Biblical Archaeology in Brazil? Secrets on Display
SAO PAULO, Brazil - What can ancient artifacts displayed in Brazil tell us about the life of Jacob and other biblical patriarchs? You might be surprised, even the smallest remnants from Bible times have fascinating stories to tell.
You'll find those stories in Latin America's only museum of biblical archaeology, near Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Founded in 2000 with 50 artifacts donated by Brazilian archaeologist Paulo Bork, the museum that bears his name has now 2,500 original artifacts, all with authenticity certificates from the countries of origin.
The collection covers 4,000 years of history in antiquities, including objects from the time of Abraham to the Middle Ages.
Rodrigo Silva, a renowned archeologist and theologian is the museum's director.
"The oldest inscriptions we have here are from 2,300 years before Christ," Silva said. "They are letters, receipts, treaties, from the days of the patriarchs or before the time of the patriarchs."
Biblical archaeology, which began around the year 1800, confirms the stories written in the Bible and helps explain the context in which they occurred.
Up until the 19th century, many scholars and scientists denied the historical existence of Babylon and the stories written in the book of Daniel. But objects in the museum, like a brick found in Iraq, demonstrate once again that the Bible is right.
Silva translated the inscription.
"I found that there were three lines. The full text reads: 'I am Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, supplier or principal of the temples of Ezida and Ezgaila, firstborn son of Nabopolassar,'" he said. "I published it and we recently checked the brick's age through thermo luminescence."
Ancient artifacts like these help us better understand certain biblical stories, such as why Rachel, Jacob's wife, stole her father's idols.
"What happened is that Rachel took her father's idols to give to her husband Jacob. Why? In Bible times, these idols, small pieces of pottery, were property certificates," he explained. "When someone bought an estate from another person, he received this idol as a property certificate."
The museum offers visitors the chance to see nails, like the ones that crucified Jesus; vessels like the one used to serve the wine at the Last Supper, and letters and envelopes from the time of Abraham.
Also included are a piece of rock that could have been part of the tower of Babel and a mirror from the time of the apostle Paul, made of polished bronze, which helps us understand better the well-known verse from the first letter to the Corinthians: "for now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face."
The museum also has the largest collection of antique coins in Latin America, with more than a thousand coins. Silva held up two small ones.
"This is like the one the widow offered at the temple of God," he said. "And this bigger one is the silver denarius, or cycle, which Judas received for betraying Jesus Christ. Only this coin could be accepted at the temple because it was made of pure silver. So, it's interesting that Judas betrayed Jesus with God's coins."
The Paulo Bork Museum is located at the Adventist University of Sao Paulo. New facilities should be completed by the end of 2014.
Silva invites visitors to discover the findings of archeology and have the assurance that the Bible is a book that contains a true story.
"And this is important," he added, "because if the story of the bible is true, then the theology that is based on this story, must also be true."