The Bible is a book that proponents claim is history but which many detractors claim is the creation of story-tellers. The New Testament, which is the 27 most recently written of the Bible's 66 books, has a well-attested historical backdrop in which its accounts take place. Certain historical findings -- such as the finding of the tomb of Caiphas and the Pool of Siloam -- have added credence to the Christian contention that the authors of the New Testament documents were accurate in their description of people and places. The 39 books of the Old Testament, however, stretch back into times that historians and archaeologists know little about and about which little archaeological evidence can be found or even expected to be found. Some skeptics suggested for a time that even King David didn't exist and that the majority of the Old Testament writings were written during the exile of the Jewish people around 500 years before the birth of Jesus Christ.
Obviously, the older one goes into the ancient books, the less evidence exists to support the Biblical accounts. Many archaeologists don't believe that the Exodus occurred or that the accounts in the book of Genesis that predate the Exodus, for example, the accounts of the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob), have any historical basis at all.
Over time, evidence has come to light that have given credibility to some of the Biblical accounts dating back to the time of Saul. But the period of the Patriarchs remains largely murky and not confirmed by archaeological excavation.
But that may change.
According to an account from the Middle East Media Research Institute, an investigation into some "charms" that had been stored in the vaults of the Egyptian Museum present some startling evidence for the existence of Joseph, the son of Jacob, who was sold into slavery by his brothers and later became a member of the ruling class of Egypt (all as detailed in the latter chapters of the book of Genesis). The article, entitled Leading Egyptian Daily 'Al-Ahram' Reports: Coins from Era of Biblical Joseph Found in Egypt, says that Egyptian archaeologists and researchers have determined that ancient coins that had been misidentified as charms were actually ancient coins from the time of the Pharoahs.
What is truly interesting about these coins is the fact that some allegedly have been imprinted with the name and depiction of Joseph. According to the story:
The researchers discovered the coins when they sifted through thousands of small archeological artifacts stored in [the vaults of] the Museum of Egypt. [Initially] they took them for charms, but a thorough examination revealed that the coins bore the year in which they were minted and their value, or effigies of the pharaohs [who ruled] at the time of their minting. Some of the coins are from the time when Joseph lived in Egypt, and bear his name and portrait.
The researcher identified coins from many different periods, including coins that bore special markings identifying them as being from the era of Joseph. Among these, there was one coin that had an inscription on it, and an image of a cow symbolizing Pharaoh's dream about the seven fat cows and seven lean cows, and the seven green stalks of grain and seven dry stalks of grain. It was found that the inscriptions of this early period were usually simple, since writing was still in its early stages, and consequently there was difficulty in deciphering the writing on these coins. But the research team [managed to] translate [the writing on the coin] by comparing it to the earliest known hieroglyphic texts…
Joseph's name appears twice on this coin, written in hieroglyphs: once the original name, Joseph, and once his Egyptian name, Saba Sabani, which was given to him by Pharaoh when he became treasurer. There is also an image of Joseph, who was part of the Egyptian administration at the time.
If this is true, it would certainly add credibility to the claims of Christians that the Old Testament is a document based on historical fact.
However, that is one big "if".
I am personally skeptical of the news coming out of MEMRI. Some have called MEMRI a propaganda machine. While I don't know if MEMRI is truthful or propagandistic, the accusations about its veracity make me cautious about endorsing this news account as true -- especially when no other news source has picked up the story other than to simply report that MEMRI reported the story.
I will see what I can do to track the story on an ongoing basis and keep readers of this weblog informed of anything that I find. The story, if true, will be extremely important -- but we'll wait and see.
HT: Thinking Christian