Robert Dick Wilson’s talk “Is the Higher Criticism Scholarly?” (part 2 of transcript)

The Bible and Archaeology (3/5)

For many more archaeological evidences in support of the Bible, see Archaeology and the Bible . (There are some great posts on this too at the bottom of this post.)

Robert Dick Wilson at the Grove City Bible Conference in 1909.

IS THE HIGHER CRITICISM SCHOLARLY?Clearly attested facts showing that thedestructive “assured results of modern scholarship” are indefensible

By Robert Dick Wilson, Ph.D., D.D.

Professor of Semitic Philology in Princeton Theological Seminary[Originally Published in 1922] 

Age-long Correspondence in the Chronology of the Bible and Profane history

Having found, then, that writing and the Hebrew language were in existence long before the time of Moses, we turn next to the documents of the Old testament which purport to give a history, more or less connected, of the period from Abraham (circa 2000 B. C.) to Darius II (circa 400 B. C.), in order to find out, if possible, whether the general scheme of chronology and geography presented to us in the Hebrew records corresponds with what we can learn from other documents of the same period. And here we find, first, that the nations mentioned in the Scriptures as having flourished at one time or another are exactly the same as those that profane history reveals to us. Thus in the period from Abraham to David we find in both Biblical and profane sources that Egypt is recognized as already in 2000 B. C. a great and predominant power, and that she continued to the time of Solomon to be looked upon as the great enemy of the Israelites. In the same period, we see Elam and Babylon occupying the first place in the far East, and the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Sidonians, Moabites, Edomites, and Damascus in the intervening section, the “debatable ground” between Egypt and Babylon.

In the next period, from 1000 to 625 B. C., Assyria has become the chief power among the nations in the neighborhood of Palestine, with Babylon of only secondary importance. Egypt has lost the first rank and is at times subject to Cush or dominated by Assyria. Media appears on the scene, but as a subject of Assyria. Between the Euphrates and Egypt, the Hittites are prominent in the earlier part, and next to them Hamath, Damascus, Tyre, Ammon, Moab, and Edom. Further, the distinction between Samaria and Judah is clearly recognized in the monuments.

In the last period, from 625 to 400 B. C., Babylon has become the leading power until its hegemony is taken over by Persia under Cyrus. Egypt as a world power disappears from history with the conquests by Nebuchadnezzar and Cambyses. The Hittites, Damascus, Hamath, Israel, Judah, and all the tribes and cities between Babylon and Egypt have ceased to exist as independent powers.

A Foundation for Reliance

Now, into this framework of world history, the history of Israel fits exactly. The bible records in succession the relations of Israel with Babylon, Elam, Egypt, Hittites, Assyrians, Babylonians, and Persians; and the smaller nations, or powers, appear in their proper relation to these successively great powers. These are facts that cannot be denied and they afford a foundation for reliance upon the statements of the biblical documents.

Correct Order and Character of the Kings

This foundation is strengthened when we observe that the kings of these various countries whose names are mentioned in the Old Testament are all named in the order and in the synchronism required by the documents of the kings themselves. Thus, Chedorlaomer, possibly, and certainly Hammurapi (the Amraphel of Genesis 14) and Arioch lived at about 2000 B. C.; Sishack, Zerah, So, Tirhakeh, Necho, and Hophra, kings of Assyria; Merodach-Baladan, Nebuchadnezzar, Evil-Merodach and Belshazzar, kings of Babylon; and Cyrus, Darius, Xerxes and Artaxerxes, kings of Persia, all appear in the Scriptures in their correct order as attested by their own records, or by other contemporaneous evidence. The same is true, also, of the kings of Damascus, Tyre, and Moab.

Again we find that the Assyrian documents that mention the kings of Israel and Judah name them in the same order in which they appear in the chronicles of Israel and Judah. And not only this. We find, also, that the statements made with regard to the kings of all these countries correspond as closely as different documents ever correspond in reference to their relative power, importance, and characteristics and deeds. Especially noteworthy are the close resemblances in this respect between the accounts of Shishak, Tiglath-Pileser, Sennacherib, Nebuchadnezzar, and Cyrus; but the whole fabric of the historic structure of the Old Testament harmonizes beautifully in general outline and often in detain with the background of the general history of the world as revealed in the documents form the nations surrounding Israel.

A Biblical Phenomenon Unequaled in the History of Literature

Moreover, an extraordinary confirmation of the careful transmission of the Hebrew documents from original sources lies in the exact manner in which the names of the kings are spelled. The twenty-four names of the kings of Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, et al., contain 120 consonantal letters, of which all are found in the same order in the inscriptions of the kings themselves or in those of their contemporaries. That the Hebrew writers should have transliterated these names with such accurateness and conformity to philological principles is a wonderful proof of their thorough care and scholarship and of their access to the original sources. That the names should have been transmitted to us through so many copyings and so many centuries in so complete a state of preservation is a phenomenon unequaled in the history of literature. The scribe of Assurbanipal in transcribing the name of Psammetichus, the contemporary king of Egypt, makes the mistake of writing a t for the p at the beginning and an l for a t in the middle. Abulfeda, the author of the Arab ante-Islamic history, gives the names of the kings of Persia of the Achæmenid line as “Kei-Kobad, Kei-kawus, Kei-Chosrew, Kei-Lohrasp, Kei-Bushtasf, Kei-Ardeshir-Bahman and Chomani his daughter, and Dara the First, and Dara the Second who was killed by Alaskander,” and writes the name of Nebuchadnezzar as Bactnosar. In the list of names of the companions of Alexander given by the Pseudo-Callisthenes, nearly every name is changed so as to be unrecognizable; and the same is true of most of the names of the kings of Egypt as we have them preserved in the lists of Manetho, Herodotus, and Diodorus Siculus, and of the kings of Assyria and Babylonia as given in Africanus, Castor, and the Canon of Ptolemy.

The Correctness of Hebrew Authors a Basis for Faith

This almost universal inaccuracy and unreliability of the Greek and Arab historians with reference to the kings of Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon is in glaring contrast with the exactness and trustworthiness of the Hebrew Bible. It can be accounted for, humanly speaking, only on the grounds that the authors of the Hebrew records were contemporaries of the kings they mention, or had access to original documents; and secondly, that the Hebrew writers were good enough scholars to transliterate with exactness; and thirdly, that the copyists of the Hebrew originals transcribed with conscientious care the text that was before them. Having given such care to the names of heathen kings, it is to be presumed that they would give no less attention to what these kings said and did; and so we have in this incontestable evidence form the order, times, and spelling of the names of the kings an indestructible basis upon which to rest our faith in the reliability of the history recorded in the books of the Old testament Scriptures. Doubt about some of the minor details can never invalidate this strong foundation of facts upon which to erect the enduring structure of the history of Israel.

Having secured the framework for our history, let us look next at the doorways of language which let us inside the structure. These doorways are the passages through which converse with the outer world was carried on by the people of Israel. On their thresholds will be seen the footprints of the nations who introduced their ideas and their products to the household who dwelt within.

Intruding Foreign Words as Date-Setters

In order that the force of the evidence that I am about to produce may be fully appreciated, let me here say that the time at which any document of length, and often even of small compass, was written can generally be determined by the character of its vocabulary, and especially by the foreign words which are embedded in it. Take for example, the various Aramaic documents. The inscriptions from northern Syria having been written in Assyrian times bear evident marks of Assyrian, Phoenician, and even Hebrew words. The Egyptian papyri from Persian times have numerous words of Egyptian, Babylonian, and Persian origin, as have also the Aramaic parts of Ezra and Daniel. The Nabatean Aramaic having been written probably by Arabs is strongly marked, especially in its proper names, by Arab words. The Palmyrene, Syriac, and Rabbinical Aramaic, from the time of the Græco-Roman domination, have hundreds of terms introduced from Greek and Latin. Bar Hebræus and other writings after the Mohammedian conquest have numerous Arabic expressions, and the modern Syriac of Ouroumiah has many words of Persian, Kurdish, and Turkish origin.

The Ever-Changing Influx of New Words in Hebrew Scriptures

Now, if the Biblical history be true, we shall expect to find Babylonian words in the early chapters of Genesis and Egyptian in the later; and so on down an ever-changing influx of new words from the languages of the ever-changing dominating powers. And, as a matter of fact, this is exactly what we find. The accounts of the Creation and the Flood are marked by Babylonian words and ideas. The record of Joseph is tinged with an Egyptian coloring. The language of Solomon’s time has Indian, Assyrian, and probably Hittite words. From his time to the end of the Old Testament, Assyrian and Babylonian terms are often found, as in Jeremiah, Nahum, Isaiah, Kings, and other books. Persian words come in first with the conquest of Babylon by Cyrus and are frequent in Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Chronicles, and Esther, and in the case of proper names, one at least occurs in both Haggai and Zechariah. No Greek words are to be found in the Hebrew of the Old Testament, except Javan and possibly one or two other terms. That Aramaic words may have been in Hebrew documents at any time from Moses to Ezra is shown by the fact that two or more words and phrases found elsewhere only in Aramaic occur already in the Tel-el-Amarna letters, and one letter to the king of Egypt from Abd-Hiba of Jerusalem.

It may be known to the reader that one verse in Jeremiah and about half of the books of Ezra and Daniel are written in Aramaic. This is what we may have expected at a time when as the Egyptian papyri and the Babylonian indorsements show, the Aramaic language had become the common language of Western Asia and in particular of the Jews, at least in all matters of business and commerce. That the Hebrew parts of Daniel and Ezra should have a large number of Aramaic words would, therefore, be expected; and, also they would naturally be found in Chronicles and Nehemiah and other documents coming from the later part of the sixth century (when Aramaic was the lingua franca of the Persian empire) and in other works down to the latest composition of the Old Testament. In later Hebrew this process of absorbing foreign words may be illustrated by numerous examples. Thus the tract Yoma, written about A. D. 200, has about twenty Greek words in it, and Pesahim, about fourteen, while hundreds of them are found in Dalman’s dictionary of New Hebrew. Many terms of Latin origin also appear in the Hebrew literature of Roman times.


Is the Bible historically accurate? Here are some of the posts I have done in the past on the subject:

The Babylonian Chronicle
of Nebuchadnezzars Siege of Jerusalem

This clay tablet is a Babylonian chronicle recording events from 605-594BC. It was first translated in 1956 and is now in the British Museum. The cuneiform text on this clay tablet tells, among other things, 3 main events: 1. The Battle of Carchemish (famous battle for world supremacy where Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon defeated Pharoah Necho of Egypt, 605 BC.), 2. The accession to the throne of Nebuchadnezzar II, the Chaldean, and 3. The capture of Jerusalem on the 16th of March, 598 BC.

2. Hezekiah’s Siloam Tunnel Inscription.

King Hezekiah of Judah ruled from 721 to 686 BC. Fearing a siege by the Assyrian king, Sennacherib, Hezekiah preserved Jerusalem’s water supply by cutting a tunnel through 1,750 feet of solid rock from the Gihon Spring to the Pool of Siloam inside the city walls (2 Kings 20; 2 Chron. 32). At the Siloam end of the tunnel, an inscription, presently in the archaeological museum at Istanbul, Turkey, celebrates this remarkable accomplishment.

3. Taylor Prism (Sennacherib Hexagonal Prism)

It contains the victories of Sennacherib himself, the Assyrian king who had besieged Jerusalem in 701 BC during the reign of king Hezekiah, it never mentions any defeats. On the prism Sennacherib boasts that he shut up “Hezekiah the Judahite” within Jerusalem his own royal city “like a caged bird.” This prism is among the three accounts discovered so far which have been left by the Assyrian king Sennacherib of his campaign against Israel and Judah.

4. Biblical Cities Attested Archaeologically.

In addition to Jericho, places such as Haran, Hazor, Dan, Megiddo, Shechem, Samaria, Shiloh, Gezer, Gibeah, Beth Shemesh, Beth Shean, Beersheba, Lachish, and many other urban sites have been excavated, quite apart from such larger and obvious locations as Jerusalem or Babylon. Such geographical markers are extremely significant in demonstrating that fact, not fantasy, is intended in the Old Testament historical narratives;

5. The Discovery of the Hittites

Most doubting scholars back then said that the Hittites were just a “mythical people that are only mentioned in the Bible.” Some skeptics pointed to the fact that the Bible pictures the Hittites as a very big nation that was worthy of being coalition partners with Egypt (II Kings 7:6), and these bible critics would assert that surely we would have found records of this great nation of Hittites.  The ironic thing is that when the Hittite nation was discovered, a vast amount of Hittite documents were found. Among those documents was the treaty between Ramesses II and the Hittite King.

6.Shishak Smiting His Captives

The Bible mentions that Shishak marched his troops into the land of Judah and plundered a host of cities including Jerusalem,  this has been confirmed by archaeologists. Shishak’s own record of his campaign is inscribed on the south wall of the Great Temple of Amon at Karnak in Egypt. In his campaign he presents 156 cities of Judea to his god Amon. 

7. Moabite Stone

The Moabite Stone also known as the Mesha Stele is an interesting story. The Bible says in 2 Kings 3:5 that Mesha the king of Moab stopped paying tribute to Israel and rebelled and fought against Israel and later he recorded this event. This record from Mesha has been discovered.

8Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III

The tribute of Jehu, son of Omri, silver, gold, bowls of gold, chalices of gold, cups of gold, vases of gold, lead, a sceptre for the king, and spear-shafts, I have received.”

View from the dome of the Capitol!9A Verification of places in Gospel of John and Book of Acts.

Sir William Ramsay, famed archaeologist, began a study of Asia Minor with little regard for the book of Acts. He later wrote:

I found myself brought into contact with the Book of Acts as an authority for the topography, antiquities and society of Asia Minor. It was gradually borne upon me that in various details the narrative showed marvelous truth.

9B Discovery of Ebla TabletsWhen I think of discoveries like the Ebla Tablets that verify  names like Adam, Eve, Ishmael, David and Saul were in common usage when the Bible said they were, it makes me think of what amazing confirmation that is of the historical accuracy of the Bible.

10. Cyrus Cylinder

There is a well preserved cylinder seal in the Yale University Library from Cyrus which contains his commands to resettle the captive nations.

11. Puru “The lot of Yahali” 9th Century B.C.E.

This cube is inscribed with the name and titles of Yahali and a prayer: “In his year assigned to him by lot (puru) may the harvest of the land of Assyria prosper and thrive, in front of the gods Assur and Adad may his lot (puru) fall.”  It provides a prototype (the only one ever recovered) for the lots (purim) cast by Haman to fix a date for the destruction of the Jews of the Persian Empire, ostensibly in the fifth century B.C.E. (Esther 3:7; cf. 9:26).

12. The Uzziah Tablet Inscription

The Bible mentions Uzziah or Azariah as the king of the southern kingdom of Judah in 2 Kings 15. The Uzziah Tablet Inscription is a stone tablet (35 cm high x 34 cm wide x 6 cm deep) with letters inscribed in ancient Hebrew text with an Aramaic style of writing, which dates to around 30-70 AD. The text reveals the burial site of Uzziah of Judah, who died in 747 BC.

13. The Pilate Inscription

The Pilate Inscription is the only known occurrence of the name Pontius Pilate in any ancient inscription. Visitors to the Caesarea theater today see a replica, the original is in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. There have been a few bronze coins found that were struck form 29-32 AD by Pontius Pilate

14. Caiaphas Ossuary

This beautifully decorated ossuary found in the ruins of Jerusalem, contained the bones of Caiaphas, the first century AD. high priest during the time of Jesus.

14 B Pontius Pilate Part 2      

In June 1961 Italian archaeologists led by Dr. Frova were excavating an ancient Roman amphitheatre near Caesarea-on-the-Sea (Maritima) and uncovered this interesting limestone block. On the face is a monumental inscription which is part of a larger dedication to Tiberius Caesar which clearly says that it was from “Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judea.”

14c. Three greatest American Archaeologists moved to accept Bible’s accuracy through archaeology.

Despite their liberal training, it was archaeological research that bolstered their confidence in the biblical text:Albright said of himself, “I must admit that I tried to be rational and empirical in my approach [but] we all have presuppositions of a philosophical order.” The same statement could be applied as easily to Gleuck and Wright, for all three were deeply imbued with the theological perceptions which infused their work.

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  • Tom  On April 15, 2013 at 11:48 am

    Google: Assyrian, Babylon, Biblical, Cush, Egypt and Elam Confirmations. Its on several sites. The history confirms the reign of Judah’s king Ahaz to Judah king Zedekiah’s decline with no gaps in time proving the Holy Scriptures are historically accurate for this time period.

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