NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- A small stone seal unearthed in Israel is likely the first archaeological evidence of the Old Testament judge Samson, say the co-directors of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Center for Archaeological Research.
"My initial assessment based upon what has been published to date would be that once again we have an artifact that does not contradict the biblical text, but in fact affirms it."
While not involved in the excavation that led to the discovery, center co-directors Daniel Warner and Dennis Cole said evidence characterizing the find makes it plausible that the seal supports a story of a young boy killing a lion with his bare hands.
About half an inch in diameter, the seal depicts a human figure -- perhaps with long hair -- fighting what appears to be a lion-like animal with a feline tail. The seal dates to the 12th century B.C. and was excavated at the Beth Shemesh site in the Judean Hills near Jerusalem. Archeologists found the seal with other items on the floor of an excavated house near the Sorek River, the ancient border between Israelite and Philistine territories. Seals were used in biblical times by those of wealth and influence as proof of authenticity.
"My initial assessment based upon what has been published to date would be that once again we have an artifact that does not contradict the biblical text, but in fact confirms it," said Warner, New Orleans Seminar associate professor of Old Testament and archaeology.
Excavation directors Shlomo Bunimovitz and Zvi Lederman of Tel Aviv University do not claim that the figure on the seal is of the actual biblical Samson. Rather, they believe the seal probably indicates that a story was being told in 12th century B.C. of a hero who fought a lion.
Judges 14:6 records Samson killing a lion with his bare hands. Samson lived near the end of the biblical era of judges, which scholars have estimated began as early as 1400 B.C. and ended around 1050 B.C. The date of the seal falls within that range.
Warner, on staff at New Orleans Seminary's Orlando Hub in Florida, has been on archaeological expeditions with Bunimovitz and Lederman. Read More