The Bible and the British Museum 2

Reconstruction of the Temple of Artemis

While wondering around the British Museum last week I went down into a display of excavations from Ephesus where there were some huge foundation stones from the Temple of Artemis, one of the wonders of the ancient world. In Acts 19:23-41 there is an extended account of a riot in Ephesus by the silversmiths, led by Demetrius, who believed (rightly) that Paul was threatening their livelihood with all his talk of the one true God.

Another important Bible related display is the Armana Letters: written in cuneiform on clay tablets by an Egyptian Pharoah from about 1400 B.C. which mention a group in Canaan called the ‘Hiparu’. Some have associated the ‘Hiparu’ with Hebrew and say it could refer to the people of Israel.

Armana Letter

Then there is the Nabonidus cylinder, written in cuneiform by a king of Babylon of that name in the 6th C BC. It mentions Belshazzar as his firstborn son. Before this find there had been doubts whether the Belshazzar of Daniel 5:1 existed since he wasn’t on the Babylonian king lists. Yet here he is. Was Daniel offered the ‘third place’ in the kingdom of Babylon because Nabonidus is the first and Belshazzar the second?

Nabonidus Cylinder

And in the background of the Genesis account is the Gilgamish Epic, perhaps the most famous of all the cuneiform tablets (this one from the 7th century B.C. found in Assyria). The similarity of this story to the Biblical account of the flood is striking. Floods and arks and all.

Gilgamesh Epic

And finally there is the CYRUS CYLINDER which records Cyrus’ taking of Babylon without a battle and allowing captives held there to return to their own home cities to rebuild their temples. This supports directly the biblical account of Ezra 1:1-3 which tells that Cyrus, King of Persia, in coalition with Darius, fulfilled the prediction of Jeremiah about the return of the Israelites to their own land. Jeremiah 25:12 (and Isaiah 44:28) said that after seventy years, God would raise up Cyrus, a Persian, to overthrow the Babylonians, to allow the Jews to return to their land to rebuild their temple.

Cyrus Cylinder

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