Throughout history it has been commonly believed that the ocean floors are basically smooth, like large hollowed-out bowls, but modern oceanographers know better. There are actually thousands of underwater mountains, called sea mounts, some even as high as 10,000 feet. How do you suppose the writer of the Book of Jonah had access to this information in 860 B.C.?
Jonah 2:3-6 says,
"For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me. Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple. The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head. I went down to the bottoms of the MOUNTAINS; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God."
Apart from the tides, most have historically thought the oceans were like large still lakes without current. That is, until the 1800's when Matthew Fontaine Maury discovered RIVERS in the oceans. The Cromwell Current runs over thirteen thousand miles through the Pacific, and the Florida Current has over four thousand times the flow of the Mississippi. These "ocean rivers” were finally discovered because Dr. Maury insisted on believing Psalm 8:8 literally: "The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the PATHS of the seas."
Today it is estimated that there are some thirty million trillion tons of water trapped beneath the earth's surface, and much of this water makes it's way up to the ocean floors in the form of sea springs. Although this is a fairly modern discovery, the Bible informed us of this thousands of years ago: "Hast thou entered into the SPRINGS OF THE SEA? or hast thou walked in the search of the depth?"(Job 38:16) "When he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the FOUNTAINS OF THE DEEP:"
It is also known today that our ocean floors often contain giant canyons known as submarine canyons. Of course, this is nothing new. David had this knowledge in 1000 B.C.: "And the CHANNELS OF THE SEA, the foundations of the world were discovered, at the rebuking of the LORD, at the blast of the breath of his nostrils."
As the good Doctor always said, once in a while "science" catches up with the Bible.
Many critics who brush off the Bible as a compilation of folklore and legends, do so overlooking the fact that thousands of archaeological discoveries over the past century have verified the historical reliability of the Bible.
Nelson Glueck, who appeared on the cover of Time magazine and who is considered one of the greatest archaeologists ever, wrote:
“No archeological discovery has ever controverted [overturned] a Biblical reference. Scores of archeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or in exact detail historical statements in the Bible. And, by the same token, proper evaluation of Biblical descriptions has often led to amazing discoveries.” [Nelson Glueck, Rivers in the Desert, p. 31.]
These are the words of a man who has been credited with uncovering more than fifteen hundred ancient sites in the Middle East. [“Archaeology: The Shards of History,” Time, December 13, 1963.]
James Mann of U. S. News and World Report said:
"A wave of archaeological discoveries is altering old ideas about the roots of Christianity and Judaism—and affirming that the Bible is more historically accurate than many scholars thought." [James Mann, “New Finds Cast Fresh Light on the Bible,” U. S. News and World Report, August 24, 1981, 34.]
Dr. Clifford Wilson, the former Director of the Australian Institute of Archaeology, stated:
"It is remarkable that where confirmation is possible and has come to light, the Bible stands investigation in ways that are unique in all literature. Its superiority to attack, its capacity to withstand criticism, its amazing facility to be proved right after all, are all staggering by any standards of scholarship. Seemingly assured results “disproving” the Bible have a habit of backfiring. Over and over again the Bible has been vindicated." [Clifford Wilson, Archaeology—the Bible and Christ, volume 17, (Victoria, Australia: Pacific Christian Ministries), no page number available. Cited in John Ankerberg and John Weldon, Handbook of Biblical Evidences (1997), 288–289]
Allow me to share a few examples of discoveries that have helped to shed light on the Bible’s reliability.
Until 1993, not a shred of evidence could be found anywhere outside the Bible that David, the king of Israel, ever existed and so it had become fashionable in some academic circles to dismiss the David stories as mere invention. The critics’ verdict was that David was “nothing more than a figure of religious and political mythology.” [Jeffrey Sheler, Is the Bible True? (1999), 95–96]
Well, their skepticism regarding David collapsed overnight in 1993 when a nearly 3000-year-old inscription was unearthed in Israel mentioning David the king of Israel. This was a tremendous discovery and helped to verify for the first time outside the Bible that David was an actual historical figure. In light of this discovery, Time magazine stated:
“The skeptics’ claim that King David never existed is now hard to defend.” [Michael D. Lemonick, “Are the Bible’s Stories True? Archaeology’s Evidence,” Time magazine, December 18, 1995]
Indeed it is.
B. Pontius Pilate
Another fascinating discovery concerns Pontius Pilate. The New Testament authors tell us he was the Roman governor of Judea at the time of Jesus who oversaw His trial and then sentenced Him to death by crucifixion (Matthew 27:2; Luke 3:1). Was Pilate a legendary figure? No.
In 1961, a team of Italian archaeologists was digging in Caesarea, on the shore of the beautiful Mediterranean Sea in Israel. While clearing away the sand and overgrowth from the jumbled ruins of a Roman theater, these archaeologists made an astonishing find. They uncovered a limestone block that bore an inscription in Latin dating to the early part of the first century that mentioned “Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judea.” This inscription verifies that Pontius Pilate was an actual historical person, that he reigned in the very position ascribed to him by the Gospels, and as prefect he would have had the authority to condemn or pardon Jesus, just as the Gospel accounts report.
C. First Century Crucifixion
Another discovery helped to verify the reality of crucifixion in Israel in the first century. According to the Bible, Jesus’s hands or wrists were nailed to the cross (John 20:25). But at one time, critics said crucifixions with nails never took place in Israel in the first century. No evidence of any crucified victim had ever been uncovered in Israel—so skeptics and scholars dismissed the Gospels’ accounts as either imagined or inaccurate. Well, critics of the Bible were shown to be wrong again in 1968. It was then that a crew of builders from the Israel Ministry of Housing working in Jerusalem accidentally discovered an ancient Jewish cemetery that contained the remains of several men who were killed during the Jewish revolt against Rome in approximately AD 70. One of the bone ossuaries contained the skeleton of a young man and an inscription of the man’s name (Yohanan Ben Ha’galgol).
What stunned the archaeologists most though was how this man died. He was put to death by crucifixion with nails. How was that determined? He still had an iron spike driven through his heel bone. The Romans typically removed the nails from their victims—iron was expensive—but apparently this nail was too difficult to remove. The tip of the nail had been bent back toward the head, likely the result of hitting a knot in the wood. And so, the soldiers left it there. And now we have solid archaeological evidence that the Romans did crucify people in Israel, in the first century, with nails—just as the Bible said.
Other discoveries include:
• Ancient extrabiblical accounts of a catastrophic flood (Genesis 6–8)
• The palace of Sennacherib the king of Assyria (2 Chronicles 32:1f) and a wall relief depicting the Assyrian siege on Lachish (2 Kings 18:13–17; Isaiah 36:1–2)
• The ruins of Jericho (Joshua 6) along with evidence the city wall “fell down flat” (6:20) at the very time the Old Testament dates the crossing of the Hebrew people into Canaan (c. 1400 BC)
• Hezekiah’s tunnel (2 Kings 20:20) built to secretly channel water into the city of Jerusalem c. 700 BC
• The ancient ruins of Babylon (Book of Daniel), including the ruins of king Nebuchadnezzar’s palaces, temples, city walls, houses, inscriptions mentioning “Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon”
• The Babylonian Chronicle. These ancient historical records verify that the Babylonians invaded the land of Judah, besieged the city of Jerusalem, and took the Jews captive back to Babylon...just as the Bible said they did (2 Kings 24; Daniel 1).
• The “Pool of Siloam” (John 9:1–12) where Jesus sent the blind man with mud on his eyes to wash and receive healing
• The well called “Jacob’s Well” (John 4:6) where Jesus met the Samaritan woman
• The pool called “Bethesda” (John 5:2) where Jesus told the man who had been lame for 38 years to take up his bed and walk
• Herod’s palace (Mark 6:14–29) where John the Baptist was imprisoned and killed; the historian Josephus mentions this palace and John the Baptist’s imprisonment and murder there
• A bone ossuary mentioning Caiaphas the Jewish high priest (Matthew 26:3) who presided over Jesus’s late night trial (Matthew 26:57–68)
• The synagogue in Capernaum (Mark 1:21) on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee where Jesus often taught
• Mosaic tile floor of an early Christian church in Megiddo, Israel, that says the church was built in the memory of “the God Jesus Christ”—evidence the early Christians believed Jesus was God