By Nathan Jones
Is there any historical evidence to prove that David and Solomon were real people?
This question was posed to Dr. James Fleming, one of the most knowledgeable teachers of Biblical Archaeology, on our show Christ in Prophecy. Dr. Fleming has lived and taught in Israel for the past 37 years at Jerusalem University College and at the Hebrew University. His first claim to fame is that he discovered the ancient Eastern Gate buried beneath the current one. Dr. Fleming has walked or motorcycled about every square mile of Israel, and is so familiar with Israel past and present that Israeli tour guides come to him for training. He now operates the Explorations in Antiquity Center in LaGrange, Georgia, an interactive museum where people here in the U.S. can experience the life and times of Christ.
Dr. Fleming: There is a kind of pottery that is called a two color ware, or bichrome ware, in the hill countries of Judah. There is a debate as to how long it was used then. I don't want to get into all the details of that, but some say that it was used in 1000 BC, while some say not until the 900's BC. If it is in 1000 BC that it was being used, then we have lots of evidence for structures that date to the united monarchy of Saul, David and Solomon. If someone puts the date down to the 900's, it means it's during the divided monarchy. The general tradition more and more archaeologists are supporting is there's evidence in the hill country of Judea starting as early as 1000 BC, which means we have lots of pottery showing sites.
There was an item found at Tel Dan that had the "house of David" written on it. It is from 700 BC. What is interesting with that wording is that every word had a little dot between it, but the word "house" and the word "David" did not have a dot on that inscription. This means Davidic Dynasty, right, and not "house of David." An Assyrian king was boasting that he killed the King of Israel and the house of David in Judea. But, this certainly convinced most archaeologists, as you would expect. A dynasty that lasted 400 years in the Bible without lacking male prodigy, which is very unusual, "house of David" is going to be mentioned by some neighbor at some point. It is great that we have that.
Generally, more and more scholars as you would expect as there are more excavations are feeling there is a lot of evidence for a Davidic ruler there.
There are excavations of the Ancient City of David that might indicate the historicity of both Solomon and David. David had conquered a Jebusite city and renamed it "City of David." It has to do with the dating of that particular kind of pottery, but a major archaeologist working there feels she's even found what may be the actual administrative palace of David. It is at least a large structure with four foot thick walls that seems to be from that period.
The "Stronghold of Zion" is a synonym for David's city. A 45 foot high huge rampart — the tallest structure from the Old Testament period — has been found. That certainly seems to fit with the phrase "Stronghold of Zion."
Where did the Transfiguration of Jesus take place?
Dr. Fleming: The mountain was unnamed. Jesus and the disciples would have withdrawn from Galilee in what scholars call the "withdraw section" to the district of Caesarea Philippi. Caesarea Philippi is not in Galilee. Galilee was ruled by Herod Antipas. Herod Antipas wanted to see Jesus. Do you remember, he'd just finished seeing John killed? He also wants to kill Jesus. Jesus leaves Galilee and he withdraws to Herod Philip's territory. It is further north. Then, a week later, Jesus is at an unnamed mountain in the withdraw section.
A number of mountains have been suggested. Since the mountain is unnamed, I don't think it is Mount Hermon itself. If it was a famous mountain it would be named, but could be one of the high foothills or cinder cones around Mount Hermon which would be an unnamed mountain. The other sites claimed like Mount Meron and Mount Tabor are in Galilee, and if you take the biblical text seriously, remember they've withdrawn from Galilee.
On the top of Mount Tabor there is a beautiful church to remember the Transfiguration, but there was a city there in the time of Jesus. You just don't get the feeling from the text that Jesus was in a city with Peter, James and John during the Transfiguration.