Nebo-Sarsekim’s receipt

Rare evidence in a nonbiblical source of a real person, other than kings, featured in the Bible has been discovered in a tiny clay tablet at the British Museum. There are articles about it, with pictures of the tiny tablet, in The Times and The Telegraph.

According to our spirituality survey last autumn, by the age of 14 only about 21% of young people agree that Christianity is based on events that actually happened – 52% are unsure and 27% reject the idea. There seems to be little awareness of the historical basis for a good proportion of what is in the bible. Perhaps the media fixation with evolution and certain interpretations of Genesis creates the impression the whole thing is utterly debateable and founded on nothing but uncertainty.

In trying to break this logjam in understanding we explain how historical, and in particular achaeological, findings from non-biblical sources back up much of what we read in the bible. So today’s finding is a useful example of the way such seemingly insignificant details can provide significant weight to our understanding of the historical accuracy of these parts of the Bible.

“This is a fantastic discovery, a world-class find,” said Dr Finkel from the British Museum. “If Nebo-Sarsekim existed, which other lesser figures in the Old Testament existed? A throwaway detail in the Old Testament turns out to be accurate and true. I think that it means that the whole of the narrative [of Jeremiah] takes on a new kind of power.”

Little did Nebo-Sarsekim, a chief officer of King Nebuchadnezzar, realise that his clay tablet receipt for 0.75kg of gold for a temple in Babylon would survive nearly 2600 years and in so doing help to confirm the existence and events of the very people he marched to Jerusalem to enslave.

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