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One of the annoying aspects of higher criticism is its tacit assumption: “If it’s not in the archeological records, it can’t be true.” One case in point is the accusation that since there is as yet no such foundation for the census taken in the days of Jesus birth, it must be a fabrication of the Gospel writer’s imagination or a plot tool.

Consider the following recent issues:

* An ancient stone inscription found in Tel Dan in the Golan Heights in 1993 named “the House of David” and spoke of him as “King of Israel.” So shocked were some scholars that they said the stone had to be a fake, or else it was misinterpreted. But additional fragments of the same stela (monument) with more inscriptions referring to David, were found the next year. Today the consensus, even among liberal scholars, is that David was real.

* Recent expeditions at Shechem, where the Bible says Abraham built an altar to God, proved that an organized community existed there during Abraham’s time, nearly 400 years ago.

* An ivory pomegranate, purchased in the international antiquities market by Israeli authorities for $550,000 in 1988, is now believed by many scholars to be the 1st relic ever found from Solomon’s Temple. An inscription on the pomegranate has been translated as “Holy to the priests, belonging to the Temple of Yahweh.

* Last summer, archaeologists sifting through a 2000-year-old garbage dump at Masada in southern Israel, discovered a wine jug inscribed with the name of King Herod. It was the 1st object ever found with his name on it.

* Recent excavations have found evidence of a string of ancient Egyptian forts along the Sinai’s Mediterranean coast. The discovery offers a plausible explanation as to why Moses led the Children of Israel inland through the Sinai wilderness instead of taking the shorter coastal route.