Daily Dispatches
Eli Shukron walks in the City of David archaeological site near Jerusalem's Old City.
Associated Press/Photo by Sebastian Scheiner
Eli Shukron walks in the City of David archaeological site near Jerusalem's Old City.

Are Jerusalem ruins King David’s ancient citadel?


Archeologist Eli Shukron claims to have found the ancient citadel of King David in the eastern section of Jerusalem. But skeptics are not convinced, complaining Shukron used the Bible to guide identification of ancient archeological ruins.

Ronny Reich, a former collaborator at the site, accuse biblical archaeologists of holding a spade in one hand and a Bible in the other. They fear that when archeologists go looking for evidence to confirm biblical stories, they introduce a bias that skews their interpretations. Christian archaeologists, who believe the Bible is the supreme authority, contend recent finds match the biblical account more than skeptics want to admit.

The problem, according to David Merling, an archeologist and pastor, is that most scholars of archeology today are evolutionists who reject the Bible’s historicity. In fact, most excavations in Israel are no longer even conducted by academic archeologists from U.S. universities, but by Christian organizations or by the Israelis themselves.

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“There is a trend in secular academia of viewing the Bible as a patchwork of texts that have been added in at later and later dates,” Merling said. Archeologists are opposed to even using it for historical reference because that could seem to give it credibility, he added.

Scholars often use lack of archeological evidence confirming the biblical narrative as a way to disprove the Bible. But Merling argues that line of reasoning is a leap of faith itself. If no data is found to confirm a biblical narrative, all that can be said is that no evidence has yet been found, not that it never happened. Due to cost, only about 5 percent of many archeological sites are excavated, leaving the evidence in 95 percent of sites unavailable for scholarly study.

Despite the controversy, after nearly two decades of study, Shukron is convinced he has found the fortress the Bible describes David taking from the Jebusites. The dig unearthed a huge fortification of stones weighing five tons, stacked 21 feet wide. Two pottery shards dated the wall to be 3,800 years old. Second Samuel describes David ordering the capture of the walled city by entering through the water shaft. Shukron discovered a narrow water duct where he believes David’s army penetrated the city.

Reich disagrees that the ruins are the Citadel of David. He believes more than two shards of pottery from the time of King David’s reign should have been found if the site had been in use at that time. Shukron thinks he didn’t find more because newer pottery would have been brought in by David’s successors, since the fortification was in continuous use.

The $10 million project, located in an Arab section of Jerusalem, has also angered Palestinians because the dig is financed by the Elad Foundation, an organization that attempts to settle Jews in guarded homes there. The area was captured by Israel in 1967, but the Palestinians claim it as the capital of a future independent state.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Julie Borg
Julie Borg

Julie is a clinical psychologist and writer who lives in Dayton, Ohio. She is a graduate of the WORLD Journalism Institute's mid-career course.


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