Inscriptions Found in Ancient Fortress Support Biblical Timeline, Challenge Skeptics

Arad fortTEL AVIV, Israel – A team of Israeli researchers has found evidence that literacy was widespread among ancient Israelites, thus challenging critics of the Bible who claim most people in Old Testament times were illiterate.

Critics of the Bible have long alleged that Israelites prior to the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. were largely illiterate. Therefore, they argue, many of the Old Testament books were written after the destruction of Jerusalem, which is much later than the Bible suggests.

“The epigraphic evidence simply does not support the contention that the average pastoralist or agriculturalist in Israelite society was literate,” wrote Chris Rollston in his book “Writing and Literacy in the World of Ancient Israel: Epigraphic Evidence from the Iron Age.” “This is a marvelous romantic notion, but I simply do not find credible evidence of widespread literacy of the non-elite masses.”

However, a recently-published study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) suggests that literacy levels among Israelites around 600 B.C. were indeed higher than Rollston and others claim. The study’s authors, all researchers affiliated with Tel Aviv University, analyzed 16 inscriptions written prior to the 586 B.C. Babylonian destruction. They were discovered in an ancient fortress in Arad, which is in southern Israel.

“The inscriptions contain military commands regarding movement of troops and provision of supplies (wine, oil, and flour) set against the background of the stormy events of the final years before the fall of Judah,” the researchers wrote. “They include orders that came to the fortress of Arad from higher echelons in the Judahite military system, as well as correspondence with neighboring forts. … They are addressed to a person named Eliashib, the quartermaster in the fortress.”

Upon close analysis, the Tel Aviv University researchers found that at least six authors contributed to the inscriptions, leading the researchers to conclude that “a significant number of literate individuals can be assumed to have lived in Judah [around 600 B.C.].”

“The results indicate that in this remote fort literacy had spread throughout the military hierarchy, down to the quartermaster and probably even below that rank,” the researchers wrote. “This implies that an educational infrastructure that could support the composition of literary texts in Judah already existed before the destruction of the first Temple.”

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It is therefore likely, the study’s authors reasoned, that Old Testament books like Deuteronomy, Joshua, and the Books of Kings were in fact written prior to Jerusalem’s destruction.

“[T]he written evidence suggests a high degree of literacy in the entire Judahite chain of command,” they said.

In an article published last week on the Answers in Genesis, Avery Foley explained why these findings are important.

“This new study supports the accuracy of God’s Word,” Foley wrote. “It demonstrates that Israel was more literate than many scholars believe. This means that prophets—even prophets who were common folk such as Amos, a shepherd (Amos 1:1)—could have been literate and able to pen their writings.”

These findings published in PNAS are yet another example of rigorous scientific research supporting the credibility of Scripture, Foley said.

“We have an imperfect and incomplete understanding of history and science, but God’s Word was ultimately written by the God who was there and who never lies (Titus 1:2),” she stated. “Beginning with God’s Word, we have an accurate starting point for studying the world around us. When science or popular thought seems to contradict God’s Word, it is not God’s Word that needs modification, but rather our interpretations of the evidence.”

“The more we study the remains of lost civilizations, the more evidence will be found that, when properly understood, confirms God’s Word,” Foley concluded. “As Christians, we can have full and utter confidence in the Word of our Lord.”


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  • Josey

    Amen, As Christians, we can have full and utter confidence in the Word of our Lord.

  • nobull45

    I believe that his is one of the most prominent reasons that ISIS is destroying all of the ancient religious places, everywhere they go. They want to wipe out the truth.

    • http://www.personaltouchmaids.org/ TammyHenson

      And the fact that they just hate them period because Israel was the chosen

  • Amos Moses

    Archaeologists Discover Prophet Daniel’s Weight Loss Diary

    babylonbee. Remove this space com/news/biblical-daniels-weight-loss-diary-discovered/

  • archaeologist

    rollston is an idiot as well as is finkestein. they wouldn’t know literacy if it hit the in the nose and recited the dictionary in front of them

  • Grace Kim Kwon

    Archaeology always proves that the Holy Bible is right. Existence of the Holy Bible requires mankind universal literacy.

  • brennan62

    people were literate so the bible must be true? thankfully killing straw man is not against the 10 commandments . While interesting the idea that becuase a quarter master could read reading must be more wide spread is false. He could hae gotten that position becuase he knew how to read. The idea that there were others in the military who knew how to read is also not shocking….no run if you are the only guy who can rad or write. Much like homer was just the last link in an oral tradition that predated him by centuries the bible was an oral story for centuries ,

    • Nathan Tyler

      @brennan62,
      It appears you are struggling with literacy yourself, considering all the misspelled words in your post. you would do well to check your comments before you post them while critiquing opinions on literacy.

      It is also double minded of you to attack straw-men while accusing others of the same. The article was not citing the discovery as proof of everyone’s literacy, but as a point of contention with the opinion that they as a whole were illiterate. For the record, the fact that the Bible was written for the instruction of the common man is more than ample evidence that the common man was literate. So the point is moot, anyway. Even if the conclusion of the article is conjectural, Bible believers are allowed to do that same as the people who oppose them are. Your final statement comparing the Bible with Homer is conjectural, so evidently you have no problem with indulging in a little conjecture yourself. Especially if it demotes the Bible, in your personal, albeit hypocritical opinion.

      • Herb Planter

        lol rektd

  • Becky

    With or without evidence, God’s word is true.

    “The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.” Psalm 119:160

  • Herb Planter

    woot love it! great finds that is so awesome.