One day a friend sent me an invitation to a church meeting and asked me if I knew anything about the subject. On the flyer was a picture of a human skeleton with crooked teeth and a rock embedded in his forehead. The title above the skull read: 'They've Found Goliath's Skull!' Needless to say, that caught my attention...
I read with great interest what was written on the flyer. It reported:
Diggers in Israel believe they've made a giant discovery. For they're convinced they've come across Goliath's skull! And what's more, they say, the stone from David's slingshot is still embedded in the forehead. Archaeologist Dr. Richard Martin says: 'We found the skull in the Valley of Elah, in the foothills of the Judean Mountains, where David's battle with Goliath took place. The skull is huge and clearly belongs to a man of enormous stature.' Tests show that the skull is between 2,900 and 3,000 years old - about the right time for the biblical battle. Dr. Martin says: 'This is the archaeological find of the year.'
Wrong, doc. If you're correct, the skull could be the archaeological find of the century! Make no bones about it! What was the source for these claims? At the bottom of the flyer it cited 'Jewish Telegraph/UK/11 June 93.' That sounded like a respectable publication.
I wrote to one of my students in the UK and asked him if he could chase down a copy of the Jewish Telegraph for me (this was before the age of everything being on the Internet). He was successful, and it said basically the same thing that was on the church flyer. I did some more 'digging around,' and discovered the original source was an article by David Hudson in the May 25, 1993 edition of an American publication called Weekly World News. On one issue of the newspaper it boasted that they were 'The World's Only Reliable Newspaper.' In case you are unaware, the Weekly World News used to be a supermarket tabloid like the The National Enquirer and The Sun, and was a very unreliable source of information. This is the publication that reported Elvis sightings and had titles such as 'Hillary Clinton Adopts Alien Baby' and 'Garden of Eden Found.' The latter article claimed the Garden was in Colorado and they discovered the original apple that Eve ate!
The front page of the May 25th edition had the same picture of the skull with the rock in the forehead as the flyer. The headline said: 'Goliath's Skull Found in Holy Land! Dramatic discovery proves the Bible story true!' As I read through the article, red flags and warning bells began to go off. I knew of most of the leading Israeli and American archaeologists working in Israel, but I had never heard of this 'Dr. Martin.' I was living in Jerusalem in the spring of 1993 when the alleged discovery was made on March 23, and never heard about the supposed 'news conference' in Jerusalem given by 'Dr. Martin' when he announced his discovery. I was perplexed by the fact that Goliath's skull was found in the Elah Valley when the Bible says David took his head up to Jerusalem, presumably as an act of intimidation against the Jebusites (I Sam. 17:54). I was puzzled by the 'test' that showed the skull was 2,900 to 3,000 years old, and wondered if it had been published in a scientific peer-reviewed publication. It is safe to say, this whole story, both on the flyer and in the article, was made up. There is not a shred of evidence for any of these bogus claims.
The flyer went on to say:
In just this one discovery of Goliath's skull we see God's Word vindicated as true and accurate in every detail. We also see the moral message it conveys. Namely, that God will punish the tyrants and bullies who have no regard for human freedom or life, and will reward the simple faith of his servants when they set their hands to execute God's justice in the earth!
What can we learn from this story? First, we should do a thorough search, check out the facts, and find out what the original source of a story was (something this pastor failed to do). In this case, the bogus story came from an unreliable tabloid. One should look for material that has been published in a scientific, peer-reviewed publication. This so-called 'skull of Goliath' was never published in an archaeological journal by 'Dr. Martin.' Second, the moral message comes from the Bible alone, not archaeology. Most importantly, the Bible does not need archaeology to vindicate it as 'true and accurate in every detail.' The Bible stands on its own merits. Jesus Himself said, 'Thy Word is truth' (John 17:17).