Just a week ago I commented on the lack of archaeological evidence for Bethlehem at the time of Jesus – it was known only from about the fourth century on. I said:
“Archaeologists have found little that could identify the town of Bethlehem in the first century, leading a few to argue that it didn’t exist at that time. …. I don’t think this question has been resolved yet”
Sometimes a week is a long time in archaeology!
Now archaeologists working in the city of David area of Jerusalem, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, have announced the discovery of a small (1.5 cm) bulla, a piece of clay used to make an impression in wax, sealing a document so it couldn’t be altered. This small bulla apparently accompanied a delivery of goods to the king of Judah about 7 centuries BCE, and the bulla identifies that the shipment was despatched from Bethlehem.
This shows the existence of town named Bethlehem seven centuries before Jesus, the first independent corroboration of the Bible’s references to the town. This doesn’t prove it existed in Jesus’ day also, but if it was there 700 years before and 400 years afterwards, it suggests that it probably did indeed exist at the time of Jesus.
Who knows what discoveries are yet to come?