Does Archaeology Support the Bible?
- Bethlehem & Nazareth
- Peter’s house
- Pool of Bethesda & Siloam
- Pontius Pilate
- Lysanias, Tetrarch
- James, brother of Jesus
- Gallio the proconsul
- Yohanan, buried crucifixion victim
- Nazareth decree – grave robbing
- Galilean fishing boat
- Location of Jesus’ trial
- Crucifixion earthquakes
- More Finds
What is archaeology first and foremost?
It is the study of the past based on human material culture. Archaeologists learn about the past by looking at the remains that anything humans have manufactured and left behind. E.G. Buildings, pottery, coins etc.
Archaeology is a careful digging inch by inch downward measuring the layers, the strata, that’s why it’s called stratigraphy”.Craig Evans, Archaeology + Jesus documentary
“As we remove this information from the ground we destroy it in the process. Archaeology is basically a process of destruction”Dr Jodi Magness, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,
Archaeology + Jesus documentary
“What I like to say about archaeology is that it’s not an exact science, because it’s an experiment that cannot be replicated, you cannot duplicate the experiment, you get one bite of the apple when you’re an archaeologist and that is it”.Dr Jodi Magness, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,
Archaeology + Jesus documentary
Why do we need archaeology to help us with the first century?
“Understanding the time of Jesus can come from only two sources. One is history and the other is archaeology”Dr. Mordechai Aviam, Kinneret College Of the Sea of Galilee
Archaeology + Jesus documentary
How can it help us understand the New Testament?
“The Gospel writers simply assume we know what they’re talking about when they’re talking about the material culture which they don’t talk about very much. They just mention that he’s on the road, we’re the ones [the archaeologists] who have to supply what a road looks like; they’re in a house, we have to supply what a house looks like because Matthew, Mark, Luke John for example are just not going to tell us in detail, they don’t think they have to”.Dr. James F. Strange, University of South Florida,
Archaeology + Jesus documentary
What does archaeology tell us about the people of the past?
“It is a discipline that sheds light on a certain aspect of past life, history is the study of the past based on human written records so anything humans wrote down, that’s what historians study. They are complementary disciplines and that we are all studying the past but we are all using different kinds of information in order to learn about the past. We literally remove the information from the ground”.Dr Jodi Magness, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,
Archaeology + Jesus documentary
How does one go about dating this material?
“If we can date the forms we see, particularly the indicators like rims, handles, bases that are most interesting to us, then you can turn a section that you’re digging like a locus into a particular time period and you can tell them where they are chronologically”.Dr Dennis Groh, Illinois Wesleyan University.
Archaeology + Jesus documentary
“The problem with archaeology is that it turns space into time, the human dimension. How do we think about this in ways we can understand instead of meters and centimetres? Well pottery is one of the main ways of doing that”.Dr Dennis Groh, Illinois Wesleyan University.
Archaeology + Jesus documentary
We have good database pottery that tells us an enormous amount about the people used the pottery were as Dr Dennis Groh elaborates on in the Archaeology + Jesus documentary series. Dr. Scott Stripling of Wharton County Junior College informs us that of the 3,000 pieces of pottery that are dug up over day, 20% are diagnostic pieces.
How do archaeologists ensure they dig in the right places for a fruitful dig?
“We’ve mounted a campaign to use the most high tech, geophysical research so that we are not having students spinning their wheels when they are out in their fields. We have two techniques. First ground penetrating radar, which is radar, it looks down about 5 feet and can identify straight up archaeological strata below the surface and if there’s something there, we’ll take students to excavate it. We have a second technique that looks through 20 – 30 metres, from the very top all the way down to the ancient foundation. This technique, electrical resistivity tomography is an MRI for the ground and what it does is it can identify artefacts that are below the surface and just like gas and oil exploration uses this technique. The good news is it can identify and colour code whether something is glass, metal, fired pottery or stone pottery or any different type of resistance to the electrical charge we put into the ground. The software comes back, gives us a read out and we can say we’re going to excavate X, Y & Z. That’s what makes archaeology. Modern but it also saves us huge amount of time”Dr Richard Freund, University of Hartford [paraphrased in parts], Archaeology + Jesus documentary
Can any archaeologist just turn up and dig in the Judeo Middle East?
“How one gets trained depends to a large extent on what period of time you are interested in and what part of the world you want to work in. So somebody for example who works in MesoAmerica is going to be trained very differently from me. They are going to need to learn about MesoAmerican civilisation and i know nothing about MesoAmerican civilisation. Somebody who works in prehistoric archaeology (Paleontology) will also be trainee very differently. So the kind of training you get to become an archaeologist very much depends on the period of time and the part of the world you are interested in”.Dr Jodi Magness, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,
Archaeology + Jesus documentary
So why Archaeology?
1. It can reveal details of the first century world Jesus and the disciples lived in
2. It provides evidences for some of the facts pertaining to the New (and Old but we’re not doing that here) Testament and is able to verify facts such as people, places, objects and other features that even post 70AD would be completely foreign concepts.
We’ll look at some of the top finds (clear bias here, these are just my favourites! There’s more details in the table at the end) from places, people and details, 5 from each.
Bethlehem & Nazareth
This is a business seal of goods going from Bethlehem to Jerusalem. There was a time when sceptics held to the non-existence of Bethlehem, claiming this was a village Christians made up and that it was non-discoverable. Eli Shukron is an Israeli archaeologist employed by the Israel Antiquities Authority and tells us this:
“Here we can read [the word Bethlehem] in a clear Hebrew inscription from the First Temple period and a bullas found in Israel that arrived from Bethlehem to Jerusalem maybe to pay some tax. This is the Bethlehem next to Jerusalem referred to in the Bible.”
Another place atheists have been sceptical about its existence is Nazareth. This is where Joseph was from, where Jesus grew up. Archaeology has found some wine presses as well as a graveyard in this area. But it was only in 2010 that archaeologists stumbled across the walls of houses from the New Testament.. The excavation director had this to say:
“The discovery is of the utmost importance since it reveals for the very first time a house from the Jewish village of Nazareth and thereby sheds light on the way of life at the time of Jesus. The building that we found is small and modest and is most likely typical of the Dwellings in Nazareth in that.”.Excavation Director
Dr Craig Evans, New Testament scholar paints some perspective on the value of such a find:
“Recent archaeological work suggests that it does date to the turn of the year, first century BC and if so, it is possible that Jesus grew up there. But even if he did not grow up here, it would not have been far away”.Craig Evans, Archaeology + Jesus, documentary Tv series
And some further details:
“It is a house from the first century, it was discovered in 2009 and was a big surprise. It is the foundation of a house in the neighbourhood of the house where Jesus was living. We thought that Nazareth was a poor village at the time of Jesus, a few houses with Nazareth fairly unknown. When they found this house it was a surprise because it was strong, well built, quite rich and it was a two floor house so it means it’s quite a rich house. 3 objects were found here, two vessels and those vessels are made of stone. So this means that probably people living here are Jewish because they were eating according to Kosher laws. The second thing we found was an oil lamp which was coming from the temple in Jerusalem and we think that this family was Jewish and going to Jerusalem for the annual pilgrimage, the family would be going there and they would bring back a lamp because they were bringing back the light of the house”.Sr. Beatrice Bourrat, Mary of Nazareth Int. Center, Archaeology + Jesus, documentary Tv series
The synagogue on the top layer of stones is likely a 5th century synagogue but the Black Layer you can see in the pictures toward the base, is of a first century synagogue that later they simply knocked down and rebuilt it on top of the same foundations. This was a common practice as it provided a flat plain. So what we have is the foundations of the first century synagogue where Jesus taught.
There are 16 references to Capernaum in the Gospels. Jesus taught in the synagogue there according to Mark 1:21-22 and Luke 4:31-36. Luke 7:1-10 records how Jesus healed the slave of a Roman soldier posted locally. The people encouraged Jesus to heal the slave because the Roman officer had built the synagogue. Probably the same first century synagogue whose black basalt foundations can be seen under the fourth century one. This is an archaeological place anyone can visit these days.
Also in the ruins of the Capernaum synagogue we know wine presses have been discovered. The trampling of the grapes would involve filling a bird bath like bowl and there they would be pressed down and then the material was pushed down through a cylindrical valve and what wasn’t entirely liquified, people with bare feet would stomp on them which would lead to the wine. Jesus talks in Luke 6 about disciples like good grapes that had been pressed down, beaten and liquified in this fashion to produce a good wine.
- Randall Price the Stones Cry out): https://www.amazon.co.uk/Stones-Cry-Out-Archaeology-Reveals/dp/1565076400
A Fisherman’s house that has strongly been linked to Peter the Apostle has been found. Here are the reasons why this could be Peter’s mother-in-law’s house.
In 1968 archaeologists discovered the remains of a 4th century church underneath a 5th century church. The fourth century church was built around a first century house used as a Christian meeting place since the second half of the first century.
- we have a 5th century church initially built around a 4th century church
- This 4th century church was built around a first century house
One of the rooms had been plastered and converted into probably some sort of prayer meeting room or House church room and had various prayers scratched into the plaster work of that persons house that mentioned the name of Jesus.
The Roman emperor Constantine and her mother Egeria (AD 380) wrote in her diary in her pilgrimage to the Holy lands:
“In Capernaum the house of the prince of the Apostles has been made into a church with its original wall still standing. It is where the Lord cured the paralytic”.
So Egeria would have seen the house with the fourth century walls not quite yet 5th century version that comes later.
Pool of Bethesda & Siloam
Pool of Bethesda
John 5:1-15 describes a pool in Jerusalem near the sheep gate called Bethesda, surrounded by 5 covered colonnades. Until the 19th century there was no evidence of John for the existence of this pool. The 19th century German liberal scholarship denied this place ever existed. To their credit however, they did think in scholarship at the time, in this brand of liberalism, that John’s Gospel was written in the second century and so John’s knowledge would’ve been limited to what he could invent that couldn’t be checked. Some also held to the view that perhaps details like the 5 colonnades could be symbolising the five books of the Pentateuch. A symbolic story with some spiritual meaning.
When archaeologists dug this site up it had exactly what John described and it did indeed have five covered colonnades. The liberal scholars were wrong. Again.
Pool of Siloam
In 2004, archaeologists stumbled upon the first century ritual pool of Siloam near the mouth of Hezekiah’s tunnel mentioned in John 9:1-7. The water would come from Hezekiah’s tunnel and today some water still runs through that tunnel into the location where the pool would be.
They found pottery and coins and this is helpful because pottery can give you an era where that is from. A usual thing about coins is they often have the minting date on the coin which, when buried with the steps helps you to know when that Pool was dated to or around in.
The pottery dating helps because you can tell the difference between a Jewish first century days and a Byzantine jug. And around a pool you would fill your jug with water and pour it over your head especially if you were washing.
“How could the place where almost all the main apostles come from, all the majority miracles of the New Testament… Walking on the water? Happened here. Feeding of the multitudes? Happened here. These are major miracles of the entire New Testament and nobody could find it, and believe me, everyone was looking for it”Dr Richard Freud, University of Hartford, Archaeology + Jesus documentary
Bethsaida is an interesting town for archaeology case. Initially Bethsaida was in the wrong place, it was too far from the water. However, a proposal was made that the water levels have reduced and so Bethsaida was once nearer. This kind of research required multiple disciplines — geologists and geographers.
What the geologists concluded that a series of earthquakes that occurred in the area took the skyline along the Jordan river that has very steep cliffs, the rocks came into the Jordan river, dammed it up and when the dam broke, each time after these events the coastline got built up. This was why nobody had found Bethsaida for 1,500 years because they were looking at the present Sea of Galilee, not the correct sea level of the time from antiquity.
It took Dr Richard Freund, University of Hartford 20 years of excavating to discover this. You find anchors for large fishing boats each one weighing 50 pounds in Bethsaida, 2 miles from the sea! You know they’re not dragging them each day to get to the water!
Bethsaida through archaeology has been recognised as an industrial town with fishing nets and led weights found all over the place in this commercial village. Elaborate earrings found only in Rome were discovered here, so the people could be middle class to upper class. Even wine from Rhodes in private wine cellers. This may not be Surrey, England, but far more than a desert village in a third world country.
Luke 3:1-2 example of details
This stone might originally be part of a plaque declaring that Pilate had built a Tiberium temple. But it had obviously been reused and was used in a completely different context when archaeologists discovered it. Pilate is mentioned throughout the Gospel and to find an artefact of him is historically fitting and significant. There is also said to be coins and a ring connected to him that has been discovered. This is important because in the 1800s several sceptics doubted the existence of Pilate. In 1961 and inscription was found in Caesarea which reads ” to Tiberius Pontius, Pilate Prefect of Judea”
This confirms the historical existence of Pilate and that he was ruling in Judea under Tiberius as Luke records (Luke 3:1-2)
- Studying the historical Jesus: evaluations of the state of current research by Bruce Chilton, Craig A. Evans 1998 ISBN 9004111425 p. 465
Pilate ring (probably from his staff)
Sceptics also used to say Luke didn’t have a clue what he was talking about because he records Lysanias was the Tetrarch of Abilene under Tiberius. We know from history that a Lysanias lived earlier than that as Tetrarch of Chalcis from 40 to 36 BC – (Josephus, antiquities, p14).
Fortunately an inscription was later found from the time of Tiberius A.D. 14 to 37
An inscription discovered at Albia dating to the time of Tiberius names Lysanias as Tetrarch just as Luke had written. There were in fact two government officials named Lysanias and Luke was correct all along. So they had been to government officials named Lysanias!
So you can observe the logic some sceptics use here.. Can someone else not have the same name or a similar name in antiquity? We know even in the Gospels there is more than one John, more than one Peter, and quite a few Herods. It’s not because they are lazy at thinking up names, it’s because they were popular names at the time.
In a Tomb located to the south of Jerusalem an Ossuary was discovered with several others, one of which many historians believe relates to the former high priest Caiaphas and his family. On the right side and back of the Ossuary is inscribed Caiphas’ name “Yosef bar [son of] Caifa“. This is a highly elaborate looking ossuary and when you compare it to someone like James’ Ossuary we’ll get to later, you can see it was a person of wealth and distinction. This archaeological discovery helps to verify the existence of Caiaphas.
James, brother of Jesus
With this Ossuary you can tell it looks nowhere near as fancy as Caiaphas’ one. This archaeological discovery mentions the existence of Jesus. In 2002 and Ossuary was discovered with the inscription James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus. Where the controversy arose was that it was found with an antiquities dealer and not organically found on a archaeological dig. The dealer had it for a long time, but didn’t know what to do with it.
Andre Lumiere evaluated the Ossuary and stated the Curse of Aramaic script is consistent with 1st century lettering and it was not made with modern tools. The odds of an Ossuary mentioning a brother is very unlikely unless that brother was a famous person. The Biblical Archaeology Review also looked at the plausibility and said from this time there would be 1.71% people named James with a brother named Jesus and a father named Joseph making it extremely unlikely that if it is authentic it would belong to anyone other than James of Jerusalem
Author: Hershel Shanks
However in 2003, the Israeli Antiquities authority published its report that the Ossuary was authentic but the inscription was a modern forgery. But the problem is the report left many holes. Professor Wolfgang Krumbein who did an analysis on the Ossuary report and concluded the paper originates from a series of errors by mistake of premises, use of inappropriate methodology, mistakes in geochemistry, defective error control, reliance on unconfirmed data and a disregard of information.
The Jewish Antiquities authority took the dealer to court to prosecute him for selling forgeries initially. The court case fell apart however and basically all of the expert witnesses that the prosecution court either ended up retracting the accusations or giving evidence that ended up supporting the authenticity of the Ossuary.
Later studies considered the inscription authentic including a 2014 study which found that the microfossils in the inscription were naturally deposited.
Open Journal of Geology
New Testament scholar Ben Witherington III concluded
“ …as seems probable, the ossuary found in the vicinity of Jerusalem and dated to about 63AD is indeed the burial box of James, the brother of Jesus, this inscription is the most important extra-biblical evidence of it’s kind.”Ben Witherington, Building Belief: Constructing Faith From the Ground Up, p146
James was martyred in AD 62 which is 29 years after jesus’ crucifixion. Which would date this ossuary to AD63. James of course would have been buried and then a year later reburied because they to gather all the bones up after the flesh has decayed and put them into the box.
So we have a confirmed archaeological inscription that bears the name of Jesus from the 1st century.
Gallio the proconsul
This is the Gallio inscription, like most you probably didn’t pay much attention to his mentioning in the Bible but there is significance to discovering his historicity that we shall unveil here and why it’s included as a highlight.
Missing puzzle piece.
This inscription was found in excavations of Delphi (45 miles North west or Corinth as the crow flies) in the 1880s. The significance of the artifact was not realized until around 1907. The inscription is as much a puzzle as the question of Paul’s timeline.
Initially, four fragments were unearthed, then three more, then two more. Current scholarship accepts all nine fragments dug up are from the same inscription. The intact tablet, originally over 1.4 meters (55 inches) long, read something close to the following:
Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, 12th year of tribunician power, acclaimed emperor for the 26th time, father of the country, sends greetings to [… ]. For long have I been well-disposed to the city of Delphi and solicitous for its prosperity, and I have always observed the cult of the Pythian Apollo. Now since it is said to be destitute of citizens, as my friend and procunsul L. Iunius Gallio recently reported to me, and desiring that Delphi should regain its former splendour, I command you (singular) to invite well-born people also from other cities to come to Delphi as new inhabitants, and to accord them and their children all the privileges of the Delphians as being citizens on like and equal terms. For if some are transferred as colonists to these regions…The Gallio Inscription at Delphi Sylloge Inscriptonum Graecarum 801D
The opening here is what is pivotal for precise dating. The emperors were engrossed with themselves and their achievements, so all reference to time pertains to them and their reign. Claudius was no exception. Terms such as “tribunician power” and “acclaim” were benchmarks for dates. An emperor’s tribunician power began the very day they ascended to the throne. For Claudius, this was January 25, AD 41.
- His first year then ran through January 24, AD 42.
- Therefore, his 12th year, the year of the inscription, was between January 25, AD 52. to January 24, AD 53.
- This, therefore, pins Gallio as pronconsul prior to January AD 53.7 Gallio in Corinth prior to 53! [sources49 50 51 52 53]
Narrowing In On Gallio’s Date:
This rather tight window of one full year can be shut a bit more. Key to understanding this is Claudius’ “acclaim” as emperor “for the 26th time.” Acclaim was public recognition, a figurative “standing ovation” of the Roman world, marking the military victory or prowess of their emperor. Undoubtedly, an emperor wanted to amass as many acclaims as possible, so multiple acclaims could be accumulated in any given tribunicial year, if the Caesar was war-minded enough.
- There is record of Claudius’ 22nd, 23rd, and 24th acclaims occurring in his 11th tribunician year (Jan AD 51 to Jan 52). There is also a record of his 27th acclaim, found inscribed at the dedication of an aqueduct, which came somewhere between Jan 25, AD 52 and August 1, 52. Missing are records of his 25th and 26th acclaims and their significance. But from the above dates, we can see that they both fell at some point between Jan AD 51 and August 52.
This 18 month window can be shut a little more with a proper understanding of Roman war practices, a bit of speculation and probability.
- Military exploits typically took place between late March to early November. As acclamations were linked to military triumph, it is likely that Claudius’ 26th acclaim came between the Fall of 51 (to allow for acclaims 22-25 in Spring and Summer) and the Spring of AD 52.
This gives us about an eight month window, and now again finds Gallio as proconsul no later than AD 52. But here we are pushing the envelope with a hand of speculation.
- Perhaps most important in narrowing the possibilities is the fact that proconsuls served for one full year, beginning in July through the following June. With this information, we could say that Gallio was proconsul from July AD 51 to June 52. This accords with the writing of the ascription according to Claudius’ tribunician year and 26th acclaim. Gallio in Corinth!
- According to Acts 18:11, Paul was in Corinth for 18 months. Then verse 12 notes he was brought before Gallio.
Gallio appears to have served in Corinth from July AD 51 to Fall 51 at his earliest departure, or until July AD 52 if he fulfilled a complete term. If we read Luke as placing Paul in Corinth 18 months prior to Gallio’s proconsular term (Acts 18:11), we find Paul arriving in the Winter of AD 50, and remaining until the Summer or Fall of AD 51, then departing for Syria (Acts 18:18).
What is the importance of this to the Christian faith? Why all the fuss over dust and dates? Is it not enough that Luke tells us Paul was in Corinth when Gallio was there? Does any of this matter? Well from a historical point of view, Gallio and his date can be used to extrapolate outwards for timelining Paul’s other letters, like a peg in the wall giving a date. What such finds help us do with confident accuracy is date much of Paul’s timelines with years to them, which is why even some sceptical scholars are confident about the dating of several of Paul’s letters.
Yohanan, buried crucifixion victim
We have one clear-cut example of crucifixion from a chap named Yohanan. In 1968, and Ancient burial site was uncovered containing about 35 bodies. Yohanan Ben Ha’galgol had a 7-inch nail driven through both feet. He was crucified and had been given an honourable burial (something critics sometimes deny would happen to a crucified man claiming the body would just be thrown into a pauper’s burial grave to be eaten by carrion crows and the local dog packs).
Yohanan was buried with the nail embedded in his foot hooked at the end so it could not easily be pulled out. Our only example of a crucified victim from an early time is someone who was buried and them being given an honourable reburial like with the James and the Caiaphas Ossuary.
A detail that adds to the pre-70AD claim possibly is Josephus tells us that prior to 70AD crucifixion victims were given honourable burials. [Josephus, Jewish War, 4.137]
- Crucifixion – The Archaeological Evidence,” Biblical Archaeology Review, Vol. 11 (1985), pp. 44-53
Nazareth decree – grave robbing
This is a stone slab from 41AD (found in Nazareth in 1878) and it has a decree from Emperor Claudius (41-54AD)
“No graves should be disturbed or bodies extracted or moved – Offenders sentenced to capital punishment”
Why would such a decree be held for grave robbing? A plausible explanation is Claudius heard of the Christian doctrine of the resurrection and Jesus empty tomb and reacted, since he himself was someone intolerant to Christianity as a whole. This also makes sense in light of the Jewish argument that Jesus body had been stolen (Matthew 28:11-15).
Galilean fishing boat
In 1986 two brothers found a 1st century boat was found on the shore around the Sea of Galilee now on display at a nearby museum. The boat was about 17 feet long, 7 1/2 feet wide. A boat of this size was able to carry 12 people. The average height of 1st century man in the Roman Empire was 5ft 4 and their average weight was 65kg and women were on average 5ft and weight of 45kg. Nutrition has improved.
It’s a great example, but was probably was pre-Jesus days. However it does give us an idea of what boats looked like on the Sea of Galilee.
Location of Jesus’ trial
it was reported recently that we have likely found the place of Jesus trial in Jerusalem’s Old City. Archaeologist Shimon Gibson says “There is, of course, no inscription stating it happened here, but everything — archaeological, historical and gospel accounts—all fall into place and makes sense.” (The Washington Post, Archaeologists find possible sites of Jesus’ trial in Jerusalem.
Now this is a pretty exciting one (if the others weren’t already). Excavations in Judea revealed that an earthquake happened around the time of Jesus crucifixion. It was reported while researching the deeper layers of the soil, two earthquakes were detected by looking at the layers of build-up sediment called varves, which build up each year. A widespread earthquake is known to have happened in 31 BC and another one was detected which must have occurred between 26 and 36 AD. They register at 6.3 magnitude and that would have been capable of causing the structural damage to tombs and rocks in the temple as recorded in the Gospels (Matthew 27:51-54; Mark 15:39; Luke 23:45). History once again agrees with the biblical account that an earthquake happened during this time.
Want more? Here’s a comprehensive list of more finds for the New Testament. There are far more than just these.
So the majority of what we discover in archaeological finds confirms the biblical account backing up the claim the New Testament is reliable and there’s so much data, I’ve only scratched the surface. But I wanted to include at least some significant finds giving confidence of significant people, places and details from the pre-70AD world.
Dr Paul Maier states “by in large 85 to 90% of the discoveries being made in any land of the biblical world today almost immediately agrees with the biblical record you can quarrel over the 10 or 15% but most of the Archaeological discoveries of the biblical record”.Paul Maier, Veritas Forum
Dr Nelson Gleuck, an archaeologist who discovered 1,500 archaeological sites says
“It may be stated that no archaeologist has ever controverted a biblical reference”Dr Nelson Gleuck
Dr William F. Albright, an archaeologist whose left a legacy in the field remarks
“There can be no doubt that archaeology has confirmed the sunstancial historicity of the Old Testament Tradition”Dr William F. Albright
Sir William Ramsay is regarded as one of the greatest archaeologist to have ever lived. He was a student in the German historical school of the mid-19th century. Consequently, He believe that the Book of Acts was a product of mid second century A.D. He was convinced of this belief and did not think it was historically challengeable. In his research to make a topographical study of Asia minor, he was compelled to consider the writings of Luke in his discoveries. As a result, he was forced to make a complete Reversal of his beliefs due to the overwhelming evidence uncovered in his research. He spoke of this toward the ends of his discoveries:
“I’m a fairly certain to have entered on this investigation without prejudice in favour of the conclusion which I shall now see to justify to the reader. On the contrary, I began with a mind unfavorable to it, for the ingenuity and apparent completeness of the Tubingen theory had at one time quite convinced me. I did not then lie in my line of Life to investigate the subject minutely; but more recently I found myself brought into contact with the Book of Acts as an authority for the topography, antiquities and the Society of Asia minor. It was gradually born upon me that in various details the narrative showed marvellous truth. In fact, beginning with a fixed idea that the work was essentially a second century composition, and never relying on its evidence as trustworthy for the first century conditions. I gradually came to find it a useful ally in some obscure and difficult investigations”Quoted in Blaiklock, LA, 36
“Luke is a historian of the first rank; Not merely are his statements of facts trustworthy… this author should be placed along with the very greatest historians”
What archaeology does for us is to support the New Testament authors knowledge of the time they were writing in, use of historical facts in their writings to be verified and that they are a product of their time. Pre and post 70AD is very much a benchmark since the culture during the time of Jesus would radically change after that, arguably from 67AD with the siege of Jerusalem. Archaeology time and time again tells us the Biblical authors were:
- Writing during the lifetime of the Apostles
- Were familiar with history that was only known for short periods of time (before being buried/destroyed)
- Would put their own works in the line by constantly mentioning historical details that could be externally verified and pass the test
What about everything we haven’t found? Well you’ll never find everything unless everything was perfectly preserved. You’re not looking for the whole picture, just gems to increase the probability of reliability. For example, if Luke mentions 500 historical details and you discover 1-2 verifying details—great! But if you discover 100? Well that’s fantastic at showing consistency. This is one of the goals of archaeology— to support probability of the authors being correct and archaeology agrees where it can be tested generally.
What about archaeology that doesn’t always agree? Well some we will just never know, there are 1 or 2 cases here and there where we don’t have enough evidence to make a final judgement. Others, like with Jericho, required multiple investigations in different ways to realise it aligned with Biblical truth. There aren’t enough archeologists on the planet to speed this process up!
Other Sources & Resources