The Bible in the British Museum
And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his son’s son, and Sarai his daughter in law, his son Abram’s wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there.
Genesis 11:26-32 is the first mention of Abram (later known as Abraham). It says Abram originally came from Ur of the Chaldees, on the bank of the Euphrates near Nasiriyah in what is now Iraq.
Until the middle of the 19th century, skeptics said that there was no such city as Ur. In 1853-54, John Taylor, the British vice-consul at Basra, excavated the site, and found clear proof that it was Ur, a city which existed after all, the original home of Abraham and his family.
(warning: if you view this post in Internet Explorer, the formatting may not behave very well….)
Ur is the home of the Great Ziggurat of Ur, dedicated to the moon god Nanna/Sin. Many such structures appear in the Middle East. Some scholars think that they were modeled after the Tower of Babel, described in Genesis 11:1-9.
You can read more about “The Ram in a Thicket” from Ur pictured above at the British Museum site. (It has nothing to do with the account in Genesis 22, predating that incident by perhaps 600 years.) It is one of a pair, and may have been originally used to support a bowl.
More Items from “The City that Didn’t Exist”
Perhaps Ur was for Real After All
Items above, from the top down (all the items on this page are in Room 56 in the museum — as with all the pictures I’m using in this series, you can click through on the pictures to see a larger image on the British Museum website):
- Ostrich egg and Ostrich egg jar, from the Royal Cemetery of Ur.
- Sceptre from Royal Cemetery
- Copper Statue of minor deity (note Joshua 24:2)
- Royal Standard of Ur — no one knows what it was, but it looks neat!
- Royal Game of Ur
- Queen’s Lyre — reconstructed
- Shell Plaque — from the queen’s grave
If someone says there is no evidence for something, they are making what is known as an argument from silence. An argument from silence is valid, it can provide useful evidence, but on its own, it proves nothing. If the best you can do is an argument from silence, you have a weak argument.
The historical records in the Bible have turned out to be true, over and over again. One would think, after Ur, Belshazzar, and the Cyrus Cylinder (still to come in this series), that skeptics would be embarrassed to use an argument from silence against the Bible any longer. But they aren’t….
Sources for this series (previously mentioned):
- T.C. Mitchell, The Bible in the British Museum: Interpreting the Evidence
- Peter Masters, Heritage of Evidence in the British Museum
I’ll add a third, Through the British Museum with the Bible, by Brian Edwards and Clive Anderson. Like Dr. Masters’ book, it is written from the perspective of a Bible believer and would be a good guide as you go through the museum. It uses dates that are consistent with Biblical evidence. Some statements show perhaps some hints of influence by skeptical scholars, but I’ve noticed nothing blatantly wrong in the book.
If someone could only buy one book, I would recommend the one by Dr. Masters, but this book by Edwards and Anderson is also excellent. I am glad to have all three before I get to the British Museum again, which I hope to do in the not too distant future.
Summary post for the series, with links to other articles on Bible-related artefacts:
The Bible in the British Museum
I am planning a visit to the museum in May. Probably will have only one day. I especially want to see Sennacherib’s wall, but of course there are many other things relevant to the Bible there.
Wish I had more time!
Don, I’d strongly encourage you to get either Peter Masters’ book or Edwards and Anderson before going. Then, you can look through and decide the things you really want to see. I didn’t have either of them last time I was there, and we ended up wandering too much and looking for stuff — wasted a lot of time.
We’re going to be there in June, probably only have one day at the Museum as well. There’s obviously a lot of other things besides Biblical history that is of interest — the Rosetta Stone, etc.
You definitely want to see the Lachish reliefs, and a few other “must sees” (in my opinion).
I think we have access to Master’s book, either from friends in the UK or someone here has it. Too bad you can’t come down in May! We could take a picture and prove we are real, not just internet mavens.
Well, my daughter knows your son, and he’s real, so if he’s real, chances are reasonable that you are.
Here’s what you need to do. In the Great Court, stand under the lion of Knidos and take a picture. He sat on the cliff looking out over the sea. Paul almost surely would have seen him when he sailed past (Acts 27).
Have someone take your picture, and I’ll post it here, and ask, “Which is more oldfashioned and out-dated, the lion or the Canadian?” I bet I can find some people who would vote for you — I know just where to look for them.
I’d love to come down and see you, but it won’t work. May has gone crazy on me.
Do try to read the book before you go, because otherwise (if you are like me) you’ll be busy once you hit the UK, and it won’t happen until you get to the museum. You’ll still benefit, but not in the same way.