A comparison between the names mentioned in the biblical book of Jeremiah and those appearing on archaeological artifacts from the period when the prophet is believed to have lived – around the sixth to seventh centuries BCE – offers support to its historicity, said Mitka R. Golub, a research fellow at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.Over the decades, uncovering ancient inscriptions featuring names appearing in the Bible has been considered by scholars an important tool to shed light on the historicity of its narratives. In the past few years, Golub has broadened the concept of what names can teach researchers by focusing her analysis not on specific ones, but on their general characteristics and trends.However, as she explained in two papers on the topic recently published in the journals Biblical Archaeology Review and Israel Exploration Journal, her studies also shed light on cultural differences between the ancient kingdoms of Israel and Judah that seem to contradict the scriptural tale, which sees them as two entities descending from one nation. “Archaeology is my second career,” Golub told The Jerusalem Post. “I previously studied and worked as a computer scientist. When I decided to devote myself to archaeology, I thought that I could bring my knowledge of statistics to apply quantitative and statistical methods to analyze the data.”The researcher explained that she decided to focus on names.“We have found evidence of many names dating back to the First Temple Period, also known as Iron Age II, and they provide us with a lot of data,” she said. “My approach was not simply to highlight that a specific name on an artifact that was also mentioned in the Bible, but to look into the knowledge offered by a collection of names.”Golub examined collected names from excavated artifacts published in journals, corpora and books to gather as many names as possible. She registered features such as their geographical origin, political affiliation and dating, as the type of artifact – pottery sherds, jars, seals and so on. Another characteristic she paid attention to was the presence of a theophoric element: names presenting a reference to the divine in their suffixes or prefixes, which were common among Jews during the First Temple Period and became even more popular over time, such as Shema‘yahu and Nethanel.IN THE case of Jeremiah, as explained in the Biblical Archaeology Review, the archaeologist compared 92 names from the book with 367 names from relevant excavated artifacts.She found out that 63% of the names from the first group featured a Yahwistic element – a reference to yod-hei-vav-hei, the specific name of God of the Jews. Moreover, 10% of the items included the generic divine name El, 7% presented an abbreviated theophoric element – such as Shema, an abbreviation of Shema‘yahu; 3% was constituted by names with other divine names, 1% by names with divine appellatives and 16% by other names. The distribution of the categories of names in the second group proved to be similar (50% Yahwistic names; 8% names featuring El; 14% presenting an abbreviated theophoric element, 4% names with divine appellatives and 24% other names).As pointed out by the scholar, the findings suggest that the group of names mentioned in the book have the same characteristics of what has emerged in archaeological excavations.However, one important difference that Golub found out is that within the Yahwistic names mentioned in Jeremiah, the groups of letter yod-hei-vav and just yod-vav seem to be used interchangeably (53% v. 42%) while almost all the epigraphic artifacts present yod-hei-vav.As the first combination of letters was more commonly used in the ancient kingdom of Judah while the latter in the ancient kingdom of Israel, the archaeologist explained that this element might simply be a sign that the author did not perceive the difference as important, but also that the book was actually compiled in a later period, when the use of yod-vav had become more common.“I believe this second explanation is more likely,” she said.This observation is consistent with other findings by the scholar revealing different cultures between Judah and Israel, as well as that the biblical account seems to reflect more closely the Judaic tradition than the Israelite one. In the paper published in the Israel Exploration Journal, Golub highlighted how the use of patronyms during Iron Age II was much more prevalent in Judah than in Israel.“The Bible is offering us a story about one group of people, living under what scholars have called the United Monarchy of David and Salomon, who then split into two kingdoms,” she told the Post. “Analyzing names can be a tool to explore the question of to what extent this narrative is accurate.”In 2018, Golub has launched Onomasticon – an online open-source database including names and characteristics emerged from excavated epigraphic artifacts in the region, with the cooperation of Itay Zandbank.Every year, she works on adding in the database new elements emerged in excavations, published literature or from the use of more advanced technologies that allow to decipher previously obscured inscriptions.In the meantime, new questions and answers on how the names of those who lived thousands of years ago can help shed light on the connection between archaeology and the Bible continue to emerge.