Tuesday, 2 December 2008


The Seal of Baruch ben Neriah
How lonely sits the city that was once full of people! She has become like a widow! She, that was great among the nations and a princess among the provinces, has become a tributary. Lamentations 1:1
Those melancholy words of the prophet Jeremiah were composed from the dismal confines of a dungeon cell. The prophet of God dictated the words of doom while his protege, the scribe Baruch ben Neriah, carefully recorded them on a scroll. Baruch read the words of Lamentations before the king of Judah, Jehoakim. The thought of losing his kingdom so angered the king that he cut the scroll into pieces and threw the scraps into a fire as though that would alter the divine decree.
Twenty-four hundred years later, a small lump of clay was discovered in Jerusalem bearing the seal of Baruch ben Neriah. The disciple of Jeremiah was suddenly and tangibly brought to life. One's imagination began to run wild. Could this be the seal that was used to authenticate the original scroll of Lamentations? There is one thing the imagination does not have to conjure. When a document was to be authenticated and rendered tamper-proof, the document was rolled up and bound by a length of cord. The knot was encased in a small lump of clay, called a bulla, which was held steady with one hand while the other hand embossed the seal onto the clay. When the bulla dried, the document was ready for delivery. It was not unusual for the fingerprints of the person holding the clay and seal to be impressed onto the sides of the bulla.
A thumbprint can be seen on the upper ridge of Baruch's bulla, most likely the print of Baruch himself.
Sure enough! A thumbprint can be seen on the upper ridge of Baruch's bulla, most likely the print of Baruch himself. Once again the imagination begins to roam. Could there be any DNA residue of Baruch on the hardened clay

Outside Verification

A large number of modern-day historians claim that there is no evidence that the events in the Biblical accounts from Moses, Joshua, David, through Jeremiah, and Baruch, and their successors actually happened. They claim that these leaders never existed, or that, at best, they were insignificant tribal chieftains who were later made into national heroes by writers who lived long after the alleged events. According to those historians, the events mentioned in the Bible were the products of the composer's imagination. The heroes and villains of the Biblical story were crafted for a people who desperately needed heroes and villains.
Exactly who these crafty composers were, they do not say. Another point they do not address is how was it possible for these composers to one day suddenly present to the masses their supposed history, one of which they were previously totally unaware, is beyond explanation. The creditability of this history had to have been based on the reputation of the composer or composers, composers about whom we know nothing.
However, modern-day anti-Biblicists would rather embrace the idea that the story of Joshua, David, Solomon and their successors where mythical tales concocted by obscure writers rather than yield to the possibility that the stories are true.
It was not that long ago that there was no independent outside verification for hardly any of the Biblical characters. Nowadays, almost on a yearly basis, some independent source confirms the existence of one of the Biblical characters. Below is an impressive list of 61 Biblical persons, some are kings, some are prophets, some are heroes while others are enemies. They are central characters as well as minor players whose reality can be verified by archaeological and historical evidence.

Acceptable evidence is based on three factors:

1) The name of the individual has been found in some extra-Biblical record or on some piece of archaeological evidence, such as a bulla or seal.
2) The name must in some way be connected to the person named in the Biblical story. For example, the name Ahab being found on a seal would mean very little. However, if the seal read Ahab, King of Israel, that would mean a great deal.
3) The chronological context of the name found must match the chronology of the Biblical story. If the above "Ahab, King of Israel" seal was found in an archaeological stratum dating to the 12th century BCE, that would create a major problem. The Biblical Ahab lived many centuries later.
When all three factors have been met, according to the interpretation of recognized scholars, historians, and archaeologists, only then is the evidence conclusive.
The verification of the more obscure Biblical characters is the more astonishing.
To my mind, it is not the verification of the major personalities that is so impressive but rather the verification of the more obscure Biblical characters is the more astonishing. It could be argued that the Biblical stories were crafted around real kings and actual prophets who had lived and ruled in some bygone era. The names of these kings and prophets may have been retained in the conscious memory of the Biblical composers. They merely had to invent the stories, many of which were not at all complimentary to the audience to which they sought to appeal- something unheard of in the ancient world but has gained great popularity in our times. The Biblical composers would have found it necessary to add in a whole bevy of minor characters to make the story flow. These insignificant folks were totally fabricated by the composers. So goes the theory.
When outside confirmation of the minor characters surfaces, it lends great strength to those who firmly believe in the veracity and accuracy of the Biblical narrative.

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