Lawrence Mykytiuk writes, “… at least 50 people mentioned in the Bible have been identified in the archaeological record. Their names appear in inscriptions written during the period described by the Bible and in most instances during or quite close to the lifetime of the person identified.” This list includes kings of Israel, Mesopotamian rulers, and lesser-known figures.1
Mykytiuk illustrates with the famous Tel Dan inscription discovered in 1993. The inscription was found on a basalt stone in secondary use in the lower part of a wall. It was written in Aramaic and dated from the ninth-century BC. The inscription was commissioned by a non-Israelite king mentioning his victory over “the king of Israel” and the “House of David.” Prior to that time, some skeptical scholars had considered David to be mythical because his name had not been found in inscriptions. But this find indicates that David was still remembered as the founder of a dynasty a century after his death.
You may wonder why there are not more than 50 people known from archaeology. Archaeologist Edwin Yamauchi explains the fragmentary nature of the evidence. Archaeology deals with materials remains: buildings, inscriptions, and objects like coins, lamps, and tools. Of the material remains from the past, only one-tenth are still in existence. Six-tenths of that has been surveyed, one-fiftieth of that excavated, one-tenth of that examined, and one-half of that published. This is not to minimize archeology but to interject some humility into discussions about what moderns know about the past. We have only .006 percent of the evidence from the past in archaeology.2
Yet, the findings of archaeology have confirmed my faith. As I read my Bible, I know that I can turn to an atlas and find the places that I’m reading about on a map. The events don’t take place over the rainbow or in Neverland. I can look at pictures of objects from the past that illustrate customs and lifestyle, and I can imagine real people going about their lives.
As I read my Bible, I meet people who are all too familiar. Human nature isn’t different just because several millennia stand between them and us. The Bible provides me with noble examples to imitate as well as warning examples to avoid. Archaeology adds to my knowledge. In the pages of scripture, I meet the true God and real people.
2 Grant R. Osborne, The Hermeneutical Spiral, 159