Is Atheism Dead?

The following is an exclusive excerpt from Is Atheism Dead? by Eric Metaxas, available October 19 from Salem Books. 

In 1996, an Albuquerque scientist named Steven Collins was in a modest hotel room in the Israeli city of Arad, on the bleak southwestern side of the Dead Sea. Dr. Collins was a field archaeologist and ceramic typologist who had spent many years studying the millennia-old vessels buried throughout the Middle East. He was also a Christian who believed the Bible was a reliable source of history, and was leading a group on a Bible tour of Israel. But what lay ahead of the group the next day gave him an uneasy feeling. Being a scientist, he was especially careful about making claims, and hated seeing other tour guides say things he knew to be mere speculation. 

On the docket the next day were what scholars said were the sites of the biblical cities Sodom and Gomorrah. But Dr. Collins was aware of some of the discrepancies concerning these sites. These things hadn’t nagged at him before, but for some reason now they did. So to better prepare himself for the next day, he opened the Book of Genesis and reread the biblical accounts. But reading these words with an actual view of the land to which they referred, he became confused. According to what he was now reading, what everyone had for many decades accepted as the locations for these ancient cities simply couldn’t be right. How had he missed this before? Why certain views harden and become the consensus, never to be questioned, is one of the themes of this book. For Dr. Collins to find himself questioning the consensus about these locations was difficult. Back in the latter part of the nineteenth century most top biblical and archaeological scholars had believed precisely what Collins was at that minute wondering about. As he was now doing, they had read the biblical text and had without any question understood that the location of these fabled cities must be somewhere northeast of the Dead Sea, in what was called the Kikkar Plain, a verdant area surrounding the southernmost part of the Jordan River. That’s simply what the text said. There were many other questions to be answered about Sodom and Gomorrah, but their location—along with the other cities of the Kikkar Plain—was not disputed. 

But in the twentieth century this changed. That’s because a scholar named W. F. Albright—and his protégé G. E. Wright—had confidently and firmly put the location of these cities on the southwestern edge of the Dead Sea, and perhaps even under the waters of the sea, whose surface level they knew fluctuated over the millennia. Their case for this location was not without its problems, but their influence and stature in the field of biblical  archaeology—especially that of the elder Albright—was such that few would dare to question them. Albright had gotten so much right over the decades and had done so much for the field of biblical archaeology that he had earned most scholars’ deepest respect, which is often enough to sway people away from the theories of others. 

Indeed W. F. Albright was no less than the founder of the biblical  archaeology movement; he had magnificently countered the prevailing liberal trend of the previous era toward dismissing the Bible as folklore and had succeeded tremendously in marshaling evidence and arguments against it to show that what the Bible said could not easily be dismissed. So Albright was a great hero to those who took biblical archaeology seriously, and until his death in 1971 he was the field’s éminence grise without peer.

But very early in his career—in 1924—he had conducted a survey of the Jordan Valley and identified five cities on the southeastern side of  the Dead Sea as the “cities of the plain ” described in Genesis. He concluded that the largest, Bad edh-Dhra, was biblical Sodom, and the smaller Numeira was Gomorrah. 

So because of his stature, which only grew in subsequent decades, these identifications were hardly challenged. Subsequent excavations even provided good reasons to agree with them. In the 1960s and 1970s, for example, extraordinarily vast cemeteries were uncovered in three of the five cities, with a total of 1.5 million bodies.

Surely a tremendous civilization had once lived and breathed there, precisely as one would conclude from the biblical descriptions. Even stronger and more dramatic was the layer of ashy destruction—ranging in depth from four to twenty inches—that had been discovered at  Bad edh-Dhra. Part of the evidence too was that the tectonic plates in this region exerted extraordinary pressures upon each other, and over the millennia many earthquakes had occurred. So it was reasonable to speculate that volcanic magma and superheated subterranean gases might have escaped during some of these tectonic cataclysms, which would account for the fiery destruction mentioned in the biblical account. All these things were more than enough to settle the question generally. 

But as we have said, there were discrepancies and questions. For  example, what appeared to be the fiery destruction of Bad edh-Dhra was believed to have taken place around 2350 BC, five to seven centuries too early for the destruction of biblical Sodom and Gomorrah, which was established at around 1700 BC. Another difficulty was that Numeira’s civilization had vanished completely around 2600 BC and had never been recovered. This was nine centuries too early. 

How these cities had been destroyed was another question. The biblical account says God “rained down fire and burning sulfur from the sky on Sodom and Gomorrah.” It says nothing of an earthquake, although if volcanic ash and lava and scorching gases were vented from within the earth they could certainly be expected to fall down upon the area. The actual text from Genesis 19:25 reads: “He overthrew those cities, all the plain, all the inhabitants of other cities, and what grew on the ground.” (Other translations say He “demolished,” “devastated,” “destroyed,” and “ended” those cities—describing complete annihilation of their inhabitants and vegetation.) It also says Abraham got up that morning and from his location more than forty miles away saw smoke rising from the cities “like the smoke of a furnace” (Genesis 19:28). It’s hard to imagine what manner of destruction could have done something so devastating that someone forty miles away could see what Abraham saw. 

There were other factors against these locations, but as we have said, the way things work in determining the scholarly or popular consensus often has little to do with how such things should work. Logic and facts are rarely the only way we process things. So it was mostly Albright’s unparalleled authority as the “Father of Biblical Archaeology”—bolstered by the subsequent archaeological excavations following his initial identification—that settled most opinions on this issue, at least among those  believing the cities and the story of their destruction was more than folklore and myth.

Military tensions between Jordan and Israel from the 1960s through the late 1990s also made further exploration in this and nearby areas impossible, so the settled opinion had three further decades to ossify. By the time of Dr. Collins’s tour in 1996, the identification of Bad edh-Dhra and Numeira with biblical Sodom and Gomorrah was the unquestioned consensus and what brought Dr. Collins and his group to their hotel in Arad that night. So the next morning Dr. Collins had planned to lead his charges to these spots and repeat much of what he and so many others had accepted from Albright and Wright and those following in their footsteps. 

Collins was also aware of the theologically liberal scholars who  thought the whole thing was simply an ancient fable, and he was aware of others who believed perhaps something had happened here in the mythical past, and the memory of that cataclysm had formed the basis of the biblical stories. Of course the further back in the Bible one went the more tempting it was to see the stories as wholly or at least partly mythical. Many scholars didn’t believe the Exodus had ever happened, or that Moses was a real person. Many believed King David was a mythical figure and that the  stories of his life were like those of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Perhaps there had been someone upon whom the story of King Arthur was based, but to take it as seriously as if it had been recorded by Thucydides or another actual historian was ridiculous. Did anyone think there was a real Gilgamesh, or a real Odysseus and Penelope? At what point did mythology and history separate? 

So apart from Christian scholars like Collins—and before him Albright and others—the idea that these cities and their story of destruction was anything but pure fancy had been dismissed. And even if such places or events like their supposed destruction had occurred, there was no reason to assume we could find them four millennia later. They might now lie in ruins somewhere beneath the Dead Sea, as some maintained. 

But Dr. Collins knew that locating Sodom under the Dead Sea was a kind of lazy, unscholarly shrug at the whole affair. It had been established for some time that the water level of the Dead Sea was never lower than in Abraham’s day. We even know that it was then at precisely the same level as today. So the theory that Sodom sunk like Atlantis to the bottom of the Dead Sea must be  discarded. But as often happens, theories carry on in various circles long after they categorically have been disproved in others. Information and knowledge rarely travel as they should, as we have said. 

Dr. Collins knew the biblical accounts were real, and before retiring he read the passages in Genesis. When he noticed the strange discrepancy about the cities’ location, he carefully read the whole passage three more times, to be sure he understood it. The text tells us in the first lines of Genesis 13 that Abraham and his nephew Lot left Egypt and traveled north through the Negev desert.They went all the way up to Bethel and pitched their tents between Bethel and Ai, today located in the West Bank, some  miles north of Jerusalem. Both men were wealthy, possessing tremendous herds of cattle and many flocks of sheep and goats, along with the many tents to house their herdsmen. In fact, each had so many herds and flocks, requiring considerable lands for pasturing and grazing, that their herdsmen often quarreled. So Abraham suggested to his nephew Lot that they separate, generously giving his nephew the choice of where to settle. The text says: 

And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that  it was well watered everywhere (before the Lord destroyed  Sodom and Gomorrah) like the garden of the Lord, like the  land of Egypt as you go toward Zoar. (Genesis 13:10) 

The Hebrew term for “fertile plains” is kikkar, which means “disk”  and also refers to a loaf of bread baked in a circular—or disk—shape. Collins knew that for Abraham and Lot to see what the text described  meant they could not be near the Dead Sea, much less on its southern part. To look toward the Jordan River—which flows southward into the Dead  Sea—and toward the fertile plain around it clearly implied they were looking at an area directly north of the Dead Sea, toward the eastern side of  the Jordan River. There was no mistaking it from the text. But that location was far from where Collins and his group were in Arad. Again: Why had he not seen this before? And yet who was he to question decades of established consensus? 

He knew if he pursued what suddenly seemed so obvious that he  would be setting himself against the establishment, who had long ago dismissed the area indicated. Maps showing biblical sites had almost nothing where he believed these five “cities of the plain” were located. But since Collins believed the Bible to be the inspired Word of God, he could hardly slough off what was suddenly so clear. He was unsure what he would tell his group the next day, but more importantly, he was wondering whether he should pursue this further. 

In 1996 Dr. Collins was extremely busy with other responsibilities  and projects, but he did more research and became increasingly convinced that biblical Sodom and Gomorrah had never been discovered and lay someplace in the Kikkar plain, north of the Dead Sea, probably in Jordan. He knew he must try to find them.

It wasn’t until 2002 that he could plan a trip to Jordan to look into things more closely, but that year he and his wife, Danette, along with some friends went to Israel and then into Amman, Jordan, where they visited the American Center of Oriental Research (ACOR). If anywhere was a good place to start looking into this subject, this was it. When they arrived, they first pored over issue after issue of the Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan, looking for clues. But they found nothing. Still, what the Bible said was plain enough. Major cities don’t just disappear. Although now and again the depressing thought came into Dr. Collins’s head that perhaps that’s exactly what they had done. Perhaps the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah had simply been that devastating, so that no traces existed to be found. The Scriptures didn’t talk about some mere earthquake, where everything simply fell where it was. It described an unprecedented conflagration: fire from heaven. Who knew what would remain? 

As their research went nowhere, Dr. Collins’s traveling companion  showed him a book, titled The Antiquities of the Jordan Rift Valley, published fifteen years earlier. It was the work of a journalist, R. G. Khouri, with descriptions of every archaeological site in the entire Jordan Valley. And the map in the book—unlike all other maps Dr. Collins consulted—was not blank. It had fourteen black dots, each indicating an archaeological site. He realized two of these dots might hold the answers to this puzzle. Dr. Collins was stunned that in this popular-level book he had found more on potential  archaeological sites than in all the scholarly literature. He realized all they needed to do was make a list of the fourteen sites and use the process of elimination to determine which ones fit the criteria for Sodom and Gomorrah. There was information on many of them there in the library. Some were far too early to be considered; others were too late. The Sodom of the Bible had to be a spectacularly thriving center before 1700 BC, the time of Abraham and Lot. And of all the “cities of the plain” mentioned in Genesis, it had to be the largest. The Arabic word for “mount” is tall—which we usually anglicize to “tell” or “tel.” Each of these tells is typically a great mound of cities built upon cities over the course of centuries or even millennia. Even if not already on a preexisting height, the sheer mass of buildings atop buildings over time can itself rise to a tremendous height. 

At the end of their day at ACOR, Dr. Collins and his companions had settled on two large tells that seemed to be the likeliest candidates. One was “Tall Nimrin,” which had already been excavated somewhat. It had “monumental Middle Bronze Walls,” so the dating was right. Much more intriguingly it had evidence of being abandoned for five hundred years, which would be logical, if one took seriously the horrific destruction described in Genesis. There was pottery up until the Middle Bronze Age, but rather mysteriously none from the Late Bronze Age. The larger candi date was Tall el-Hammam, which somehow had never been excavated. 

But before visiting these, they would visit all the less likely spots on the map, just to get a sense of things. They spent the next two days driving all over the great verdant circle of the Jordan Valley, investigating each of the fourteen talls. Dr. Collins, being a world expert in ceramics of this region, picked over the bits of pottery shards that lay everywhere, instantly recognizing the era in which they were made and quickly knowing whether the tall was a candidate for Sodom. It wasn’t until the second day that they came to Tall el-Hammam. As they were approaching it in their car, they saw that it was breathtakingly large, far larger than they had dreamt. Dr. Collins said it looked like “a massive ship, riding on a sea of fields.” It was stunning, the height of a nine-story building. It also had steep slopes strewn with rocks, which Dr. Collins was tempted to scale, but didn’t. Yet he wondered: Why had no one ever excavated this? 

The tremendous height made one see its strategic advantage. One could see armies approaching for many miles in every direction. In fact, the Ottomans and Jordanians had used this tell for gun and tank positions, and their treads had dug large trenches like gashes across the landscape. As Dr. Collins scoured this area, he found exactly what he found at Tall Nimrin: a remarkable and confounding absence of any pottery from the Late Bronze Age, as though during that period alone both of these once-great cities were desolate and unoccupied. It was a  tremendously hopeful sign. If Sodom and Gomorrah could be found, these two sites were the prime candidates. Their location on the Kikkar plain meshed perfectly with the biblical account, and the odd lacuna where the Late Bronze Age pottery should have been was deeply compelling. At this juncture, Dr. Collins had no further questions. He knew he must dig here. By 2005 he had finally squared away enough of his other work and raised enough funds to put a spade to the problem, as it were. Over the next several summers that’s precisely what he and his team did, being  the first to excavate this extremely promising site. The work on Tall el Hammam was painstaking, so it wasn’t until the third season of excavation that they hit what one might well describe as the literal pay dirt for which they had been looking. 

They excavated gradually, of course, but Dr. Collins realized that one of the deeper gashes previously made by the Jordanian tanks might help him see more easily what was further down. So he began digging an exploratory shaft in that spot. As they meticulously made their way down, they were racing backward in time, and about nine feet down they came upon a strange “layer of distinct, ash-laden, hard-packed soil.” It had not seen the light of day in thirty-seven centuries, and the graduate student digging at that moment, Carroll Kobs, said it still stank of burned ashes. The acrid smell had been preserved for nearly four thousand years. 

Obviously, this was tremendously exciting and offered evidence of what could have been a fiery civilization-ending cataclysm around 1700 BC, precisely when the Bible indicated. But perhaps even more exciting was what lay just above this layer from 1700 BC. The layer immediately atop this ash-laden layer was from the tenth century BC. This was the extremely strange evidence for  which they had been daring to hope. It seemed that this civilization was thriving for many centuries, but then suddenly, around 1700 BC, the civilization had stopped dead—and then did not start up again for seven centuries. Any one unfamiliar with the story of Sodom and Gomorrah would have been completely baffled. Why would a piece of the primest real estate for many  miles—boasting a commanding view of the area that was unparalleled, and an abundance of water and greenery—be utterly abandoned for seven hundred years? Even if a meteor or volcanic explosion or some other event had devastated this Middle Bronze Age city, why should it lie uninhabited for so long?  How had seven centuries of nothingness descended so decisively on a site of  such unequivocal value? Even if the city had been destroyed, wouldn’t someone have settled on it far sooner than seven hundred long years later?

To understand the great peculiarity of such a long hiatus, we have to  consider what Sodom was like in its prime. For one thing, it had been a  thriving walled city for 2,500 years before its destruction in the seventeenth century BC. In other words, it had been continuously populated from over 6,000 years ago. Such a long stretch of civilization in one spot is nearly impossible to imagine. But it shows us that it was indeed an unprecedentedly spectacular location for a city, situated right in the middle of a major trade route, with inexhaustible sources of water. So before its destruction it had existed for 25 continuous centuries. Real estate was every bit as important then as it is today, and there simply weren’t many places to compare with this one. The size of the city was immense too, more than ten times the size of Jerusalem. And its colossal walls and fortifications were so impregnable that as far as we know, no enemy ever managed to  breach them. Dr. Collins and his team soon saw the entire city had been surrounded by a rampart consisting of 150–200 million mud bricks sloping outward at a 35-degree angle and coated with dried mud so that no one could climb it. Then atop this monumental rampart stood a 12-foot-thick wall three stories high. There was even a second huge wall around the centermost part of the city, providing further protection for the elites living there. But then it all ended so decisively and horribly that no one dared to inhabit it again for seven centuries. 

A clue to why it remained barren for so long comes to us in the  Egyptian name for the place following its destruction. They called it  Abel, “the place of mourning.” The Hebrew sense of the word has the strong connotation of “mourning after a calamity.” In the book of Numbers the site is called an uninhabited “wasteland,” and all throughout the Old Testament it stands as a frightening warning of desolation, a hellish landscape utterly devoid of life. Life went on all around it, and we have the record of many figures in the Bible passing it by, but no one dared scale its haunted heights. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, Zechariah, Micah, and Zephaniah all refer to it as the ultimate horror, as the nightmare picture of what happens when God’s unmitigated judgment  descends to wreak its havoc. Jesus too mentions it several times, as do several New Testament writers, though their distance in time from the  destruction was seventeen centuries. 

So what did happen on that day so long ago? Can we ever know? In Discovering the City of Sodom, the 2013 book that Dr. Collins and his co-writer Dr. Latayne C. Scott eventually wrote to tell this extraordinary story, they explain that the layer of hard-packed ash and “destruction debris” from the terminal Middle Bronze Age stratum is between eighteen inches and six feet deep. “Embedded in those layers,” they write, “are broken and tumbled mud bricks, smashed and charred pottery vessels and other day-to-day objects, and human bones—all violently churned into a tell-tale ashy matrix.” Whatever happened left behind a wake of destruction unlike anything anyone had ever seen. There was literally nothing to compare with it. In a more recent report, from 2019, they describe it similarly: 

The matrix had every predictable material in it—pieces of mud bricks, chunks of charred wood, cobble-sized stones and pebbles,  pieces of plaster, pottery shards, and a variety of objects—but  the mixed matrix did not have a typical “gravity” order to it. One  excavator gave it a descriptive name: “the Cuisinart effect.”  Indeed, the matrix composition had the look of having been  thrown into a blender. 

What is even more staggering about the violence is how widespread it is, for this bizarre seven-century gap is not limited to Sodom but extends to all of the surrounding cities and towns in the Kikkar region. Archaeologists in this region call it the “Late Bronze Gap.” But Collins explains that this “Bronze Age Gap” only includes the cities and towns in the Kikkar plain. Everywhere else beyond that, civilization continued along, uninterrupted in any way. 

One measure of the devastation comes to us from the archaeologists who excavated Tall Nimrin—which Collins now believes is biblical Admah— in the 1980s and 1990s. They found “Middle Bronze wall foundations, the deep-sunk large bases which were intended to anchor the superstructures of buildings, inside the perimeter of the city, but they found no [Middle  Bronze] residences, none of the typical eighteen-inch-thick walls of domestic dwellings. They said this was ‘highly unusual.’” So what sort of force could possibly tear away walls that thick across an entire city, leaving almost no trace of them, and leaving only the foundations below? What in the world could have happened to cause such sweeping destruction? 

Another clue to what happened came to Carroll Kobs the day she was down in the shaft where she discovered the layer of ash. While digging, her trowel hit something hard within the ash. It was a piece of pottery about the size of her palm. But when she turned it over, she and Dr. Collins saw that the other side was covered—or glazed—with a “greenish, glass-like surface.” Dr.  Collins’s heart sank immediately. Being a ceramic typologist, he knew immediately that any glazed pottery like that was Islamic and couldn’t be older than the seventh century AD, when this technology came into being. Carroll handed the shard to Dr. Collins, who flipped it over to the unglazed side again. But when he looked at it up close, he had no doubt he was looking at a piece of Middle Bronze Age pottery. In fact, he knew that it was the “shoulder” of a large forty-gallon jar—pithoi—used to carry water, olive oil, or wine. Since glass melts at about 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit, the glaze could only mean that the shard had been subjected to heat of that temperature. Dr. Collins had excavated things like that before that had been in a room that caught fire while containing extremely flammable oil or something like that. It was possible. 

But when one of the volunteers, Dr. Gene Hall, finally saw it, he had another thought, saying it looked exactly like trinitite. Hall had been in the military in the 1940s, when—just 120 miles south of where Dr. Collins now lived in Albuquerque—the first nuclear tests were conducted in the desert of  New Mexico. The director of the Los Alamos lab was J. Robert Oppenheimer, who gave the first nuclear test the code name “Trinity,” so the area was thence forth called “Trinity Site.” The heat from that blast was so intense that it  instantly melted the sand, turning it into green glass. Those who later found this substance dubbed it “trinitite.” Hall’s comment got Dr. Collins’s attention, because one strange thing about the shard of pottery was that this green glass like glaze was ultra-thin, and only on one side. It seemed to him that unlike other bits of pottery he had seen that were subjected to intense heat, this had only been subjected to intense heat for the shortest time before it cooled. What could explain that? 

When he got back to the States, Collins had the shard tested at the U.S. Geological Survey lab at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in Socorro. When the geochemist Nelia Dunbar saw it, she immediately said: “Nice piece of trinitite.” But when she turned it over, she saw that it was a piece of ancient pottery. So of course it couldn’t be trinitite. Twelve hours of tests later they got new information. They could clearly see that the glassy material had not dripped onto the pottery, but was actually the pottery itself, melted. They also saw that part of the interior of the pottery showed signs of exposure to extreme heat. An eighth of an inch from the surface melt—inside the ceramic itself—it had obviously gotten so hot that a zircon crystal—which is a salt crystal—had lost its typical angularity and had in a millisecond melted into an infinitesimally small globule, like a tiny bubble, only visible through the electron microscope they were using. This meant that the interior of the ceramic at some point—very briefly—had reached at least 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. How intense could the heat have been outside the pottery to create this temperature inside the pottery in that briefest fraction of a second? Of course whatever had caused that super intense flash was another, larger question. 

The more they talked about what might have caused this, the more they realized every suggestion must be rejected. Except for one.The only one that seemed to fit is what is usually called an intense “airburst event.” These have happened on other parts of the globe, where a meteor or asteroid penetrates Earth’s atmosphere—but explodes before it makes impact. That is precisely what happened in 1908 on a staggering scale in Tunguska, Siberia. Nearly a thousand square miles of forest—eighty million trees—were incinerated and flattened in an instant by the force of the detonation. People hundreds of miles  away were knocked off their feet from the shock waves, and the meteorological disturbance was so great that all across Asia and Europe the night sky was lit up for three days. People in London could read newspapers at midnight. The “impact event” has been estimated to be the equivalent of fifteen megatons of TNT, or a thousand Hiroshima bombs. And yet this inconceivably destructive  event would only have required a single small asteroid of about three hundred feet in diameter, exploding five miles above Earth’s surface. 

Many other “impact events” had happened in pre-history, such as the huge one that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs sixty-six million years ago. We also know that one must have occurred over the Egyptian desert some time before the birth of King Tutankhamun, whose mummy was decorated with a piece of breastplate jewelry featuring just such a piece of exceedingly rare green glass. As we have noted, the Bible says Abraham—who at the time of Sodom’s destruction was in Hebron, some forty miles away—could see “the smoke of the land which went up like the smoke of a furnace.” 

And so the evidence builds with each year that Dr. Collins has indeed found what many thought unfindable, or simply mythical. But since his first discoveries, the excavations and the story have continued. In 2011 Dr. Collins’s team for the first time found human remains, and they have found many more since. In 2012, however, they found what for Dr. Collins was a nearly unbelievable dream come true: the city gate of Sodom, the very place where Lot sat thirty-seven centuries ago. Every archaeologist of that Bronze Age is familiar with the huge city gates constructed around many of these cities, and when in 2012 Dr. Collins found this fabled gate, tears came to his eyes. In  Discovering the City of Sodom, he says that he had visited and measured most of the monumental gates from that time, so he knew exactly what he was  looking for. He had seen the gates at Dan, Ashkelon, Gezer, Megiddo, Hazor, Shechem, and Beth Shemesh. And now in this eighth season of excavating Sodom, he had found this holy grail, the very gate of Sodom. It was quite what one would expect for a city of that size in that period. Four gigantic towers and a central opening six feet wide. It would have been the bustling marketplace where innumerable transactions took place, and the very spot where  Abraham and Lot had sat, as described in the pages of Genesis. Very few archaeologists are able to lay claim to discovering anything quite so remarkable, and certainly no archaeologist has ever found anything from the Scriptures older or more famous. 

Dr. Collins’s book came out in 2013, but the excavation continues. The more time passes the more the consensus has shifted to this site as the only candidate for the ancient city whose destruction is described in Genesis. And as the evidence mounts up, this recent discovery begins to emerge as one of the most astounding archaeological discoveries of all time. 

What makes it especially important, though, is that this discovery was the direct result of taking the biblical text seriously. Only the Bible gave a clear location for Sodom and Gomorrah, identifying them as the two largest cities in the “cities of the plain.” Only the Bible made it clear Abraham could have seen Sodom burning from over forty miles away. Dr. Collins only searched for these cities where he did because he had a deep confidence in the scriptural account. And the good reason for that confidence has been borne out in his excavations. It was this confidence that the Bible spoke truth—coupled with his knowledge of the scientific and other developments in the story, such as the depth of the Dead Sea at the time of Abraham, and the various problems of the previously and erroneously identified sites to the south of the Dead Sea—that all came together.

In a way, the discovery of this vitally important ancient city and the  strange way in which it was dramatically swept from history through a natural disaster—of what we might advisedly call “biblical proportions”—is a signal  example of what is possible when we value the biblical accounts. What else Dr. Collins will find there is not known, but what he has already found—and what  many in the fields of archaeology have assented to and confirmed—is that the  Sodom and Gomorrah of the Bible were real. And the destructive event that befell them is real too, as proven with the tools of modern science. Thanks to Dr. Collins’s faith in the trustworthiness of the Hebrew Scriptures, both cities  and their grim fates have in our time been resurrected from the ash heap of myth and legend into the realm of history and science.

Eric Metaxas is a best-selling author and host of the Eric Metaxas show. His new book, Is Atheism Dead? is available October 19.

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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