief connection with this excavation. In the spring of 2012, I met an archaeologist in Jerusalem who was associated with this excavation. When she told me about it, I naturally thought of the possibility of an article in BAR. I mentioned this to her, and she seemed to be receptive. We decided to go to the site and talk further about it. We had a great visit, and on the way back we agreed on the general outline of an article that she would write for BAR. I then confirmed this in an email. Her article would generally be about the new excavation. The great Neolithic tower was still the most impressive surviving part of the site, however. A great Middle Bronze (16th century B.C.E.) wall had been destroyed and was subsequently reused. Had the tradition of this wall’s destruction been incorporated into the Biblical account of the destruction of Jericho?

In my email to her confirming the assignment, I concluded with my usual paragraph: “You may have other or additional matters that you want to include. I would guess that your manuscript will be about 12 double-spaced pages, but it can be a little more or a little less. Just say what you have to say, and when you’ve said it, stop. If in doubt, include it.”

She replied, “Many thanks for your email. Everything is clear … It was a great pleasure to accompany you to Jericho.”

But then, after a delay, came another email from her: “I am trying to find a solution to the proposed article. As I told you, there are many people involved and supervisors for the Jericho excavations, and we need to cooperate. So at the present moment, it is not the time for me to submit an article by myself. I hope you can understand my position and the balance I have to keep. Maybe in the future.”

I replied:

I have been thinking a lot about why this didn’t work. We were both so excited by the idea of this article when we went to Jericho together. It seems to me there are two possible reasons why you didn’t write this article we agreed upon: (1) You are not the director of the excavation, and you were fearful that the director would not approve of your doing this. (2) Because the site is in the West Bank, you were concerned that a discussion of Jericho in the context of the Bible would not be approved by the authorities and perhaps not by the dig director.

She replied: “You are partly right. And there are other reasons—for sure the political situation is not easy … I hope there will be other occasions to cooperate in the future.”

So the article is in abeyance—most likely permanently. When we will learn how the new excavations might enlighten our understanding of the Biblical references to Jericho remains a question.



a. Hershel Shanks, “Biblical Archaeology: Whither and Whence,” BAR, March/April 2015.

b. First Person: “LaBianca’s Four Different Kinds of ‘Past,’” BAR, July/August 2012.


More on Jericho in the BAS Library:

Ronald S. Hendel, “Biblical Views: Giants at Jericho,” Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 2009.

Bryant G. Wood, “Did the Israelites Conquer Jericho? A New Look at the Archaeological Evidence,” Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 1990.

Piotr Bienkowski, “Battle Over Jericho Heats Up: Jericho Was Destroyed in the Middle Bronze Age, Not the Late Bronze Age,” Biblical Archaeology Review, September/October 1990.

Bryant G. Wood, “Battle Over Jericho Heats Up: Dating Jericho’s Destruction: Bienkowski Is Wrong on All Counts,” Biblical Archaeology Review, September/October 1990.

Ehud Netzer, BAR Readers Restore and Preserve Herodian Jericho,” Biblical Archaeology Review, November/December 1978.

Suzanne F. Singer, “The Winter Palaces of Jericho,” Biblical Archaeology Review, June 1977.

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  1. Anna says

    This is a very interesting subject. I wonder if someone can contact me on my email address though I am researching biblical archaeology and I am looking for some expertise. I have been writing to BA before but have not had an answer. It is quite urgent.

  2. Jerry says


    I loved your article on the words “Bible,” “Biblical,” and the archaeology of Jericho.

    It seems strange to me that in a politically-correct and tolerant society, we consider scientific evidence and every literary source available to help us understand our archaeology, but, when it comes to the Bible, “educated” people start running from it. Maybe there is something mysterious about the Bible that draws both critic and proponent alike to the Bible. It really has something constructive to offer on the subject of Jericho’s history. The Bible does make sense; just give it a chance.

    Jerry Knoblet

  3. wheels5894 says

    Doesn’t archaelogy in the Near East cover rather more than the bible? There’s loads of different religions ans nations included and it seems sensible to have a name that reflects the the variety of stuff dug up. Where’s the problem?

  4. Randolph R. says

    It seems to me to be part of the falling away from the faith, as described in the Bible. Satan and his fallen angels are doing all they can to defeat the Lord’s efforts. Though, when we pray according to God’s own words, He hears us and responds. The delay in receiving that response can be due to spiritual warfare in the heavenly realm.

  5. colette says

    The problem with the Bible outside the library is that it becomes a chain on our efforts. The Book was created late in mans History with the Father. The ancient past, what’s going on now and add also future vision is not something we ever want to put a chain on. I did not read the Bible as a single Book. I crossed referenced it with many areas of humanity. It can never be a dictator in the humanities. It is more like a guide or compass. It would be like demanding that the book of Josephis dictate the search.

  6. Christopher says

    Strange as it may seem, this issue isn’t simply to do with the Bible. Apart from being a priest, my main interest is in British and Anglo-Saxon Christianity and there is a strong feeling amongst archaeologists that you should examine sites in their own right without necessarily trying to tie them into the written sources. There is certainly a deep suspicion of using archaeology to “prove” the sources or indeed using the sources to “explain” the archaeology. It’s not just the Bible, though, as you suggest, there may be other probles relating to that too.

  7. Bradley says

    The only “chain” the Bible represents is a chain to pull mankind from our insatiable desire for self-control, secular reasoning, and the false doctrines that try to promote these values in our lives. It is unfortunate that the organizations listed in the above article have given in to these forces and compromised their own integrity in the process.

  8. JERRY says

    I recall that it was quite recent when “Biblical archaeology” was considered to have an “a priori” bias to it because it appeared as though the object of the archaeology was to verify and substantiate the Biblical text, so I’m not surprized at the resistance, particularly when Islam feels it is being given short shrift (overlooking the the potential problems of archaeological digs around Mecca and Medina). However, if it makes the work and findings of the archaeologist any more “politically correct,” let’s call it Abrahamic archaeology. “What’s in a name….?”

  9. Barbara says

    Wow, things are certainly hotting up, here on earth.

    It might be that the time is coming for Jesus to return and sought us all out.

    Hold your ground BAS the fight is just beginning.

  10. Brent says

    I don’t think many people here understand the significant effect that the Bible has had on archaeology over the past few hundred years. Many of the the most incredible archaeological finds have come about as a result of people following the clues in the Bible. And most of the time when a site is found it is often assigned as a city or site mentioned in a certain Biblical passage. The trend these days seems to be that less and less archaeologists actually believe and read the Bible as such you have more and more archaeologists denying and dismissing the ultimate authority and this has also had an effect on what is fed to media outlets, in particular documentaries about Biblical sites. The majority deny the Bible’s accuracy and will do anything to prove that the Bible is wrong, a good example is Israel Finkelstein, who is an Israeli but he will scoff at any information which may prove the Bible’s dates accurate. Why? I do not know. But a lot of this has to do with education. Most of the archaeologists in the past where Bible believers or at least readers, but now the majority are schooled in evolution and therefore immediately they have doubts about the Bible’s accuracy and they act accordingly. Another problem lies not in archaeology but in Biblical historians the majority of whom are atheists. If you have biblical historians who don’t believe in the Bible directing our minds what will be the result? You guessed it. People will stop believing in the Bible because so-called experts tell you it didn’t happen, or it was 500 years later, or it wasn’t written then, it was written after the events. What we need is for people who believe to stand up and get out of their offices and start looking for evidence to prove the Bible accurate beyond doubt once and for all. And if you are a biblical historian who believes then start standing up for the truth and pointing out where your atheist colleagues are wrong.

  11. Terry says

    Very sad to see that the community who believes in the God of the Bible are giving in to the desires of those who do not. This seems to be the norm in our modern secular societies.

  12. Kurt says

    Attacks From “Friends”
    Do not be put off by the fact that even some who describe themselves as “friends” of the Bible attack its authenticity and reliability. Today, most Bible commentators, although claiming to be Christian, “will only speak of Scripture as a human record,” says the New Dictionary of Theology.

    Many theologians challenge the authorship of the books of the Bible. Some say, for example, that the prophet Isaiah did not write the book of Isaiah. This Bible book, they say, was written long after Isaiah’s time. The Concise Bible Commentary, by Lowther Clarke, contends that it is “the product of many minds and many generations.” But such assertions ignore that Jesus Christ and his disciples repeatedly credit Isaiah with writing this book.—Matthew 3:3; 15:7; Luke 4:17; John 12:38-41; Romans 9:27, 29Even worse, critics of the Bible, such as commentator J. R. Dummelow, say that the prophecies found in the book of Daniel “are really past history thrown by the author into the guise of ancient prediction.” Once again, in saying so, they ignore the testimony of Jesus Christ himself. Jesus warned of what he called “the disgusting thing that causes desolation, as spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in a holy place.” (Matthew 24:15) Is it reasonable for a Christian to believe that Jesus Christ himself would have been party to deception—that he would have supported history disguised as prophecy? Surely not.

  13. James says

    Why is there surprise of this action? There is a world-wide movement to erase the Christian Bible, the Christian and in some cases the name Jesus (again).

  14. T.J. says

    I think a of these people are afraid to come out and say anything that might confirm the bible as being correct especially in relation as to what is discovered in archaeology because they risk their reputations. They are intimidated and ganged up on repeatedly by their peers who are non believers. Sadly in archaeology as in the sciences this happens all the time. The idea of discovery is no more. Anything outside of the accepted majoritities so called truth is considered false,fake ridiculous, etc. So this unfortunately and sadly is not surprising but is disheartening. So many are mislead and misinformed because they blindly follow the so called experts.

  15. Wes says

    One of most telling indications that Daniel that “prophecies in Daniel are really past history thrown into the guise of ancient prediction” is the difficulty the author or authors have in constructing a coherent picture of the narrative’s supposed present. In chapter 5, Daniel describes regent Belshazzar as the son of Nebuchadnezzar never mentioning his actual father Nabonidus – and then claims that Babylon fell to Darius the Mede. At the very least, this account would conflict with Isaiah’s, assuming Isaiah had written it all; and if he had, then it would have made sense for Daniel to make mention of it. But some evidently are aware that Daniel is not a book of prophecy, for it falls within Writings in the TaNaKh rather than Prophets. And as to Darius the Mede, there is a place in history for this individual. I would refer Kurt to the writings of Thucydides and Herodotus. In the Greek text, both of these historians refer to the invaders of Greece as Medes. Thucydides recounts the victory of the Athenians over the Medes at the battle of Marathon in his first book, (18 paragraph) of History of the Peloponnesian. The date was 490 BC. The King, of course, of this invading force was Darius of Persia who commemorated his reign on a monument overlooking a mountain pass.

    Whether all of Daniel was written during the period of the 2nd century revolt of the Maccabees, it is difficult to say, but at the very least the author’s view of ancient history was arrived at
    through the filter of Pan-Hellenic culture imparted to him in school, especially in the case of Daniel chapter 5.

    But back to the question of whether Biblical archeology is a “dirty word”. I would say, “No, it is not” – So long as it does not proceed in a vacuum of confirmation biases or assumptions that everything recorded will ultimately be fulfilled, based on the initial appearance of favorably supportive evidence. If Biblical archeology is to be considered a science, then it should investigate Biblical records based on evidence within the lands where the events occurred and evidence in societies that contemporary with the events. In some cases the records are consistent such as in the case of Cyrus’s proclamation allowing return to homelands; in others, there are inconsistencies, such as the chronologies of Egypt and the 19th century inferences of when events occurred assuming sequential reigns of Judges. As for Genesis, literalists should expect some unpleasant discoveries if they are looking to archeology to support every belief they might have acquired.

  16. Michael says

    It’s very sad to hear that politics is involved in the publication of the findings. Politics can only erode the research.

  17. D. says

    Archaeology is important after theology history and linguistics.In 17th Century Europe, the average believer read The Bible 25 times in full during that person’s life.It is through cogitation of the word in all its profundity that truth can be approximated.Science and religion is a Gordian Knot which The Infinite will only untangle as believers become worthy to receive the unfolding knowledge through rigorous study.

  18. GENE says

    At Daniel 5:2, 11, 18, 22, Nebuchadnezzar is referred to as the “father” of Belshazzar, and Belshazzar as Nebuchadnezzar’s “son.” The book Nabonidus and Belshazzar (by R. P. Dougherty, 1929) reasons that it is probable that Belshazzar’s mother was Nitocris and that she was a daughter of Nebuchadnezzar (II). If so, Nebuchadnezzar was the grandfather of Belshazzar. (See Ge 28:10, 13 for a comparable use of “father.”) However, not all scholars find the evidence for such a relationship completely satisfying. It may be that Nebuchadnezzar was simply the “father” of Belshazzar as to the throne, Nebuchadnezzar being a royal predecessor. In a similar manner, the Assyrians used the expression “son of Omri” to denote a successor of Omri.—See OMRI No. 3.

  19. GENE says

    The dual form of the Medo-Persian rule presented in the Bible must therefore be given its proper weight. (Da 5:28; 8:3, 4, 20) Though secular history accords overwhelming prominence to Cyrus and the Persians, the Bible record shows that the Medes continued in an apparent partnership arrangement with the Persians, and the laws continued to be those of “the Medes and the Persians.” (Da 6:8; Es 1:19) The Medes played a major part in the overthrow of Babylon. (Isa 13:17-19) Note, too, that Jeremiah (51:11) foretold that “the kings [plural] of the Medes” would be among Babylon’s attackers. Darius may well have been one of these kings

  20. Wes says

    Once again, in Thucydides “The Peloponnesian War”, completed around 404 BC or thereafter, in paragraph 18 of the first introductory Book of the 8 book work, it read in English:

    “Not many years after the deposition of the Tyrants [ previous rulers of Athens] the battle of Marathon was fought between the Medes and Athenians.”

    The author identifies the Persians as Medes 50 more times in this work for whatever cultural reason there might have been. Perhaps since some of the Persian army generals were identified as Medes, they were all considered such. Perhaps they used the terms interchangably. But they were clearly ruled by Persians. The historical date of the battle of Marathon is 490 BC and the ruler of Persia at that time was Darius I. Much of what we know of his reign is the result of his constructing a tri-lingual monument on Mount Behistun where he describes his ascent to the throne and ancestry – Persian.

    As a second source, I refer you to the Histories of Herodotus. Herodotus does not call Darius a Mede, but he calls his successor Xerxes the King of the Medes in the later books of that work.

    In many Bibles where the Deutero-Canonical portions are included, the Book of Daniel runs to 14 chapters, the same as in the Greek Septuagint. Chapter 14 begins:

    “When King Astyages joined his ancestors, Cyrus of Persia succeeded him. Daniel was very close to the king, who respected him more than any of his other friends…” and subsequently a Sherlock Holmes like story unfolds. Un “canonical”? How ironic considering the relative reasonableness of what unfolds. Astyages was the last king of the Medes, done in by Cyrus in his attack on Ectabana. In the British Museum in a tablet named the Nabonidus chronicle, the campaign of Cyrus against Ectabana, Astyages capital is described in the 6th year of reign of the Babylonian monarch Nabonidus. Later it records ( as summarized):
    the Battle of Opis, in which the Persians decisively defeat Nabonidus’s army & massacre retreating Babylonians. The Persians went on to capture the cities of Sippar and Babylon itself without further conflict. Cyrus is reportedly received with joy by the city’s inhabitants and appointed local governors. The gods that had previously been brought to Babylon were returned to their home cities on the orders of Cyrus.

    This Nabonidus chronicle account is more akin to what is recorded in Isaiah, probably by an author distinct from the first 39 or so chapters which overlaps Kings. The account of Daniel is garbled in many places, possibly retelling later revolts of Babylon against subsequent Persian kings with names like Cyrus and Darius

    While perhaps individual arguments about motherhood of Belshazzar related to Nebuchadnezzar could be given some credence ( save that Nabonidus was Assyrian) or other obscure possibilities, the text is rife with anachronism and inconsistencies that are simply better explained by its origin as a metaphorical collection during the revolt against Antiochus IV and the considerable desecrations of Jewish beliefs perpetrated during his reign. They rivaled the destruction of the Temple, plus they persecuted any practicing believers of the Judaic faith to a terrible extent as recorded in Maccabees.

    This would be plausible but inconvenient for many groups with elaborate constructions based on historical Daniel serving as Mesopotamian valley Talleyrand for about 200 years. Shove all recorded history aside for that hypothesis.

  21. Wes says

    Some other notes on Medes and Babylon came in while I was composing the previous post.
    Some comments.

    On 51:11 Jeremiah, my Bible notes say that the reference spoke originally of an enemy to the North. Likely enough if one reads Mesopotamian history. So speaking of Medes or Persians moe appropriately to the East would be a gloss. Isaiah 13:17-19, if Isaiah wrote these words, would be speaking of events a century and a half before Babylon was attacked, but in chapter 41, the same text is declaring Cyrus annointed and liberated of the captive people of Babylon.

    Thoughout Herodotus, in his account of the invasion of Greece by the Persians under Xerxes, those city states and principaliities who have decided to give-in are described with the phrase of having “taken the side with the Medes.” Herodotus in his account of the war between Persians and Medes describes many things which are dramatic but perhaps fanciful, but he insists that Astyages was soundly defeated by Cyrus – and that Astyages was the last king of the Medes ( similar to Daniel 14:1). He also says that Astyages was held in the court of Cyrus and treated humanely for the rest of his life.

    From this I would conclude that there was some sort of alliance of Mede and Persian, but that there was no Darius the Mede except in the context of Persian kings holding the crown over both realms. This poses a problem for the historicity of any or all accounts in Daniel unless they are written as metaphors or derivations of a centuries old history for a writer in the time of Antiochus IV.

    What does this have to do with Biblical Archeology? It brings us back once again to whether we are simply digging in the ground or comparing chronicles to confirm our already established beliefs or interpretations, the most egregrious being saying that an event had to happen just as WE interpret a verse or section of an anthology of ancient texts. Granted, science has hypotheses and theories, but absence of test means absence of science.

  22. GENE says

    Some critics question the authenticity of Daniel, assuming the position taken by a third-century heathen philosopher and enemy of Christianity, Porphyry, who contended that the book of Daniel was forged by a Palestinian Jew of the time of Antiochus Epiphanes. This forger, he theorized, took past events and made them appear to be prophecies. The genuineness of the book of Daniel was not seriously questioned, however, from that day until the early part of the 18th century. Jesus Christ’s own acceptance of Daniel’s prophecy is an even more significant evidence of its authenticity.—Mt 24:15; Da 11:31.

    Historical. Several manuscripts of parts of the book of Daniel were found in the Dead Sea caves. The earliest manuscript dates from the first half of the first century B.C.E.; the book of Daniel was an accepted part of the Scriptures in that time and was so well known to the Jews that many copies had already been made of it. That it was recognized as a canonical book of that time is supported by the writer of the Apocryphal, but historical, book of First Maccabees (2:59, 60), who made reference to Daniel’s deliverance from the den of lions, and that of the three Hebrews from the fiery furnace.

    We have also the testimony of the Jewish historian Josephus, who states that the prophecies of Daniel were shown to Alexander the Great when he entered Jerusalem. This occurred in about 332 B.C.E., more than 150 years before the Maccabean period. Josephus says of the event: “When the book of Daniel was shown to him, in which he had declared that one of the Greeks would destroy the empire of the Persians, he believed himself to be the one indicated.” (Jewish Antiquities, XI, 337 [viii, 5]) History also recounts that Alexander bestowed great favors on the Jews, and this is believed to have been because of what Daniel said about him in prophecy.

  23. Wes says

    I’ve heard Gene’s arguments nearly word for word many times. I didsagree.

    First, it starts with an ad hominem argument regarding Porphyry which introduces motivations that no one else has suggested. I stand by what I have pointed out about the anachronisms I and the now obvious fact that the only corroboration for Darius the Mede is in Greek texts of the next century with a several decade discrepancy ( Nice name “Darius” for a Mede, is it not? What does the name mean in their language? ) I also pointed out that Daniel 14:1 throws a wet towel on the previous chapters and that the “Deutero” segment of Isaiah contradicts chapter 5 as well.

    Josephus is an interesting case to quote. For it is Josephus that claimed he prophesied the ascent of the Roman general to whom he surrendered would be the next Emperor – without showing any sacred texts. It saved his life. I don’t know of a second source for the Josephus story such as a Greek historian with mention of a stop off in Jerusalem. Alexander did intend to remain in Babylon and use it as his capital, but some have told me, according to the Bible verse prophecy, it had already been destroyed forever.

    But it is also from Josephus that we have obtained one of our earliest documentations of the notion of the threer segments of the Hebrew Scripture: Law, Prophets and Scripture. Daniel is NOT among the prophets, he is not mentioned among them in Ecclesiasticus ( written about 200BC which also mentions 3 divisions of scriptures) and the definition given by Josephus in Contra Apionem, Against Apion:

    “But from Artexerxes to our times, all things have indeed been written down, but have are not esteemed worthy of a like authority because the exact succession of the prophets was wanting”.

    In Daniel 9:1, it begins:

    “It was the 1st year of of Darius, son of Artexerxes, a Mede by race who assumed the throne of Chaldea. In the first year of his reign, I, Daniel…”

    The text of Daniel has changed to 1st person from 3rd. Daniel attests that he is in service of a Daniel who is the son of Artexerxes….That alone places him outside of the realm of Prophets by the definition provided by Josephus. The best correspondence for this Darius would be Darius II, reigning from 423-404 BC, making this a story akin to the Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

    We are also to assume that an historical Daniel was one of the first Babylonian captives.

    Their number is strictly limited,

  24. Wes says

    A couple of corrections. The last sentence in the previous post ( Their number is strictly limited.) should have been struck out. In a previous note I also mistakenly referred to “Law, Prophets and Scriptures” – the last should have been “Writings”. The book of Daniel, of course, is in Scriptures, but not in Prophets. It is in Writings as placed in the TaNaKh.

    Regarding another writer’s reference above, that of Matthew 24:15, where Jesus says, “So when you see the appalling abomination of which the prophet Daniel spoke,..” Granted, Matthew refers to Daniel as prophet, but the event of which he refers is in all likelihood the stature of Zeus set up in the Temple by Anitochus IV (Epiphanes) in 167 BC.

    In Ecclesiasticus 44-49 ( circa 180 BC) Ben Sirach gives a list inclusive of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Elisha, Elijah and the twelve Minor Prophets but no reference to Daniel can be found.
    In canon or deuteron-canonical texts, I Maccabees ii 59.

    Among the scrolls at Qumran is a fragmentary document titled “The Prayer of Nabonidus” in which it is related that Nabonidus was struck with a malignant disease for 7 years by the decree of the “Most High God” and became “unlike men”. I leave to conjecture how Nabonidus was beset with Nebuchadnezzar’s disease and fate and Nebuchadnezzar with Nabonidus’s wayward son.

  25. Judith says

    Since locations in Syria, Iraq, and Jordan are included among the places referenced in the Bible, and many of the finds in Israel are from pre-biblical times, maybe there is a good argument for the name change. So no one is left out, “Middle Eastern Archeology Review” would be more inclusive, and readers can relate the finds to the Bible, or not, according to their own lights. Perhaps “Biblical Archeology” does contain a presumption that biases the work and the interpretation thereof. Food for thought.

  26. GENE says

    Those who claim that the book is not really prophetic but was written after the events occurred would have to move up the time of writing of the book beyond the days of Jesus’ ministry on earth, for the ninth chapter admittedly contains a prophecy concerning the Messiah’s appearance and sacrifice. (Da 9:25-27) Also, the prophecy continues on and recounts the history of the kingdoms that would rule right down to “the time of the end,” when they will be destroyed by the Kingdom of God in the hands of his Messiah.—Da 7:9-14, 25-27; 2:44; 11:35, 40.

  27. D. says

    Excellent and fascinating as this discussion is, I am still searching for an explanation for the theological origin of Isaiah 45:7(kjv)(Second Isaiah).

  28. Wes says

    In that same chapter, in the first verse, Isaiah also makes note of the role of Cyrus in what we presume is transpiring in Babylon, circa 539 BC. Elsewhere, in Isaiah, the text speaks of its destruction, Yet in Isaiah 14:22-23, in a break between poetic curses, the text describes Babylon turned into a swamp with the broom of destruction. …No fate of Babylon sounds so much like this as the one which occurred to it at the hands of the same Sennacherib who threatened Jerusalem in Isaiah’s time. As Assyrian records relate, in 689 BC, Sennacherib captured Babylon, leveled it and flooded it for good measure, carrying off its inhabitants into slavery, removing its temples and idols.

    There is little doubt that the author or authors of Isaiah project much the same image of the Lord, but the manuscripts many folds and historical links make other interpretations challenging. Or better yet, subject to challenge when simply asserted.

    As to the question of “not really prophetic”, Gene R. has had no comment on the fact that 5th century BC historians regarded Darius the First as Darius the Mede, their antagonist at the battle of Marathon in 490 BC. Also, that the book of Daniel is not among the books of Prophets in the TaNaKh which he probably refers to as the Hebrew Scriptures. Daniel being an interesting case in that context since much of it is written in Aramaic – and Greek. Daniel’s testimony in Chapter 9 is written in 1st person. Daniel gives testimony in 3rd person in Chapters 7 &8 under KING Belshazzar’s reign ( 1st and 3rd years). He gives first person
    testimony under a 2nd Darius in the 5th century. At the very least I am confused about the historicity not to mention the prophetic nature of these snapshots of his long life.

  29. Wes says

    Of course, this website and journal are about Biblical archeology. And the initial article that started these discussions posed the question of whether the title “Middle Eastern” should be placed in substitution for “Biblical”. I don’t think this needs to be done. But I do think that Middle Eastern sources should be included for historical or archeological examinations of Biblical topics.

    In this sidebar discussion, the narratives found in the Bible can be examined from the perspectives of other Middle Eastern – or even Hellenic Greek sources. And with regard to the existence of “King” Belshazzar, I would think it in order to inquire whether there are any Babylonian Chronicles of the King so-named, chronicles in the sense that the tablets date themselves by a “regnal year” counting from the reigning king’s accession. Whether they exist or not for Belshazzar, the existing tablet of the Nabonidus Chronicle poses a serious obstacle to testimonies dated as the first year or third year of the reign of King Belshazzar, reported by a supposed officer of such a reign. For the activities of Nabonidus of that fateful year when the Persians took Babylon are recorded as events in the 17th year of HIS reign.

    Any takers?

  30. D. says

    That is interesting history but 45:7 is unique in the Bible since it indicates The Infinite is the source of good (peace which linguistically ishas a more profound meaning than the modern definition) and evil,ie there is no “devil”.The Old Testament is replete with incidents of The Infinite sending evil spirits to challenge humans as part of the divine plan but,theologically, there is no verse where such an absolute admission contradicts the premise of The Infinite being totally good as expressed,par excellence, in the New Testament.45:7 has huge theological implications which few modern texts have dealt with adequately and as far as my search has proceeded so far, 45:7 is unique compared to other religions,hence the vital importance of obtaining its origin.Your reference to Cyrus the Great also raises the question of why virtually nothing has been written about him by modern scholars despite him having such a pivotal influence in history.His impact on,for example, Alexander the Great was profound.

  31. Wes says


    Just to acknowledge that I see something of what you are driving at:

    The notion of a talking serpent being a devil appears to me as a notion taken up in the NT after a long lapse from Genesis chapter 3. Why that should happen? Cyrus and Zoroastrian successors might have had something to do with it. Consider that the NT begins with the quest of 3 magi..

    .Another argument for Middle Eastern perspectives when doing Biblical archeological research.

  32. D. says

    There is an archaeology of the text here also.In the Genesis Rabbah 19, the serpent begins walking on two legs but is cursed by The Infinite to crawl.The mistake Eve was pushed(literally) into by the serpent was believing what Adam had told her that it was okay to touch the tree and that led to her to partake of the fruit.Your point about chapter 3 is interesting but for me it aligns with the contradictory stories of the creation of Adam and Eve in chapters 1 and 2.I believe the chapter 2 version to be a counterfeit but legitimate theologically as a challenge from The Infinite.Your point about the magi shows what I consider to be an example of how 45:7 has unfolded in the NT as a labyrinthine subtext which is at variance to its meaning.I believe Yeshua/Jesus knew this.To take one example of many in the NT:why did he refer to Peter as Satan a few verses after referring to him as “this rock”(Matt16:15-23)?It was surely a challenge to any believer.Cyrus is referred to as “God’s anointed”(45:1) the Zoroastrian connection is severed because there is no ruling deity in that faith who is good and evil or indeed in any other religion. Was Cyrus a Deist or a Zoroastrian who asked questions of his theological stand? The only authoritative biography about him is an academically lightweight book written in the nineteenth century.

  33. Wes says

    Within the context of this thread, I don’t know how what to say save that

    I would be interested in seeing more background on Cyrus as well either from archeological findings or writings.

    Unfortunately, unless much more remains under lock and key in private collections, I suspect that shedding light on many mysterious issues or reconstructing rationales for writings will remain difficult on account of how much has been lost in the sacking or burning of ancient libraries – deliberate or inadvertent.

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