Saturday, August 04, 2007

The Word of God needs no “confirming”
By David Krueger

My guess is that most of you are not familiar with the name “Nebo-Sarsekim” from reading the Old Testament. Thanks, however, to a recent discovery at the British Museum it’s a name worth knowing. Early this week, British Museum officials announced the discovery of a two-inch-wide 2,500-year-old cuneiform tablet that contains details of a financial transaction by a “Nabu-sharrussu-ukin,” who is called in the tablet the “chief eunuch” of Babylon King Nebuchadnezzr.

That's the same person mentioned in Jeremiah 39:3 -- although spelled differently in different translations -- as the chief officer of Nebuchadnezzar who was in Jerusalem when the Babylonians overtook the city around 587 B.C.

Conservative biblical scholars say it's another affirmation that the Bible is true -- even in the smallest of details, such as names.

Babylonian names notoriously are difficult to translate. The Holman Christian Standard and the New King James Version call him "Sarsechim." The New International Version calls him "Nebo-Sarsekim"

The small tablet is one of more than 100,000 inscribed tablets housed at the British Museum, and which were acquired in 1920. It was unearthed about a mile from modern-day Baghdad, Iraq. But because of the painstaking effort to translate them and often to piece them together, it wasn't seen as having a biblical connection until recently. Michael Jursa, a professor from the University of Vienna, made the connection.

"This is a fantastic discovery, a world-class find," according to the British Museum's Irving Finkel. "If Nebo-Sarsekim existed, which other lesser figures in the Old Testament existed? A throwaway detail in the Old Testament turns out to be accurate and true. I think that it means that the whole of the narrative [of Jeremiah] takes on a new kind of power."

The New International Version of the Bible translates Jeremiah 39:3 thusly: "Then all the officials of the king of Babylon came and took seats in the Middle Gate: Nergal-Sharezer of Samgar, Nebo-Sarsekim a chief officer, Nergal-Sharezer a high official and all the other officials of the king of Babylon.”

While I always get excited about such finds, the discovery begs the question: “Does the Bible need secular “affirmation” that it is true?” For those, like myself, who believe in the inerrancy, infallibility and reliability of the Biblical record, no such archeological confirmation is needed.

A.W. Pink (1886-1952), a pastor, theologian and prolific author, in his commentary on Genesis, helps us gain perspective on biblical archeology and such finds as the
Nebo-Sarsekim tablet: Pink writes:

The faith of the Christian rests upon the impregnable rock of Holy Scripture, and we need nothing more. Too often have Christian apologists deserted their proper ground. For instance one of the ancient tablets of Assyria is deciphered, and then it is triumphantly announced that some statements found in the historical portions of the Old Testament have been confirmed. But that is only a turning of things upside down again. The Word of God needs no “confirming.” If the writing upon an Assyrian tablet agrees with what is recorded in Scripture, that confirms the historical accuracy of the Assyrian tablet; if it disagrees, that is proof positive that the Assyrian writer was at fault … The man of the world, and the pseudoscientist may sneer at our logic, but that only demonstrates the truth of God’s Word, which declares, “but the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14).

I love Pink’s logic!

I don’t mean to infer that we should completely discount such archeological finds. They do, after all, reveal the reliability of the Scriptures to a skeptical world. If the authors of the Bible got these kinds of minor details correct, critical scholars, and biblical minimalists may have to rethink their attitudes about the reliability of Old Testament history in general. For the believer, this ought to be just one more nail in the coffin of liberal biblical academia!

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