The Rocks Cry Out
The Historical Evidence For the Bible
From Grant R. Jeffrey's The Handwriting of God
The last one hundred and fifty years of archeological exploration in
the Middle East has provided students of the Bible with an unparalleled
abundance of evidence confirming thousands of detailed historical statements
found in both the Old and New Testaments. In this chapter, we will explore
a small fraction of the powerful historical and archeological evidence
that has been discovered in Israel and throughout the Middle East that
throws new light on the pivotal events that have shaped our modern Western
culture. It is important that we place this evidence in its proper context.
Archeology and historical documents can never prove that the Bible is
inspired. Rather, the confirmation of the statements of the Bible through
archeological and historical investigations provides us with powerful
evidence of the historical truthfulness of the Word of God and indicates
that its statements were accurately transmitted over thousands of years.
One of the greatest of these pioneer archeologists is the Jewish scholar
Dr. Nelson Glueck, considered by many to be the greatest Jewish archeologist
in history. Professor Glueck has written, "It is worth emphasizing
that in all this work no archaeological discovery has ever controverted
a single, properly understood biblical statement."1 Professor Glueck's
statement is a powerful antidote to the pervasive skepticism and unbelief
of so many of the liberal theologians who inhabit the seminaries and universities
of the West. Despite the cynicism and skepticism of many liberal theologians
to the accuracy of the biblical account the scientific evidence of archeology
continues to confirm the accuracy of the Bible's statements. Meanwhile,
liberal theologians continue to ignore this overwhelming evidence in favor
of their presuppositions and strongly held prejudice against the authority,
inspiration, and accuracy of the Word of God.
Dr. Glueck wrote about the wonder of exploring the ancient ruins of the
Promised Land and finding confirmation after confirmation of the truthfulness
of this incomparable book, the Holy Scriptures.
Acquaint yourself with the needs and fears, the moods and manners, of
the broken array of peoples and civilizations that appeared at intervals
along the horizon of time and, in a general way, you will know in advance
where to look for the clues they left behind in the course of their passage.
. . . And above all, read the Bible, morning, noon and night, with a positive
attitude, reading to accept its historical references. . . . And then
go forth into the wilderness of the Negev and discover, trite as it may
sound, that everything you touch turns into the gold of history, and that
it is almost impossible not to stumble across the treasures of a robust
past, whose existence becomes as real and as full of content and color
and sound and fury and the thrill of progress and the pity of failure
as the transient present, which is always ticking away so furiously to
join the throng of those that need no longer hurry.2
Jerusalem, The City of David
Modern liberal scholars who reject the biblical evidence about the monarchies
of King David and his son Solomon in the tenth century before Christ also
dismiss the Bible's claims about Jerusalem being the capital city of a
united Israel. Many of these biblically minimalist scholars, including
Professor Thomas Thompson of the University of Copenhagen, totally reject
the Bible's description of Jerusalem as Israel's capital city during the
reigns of King David and Solomon in the period 1000 b.c. to 930 b.c. In
an article in Biblical Archeological Review, Thompson stated, "We
don't have a tenth-century Jerusalem . . . The last point is that Jerusalem
becomes a really major town only after the destruction of Lachish in 701
b.c. . . . Its very difficult to talk about a united monarchy [under David
and Solomon] in the tenth century b.c.e."3 [Note: academic scholars
use b.c.e. (before common era) rather than the normal designation b.c.
(before Christ) for fairly obvious reasons].
In other words, Professor Thompson and his many liberal colleagues totally
deny the detailed biblical record of the reigns of Israel's greatest kings
and Solomon's Temple. From their skeptical standpoint, they automatically
reject every biblical statement unless it is verified by multiple pagan
historical or archeological sources. However, a logical question arises.
How could such a detailed historical tradition and national memory of
King David's and King Solomon's deeds, their conquests, and their Temple
have arisen in Israel if these events never occurred?
Modern anthropologists admit that nearly always there is some historical
event behind every tradition. The biblical minimalist scholars reject
the historical and archeological evidence, as well as the biblical evidence,
that attests to Jerusalem's existence as a significant city in Palestine
during the time of Israel's conquest of Canaan, which occurred several
centuries before the rise of King Saul and then King David to rule Jerusalem
as Israel's capital. A fascinating article entitled "Cow Town or
Royal Capital" by Nadav Na'aman appeared in the July/August 1997
issue of the respected Biblical Archeological Review magazine. This article
contained interesting archeological evidence about ancient Jerusalem including
a reference to the Tell el Amarna Letters. Although I had read a summary
of these letters years ago, I was delighted to acquire an excellent copy
and translation of these vital ancient documents from a rare-book dealer
several weeks ago. It was fascinating to read these letters by the pagan
king of Jerusalem during the time of the conquest of the Promised Land.
Evidence about Jerusalem From the Tell el-Amarna Tablets
The famous Amarna letters were discovered at Tell el-Amarna in Egypt
more than a century ago. These thirty-five hundred-year-old clay tablets
included diplomatic letters that were written in the 14th century b.c.
in Akkadian cuneiform characters, the common official language at the
time. This valuable library of government documents includes more than
three hundred diplomatic letters written by the governors or kings of
Canaan to the Egyptian pharaoh who ruled Canaan as a province of the Egyptian-controlled
territory in Palestine and Syria. This extensive correspondence includes
hundreds of letters written by two well-known Egyptian pharaohs (Amenophis
III [13911353 b.c.] and Amenophis IV, popularly known as Akhenaten
[13531337 b.c.]). The dates when these Egyptian pharaohs ruled are
The most important portion of the letters for biblical scholars include
six diplomatic messages sent from the King of Jerusalem, who ruled Canaan
(present-day Israel and the West Bank). These letters are incredibly valuable
for the detailed historical evidence they provide about the situation
in Canaan at the approximate time of the conquest of the Promised Land
under the leadership of Joshua and Gideon, according to the biblical record
found in Joshua and Judges. The Tell el-Amarna Tablets provide invaluable
independent information about historical conditions in Canaan. Written
by several kings who ruled their provinces and cities under the rule of
Egypt, these letters are of vital importance to scholars because they
describe conditions in Canaan only one or two generations after the Exodus
at the very time the Bible tells us the conquest of the Promised Land
All serious scholars who have examined the Tell el-Amarna letters agree
that the name "Urusalim" found in the letters clearly refer
to the city of Jerusalem, according to the detailed geographical descriptions
about its location. The Amarna letters mention the city of "Urusalim"
(Jerusalem) which appears repeatedly in this fascinating correspondence.
At the time of this correspondence, Jerusalem and other cities of Canaan
were ruled by local kings under ultimate Egyptian control. Jerusalem itself
was ruled by a local dynasty which passed the crown from father to son.
Other sources refer to these local rulers of city-states as kings. In
most of these letters, the king of Jerusalem appeals desperately, and
without success, for troops and archers from his overlord, the pharaoh
of Egypt. Apparently at this time, the pharaoh ruling Egypt was distracted
from defending his province of Canaan against the invaders who were attacking
the cities under the control of the king of Jerusalem. This invasion of
the foreign "Habiru" occurred during the reign of Pharaoh Amenophis
IV, often called Akhenaten (13531337 b.c.). Apparently Akhenaten
ignored military defense because he was focussed solely on creating a
new religion in Egypt to worship the sun god.
Consider the powerful historical evidence provided in these six letters
from the king of Jerusalem to his overlord, the king of Egypt, that prove
Jerusalem existed as a capital city during this critical historical period.
In addition, these letters provide evidence that the Promised Land was
being invaded at this time by a victorious army of foreign people called
"Habiru." Many scholars admit that the "Habiru" were
most likely the conquering Israelites, who called themselves "Hebrews."
For example, Abdi-Hiba, the king of Jerusalem, wrote to the pharaoh in
desperation requesting Egyptian troops to defend his territory.
Letters From The Tell el-Amarna Tablets4
There is no garrison here.
So let the king care for his land.
Let the king care for his land.
The lands of the king, the lord,
have all deserted.
Ilimilku has devastated the whole land of the king.
(Letter of Abdi-Hiba, King of Jerusalem to
the Pharaoh -Tell el Amarna Letter - Number 2)
No lands of the king remain.
The Habiru plunder all lands of the king.
If archers are here this year, then the lands of the king,
the lord, will remain; but if archers are not here,
then the lands of the king, my lord, are lost.
(Letter of Abdi-Hiba, King of Jerusalem to
the Pharaoh - Tell el Amarna Letter - Number 3)
Verily, the king has set his name
upon the land of Urusalim for ever.
Therefore he cannot abandon
the lands of Urusalim.
(Letter of Abdi-Hiba, King of Jerusalem
to the Pharaoh - Tell el Amarna Letter - Number 3)
In his letters the king protested that the pharaoh's indifference to
his desperate military request for additional troops indicated that he
didn't want to fight the "Habiru."
As long as the king, my lord, lives
I will say to the deputy of the king, my lord:
"Why do you love the Habiru, and hate the regents ?"
(Letter of Abdi-Hiba, King of Jerusalem to
the Pharaoh - Tell el Amarna Letter - Number 2)
But if there are no archers
the land of the king will desert to the Hiabiru.
This will be the fate of the land.
(Letter of Abdi-Hiba, King of Jerusalem
to the Pharaoh - Tell el Amarna Letter - Number 6)
Could the reluctance to fight this group of invaders stem from the historical
memory of the Egyptians' of God's supernatural deliverance of the Israelites
and the destruction of Egypt's army at the Red Sea during the Exodus?
Abdi-Hiba, the king of Jerusalem, indicated the significance of his kingdom
and capital in his description of his gift of over five thousand slaves
to his Egyptian overlord. If Jerusalem was a small, insignificant town,
its king would not have had a military victory that afforded him the opportunity
to send a gift of five thousand prisoners captured from his enemies. The
biblical minimalist scholars assert that during this period (three centuries
before King David and Solomon), Jerusalem was only a tiny, insignificant
town, but their assertions have been proven to be false by the Amarna
Letters of the Egyptian government.
__ __ I have sent to the king, [my] lor[d]
__ __ prisoners, five thousand _ __ _ _ ,
[three hundr]ed and eigh[teen] bearers for
the caravans of the king;
they were taken in the fields (iati) near [Ialuna.
(Letter of Abdi-Hiba, King of Jerusalem to
the Pharaoh - Tell el Amarna Letter - Number 3)
Finally, Abdi-Hiba reveals his personal fear of imminent defeat by these
conquering "Habiru" (Hebrews), who are taking city after city
throughout his weakly defended territory. The king of Jerusalem warns
the pharaoh that his fellow regents (local kings under Egypt's rule) are
succumbing to the Habiru attack. Lastly, he admits that because Egypt
is indifferent ("yet the king holds himself back") that the
soldiers of another Canaanite king, "Zimrida of Lakisi," have
deserted to join the victorious Habiru army.
But now the Habiru are taking
the cities of the king.
No regent is (left)
to the king, my lord; all are lost.
Behold, Turbazu has been killed
in the gate of Zilu, yet the king holds himself back.
Behold, Zimrida of Lakisi - servants,
who have joined with the Habiru, have smitten him.
(Letter of Abdi-Hiba, King of Jerusalem to
the Pharaoh - Tell el Amarna Letter - Number 4)
Other correspondence in the series of Tell el Amarna Letters indicates
that the territory ruled by the king of Jerusalem at that time (during
the days of Joshua and Gideon) included land extending from Hebron in
the south to the town of Bethel in the north. In addition, these letters
indicate that the territory of the king of Jerusalem extended from the
midpoint of present-day West Bank to the Jordan River.
In conclusion, an analysis of the Tell el Amarna Letters clearly confirms
that, in the 14th century b.c., the city of Jerusalem was a capital city
ruling over a considerable amount of territory in Canaan under the oversight
of the Egyptian pharaohs. The area encompassed a significant portion of
the current West Bank as well as the areas to the west of Jerusalem. The
letters confirm that the king of Jerusalem lived in a palace with a pagan
temple and a full court of officials. Most importantly, these records
confirm that Jerusalem was sophisticated enough to possess court scribes
who carried on a continuing diplomatic correspondence with neighboring
states, including its overlord, Egypt. In addition, the letters confirm
that couriers from Egypt carried on regular correspondence with the court
In conclusion, the powerful historical evidence from these ancient Egyptian
Tell el Amarna documents provides one more strong link in the chain of
evidence from sources outside the Bible that tends to confirm the historical
accuracy of these biblical accounts.
King Hezekiah's Tunnel Inscription
The ancient king of Judea, King Hezekiah ordered his workmen to carve
a long tunnel through 1,749 feet of hard bedrock to bring in a safe supply
of water from a spring that was located outside the walls of the City
of David, ancient Jerusalem. This undertaking was a truly phenomenal engineering
task, especially when we consider the limited mining and surveying knowledge
as well as the primitive tools, available to Jewish engineers in the 8th
century b.c. An inscription describing this undertaking reveals that the
leader of the project ordered two groups of miners to begin digging toward
each other from opposite ends of the tunnel. The reason for attempting
the very difficult task of trying to bore through so much solid rock in
the hope of meeting in the center rather than simply working from one
end only, must have been the fear of an impending invasion of Jerusalem.
Tourists visiting Jerusalem can now safely wade through the shallow waters
of Hezekiah's Tunnel that lead to the Gihon Spring. Kaye and I have walked
underground in this engineering marvel, and have witnessed proof of the
incredible accuracy of the historical accounts recorded in the Holy Scriptures.
The tunnel inscription was written in ancient classical Hebrew on a plaque
located near the pool. The inscription described the construction of this
unusual tunnel: "Behold the tunnel. This is the story of its cutting.
While the miners swung their picks, one towards the other, and when there
remained only 3 cubits to cut, the voice of one calling his fellow was
heard - for there was a resonance in the rock coming from both north and
south . . . and the water flowed from the spring towards the pool, 1200
cubits. The height of the rock above the head of the miners was 100 cubits."
This engraved inscription is enormously important to archeologists because
it clearly confirms a very specific and unusual biblical account. The
engraving was carved out of the base rock that formed the side of the
ancient excavated tunnel. After its discovery, it was removed by the Turkish
authorities to their capital of Istanbul in 1880. It was forgotten and
laid aside as an unknown inscription until an Israeli archeologist visited
the museum and recognized that the engraved stone was incredibly valuable,
the long-forgotten Hezekiah Tunnel inscription. He alerted the museum
curator to the fact. This priceless inscription from the past can now
be seen in an exhibit in an archeological museum in Istanbul, Turkey.
It is interesting to look back in Church history to view the attitudes
toward the authority of the Bible expressed by the great men of faith
in past generations. In the fourth-century book The City of God, Saint
Augustine declared, "Scripture, which proves the truth of its historical
statements by the accomplishment of its prophecies, gives no false information.
Can We Trust the Historical Statements of the Bible?
The Testimony of Archaeologists and Classical Scholars
Professor Millar Burrows of Yale University discussed the findings of
recent archeological digs and their impact on the views of the critics
of biblical historical accuracy: "Archaeology has in many cases refuted
the views of modern critics. It has shown in a number of instances that
these views rest on false assumptions and unreal, artificial schemes of
historical development"5 Dr. Burrows explained the underlying assumptions
that creates this climate of rejection of the Scriptures: "The excessive
skepticism of many liberal theologians stems not from a careful evaluation
of the available data, but from an enormous predisposition against the
supernatural." His comments underline the fundamental role of presuppositions
in the minds of all intellectuals as they approach any area of study.
If you approach the Bible determined to reject any of the statements that
reveal the prophetic and supernatural nature of God's revelation to man,
then you have determined your negative conclusions before commencing your
As a leading archaeologist in the field of biblical Middle Eastern studies
Burrows revealed that the results of modern archeological research have
provided powerful new evidence in favor of the historical accuracy of
the statements found in the Scriptures: "On the whole, however, archaeological
work has unquestionably strengthened confidence in the reliability of
the scriptural record. More than one archaeologist has found his respect
for the Bible increased by the experience of excavation in Palestine"6
In conclusion Burrows affirmed that the net result of the recent discoveries
has actually increased our ability to categorize the Bible's statements
as solid evidence by eyewitnesses to these ancient events: "Such
evidence as archaeology has afforded thus far, especially by providing
additional and older manuscripts of the books of the Bible, strengthens
our confidence in the accuracy with which the text has been transmitted
through the centuries."7
Sir Frederic Kenyon, a well-known archeologist in the earlier part of
this century, has written that the results of modern research has profoundly
increased our knowledge and understanding of the biblical world. Professor
Kenyon wrote that Christians can welcome the results of continued archeological
research because the continuing evidence produced from the digs in the
Middle East has strengthened our confidence in the total accuracy of the
Word of God.
It is therefore legitimate to say that, in respect of that part of
the Old Testament against which the disintegrating criticism of the
last half of the nineteenth century was chiefly directed, the evidence
of archaeology has been to re-establish its authority, and likewise
to augment its value by rendering it more intelligible through a fuller
knowledge of its background and setting. Archaeology has not yet said
its last word; but the results already achieved confirm what faith would
suggest, that the Bible can do nothing but gain from an increase of
F. F. Bruce is a leading researcher in the area of biblical studies.
He has stated that, far from disproving the Bible, recent archeological
finds have proven the truthfulness of the scriptural account: "Where
Luke has been suspected of inaccuracy, and accuracy has been vindicated
by some inscriptional evidence, it may be legitimate to say that archaeology
has confirmed the New Testament record."9 Professor Merrill Unger,
the editor of the well respected Unger Bible Dictionary has pointed out
the incomparable value from the results of modern archeology in enabling
us to understand the ancient world of the kings and prophets of Israel:
"Old Testament archaeology has rediscovered whole nations, resurrected
important peoples, and in a most astonishing manner filled in historical
gaps, adding immeasurably to the knowledge of biblical backgrounds."
The dismissive attitude toward the literal truth of the historical accounts
in the Bible as displayed by liberal theologians such as Bishop Spong,
the author of Rescuing the Bible From Fundamentalism, is in direct contradiction
to the powerful evidence confirming the reliability of the Bible's history
from the actual archeological digs. An underlying attitude and prejudice
of the liberals is that they deny that the four Gospels were written by
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, all eyewitnesses and contemporaries of
Jesus and the people who were present during the life, death, and resurrection
of Jesus of Nazareth. This attitude is displayed in the Jesus Seminar
and its negative conclusions that any statement of Jesus that displays
evidence of the supernatural, prophecy or His claim to be the Messiah
and the Son of God, is "inauthentic." These liberals declare
that the four Gospels were created by editors or redactors at least a
century after the events they record. In denying the claims of the New
Testament writers that they were actually recording events in which they
participated, these liberal scholars suggest that the claims of the New
Testament regarding the virgin birth, and the resurrection of Jesus, as
well as His teachings and miracles, can be dismissed as imaginary creations
of editors far removed from the historical events they describe.
The underlying assumption of the liberal scholars who reject the historicity
of the Gospels is their belief that these documents were composed over
one hundred years after the events of Jesus' life and death. The scholars
call the period between the death of Christ and the writing of the Gospels
the formative period. The popular German Tubingen school of thought or
theory is that the Gospels were edited by unknown Christian redactors
to create new theological statements that Jesus never uttered. They suggest
that these Gospel accounts were mainly myths or religious legends that
developed during the lengthy interval between the lifetime of Jesus and
the time these accounts were set down in writing. While this attitude
is extremely widespread in liberal universities and seminaries, the evidence
produced in the last fifty years provides powerful proof that the Gospel
writers were eyewitnesses and contemporaries of Jesus of Nazareth.
The continuing historical research provides overwhelming proof that the
three Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke were written within forty years
of the Cross. The importance of this fact cannot be overestimated. Archeologists
had discovered numerous early papyri manuscript portions of the four Gospels
in Egypt and Syria that were written between a.d. 32 and the beginning
of the second century. These early manuscripts closed the gap between
the time of the Cross and the previously known Gospel manuscripts from
the second century. Professor William F. Albright, an outstanding biblical
archaeologist, concluded in 1955, "We can already say emphatically
that there is no longer any solid basis for dating any book of the New
Testament after circa a.d. 80, two full generations before the date between
130 and 150 given by the more radical New Testament critics of today."10
Dr. Albright's personal assessment of the conclusions of the liberal critics
who deny the authenticity of the New Testament is informative: "Only
modern scholars who lack both historical method and perspective can spin
such a web of speculation as that with which critics have surrounded the
Concerning the Old Testament, Professor William F. Albright has written,
"There can be no doubt that archaeology has confirmed the substantial
historicity of Old Testament tradition." In response to the question
of widespread skepticism and outright contempt for the authority of the
historical statements of the Bible Dr. Albright wrote the following:
The excessive skepticism shown toward the Bible by important historical
schools of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, certain phases of
which still appear periodically, has been progressively discredited. Discovery
after discovery has established the accuracy of innumerable details and
has brought increased recognition to the value of the Bible as a source
of history . . . As critical study of the Bible is more and more influenced
by the rich new material from the ancient Near East we shall see a steady
rise in respect for the historical significance of now neglected or despised
passages and details in the Old and New Testament.11
The importance of this proof of the early composition of the Gospel records
cannot be overestimated. If the Gospels were written and widely distributed
within the lifetime of thousands of people who personally saw the miracles
of the feeding of the five thousand and the resurrected Jesus then they
must be true historical accounts. In another interview with Christianity
Today magazine in January 1963, Dr. Albright announced his professional
conclusion that every one of the books of the New Testament were written
"probably sometime between circa a.d. 50 and 75." Professor
Albright correctly noted that this twenty-to forty-five-year interval
between the actual historical event and the subsequent writing of the
Gospels is "too slight to permit any appreciable corruption of the
essential center and even of the specific wording of the sayings of Jesus."
Many modern scholars suggest the hypothetical existence of a "Q"
source manuscript, containing numerous traditions about Jesus's life and
ministry, that they believe was used by Matthew and Mark. However, even
these liberal scholars usually suggest this hypothetical (nonexistent)
"Q document" was written by some follower of Jesus before a.d.
50. Therefore, even if this theory were correct, the Gospel tradition
was still written by eyewitnesses and immediately read by people who personally
knew Jesus and the apostles.
If the Gospels contained imaginary or false information then Christianity
would never have prevailed in light of the massive persecution of its
followers. Why would hundreds of thousands of Christians allow themselves
and their beloved family members to die horribly in the Roman Coliseum
when all they had to do to escape was to deny their faith that Jesus was
God? It is inconceivable that these martyrs would die for their Christian
faith if they held the slightest doubt as to the historical accuracy of
the Gospel accounts that Jesus was the Son of God who had risen from the
dead. The only possible way to explain the steadfast faith of these first-century
believers is to acknowledge that they were totally persuaded of the truth
of the Gospel account about Jesus of Nazareth.
Consider the confident faith represented by the apostle Paul in his inspired
letter to the church at Rome, to people who lived in constant expectation
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or
distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are
accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are
more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded,
that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers,
nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any
other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which
is in Christ Jesus our Lord. I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my
conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost (Romans 8:35 9:1).
During the last year, I completed a detailed study of the research on
the dating of New Testament documents in Redating the New Testament, written
by Dr. John A. T. Robinson, the well respected lecturer at Trinity College,
Cambridge. Dr. Robinson is an eminent critic of the New Testament period.
He concluded that the New Testament is the work of the actual disciples
of Jesus and their contemporaries who worked in the early Church, and
that, furthermore, every one of the New Testament books, including John,
must have been written before a.d. 64.12 Robinson also wrote about the
reliability and early dating of the Gospel of Luke in his book Luke the
Historian in the Light of Research. He concluded that both Luke and Mark
were written at some point before a.d. 59 by the named authors. Furthermore,
he wrote, "The early date of both Gospel and Acts gives a strong
presumption in favor of the historical value of the books. There was less
time for legends to grow. The author was nearer to his sources of information
. . . But at any rate, since Luke the physician, the friend of Paul, wrote
the two books, they cannot be thrown aside as second-century romances
written to deify Jesus and to idealize Peter and Paul. The writer is so
close to the facts of which he writes that he has to receive serious consideration
to see if, after all, he has not drawn his characters to the life."13
Saint Peter's Fish
Some of my favorite passages in the Gospels tell us about the life, teachings,
and miracles of Jesus that occurred during His ministry in His home region
surrounding the Sea of Galilee. When my wife, Kaye, and I travel to Tiberias
on the Sea of Galilee, we always stop at St. Peter's Restaurant to enjoy
their main course of St. Peter's Fish, while watching the fishing boats
on the usually quiet sea. This species of fish belongs to the Cichlidae
family and flourishes in this warm freshwater sea. St. Peter's Fish is
occasionally called the "mouth breeder." It is found naturally
in only three places, all of which lie along the geological zone extending
from the Sea of Galilee thousands of miles to the south in Lake Victoria,
Uganda. This species of fish is found only in the Nile River, in Lake
Victoria, and in the Sea of Galilee. The Gospel account recorded in Matthew
17:2427 describes the disciple Peter catching a fish with a shekel
coin in its mouth to provide the tribute money that the government officials
demanded of Peter and Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus told Peter, "Notwithstanding,
lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and
take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth,
thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me
and thee" (Matthew 17:27)
Dr. Jim Fleming, a professor of archaeology and historical geography
at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, has taught about the unusual nature
of this fish in connection with Matthew 17:2427. The female St. Peter's
Fish carries her eggs in her mouth to protect them against predators until
they hatch. As the brood of minnows begins to grow, she opens her mouth
to let them out to swim around her from time to time. However, the mother
fish opens her mouth again and quickly scoops them up whenever danger
is present. The mother will fast almost to the point of starvation to
avoid the danger of inadvertently swallowing her young offspring. On account
of her well-known maternal habits, the fishermen of Galilee call the female
St. Peter's fish by the Hebrew name "The Mother-Fish." After
the young mature to the point where they can survive independently, they
swim away. However, the mother fish often keeps a substitute in her mouth
to perpetuate her habit of carrying her young. St. Peter's Fish are sometimes
caught by fishermen and when they examine their mouths they find pebbles
or coke bottle caps inside. The popular name for the fish is "St.
Peter's fish" because of the account in Matthew 17:2427 about
Peter catching a fish that carried a shekel coin in its mouth. This habit
of the fish to pick up items from the lake bottom in no way minimizes
the miracle of our Lord. Only the Son of God could have known that this
particular fish would be carrying a shekel coin in its mouth.
In the last century, the writer H. L. Hastings wrote about the astonishing
survival and success of the Bible, despite centuries of attacks on its
authority and accuracy. The Scriptures have withstood the blistering attacks
of skepticism. Hastings wrote, "Infidels of eighteen hundred years
have been refuting and overthrowing this book, and yet it stands today
as solid rock. Its circulation increases, and it is more loved and cherished
and read today than ever before. Infidels, with all their assaults, make
about as much impression on this book as a man with a tack hammer would
on the Pyramids of Egypt."
1. John W. Montgomery, Christianity for the Tough Minded (Minneapolis:
Bethany Fellowship Inc., 1973) 6.
2. Dr. Nelson Glueck, Exploring Southern Palestine - The Negev (1959).
3. Biblical Archeological Review July/August, 1997.
4. The Tell el-Amarna Tablets.
5. Millar Burrows, What Mean These Stones? (New York: Meridian Books,
6. Millar Burrows, What Mean These Stones? (New York: Meridian Books,
7. Millar Burrows, What Mean These Stones? (New York: Meridian Books,
8. Sir Frederic Kenyon, The Bible and Archeology (New York: Harper &
Row, 1940) 27.
9. F. F. Bruce, Revelation and the Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House,
10. Howard Frederick Vos, Can I Trust My Bible? (Chicago: Moody Press,
11. William Albright, The Archaeology of Palestine (Middlesex: Pelican
Books, 1960) 127128.
12. John A. T. Robinson, Redating the New Testament (Philadelphia: Westminster
Press, 1976) 351-353.
13. John A. T. Robinson, Luke the Historian in the Light of Research
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