The Zedekiah Seal, Archeology And Biblical Reliability

It seems that new discoveries of ancient relics are constantly being made. The Jerusalem Post reported today another finding: The Zedekiah Seal. Just prior to this, in the world of archeology, you will remember that a few weeks back, The Messiah Tablet (which has actually been around for quite a while) also got people talking (and tempers flaring). Of course, archeology is nothing new and Christianity is certainly no newcomer to archeological conversations. But here's my hang-up with all of this: Why do we act as if archeology can really prove or disprove Christianity.

Or, why do people act as if archeology can really prove or disprove the Bible, that is render it true or untrue. Now, I'm saying this as a person who values the historicity of the Biblical personages, stories, locations, etc. But I am also saying this as a person who used to, but no longer necessarily believes that the sacredness or the validity of the Hebrew/Greek Scriptures (e.g. The Bible) stand, fall or rise on archeological data. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that archeology is invaluable. Neither am I saying that history and historical data are unimportant. Instead, what I am saying is that archeology is not the say-all, end-all.

Take this Zedekiah Seal, for example. While the seal's imprint aligns with what we find in Jeremiah 38.1, can we really use this seal and what it says to make statements such as "This 'proves' the Bible"? A few years ago, I would have said "Yes". Now, however, I would say "Not so much". Why? Because all that this seal does is comport with historical information that we already have. Yes, it may illumine our understanding of a portion of the Bible or it may affirm certain theories or hypotheses but what it does not prove (or disprove) is that the Bible is true or untrue.

Really, what this all comes down to is how one understands the Bible. For those who act as if God Himself dropped the Bible from the sky or whispered in the writer's ears, telling them what to say, the tendency is to say "The Zedekiah Seal proves that the Bible is true". Actually, such statements are evangelical code language for "See, the Bible is inspired" or "See, the Bible is inerrant". But if we evangelicals are honest with ourselves, things like the Zedekiah Seal have no bearing on or role in the formation of a doctrine of inspiration or inerrancy. For example, we could not say "The author of Jeremiah 38.1 was inspired by God and what he wrote was inerrant and the finding of this Seal proves it."

God did not hide this seal in the mud somewhere knowing or expecting that one day, someone would find it so that the Scriptures could be proven or disproven. But it is underlying assumptions like these that tend to shape pepole's understanding of and beliefs about the Bible. Instead, all that we can say about the relationship between the Zedekiah Seal and Jeremiah 38.1 (a part of the Bible, not the whole of it!) is that, historically speaking, we can confirm that there was a King named Zedekiah who had a servant and reigned around 580-600 BCE.

I think it is high-time for people to start being honest (especially evangelicals) about their views of, and more importantly, assumptions about, the Bible and particularly its relationship with things like archeology. Yes, archeology often sheds insight on the Bible and the world it was developed and composed in but no discovery can shatter or further Christianity. This means, too, that skeptics need to start being honest with themselves as well!


  1. Amen a thousand times. Well said and beautifully said. Thank you.

    "Why don't they teach logic in schools these days?" ;)

  2. I think the reason I'm so grateful when a find turns up is for conversations with hateful "your book is fairytales"-variety atheists. It would be going overboard to to say any of this "proves" the Bible -- but the larger the accumulation, the stronger case we can make for a mocker to stop mocking and reassess the genre: not fairytale.

    ... Found you through the current Biblical Studies carnival.

    Take care & God bless

  3. Weekend Fisher,
    Glad you found Pisteuomen. I think the point you raise is certainly legitimate. I would add to what you say by arguing also that, while none of this "proves the Bible" it does reveal that the people, places, etc. mentioned in these texts, do have some bearing on history. That, I think, is also important in conversations with the kinds of people you're referring to. Thanks WF, comment any time. Blessings!