WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – A Purdue University researcher has verified the existence of 53 men mentioned in the Old Testament by painstakingly reviewing ancient historical sources and comparing them to the Bible.
Dr. Lawrence Mykytiuk is an associate professor of library science who specializes in history and Jewish studies. In the 1990s, Mykytiuk began to study the archaeological record, looking for evidence of those mentioned in the Bible.
“While some would put their hand on the Bible and really mean it when they take an oath, a few revisionist academics would throw it out and say, ‘That’s creative writing.’ I was looking for concrete, objective evidence outside of the Bible that would help build the case,” Mykytiuk said in a recent press release from the university.
Typically Mykytiuk considers a biblical person verified only if three identifying characteristics (such as the person’s name, the person’s title, and the person’s father’s name) match with an extra-biblical historical source, like an ancient inscription.
“If it matches the same three mentions in Scripture, it’s a virtual certainty,” Mykytiuk said, according to a report from Times of Israel. “There might be a few people with the same name, father’s name, but same title? That’s stretching it. I consider it a virtual certainty, either a dead ringer or virtual certainty.”
“Sometimes the three-step process is not necessary, as when we know that the person in an inscription and the person in the Bible are both connected to a one-time circumstance or event that fits one and only one person,” Mykytiuk explained.
“For example, Ahab, king of Israel, ruled during the period in which the famous battle of Qarqar was fought in 853 B.C.,” Mykytiuk said. “His Assyrian enemy wrote about ‘Ahab the Israelite,’ one of the kings he fought in that particular battle. Therefore, Ahab, king of Israel in the Bible, and Ahab, the Israelite king at the battle of Qarqar in the Assyrian inscription, must have been the same person.”
Using the painstaking three-step research process, Mykytiuk initially confirmed the existence of 50 Old Testament individuals and described his findings in a 2014 report. Then, earlier this year, he announced the addition of three more people to the list, bringing the total number of historically-verified Bible characters to 53.
“[These figures] mentioned in the Bible have been identified in the archaeological record,” Mykytiuk wrote in his report, which was published in Biblical Archaeology Review. “Their names appear in inscriptions written during the period described by the Bible and in most instances during or quite close to the lifetime of the person identified.”
The list of people Mykytiuk has verified include Egyptian pharaohs; kings of countries neighboring Israel; officials from the Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian empires; and several well-known Israelite kings, including Ahab, Jehu, David, Hezekiah, and Manasseh.
Although Mykytiuk says that verifying a person’s existence does not prove everything the Bible details about the person, he believes it is still a good start.
“If you get the person’s name, his or her father’s name, and the person’s office or title, that doesn’t verify that they did certain things. But it can sometimes show they were in a position to do the things Scripture says they did,” he stated. “That’s often as far as you can go. Still, there are some longer inscriptions from ancient Israel’s neighbors that mention people and events in the Old Testament, just describing them from a different point of view.”
“This evidence shows that it is not essential to have religious faith in order to understand and accept much of what the Bible presents,” he opined. “It demonstrates that even on the basis of writings outside of the Bible alone, Scripture does have a considerable degree of historical credibility.”