Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Samson, Archaeology, and Biblical Truth

This 11th century seal from Beth Shemesh shows a person next to a leonine figure. The site and chronology have led some to associate the seal with the Biblical story of Samson. Photo by Raz Lederman, from Ha'aretz

Recently, archaeologists unearthed a coin that depicts a man fighting a lion.  It was found near the Sorek River, which is the border between Israel and Philistia.  It was also dated roughly 1100 BC.  All of these details suggest that the coin depicts the account of Samson slaying a lion with his bare hands (Judges 14:5,6).  You can read an article about it here:  http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-artifacts/artifacts-and-the-bible/lion-seal-from-beth-shemesh-sparks-samson-discussion/  (This is also the site for the above pictured coin.)

As you would expect, lines have been drawn up by those who are convinced that this coin is all about Samson vs. those who are convinced that this coin proves nothing.

While archaeology can produce many significant finds that can be corroborated with the Bible, it is dangerous to put much stock in these findings.  We do not need a coin to prove that the account of Samson is real.  We take the Bible at its word.

Those who are skeptical of the coin being reflective of the Samson account in Judges 14:5-6 need not be dismissed or ridiculed.  Perhaps the coin is in honor of someone else.  If it had contained an inscription of Samson's name, that would have removed a whole lot of doubt.  But Samson was not the only man to have ever slain a lion.  King David did too (1 Samuel 17:34-36).  Surely others did.  So, is the coin referring to Samson or not?  We can only guess.  Even if we are convinced that we are right, it is still only a guess.

The emotion reactions to this discovery and what it represents are as interesting as the discovery itself.  Skeptics and critics will always be skeptical and critical.  That does not mean they are automatically wrong.  Christians can get way too creative in finding ways that some discovery proves the Bible to be true.  Sometimes these "proofs" can be embarrassing.  Christians do not do themselves any favors by concocting such theories.

Is the coin about Samson?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  If it is, cool!  If not, oh, well.  It doesn't matter.

I still believe that Judges is the word of the Lord, that Samson is a real, historical figure, and that he slew a lion with his bare hands.  I believe it not because someone found an ancient coin, but because the Bible says so.

Archaeology may vindicate what the Bible says.  Sometimes archaeology may seem to vindicate the Bible, and only later do we discover that the findings prove nothing.  Or that the findings are fraudulent (though this coin seems legit).  It doesn't matter.  The Bible stands on its own.  It is truth, no matter what men think or argue or find under layers of earth.

Hat Tip: http://www.geneveith.com/

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