Published January 27, 2014
A few characters scratched into the side of an ancient earthenware jug have archaeologists scrambling for their dictionaries -- and wondering if it corroborates the Bible's stories of King Solomon.
The Ophel inscription -- 3,000-year-old characters found in Israel in July -- is the earliest alphabetical written text ever found in Jerusalem. It proves the real basis behind the parables and stories in the world’s most famous book, said Gershon Galil, a professor of ancient history and biblical studies at the University of Haifa.
"We are dealing here with real kings, and the kingdom of David and Solomon was a real fact," Galil told FoxNews.com, in a phone call from Israel.
But the world's leading archaeologists are still hotly debating the meaning of the inscription. Gershon offers what he calls the "only reasonable translation," noting at the same time that the very existence of the text is as important as its meaning.
"The most important thing this tells us is that somebody during this time knew how to write something," he said.
Three letters of the inscription are incomplete, and Galil translates them to read, "yah-yin chah-lak," which is Hebrew for "inferior wine." The first half of the text indicates the twentieth or thirtieth year of Solomon's reign -- making the entire inscription a label of sorts for the jug's contents.
He explains that the text must be written in an early form of southern Hebrew because it is the only language of the time to use two yods (Hebrew letters) to spell the word wine. Galil also suggests that the "inferior wine" was probably given to laborers who were helping to build the burgeoning city of Jerusalem.
If Hebrew as a written language did exist during the time of the inscription, it places the ancient Israelites in Jerusalem earlier than previously believed, under a time the Bible indicates was King Solomon's rule.
According to Galil's understanding of the text, the writing ability demonstrated by the inscription proves the existence of a fully functioning administration that collected taxes, prepared storage jars and performed other duties as early as the second half of the 10th century BC.
"The Bible claims that Solomon built the temple and that he was the man that enlarged the city," explained Galil. Outside of biblical texts, there has not been any evidence that Solomon in the mid-10th century BC ordered the building of the First Temple, the ancient Israelites' place of worship where the Dome of the Rock currently stands.
Some suggest Judean King Hezekiah actually built the temple in Solomon's name. Galil scoffed at the suggestion.
"If Obama were to achieve something, he would not claim that Bush did it. It's not in human nature! Solomon built the temple, not Hezekiah."
"Even if my reading is not the right one, the fact that somebody knew how to write [in Hebrew] during this time, shows that somebody could have easily written a book a little while later like [the Old Testament's] book of Samuel and Judges."
Galil hopes that in years to come, more evidence will be found to support the Kingdoms of Solomon and David.
"The evidence that we have today and each year we have so much more that David and Solomon were real and important kings and not just tales of the Bible," he said.