Robert Dick Wilson’s talk “Is the Higher Criticism Scholarly?” (part 6 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]

Ewald Utterly Refuted in the Argument Regarding the Title “King of Persia”

Second, the critics affirm that Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles were put together in their present form by the same redactor [reviser] and that this redactor must have lived in the Greek period, because he calls the kings of Persia by the title “king of Persia.” The great German critic, Ewald, said it was “unnecessary and contrary to contemporary usage” to call the kings of Persia by the title “king of Persia” during the time that the kings of Persia actually ruled; and that consequently the presence of this title in a document shows that the document must have been written after the Persian empire had ceased to exist. The present writer has shown by a complete induction of all the titles of the kings of Egypt, Babylon, Assyria, Greece, and all other nations of that part of the world including the Hebrews themselves, from 4000 B. C. down to Augustus, that it was the custom in all times, languages, and kingdoms to use titles similar to this. Further, he has shown that the title “king of Persia” was given by Nabunaid, king of Babylon, to Cyrus in 546 B. C., seven years before the first use of it in the Bible, and that it is used by Xenophon in 365 B.C., probably forty years after it is used for the last time in the Bible. Further, he has shown that, between 546 and 365 B. C., it was used thirty-eight different times by eighteen different authors, in nineteen different documents, in six different languages, and in five or six different countries; and that it is used in letters and dates in Scripture just as it is used in the extra-Biblical documents. Lastly he has shown that it was not unusual for the Greek authors after the Persian period to employ the title.

Inexcusable Ignorance of Evidence on the Part of Notable Critics Exposed

Thus, with regard to this title, by a mass of incontestable evidence, the writers of Chronicles and Ezra, and of Daniel, also, are shown to be in harmony with the contemporaneous usage of documents written in the Persian period and to be out of harmony with the common usage in Greek times. The Bible is right, and professor Ewald of Gottingen, the greatest German Old Testament scholar of his time, and Professors Driver and Gray of Oxford, the writers of many books and of many articles in the Encyclopedia Britannica, Hastings, and the expository Times, are proved to be wrong. They all might have read that part of the evidence which is found in Herodotus, Thucydides, Aeschylus, Xenophon, and other Greek authors. Drs. Driver and Gray ought, also to have read for themselves, or to have had Professor Sayce, or Dr. King, or Dr. Budge, read or gather from them the evidence on the subject to be found in the Babylonian, Persian, Susian, and Egyptian. Unless on has sufficiently mastered the languages in which the texts containing the evidence on such subjects as the titles of the kings of Persia are written, he cannot be called an expert witness and should be ruled out of court.

Having read carefully and repeatedly what these critics have to say on this title, I have failed to find any hint indicating that they have ever appealed for their information to any original sources outside of Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic; and as to these, they pay no attention to the great Greek writers mentioned above. If they are so careless and unreliable where their assertions can be investigated, what ground have they for expecting us to rely upon them where their assertions cannot be tested? If the statements of the Biblical writers are found to be confirmed when they can be tested by outside evidence, is it right to presume that they are correct when no evidence for, or against, their statements is within our knowledge?

Variations in Numbers Will be Better Understood When Israel’s

Numerical Signs Are Discovered

The other objections to the trustworthiness of the records of Chronicles are mostly purely subjective in character, utterly devoid of any objective evidence in their favor; or they are based upon interpretations which are impossible to prove. Are we driven to conclude, for example, that a thousand of thousands means exactly one million, neither more nor less? May it not mean many, or countless, thousands, just as a generation of generations means many generations? And are the critics who find the account that the Chronicler gives of the conspiracy against Athaliah inconsistent with that given in Kings quite sure that the captain and the guard of Kings cannot have been priests and Levites? Besides, how can we expect to explain satisfactorily all seeming incongruities in documents that are thousands of years old?

As to the variations in numbers in the different sources, they are probably due to different readings of the original signs. But we do not know what signs the Hebrews used; and so we cannot at present discuss intelligently the reasons for the variations, and never shall until the system of numerical signs used by the Israelites has been discovered. And everybody knows how difficult it is to copy numerical signs correctly. There is nothing usually in the context to help us determine just how many men were in an army, or how many were killed in a given battle. The important thing is, who won the fight.

I once inquired what was the population of a certain Southern city. One told me  40,000; another, 120,000. When I asked for an explanation of the discrepancy, I was told that there were 40,000 whites and 80,000 Negroes. Both estimates were true; but had they been written down in two different documents what charges of inconsistency might not have been made by future scientific historians!

The Chronicler Need Not Have Copied From Kings

Again, in their criticism of Chronicles, the critics proceed on the presumption that, in the portions that are parallel to kings, the author has merely copied from Kings, and that he has no further sources of reliable information. The author of Chronicles himself states that he had a number of such sources. Can the critics give any good reason to show that he did not have these sources? Since the critics admit that the Chronicles of the kings of Israel were not destroyed by Sargon when Samaria was overthrown, and Hosea, Amos, the so-called Jehovist and Elohistic parts of the Pentateuch, Deuteronomy, and other works of the Hebrews were not destroyed at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, why should we suppose that the records of the kings of Israel and Judah were not in existence when the writers of Kings and Chronicles composed their works?

And why since many hundreds of works of the ancient Greeks, such as those mentioned by Pliny, have since utterly disappeared, are we to suppose that the Jews of Ezra’s time did not also possess many works that have long since been obliterated? The Aramaic recension of the Behistun Inscription of Darius Hystaspis and the Aramaic work of Ahikar were buried at Elephantine for twenty-three hundred years, but now have been unearthed and show that the Aramaic-speaking Jews of the sixth and fifth centuries B. C. had produced some literary documents at least in addition to the Aramaic portions of Ezra and Daniel. How many more of such works may have been possessed by them both in Hebrew and Aramaic we cannot say, but the probability is that they were numerous. We cannot see that there is sufficient reason for doubting the claim of the Chronicler to have had access to sources extending from the time of David down to his own time. He says that he did have such sources. How can the critics know that he did not?

One of the most unjustifiable of the assaults upon the Old Testament Scriptures lies in the assumption that the larger part of the great poetical and legal productions and some of the finest prophesies were produced during the period of Judah’s political and linguistic decay, which followed the year 500 B. C. The only time after the end of the captivity at which we might naturally have expected a recrudescence of such literary activity was the period from 200 B. C. to the time of Pompey. And here in fact are to be placed the apocryphal and pseudepigraphical works of Ecclesiasticus, Wisdom, First Maccabees, Jubilees, parts of Enoch, and many other works of greater or less value.

The only one of these that has been preserved in Hebrew is Ecclesiasticus; and its Hebrew has no word that is certainly Greek, and not one of Persian origin that is not found in the Old Testament.

Many traces of Persian influence are visible in the Chronicles, Ester, Ezra, and Nehemiah. When, however, we come to the Hebrew of the Psalms, of which so many are placed by the critics in this period, of Ecclesiastes, and of the Hebrew part of Daniel, we find that the language differs markedly from Ecclesiasticus both in vocabulary and forms.

The use of the conjunction “and” with the perfect, which is said to be the mark of the lateness of Ecclesiastes, is not found in Ecclesiasticus. Ecclesiastes is devoid of any words that are certainly Babylonian, Persian, or Aramaic. The so-called Maccabean Psalms have no Persian or Greek words and few if any that are certainly Babylonian; and only a few that are even alleged to have Aramaic vocables or forms.

The period between 500 and 164 B. C. was one in which the Israelites were subservient to the government of Persia and the Greeks. The only reliable information from this time about a revival of national feeling and semi-independence among the Jews is that to be found in Ezra-Nehemiah, and Chronicles. As we would expect, they are all characterized by Persian, Babylonian, and Aramaic words, and Ezra is nearly half composed in Aramaic.


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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