The Bible and Modern Discoveries (1): The Hittites

Source: FSSPX News

This title refers to a valuable work by Fr. Fulcran Grégoire Vigouroux (Nantes, 1837 - Paris, 1915), member of the Society of Priests of Saint Sulpice (Sulpicians) who taught Holy Scripture at the Seminary of Saint Sulpice (1860-1895) and then at the Catholic Institute of Paris (1890-1903). He was then called to Rome to become secretary of the Pontifical Biblical Commission. A prolific author, he published numerous articles and volumes.

This summer column intends to present some of those discoveries which regularly illustrate a dogma of the Catholic Faith—the inerrancy of Holy Scripture. For God, who has revealed Scripture, who “inspired” it, to use the technical term, can neither deceive nor be deceived. Thus, all that is recorded in Scripture is true, even if it is not always easy to discover the exact meaning desired by God. However, Catholics are guided by the Magisterium of the Church who teaches it with wisdom and authority.

The Hittite Empire exhibition, which is being held at the Louvre until August 12, 2019, will provide a defense of this first episode.

The Hittites: A Forgotten Civilization Only Mentioned in the Bible

The great Hittite kingdom, whose dynasty uninterruptedly dominated most of Anatolia for more than four centuries, was formed in the last decades of the 17th century BC. A great rival power of ancient Egypt, it extended its influence over the Levant until about 1200 BC. Its fall gave rise to the emergence of the neo-Hittite and Aramaean kingdoms in the territories of modern Turkey and Syria.

Unlike the contemporary kingdoms of Babylon, Assyria, or Egypt, memories of which have been preserved by the civilizations that succeeded them, the Hittite kingdom is one of the forgotten civilizations in the history of the ancient Near East, having left almost no trace in the memory of the peoples whose lands they occupied. Around 1880, after the first wave of archeological discoveries concerning mainly Egypt and ancient Mesopotamia, and the deciphering of their writings, new excavations uncovered cities with unknown languages. By following the observations of the English scholar Archibald Henry Sayce, the discoveries of the French mission of Ernest Chantre in 1894, then of the German Orientalist Society directed by Hugo Winckler from 1906, and finally the decipherment of Hittite by the Czech scholar Bedřich Hrozný from 1915, the rediscovery of the importance of this forgotten kingdom was made possible. For centuries, only the Bible mentioned its existence.

Even so, criticism by rationalists, which has attacked the Bible since the end of the 18th century and which has not relaxed its efforts since, has not stopped finding fault with the holy text for referring to absolutely unknown peoples from antiquity, accusing it of fabrication and being unreliable. For example, there is mention of the ḥittîm or bĕnê ḥet (“Son of Heth”), which the French translation often refers to as Héthéens [in Latin and in English, “Heth”]. But it is precisely this major civilization which occupied center stage in the Near East for nearly 500 years, which was so designated in the holy text.

The sacred authors mention this people about 60 times (in Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Ezekiel, and Isaiah). Several times they cite Carchemish, the Hittite capital, one of the fortresses the Hittites built on the bank the Euphrates at the entrance of the fords that led from the Syrian bank to the Mesopotamian bank.

The rediscovery of the Hittites by archeologists and the work of modern orientalists has confirmed the reliability of the Bible.

Royaumes oubliés : de l'empire hittite aux Araméens

[Forgotten Kingdoms : the Hittite to the Aramaean Empires]  

Louvre Museum from May 2, 2019 to August 12, 2019

For reservations :  (+33) 01 40 20 53 17