Archaeology Verifies the Bible as God's Word
Was the Jesus of the Bible
Fact or Fiction?
The first evidence comes from
within the four Gospels and has been proven to be accurate.
Outside of the biblical text are several witnesses as well. The
Jewish historian Josephus (37 A.D.-100 A.D.) recorded the
history of the Jewish people in Palestine from 70 A.D. to 100
A.D. In his work Antiquities, he states:
Now there was about this time,
Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was
a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the
truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews
and many of the gentiles. He was the Christ and when Pilate, at
the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned
him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not
forsake him. For he appeared alive again the third day, as the
divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other
wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so
named from him, are not extinct to this day.
Although he mentions Jesus in a
sarcastic way, Josephus confirms the facts that Jesus did do
many great miracles, drew a following, was crucified, and was
proclaimed alive on the third day.
Pliny the Younger, Emperor of
Bythynia in northwestern Turkey, writing to Emperor Trajan in
112 A.D. mentions:
They were in the habit of meeting
on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang an
anthem to Christ . . . and bound themselves by a solemn oath not
to commit any wicked deed, but to abstain from all fraud, theft
and adultery, never to break their word, or deny a trust when
called upon to honor it; after which it was their custom to
separate, and then meet again to partake of food, but ordinary
and innocent kind.
One of the most important Romans
historians is Tacitus. In 115 A.D. he recorded Nero’s
persecution of the Christians, in the process of which he wrote
Christus, from whom the name had
its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of
Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus,
and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the
moment, again broke out not only in Judea, . . . but even in
There are over 39 extra-biblical
sources that attest to over one hundred facts regarding the life
and teachings of Jesus!
Accuracy of the Gospels
The accuracy of the Gospels has
been supported by archaeology. The names of many of the
Israelite cities, events, and people described in them have now
been located. Here are a few examples.
The Gospels mention four
neighboring and well-populated coastal cities along the Sea of
Galilee: Capernaum, Bethsaida, Chorazin, and Tiberias. Jesus
performed many miracles in the first three cities. Despite this
testimony, these cities rejected Jesus and, therefore, were
cursed by Him (Matt. 11:20-24; Luke 10:12-16). These cities have
eventually disappeared from history and their locations have
remained missing for centuries. Their demise fulfills the
prophetic condemnation of Jesus.
Capernaum has been extensively
excavated. The present site at a tell 1.5 miles north of the
Galilean shoreline is believed to be Bethsaida, while Tell
Khirbet Kerezah, 2.5 miles northwest of Capernaum, is thought to
King Herod Was Real
The various excavations at
Herodian sites (Masada, the Herodium, the Temple Mount) have
certainly confirmed the image of Herod as a builder with dreams
of grandeur. Matthew 2 states that Jesus was born during the
reign of Herod. Upon hearing that a king had been born, the
frightened Herod ordered all children under the age of two to be
killed. His slaughter of innocents is consistent with the
historical facts that describe his character.
Herod was suspicious of anyone
whom he thought might take his throne. His list of victims
included one of his ten wives, who was his favorite, three of
his own sons, a high priest, an ex-king, and two of his sister’s
husbands. Thus, his brutality portrayed in Matthew is consistent
with his description in ancient history, especially in Josephus’
In the early 1990s the finding of
the burial box of the high priest Caiaphas caused a great deal
of stir. This highly ornate limestone burial box reminded one
and all that Jews between 20 B.C. and A.D. 70 practiced
Pool of Bethesda
The accuracy of John’s Gospel has
also been attested to by recent discoveries. In John 5:1-15
Jesus healed a man at the Pool of Bethesda. John described the
pool as having five porticoes. This site had long been in
dispute until recently.
Forty feet underground,
archaeologists discovered a pool with five porticoes, and the
description of the surrounding area matches John’s description.
In 9:7 John mentioned another long disputed site, the Pool of
Siloam. However, this pool was also discovered in 1897,
upholding the accuracy of the Gospel of John.
Pontius Pilate Confirmed
Evidence for Pontius Pilate, the
governor who presided over the trial of Jesus, was discovered in
Caesarea Maritama. In 1961 a fragment of a plaque that was used
as a section of steps leading to the Caesarea Theater was
uncovered. The inscription, written in Latin, contained the
phrase, “Pontius Pilatus, Prefect of Judea, has dedicated to the
people of Caesarea a temple in honor of Tiberius.”
This temple was dedicated to the
Emperor Tiberius who reigned from 14-37 A.D. This fits well with
the chronology of the New Testament which records that Pilate
ruled as procurator from 26-36 A.D. Tacitus, a Roman historian
of the first century, also confirmed the New Testament
designation of Pilate. He wrote, “Christus, from whom the name
had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of
Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus
. . . .”
Confirmation Regarding the
All four Gospels give details of
the crucifixion of Christ. Their accurate portrayal of this
Roman practice has been confirmed by archaeology. In 1968, a
gravesite in the city of Jerusalem was uncovered containing
thirty-five bodies. Each of the men had died a brutal death that
historians believe was the result of their involvement in the
Jewish revolt against Rome in 70 A.D.
The inscription identified one
individual as Yohan Ben Ha’galgol. What intrigued archaeologists
were the evidences that this man had been crucified in a manner
resembling the crucifixion of Christ. A seven-inch nail had been
driven through both feet, which were turned outward so the nail
could be hammered inside the Achilles tendon.
Archaeologists also discovered
that nails had been driven through his lower forearms. The
victim of a crucifixion would have to raise and lower his body
in order to breathe. To do this, he needed to push up on his
pierced feet and pull up with his arms. Yohan’s upper arms were
smoothly worn, indicating this movement.
John records that in order to
expedite the death of a prisoner, executioners broke the legs of
the victim so that he could not lift himself up by pushing with
his feet (John 19:31-33). Yohan’s legs were found crushed by a
blow, breaking them below the knee.
The Dead Sea Scrolls
tell that both Jews and Romans abhorred crucifixion due to its
cruelty and humiliation. The Scrolls also state that it was a
punishment reserved for slaves and any who challenged the ruling
powers of Rome. This explains why Pilate chose crucifixion as
the penalty for Jesus.
The historian Thallus wrote in 52
A.D. Although none of his texts remain, his writings are cited
in Julius Africanus’ work, Chronography. Quoting
Thallus on the crucifixion of Christ, Africanus states,
“On the whole world, there
pressed a most fearful darkness, and the rocks were rent by an
earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were
thrown down.” Thallus called this darkness, “as appears to me
without reason, an eclipse of the sun.”
All the discoveries made are
consistent with the details in the crucifixion account given by
the writers of the Gospels. These facts lend indirect support
for the biblical accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion and that the
tomb was empty.
Mentored by William Albright, Dr.
Nelson Glueck’s notable archaeological finds in the 1950s and
1960s hammered the final nails into the coffin of the Wellhausen
school of higher criticism with his famous quote—
It may be stated categorically
that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a
biblical reference. Scores of archaeological findings have been
made which confirm in clear outline or in exact detail
historical statements in the Bible.
Of course, there were
archaeologists who attempted to push the Wellhausen school of
higher criticism. At times referred to as “Biblical
minimalists,” they were no match for the likes of Albright,
Ramsay, and Glueck.