Observations on life; particularly spiritual

Extrabiblical evidence of 83 people in the Bible

Sennacherib - King of Assyria - 2 Kings 18:13Did you know that ancient history and archaeology have confirmed the existence of 83 people mentioned in the Bible? In articles in the Biblical Archaeology Review, Purdue University scholar Lawrence Mykytiuk presented documentary evidence of this (see References).

PEOPLE IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

These include Israelite kings and Mesopotamian monarchs as well as lesser-known figures. Their names appear in inscriptions written during the period described by the Bible and in most instances during or quite close to the lifetime of the person identified.

This list excludes persons in two categories. The first category includes those about whom we know so little (from the Biblical record) that we cannot identify them with anyone named in an inscription. The second category includes identifications that do not come to us from archaeology (such as the writings in the first century AD of Flavius Josephus, see Appendix).

Name Date (BC) Bible reference Confirmation
  When reigned
Egypt
1 Shishak (= Sheshonq I), pharaoh 945–924 1 Kings 11:40, etc. Inscription on temple wall
2 So (= Osorkon IV), pharaoh 730–715 2 Kings 17:4 Engravings on walls and stela
3 Tirhakah (= Taharqa), pharaoh 690–664 2 Kings 19:9, etc. Many Egyptian inscriptions
4 Necho II (= Neco II), pharaoh 610–595 2 Chronicles 35:20, etc. Assyrian inscriptions
5 Hophra (= Apries), pharaoh 589–570 Jeremiah 44:30 Egyptian and Babylonian inscriptions
Moab
6 Mesha, king early to mid-ninth century 2 Kings 3:4–27 Mesha Inscription
Aram-Damascus
7 Hadadezer, king early ninth century to 844/842 1 Kings 11:23, etc. Assyrian inscriptions
8 Ben-hadad, son of Hadadezer, king 844/842 2 Kings 6:24, etc. Melqart stele
9 Hazael, king 844/842–c. 800 1 Kings 19:15, etc. Zakkur stele
10 Ben-hadad, son of Hazael, king early eighth century 2 Kings 13:3, etc. Zakkur stele
11 Rezin, king mid-eighth century to 732 2 Kings 15:37, etc. Tiglath-pileser Ⅲ stele
Northern Kingdom of Israel
12 Omri, king 884–873 1 Kings 16:16, etc. Assyrian and Misha inscriptions
13 Ahab, king 873–852 1 Kings 16:28, etc. Kurkh Monolith inscription
14 Jehu, king 842/841–815/814 1 Kings 19:16, etc. Many Assyrian inscriptions
15 Joash (= Jehoash), king 805–790 2 Kings 13:9, etc. A Stella of Adad-Nirari Ⅲ
16 Jeroboam II, king 790–750/749 2 Kings 13:13, etc. Seal of his servant Shema
17 Menahem, king 749–738 2 Kings 15:14, etc. Calah annals of Tiglath-pileser Ⅲ
18 Pekah, king 750(?)–732/731 2 Kings 15:25, etc. Inscriptions of Tiglath-pileser Ⅲ
19 Hoshea, king 732/731–722 2 Kings 15:30, etc. Tiglath-pileser’s Summary Inscription 4
20 Sanballat “I”, governor of Samaria under Persian rule c. mid-fifth century Nehemiah 2:10, etc. Elephantine letter
Southern Kingdom of Judah
21 David, king c. 1010–970 1 Samuel 16:13, etc. House of David and Mesha inscriptions
22 Uzziah (= Azariah), king 788/787–736/735 2 Kings 14:21, etc. Seals of two of his servants
23 Ahaz (= Jehoahaz), king 742/741–726 2 Kings 15:38, etc. Tiglath-pileser’s Summary Inscription 4
24 Hezekiah, king 726–697/696 2 Kings 16:20, etc. Rassam Cylinder of Sennacherib
25 Manasseh, king 697/696–642/641 2 Kings 20:21, etc. Inscription of Syrian kings
26 Hilkiah, high priest during Josiah’s reign within 640/639–609 2 Kings 22:4, etc. clay Judahite bullae
27 Shaphan, scribe during Josiah’s reign within 640/639–609 2 Kings 22:3, etc. City of David bulla
28 Azariah, high priest during Josiah’s reign within 640/639–609 1 Chronicles 5:39, etc. City of David bulla
29 Gemariah, official during Jehoiakim’s reign within 609–598 Jeremiah 36:10, etc. City of David bulla
30 Jehoiachin (= Jeconiah = Coniah), king 598–597 2 Kings 24:6, etc. Four Babylonian tablets
31 Shelemiah, father of Jehucal the royal official late seventh century Jeremiah 37:3, 38:1 Clay bulla
32 Jehucal (= Jucal), official during Zedekiah’s reign within 597–586 Jeremiah 37:3, 38:1 Clay bulla
33 Pashhur, father of Gedaliah the royal official late seventh century Jeremiah 38:1 Clay bulla
34 Gedaliah, official during Zedekiah’s reign within 597–586 Jeremiah 38:1 Clay bulla
Assyria
35 Tiglath-pileser III (= Pul), king 744–727 2 Kings 15:19, etc. Aramaic monumental inscription
36 Shalmaneser V, king 726–722 2 Kings 17:3, etc. Neo-Babylonian Chronicle
37 Sargon II, king 721–705 Isaiah 20:1 Assyrian Text
38 Sennacherib, king 704–681 2 Kings 18:13, etc. Many inscriptions including his own
39 Adrammelech (= Ardamullissu = Arad-mullissu), son and assassin of Sennacherib early seventh century 2 Kings 19:37, etc. Assyrian letter
40 Esarhaddon, king 680–669 2 Kings 19:37, etc. Many cuneiform inscriptions
Babylonia
41 Merodach-baladan II, king 721–710 and 703 2 Kings 20:12, etc. Inscriptions Neo-Babylonian Chronicles
42 Nebuchadnezzar II, king 604–562 2 Kings 24:1, etc. The Neo-Babylonian Chronicle Series
43 Nebo-sarsekim, official of Nebuchadnezzar II early sixth century Jeremiah 39:3 Babylonian clay tablet BM 114789
44 Nergal-sharezer, officer of Nebuchadnezzar II early sixth century Jeremiah 39:3 Babylonian cuneiform inscription
45 Nebuzaradan, a chief officer of Nebuchadnezzar II early sixth century 2 Kings 25:8, etc. & Jeremiah 39:9, etc. Nebuchadnezzar Ⅱ’s Prism
46 Evil-merodach (= Awel Marduk = Amel Marduk), king 561–560 2 Kings 25:27, etc. Various inscriptions
47 Belshazzar, son and co-regent of Nabonidus c. 543?–540 Daniel 5:1, etc. Babylonian document; Verse Account
Persia
48 Cyrus II (= Cyrus the Great), king 559–530 2 Chronicles 36:22, etc. Various inscriptions including his own
49 Darius I (= Darius the Great), king 520-486 Ezra 4:5, etc. Various inscriptions including his own
50 Tattenai, provincial governor of Trans-Euphrates late sixth to early fifth century Ezra 5:3, etc. Darius Tablet
51 Xerxes I (= Ahasuerus), king 486–465 Esther 1:1, etc. Various inscriptions including his own
52 Artaxerxes I Longimanus, king 465-425/424 Ezra 4:7, etc. Various inscriptions including his own
53 Darius II Nothus, king 425/424-405/404 Nehemiah 12:22 Various inscriptions including his own

NEW TESTAMENT POLITICAL LEADERS

These include Roman Emperors, members of the Herodian family, and Roman governors. These political figures are mentioned in extra-biblical writings and some of their names appear in inscriptions (normally on hard objects, such as potsherds) and on coins.

Name Who was he or she? When did they rule? Where in the New Testament? Evidence in historical writings Evidence in inscriptions
Roman Emperors
1 Augustus Roman Emperor 31B.C.E.–
14 C.E.
Luke 2:1 Numerous Numerous
2 Tiberius Roman Emperor 14–37 C.E. Luke 3:1 Numerous Numerous
3 Claudius Roman Emperor 41–54 C.E. Acts 11:28; 18:2 Numerous Numerous
4 Nero Roman Emperor 54–68 C.E. Acts 25–26; 28:19 Numerous Numerous
Herodian Family
5 Herod I,
the Great
Rome’s King of the Jews over all of Palestine. 37–4 B.C.E. Matthew 2:1; Luke 1:5 Josephus, Antiquities and Wars Coins
6 Herod Archelaus Oldest son of Herod the Great. Ethnarch of Judea, Samaria and Idumea. 4 B.C.E.–
6 C.E.
Matthew 2:22 Josephus, Antiquities and Wars Coins
7 Herod Antipas Son of Herod the Great; second husband of Herodias. Tetrarch of Galilee and Perea (Transjordan). He ordered the execution of John the Baptist. 4 B.C.E.–
39 C.E.
Luke 3:1; 13:31–32; 23:7–12; Mark 6:14; 6:16–28; 8:15 Josephus, Antiquities and Wars Coins
8 Herod Philip Son of Herod the Great but not a ruler; Herodias’s uncle and first husband; father of their daughter Salome. Matthew 14:3–4; Mark 6:17–18; Luke 3:19 Josephus, Antiquities and Wars (No coins because he was not a ruler)
9 Herodias Granddaughter of Herod the Great; niece and wife of Herod Philip, mother of his daughter Salome; then Herod Antipas’s wife. She brought about the order to execute John the Baptist. Mathew 14:2–11; Mark 6:17–28; Luke 3:19–20 Josephus, Antiquities and Wars (No coins because she was not a ruler)
10 Salome Herodias’s daughter. Her dance led to the execution of John the Baptist. Grandniece and later wife of Philip the Tetrarch. Matthew 14:3–12; Mark 6:17–29 Josephus, Antiquities Coins of her second husband, Aristobulus, king of Chalcis
11 Philip the Tetrarch Son of Herod the Great. Tetrarch of Trachonitis, Iturea and other northern portions of Palestine. Eventually husband of his grandniece Salome. 4 B.C.E.–
34 C.E.
Luke 3:1 Josephus, Antiquities and Wars Coins
12 Herod Agrippa I Grandson of Herod the Great; brother of Herodias. King of Trachonitis, Batanea, gradually all of Palestine. Executed James the son of Zebedee and imprisoned Peter. 37–44 C.E. Acts 12:1–6, 18–23 Josephus, Antiquities and Wars Coins
13 Herod Agrippa II Son of Herod Agrippa I. Initially Tetrarch of Iturea and Trachonitis, then also over parts of Galilee and Perea, Chalcis and northern territories. Festus appointed him to hear Paul’s defense. 50–
c. 93 C.E.
Acts 25:13–26:32 Josephus, Antiquities and Wars Coins
14 Berenice/Bernice Sister and companion of Herod Agrippa II, rumored lovers. Attended Paul’s trial before Festus. Acts 25:13, 23; 26:30 Josephus, Antiquities and Wars Inscription of King Herod Agrippa II in Beirut
15 Drusilla Sister of Herodias and Herod Agrippa I; Jewish wife of Roman governor Felix. Acts 24:24 Josephus, Antiquities (No coins; not
a ruler)
Roman Legate and Governors
16 Publius Sulpicius Quirinius
( = Cyrenius)
Roman imperial legate brought in to govern Syria-Cilicia after Herod Archelaus’s rule led to rebellion. 6–9 C.E. and possibly earlier Luke 2:2 Josephus, Antiquities and Wars The Lapis Venetus inscription discovered in Beirut
17 Pontius Pilate Roman prefect of Judea who conducted Jesus’ trial and ordered his crucifixion. 26–36 C.E. Matthew 27:11–26; Mark 15:1–15; Luke 3:1; 23:1–24; John 18:28–19:22 Josephus, Antiquities and Wars; Tacitus, Annals; Philo, De Legatione ad Gaium Pilate Stone discovered at Caesarea Maritima; coins
18 Lucius Junius Gallio Roman proconsul of Achaia who convened and dismissed the trial of Paul in Corinth. c. 51–55 C.E. Acts 18:12–17 Seneca, Letters; Tacitus, Annals Stone inscription discovered in Delphi, Greece
19 Marcus Antonius Felix Roman procurator of Judea who held initial hearings in the trial of the apostle Paul. 52–
c. 59 C.E.
Acts 23; 24 Josephus, Antiquities and Wars Coins
20 Porcius Festus Roman procurator of Judea who conducted a hearing in the trial of Paul, during which Paul appealed to Caesar and was sent to Rome. 59–62 C.E. Acts 24:27–25:27; 26:24–32 Josephus, Antiquities Coins
Independent Political Figures
21 Aretas IV Arabian king of Nabatea. Father of Herod Antipas’s first wife, before Herodias. 9 B.C.E.–
40 C.E.
2 Corinthians 11:32 Josephus, Antiquities and Wars Inscriptions at Petra, etc.; coins
22 The unnamed Egyptian leader His Jerusalem-area insurrection was suppressed by Roman procurator Felix. Acts 21:38 Josephus, Antiquities and Wars (No coins because he was not a ruler)
23 Judas of Galilee Led a rebellion against the census of Roman imperial legate Quirinius. Acts 5:37 Josephus, Antiquities and Wars (No coins because he was not a ruler)

NEW TESTAMENT RELIGIOUS LEADERS

Name Name Who Was He? When Did He Flourish? Where in the New Testament? Evidence in Historical Writings
1 Jesus Jewish preacher, healer, and teacher, called Christ; crucified by order of Pilate; then said to have risen c. 27–30 C.E. All NT books except Third John, but most often in the four Gospels Tacitus, Annals;
Josephus, Antiquities;
Lucian of Samosata, Passing of Peregrinus;
Celsus, On the True Doctrine (via Origen, Against Celsus);
Pliny the Younger, Epistulae
2 Gamaliel the Elder Renowned Pharisee who rescued the apostles from the Sanhedrin c. 20–c. 50 C.E. Acts 5:34-39; 22:3 Mishnah: Orlah; Rosh ha-Shanah; Yebamoth; Sotah; Gittin; Josephus, Life
3 John the Baptist Righteous Jewish preacher of repentance; beheaded by Herod Antipas c. 26–29/30 C.E. Matthew 3:1-15; 11:2-18; Mark 1:1-9; 6:14-29; Luke 1:5-23; 7:18-33; John 1:6-8, 19-37; 3:23-34; Acts 1:5; 13:24-25; etc. Josephus, Antiquities
4 James, brother of Jesus aka James the Just (not the son of Zebedee); brother of Jesus; a leader of the Jerusalem church; martyr c. 30–62 C.E. Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3; Acts 15:13; 21:18; Galatians 1:19; 2:9, 12 Josephus, Antiquities
5 Annas Son of Seth; High priest and founder of a dynasty of high priests; first to interrogate Jesus High priest 6–15 C.E. Luke 3:2; John 18:13, 19-24; Acts 4:6 Josephus, Antiquities
6 Caiaphas High priest during Jesus’s trial High priest 18–36/37 C.E. Matthew 26:3, 57; Luke 3:2; John 11:49; 18:13-28; Acts 4:6 Josephus, Antiquities
7 Ananias Son of Nebedaios; High priest during Paul’s trial High priest 53–59 C.E. Acts 23:2; Acts 24:1 Josephus, Antiquities and War

Conclusion

Ancient history and archaeology have confirmed the existence of 83 people mentioned in the Bible. 53 of these are from the Old Testament and 30 from the New Testament. This means we have independent sources of evidence of the existence of these people that lived over 2,000 years ago. That’s amazing! It’s consistent with the Bible being historically accurate. And it supports the claim that the places mentioned in the Bible are real, the events were real and the people actually existed.

References

1. Mykytiuk, L. (2014). Archaeology confirms 50 real people in the BibleBiblical Archaeology Review40(2), 42-45, 48-50.
2. Mykytiuk, L. (2017). Archaeology confirms 3 more Bible peopleBiblical Archaeology Review43(3), 48-52.
3. Mykytiuk, L. (2017). New Testament political figures confirmed, Biblical Archaeology Review43(5), 50-59, 65.
4. Mykytiuk, L. (2021). New Testament Religious Figures ConfirmedBiblical Archaeology Review47(2), 38–47.
5. Bible History Daily, 30 people in the New Testament confirmed, May 2021.

Appendix: Josephus Flavius on the Old Testament

Josephus was a Jewish historian who lived AD 37-100. He was born in Jerusalem and died in Rome. Formerly a Jewish commander, he defected to the Roman side during the first Jewish-Roman war in around AD 67, and his history was written in Rome. He recorded Jewish history, with special emphasis on the first century AD. The principal value of Josephus’s work lies in his discussion of Jewish history from 100 BC through AD 100.

“Antiquities of the Jews” recounts the history of the world (from creation to AD66) from a Jewish perspective for a Roman audience. He says that he drew from and “interpreted out of the Hebrew Scriptures”. He retold the Old Testament with the addition of traditional stories. Josephus was not an eyewitness to most events in his works. His history is only as good as his sources. The early history in The Antiquities of the Jews is far removed from his own personal experience. We can only be sure of the details that coincide with Scripture, but the others are no more trustworthy than the traditions he relied upon.

Historians now generally agree that Josephus’s Antiquities were a propagandistic history. His paraphrasing of the narratives of the Old Testament was a creative adaptation aimed at presenting Jewish history as relevant, comprehensible and attractive to the Romans. Josephus was biased in favor of Judaism and he deliberately rewrote Old Testament narratives to provide a more flattering picture of Jewish heritage. While Josephus’s writings may not always be completely reliable his works can nonetheless be trusted to recreate a dramatic image of the Jewish people and the critical events in their history.

Posted, July 2021

Also see: Extrabiblical evidence of Jesus
More extrabiblical evidence of Jesus
Ancient history confirms biblical characters
Archaeology confirms biblical characters
Extrabiblical evidence of six Jews in the New Testament

One response

  1. Pingback: mid-week apologetics booster (7-22-2021) – 1 Peter 4:12-16

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