For the past week I have been on an apologetics study tour of the Holy Land with 25 high school students. Along with visiting the Dead Sea, Masada, the Sea of Galilee, the Garden of Gethsemane, and many other remarkable sites, we had the special treat of hearing a lecture by filmmaker Joel Kramer. He is the award-winning producer of The Bible vs. Joseph Smith as well as many other films. He is currently working on a PhD in archaeology at Hebrew University.
Here are some highlights from his presentation that I trust you will find as fascinating as I do:
· Jerusalem is the most archaeologically excavated city in the world, but only 1% of the entire city has been excavated. The sites that have been excavated (even though they are a minority of all possible sites) consistently confirm the biblical record.
· There are currently more Mormons excavating archaeological sites in Jerusalem than evangelical Christians.
· Joel spent fifteen years working with Mormons in Utah and now he works in Israel. According to Joel, Mormons take a myth and try to make it historical. Non-believers in Israel do the opposite—they take something historical and try to make it a myth.
· The idea that Jesus never existed is a laughing matter in Israel. No reputable scholars whatsoever hold this view—none. It would be as absurd as going to Utah and saying Joseph Smith never existed or going to Mecca and saying Mohammad never existed. Here is a direct quote from Joel: “The archaeology of Jesus is one of the only things that scholars agree about in this country. Whether Jewish, secular humanist, or Christian, they all agree on the archaeology surrounding Jesus.”
· When Joel arrived in Jerusalem he asked for the leading archaeological claims that challenge the Bible so he could excavate them first. He was told the leading archaeological challenge to the New Testament is the Talpiot Tomb and the leading Old Testament challenge is Jericho. As a result, he did his first two documentaries on these two sites (The Jesus Tomb Unmasked and Jericho Unearthed). After excavating them carefully he came to the conclusion that Jericho is one of the most powerful archaeological supports for the Bible and the claims that the Talpiot tomb housed the bones of Jesus are utterly overblown.
Joel considers the following fact the most powerfully attested in the Bible. According to the Scriptures, King Hezekiah of Judah protected Jerusalem from Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, who was the head of the most powerful empire in the world in the 8th century B.C. He had wiped out everything from far north of Israel through Egypt but had his heart set on the city of Jerusalem. The archaeological record confirms the biblical account—all the cities were wiped out during this time except
Jerusalem (see 2 Kings 19). Sennacherib’s palace in Lachish has even been excavated and there are records of the defeat of many cities but no record of the defeat of Jerusalem.