The Bible in the British Museum
This is a summary of a series of posts on Bible-relevant items in the British Museum.
Biblical Archaeology — Always True, Not Always Reliable — This wasn’t the first post in the series, but it seems to belong at the top of the page. A very strange discovery in an ancient Roman temple near Caesarea Philippi illustrates the limitations of Biblical archaeology. Sequel: The Bible — Not Like Archaeology — Always True, Always Reliable
Meet My Friend Idrimi — A statue which helpfully confirms some of the historical records of the Bible. The inscription on the statue is the oldest known mention of the land of Canaan. The Hittites are also mentioned.
The Genesis Flood and the Atrahasis Epic — Lessons from the Babylonian legend of the creation of the world and a world-wide flood. The similarities between this account and the Biblical account are instructive, and so are the differences. This is one of the most popular articles in the series.
Ur, U R 4 Real! — Pictures of some spectacular items from Ur, the original home of Abraham, again supporting the historical accuracy of Scripture.
The Lion, the Light — The Lion of Knidos is not mentioned in Scripture, but the Bible tells us that Paul and Luke sailed under the cliff where it sat. They must have seen it above them, a monument to a famous person now entirely forgotten, while their work for the Lord lives on.
The Rosetta Stone — This famous discovery helped unlock the key to ancient Egyptian records and monuments. The result was to give us abundant information about Bible times and the background for some of the things mentioned in Scripture.
A Clay Cylinder — and Daniel’s History — And they thought the Bible was wrong about Belshazzar, king of Babylon. The Nabonidus Cylinder proves that the Bible was accurate. Furthermore, it proves that the Bible was more complete in its record than Herodotus and other contemporary historians. An amazing discovery.
A Clay Cylinder — and Daniel’s Prophecy — The Nabonidus Cylinder proves that Daniel’s amazingly specific prophecies were indeed prophecies. This is one of the hardest things in the Bible for a skeptic to argue against with any credibility. This is perhaps even more important than the historical confirmation the cylinder provides — it validates a prophecy and destroys the last naturalistic / human explanation the skeptic can give.
A Clay Cylinder — and Skepticism and Apologetics — The “Fog of History” and the limits of apologetics are amply demonstrated by this clay cylinder and the way both Christian scholars and skeptics talked about Belshazzar before (and after) the cylinder was found.
The Big-Ears Pharaoh — A statue of Senusret III, who may well have been the Pharaoh in Egypt in the time of Joseph. We can’t know for sure, since the Bible doesn’t tell us his name, but there are some interesting similarities between the Biblical account and what the historical records tell us about him.
A King Who Knew Not Joseph — The Hyksos rulers in Egypt were hated, and there are few statues or other items from their time. There is good reason to think that the king who did not know Joseph, mentioned in Exodus 1, was a Hyksos ruler.
A Daughter of Pharaoh — Hatshepsut, who eventually ruled as Pharaoh for a time, may have been the daughter of Pharaoh who rescued the baby Moses and raised him as her own child. If not, she at least shows that it was possible for a woman in the Egyptian royal family to do the things described in Exodus.
Cyrus… Shall Perform All My Pleasure — A fascinating glimpse of the Persian Emperor Cyrus, and how his decree (recorded in Scripture) to rebuild the Lord’s temple in Jerusalem was similar to, yet different from, his actions towards the gods of the people around Babylon.
“Whose is This Image and Superscription?” — Jesus said to those who questioned Him, “Show Me the tribute money.” When we look at the actual coin, the tribute money, and see the image on the coin and what the superscription says, it helps us to understand this important event in the last week before our Lord’s crucifixion. (Related, though not a British Museum post — Misusing Matthew 22:21 “Render Unto Caesar”).
Ancient Royal Propaganda — Four ancient monuments name various kings mentioned in the Old Testament, and the details on the monuments fit very, very well with some of the details in the Biblical records. The monuments may have been intended to stroke the egos of the kings they honoured, or to persuade others of their greatness, but now they serve another, more valuable, function.
Amarna’s Letters of Despair — “Lost are the Lands!” — Some fascinating letters from the Egyptian royal archives sound very much like a description, from the losing side, of the invasion of Canaan by Israel under Joshua’s leadership.
The “Heretical” Pharoah of Amarna — companion to the previous post. An interesting quirk in Egyptian religious history (or the providential hand of God?) led to the surprising preservation of hundreds of letters in the Egyptian royal archives — many of which are significant to Biblical history.
Rations for Jehoiachin — this is not actually for an artefact in the British Museum, but in the Pergamum Museum in Berlin. I’ve included it here because it is, similarly to other items in this series, an artefact with relevance to Biblical events or people. A tablet found in Babylon gives an official Babylonian record of the provisions / rations given to Jehoiachin, the king of Judah, during his imprisonment.
“O Assyrian, the Rod of Mine Anger!” — the British Museum has many, many artefacts from the brutal regime of Assyria, and this article looks at items from a series of Assyrian kings. These confirm many aspects of the Biblical record, which names these kings and describes their campaigns and their violence.
“He Carried Them Away” — Ashtaroth / Astartu — A picture from an Assyrian palace wall of the capture of the Israeli city of Ashtaroth. Many interesting connections between what is pictured in the sculpture and the Biblical accounts.
Tartan and Rabsaris and Rabshakeh — Three Assyrian officials, recorded in Scripture and in archaeological finds, but not in any classic historians, thus demonstrating the accuracy and authority of Scripture.
Shebna’s Tomb — “What Hast Thou Here?” — A tomb inscription found on the hillside in the Kidron Valley, facing the old city of David, tells us that the tomb was almost certainly the tomb which Shebna, the royal steward, had prepared for himself, for which Isaiah rebuked him (Isaiah 22).
Shebna’s Tomb — “The Lord Will Carry Thee Away” — More on the tomb inscription, understanding Isaiah’s rebuke of Shebna in the context of the book of Isaiah, and an interesting little seal found at Lachish.
“The Houses of Ivory Shall Perish” — Ivory carvings found in Samaria and in the palace of an Assyrian king shed light on two passages in the prophetic book of Amos.
Isaiah’s Amazing Cyrus Prophecy — “The Hidden Treasures” — This article isn’t so much about a British Museum item, it’s part of another series on Isaiah’s prophecy about Cyrus. But it features an item in the museum from Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon, something which Daniel and his friends must have seen in their Babylonian captivity.