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Archaeology and peace in the Middle East

Israel flag with a view of old city Jerusalem and the Western Wall.
Israel flag with a view of old city Jerusalem and the Western Wall. | Getty Images

Any lover of peace longs for the day when tensions in the Middle East abate. If only the three major religions in the world could find at least some respectful common ground, they say, one might see a faint light at the end of the long tunnel of even the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Where did the discord begin, and is there any hope it might subside?

In many parts of the world, Christians and Jews have achieved mutual respect leading to congenial dialogue — even where they might disagree theologically. Neither, however, seems to have succeeded in finding the same level of discourse with Muslims.

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The problem? From the beginning of the Islamic movement, Muslim apologists have claimed that the Bible, specifically the book of Genesis — which both Christians and Jews accept — has history all wrong. They maintain that Ishmael, not Isaac, is Abraham’s son of blessing and promise. Therefore, the Jewish people are not Abraham’s heirs and have no right to the Promised Land / Holy Land.

Yet though the biblical account of Abraham and the divine promise pertaining to Isaac, son of Abraham and Sarah, predates Muhammad by 2,500 years, in the last generation or so, Muslim apologists and propagandists claim there is no archaeological evidence that Jews lived in the Holy Land.

Proponents of this view — some of whom even roam the Temple Mount contradicting Jewish and Christian tour guides — actually claim there never was a Jewish temple in Jerusalem. To advance this view, they ignore the historical record and discount abundant archaeological evidence.

In Christian Research Journal a few years ago, Dr. Craig Evans, professor of Christian Origins at Houston Baptist University and world-renowned expert on the Bible, refers to this as what he calls Islamic temple mythicism.[1] He contends that extensive evidence for the existence of the two Jewish temples is found in Jewish, pagan, Christian, and even Muslim sources. The existence and location of the golden Dome of the Rock are themselves testimony of Islam’s ancient belief that the Jewish temples at one time stood in Jerusalem on the Temple Mount.

Dr. Evans believes that acknowledging the historical sources and the archaeological evidence is essential for laying a foundation on which a resolution may rest that could ease, perhaps even end the Arab-Israeli conflict. While he concedes that non-Jews in Israel have rights, Israel also has a legitimate ancient claim. But a workable solution cannot be found if Israel’s history is ignored and the evidence of archaeology is dismissed.

A century and a half of archaeological work and geographical and topographical study show that the biblical accounts of Israel’s ancient occupation of the Promised Land more than 15 centuries before the birth of Muhammad are factual and well-supported. Muslim Arabs and Christian Arabs have a right to live in the Holy Land, but so do the Jewish people. A fair-minded study of Israel’s ancient records and the findings of archaeology in Israel and elsewhere in the Middle East provide more than sufficient justification for the existence of the modern state of Israel in the Holy Land.

[1] C. A. Evans, “Was there a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem in Antiquity? Exposing Islamic Ahistoricism and Mythicism,” Christian Research Journal 40/5 (2017) 24–31.

Jerry B. Jenkins is a 21-time New York Times bestselling author (Left Behind, The Chosen, The Dead Sea Chronicles, et al).

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