Fact-checking King David?

Fox News needs some fact-checkers. I was checking headlines today and saw this headline in the “Latest News” section:

Ancient Text May Prove King David was Real

This headline linked to a story entitled “Oldest Possibly Hebrew Inscription Possibly Found.” Leaving aside the horrible grammar, and while acknowledging fully that this is a significant find, I noticed one little piece of archeological history and a few details about this inscription that they apparently overlooked.

1. An inscription was found in 1994 in Tel Dan in Galilee that contains the expression “house of David” and was hailed at that time as “proof” that King David existed. It was hailed as such because it was the first extra-biblical reference to David that had been discovered (though it falls short of being “proof”). I remember when it was reported and I probably still have the copy of Newsweek since, as my wife often reminds me, I never throw anything away.

I was tempted to ask who many times this has to be “proven” but then I read the rest of the “Possibly…Possibly” article.

2. Turns out, this inscription doesn’t even mention David (that we know right now), isn’t written in Hebrew, and scholars have only been able to decipher a few words such as “judge,” “king,” and “slave” (though one insists he sees a form of the verb “to do” which only existed in Hebrew at that time).

3. Their reason for stating that it “might prove King David was real”? It appears to be from the same time period. Just because something might date from that time and was found near the traditional site of David’s battle with Goliath (notice I said “traditional” site) does not mean that it “proves” or even “might prove” anything.

That’s like saying I can prove Benjamin Franklin was real because I found a kite and a key from the late 1700’s.

And journalists wonder why what they say is treated with skepticism by the average person (or should be).

If the news media are (is) going to help us demonstrate the authenticity and reliability of the Bible record, the least they could do is check some basic facts and pay attention to their own stories.

Don’t worry; I’m climbing down from my soapbox now.


About Michael R. Jones

Pastor and PhD candidate writing on Paul's theology of suffering.
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