Archaeological and Historical Extra-Biblical Evidence in Support of Christianity

The intention of the following blog is to provide archaeological and historical, extra-biblical evidence in support of God, the Bible, and Christianity. The blog will present this support in the order aforementioned.

Archaeological Evidence

“And He answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out” Luke 19:40.

“The spades of the archaeologists have uncovered innumerable facts that confirm the Scripture. More than twenty-five thousand sites have been discovered that pertain to the Bible. Records of tens of thousands of individuals and events have been found. The most recent and continuing testimony of archaeology, like all such testimony that has gone before, is definitely and uniformly favorable to the Scripture at its face value, rather than to the Scripture as reconstructed by critics. Dr. William Albright says, There can be no doubt that archaeology has confirmed the substantial historicity of the Old Testament tradition.’” (Kennedy, 1999, pp. 23-24).

One of the greatest sources of evidence for the authenticity of the Old Testament was found between the years of 1947 and 1956 along the northwest shore of the Dead Sea: the Dead Sea Scrolls (Centuryone, 2011). About 15,000 fragments provided the remains of between 825 and 870 separate scrolls. The scrolls included 19 copies of the book of Isaiah, 25 copies of Deuteronomy, and 30 copies of Psalms. The Isaiah Scroll, which was around 1,000 years older than any known copy of Isaiah, was found completely intact. “The Dead Sea Scrolls enhance our knowledge of both Judaism and Christianity. They represent a wealth of comparative material for New Testament scholars, including many important parallels to the Jesus movement. They show Christianity to be rooted in Judaism and have been called the evolutionary link between the two.” (Centuryone, 2011). Recent technological advances have also helped to advance the readability of the Scrolls. See https://cccdiscover.com/oldest-biblical-text-reveals-amazing-reality-about-the-hebrew-bible/?utm_content=buffer18976&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Famed archaeologist Sir William Ramsay set out to discredit Luke (who authored the Book of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles) when he traveled to Biblical locations recounted in the New Testament. After twenty years of investigation, he converted to Christianity and determined that Luke “should be placed along with the very greatest of historians… You may press the words of Luke in a degree beyond any other historian’s, and they stand against the keenest scrutiny and the hardest treatment” (Ramsay, 1915/2011).

Roman historian Colin Hemer concurred. He identified eighty four historical and eyewitness details from Luke in Acts 13 through Acts 28 (Turek, 2014). These include the names of small town politicians, topographical features, specific weather patterns and water depths and local slang.

Additional archaeological evidence supports the existence of more than thirty prominent people in the New Testament (Turek, 2014). These people include John the Baptist, James the half-brother of Jesus, Pontius Pilate, Erastus, Agrippa I, Caiaphas, Bernice, Quirinius, Lysanias, Agrippa II, Felix, and several Herods.

As an example of one piece of archaeological evidence, in Jerusalem in 1990, the burial box (ossuary) of the remains of Caiaphas was discovered. The ossuary is now featured in the Israel Museum of Jerusalem (Turek, 2014). Caiaphas was the Jewish high priest who demanded Jesus’ crucifixion.

As a second example, Josephus recorded Quirinius’ governorship from AD 5 and AD 6, yet Luke wrote that Joseph and Mary returned to Bethlehem because a Syrian governor named Quirinius was conducting a census (Luke 2:1-3). Archaeological discoveries have identified Quirinius’ name on a coin, indicating he was the proconsul of Syria and Cilicia from 11 BC to the death of Herod (Vardaman, 2009). Quirinius’ name was also found on the base of a statue in Pisidian Antioch (Ramsay, 1915/2011).

As third and fourth examples, a piece of pavement was discovered in Corinth in 1929 confirming the existence of Erastus, the city treasurer (Romans 6:23) (Wallace, 2013). Luke mentioned a tetrarch named Lysanias who reigned over Abilene when John the Baptist began his ministry (Luke 3:1). Josephus also recorded a man named Lysanias who reigned over the region from 40 BC to 36 BC, which is long before the birth of John the Baptist. Skeptics identified the inconsistencies, yet archaeological evidence offered the answers. Two inscriptions were discovered that mentioned Lysanias by name. One, which was dated from 14 AD to 37 AD, identifies Lysanias as the tetrarch over Abila near Damascus during the period of time described by Luke (Wallace, 2013). This evidence suggests the existence of two men named Lysanias: one described by Josephus and the second described by Luke.

Historical Evidence

“The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” Psalm 118:22.

While historians often request two sources of evidence when piecing together histories, we have an astounding forty-two sources within one hundred and fifty years of Jesus’ resurrection that support accounts of Jesus (Habermas & Licona, 2004).

  1. Nine traditional authors of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Author of Hebrews, James, Peter, and Jude.
  2. Twenty early Christian writings outside of the New Testament: Clement of Rome, 2 Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, Martyrdom of Polycarp, Barnabas, Didache, Shepherd of Hermas, Fragments of Papias, Justin Martyr, Aristides, Athenagoras, Theophilus of Antioch, Quadratus, Aristo of Pella, Melito of Sardis, Diognetus, Gospel of Peter, Apocalypse of Peter, and Epistula Apostolorum.
  3. Four heretical writings: Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Truth, Apocryphon of John, and the Treatise on Resurrection.
  4. Nine secular non-Christian sources: Josephus (Jewish historian), Tacitus (Roman historian), Pliny the Younger (Roman politician), Phlegon (freed slave who wrote histories), Lucian (Greek satirist), Celsus (Roman philosopher), Mara Bar-Serapion (prisoner awaiting execution), Suetonius, and Thallas.

Based on these sources, we find that (Turek, 2014, pp. 207):

  • Jesus lived during the time of Tiberius Caesar.
  • He lived a virtuous life.
  • He worked miracles.
  • He had a brother named James.
  • He was crucified under Pontius Pilate.
  • He was acclaimed to be the Messiah.
  • An eclipse and an earthquake occurred when He died.
  • He was crucified on the eve of the Jewish Passover.
  • His disciples believed He rose from the dead.
  • His disciples were willing to die for their belief.
  • Christianity spread rapidly in Rome.
  • His disciples denied the Roman gods and worshipped Jesus as God.

Ten authors mention Tiberius Caesar, who was the Roman emperor who reigned during Jesus’ ministry, within 150 years of Jesus’ resurrection: Josephus, Tacitus, Suetonius, Seneca, Paterculus, Plutarch, Pliny the Elder, Strabo, Valerius Maximum, and Luke (Habermas & Licona, 2004).

Furthermore, Jesus fulfilled 330 Old Testament prophecies. These include the following passages (Turek, 2014, pp. 205-206), which determined the Messiah would have the following characteristics:

  • From the seed of a woman (Genesis 3:15)
  • From the seed of Abraham (Genesis 1:2-7)
  • From the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10)
  • From the line of David (Jeremiah 23:5-6)
  • Both God and man (Isaiah 9:6-7)
  • Born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2)
  • Preceded by a messenger and will visit the Jerusalem temple (Malachi 3:1), which had to occur before the Jerusalem temple was destroyed in 70 AD.
  • Pierced for our transgressions (Isaiah 53:5)
  • Cried out to the Lord in anguish (Psalm 22)
  • Raised from the dead (Isaiah 53:11)

Jesus Christ

William Lane Craig (2008, pp. 302) says, “It is, of course, indisputable that the New Testament church regarded Jesus as the promised Messiah. The title Christos (Messiah) became so closely connected with the name “Jesus” that for Paul it is practically a surname: “Jesus Christ” (cf. the less frequent “Christ Jesus”). The very name borne by the followers of Jesus within ten years of His death – Christians – bears witness to the centrality of their belief that Jesus was the Messiah. Mark’s Gospel opens with the words “the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (1:1), just as John’s Gospel closes with the explanation that it was written “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (20:31). The question, then, is whether they arrived at this common conviction on their own, or did it represent Jesus’ own self-understanding?”

C.S. Lewis (1952, pp.  50) presents the answer using his liar, lunatic, or Lord argument: “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

 Thank you for your time.

References

Craig, William Lane. (2008). Reasonable Faith. Wheaton, IL: Crossway.

Dead Sea Scrolls. Accessed from the internet August 7, 2017 at http://www.centuryone.com/25dssfacts.html

Habermas, Gary R. & Licona, Michael R. The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications.

Kennedy, D. James. (1999). Why I Believe. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishing.

Lewis, C.S. (1952). Mere Christianity. C.S. Lewis Pte. Ltd.

Ramsay, Sir William (1915/2011). The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament. South Africa: Primedia eLaunch, 2011, originally published in 1915.

Turek, F. (2014). Stealing from God. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.

Vardaman, Jerry. (2009). Unpublished manuscript: The Year of the Nativity: Was Jesus Born in 12 BC? A New Examination of Quirinius (Luke 2:2) and Related Problems of New Testament Chronology. Cited in J. Warner Wallace (2013) Cold Case Christianity. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook.

 

12 Replies to “Archaeological and Historical Extra-Biblical Evidence in Support of Christianity”

  1. One of the greatest sources of evidence for the authenticity of the Old Testament was found between the years of 1947 and 1956 along the northwest shore of the Dead Sea: the Dead Sea Scrolls

    How are the scrolls evidence for the authenticity of the story? Finding a previously unknown Batman script circa 1947 does not prove the veracity of Batman, who was invented in 1939.

    Now, I’m not sure if you’ve actually ever read the world’s leading biblical archaeologists, but it is well-known amongst archaeologists, biblical scholars, and rabbis that the Pentateuch is a 7th century work of historical fiction; a story designed to serve the territorial ambitions of Judah (placing Judah as the center of the Jewish world) after the sacking of Mamlekhet Yisra’el (Kingdom of Israel) in 722 BCE. The Patriarchs, Egypt, Moses, Exodus, Conquest are all fiction, and even the Encyclopaedia Judaica (a famed publication which examines all scholastic, theological and scientific work) openly concludes that the entire Exodus narrative was “dramatically woven out of various strands of tradition… he [Moses] wasn’t a historical character.”

    Just so you know, the only area where there is still a live debate regarding biblical archaeology is whether or not Judah had an urban society in the 9th Century BCE, which relates to the narrative concerning the United Kingdom. That’s it. That’s all there is. The Patriarchs, Egypt, Moses, Exodus and Conquest are dead subjects in the field of serious archaeology. They were dismissed as myth nearly three generations ago, and nothing has changed in that time to alter this consensus. As Israel’s oldest daily Newspaper, Hareetz, announced in 2014:

    “Currently there is broad agreement among archaeologists and Bible scholars that there is no historical basis for the narratives of the Patriarchs, the Exodus from Egypt, and the conquest of Canaan, nor any archaeological evidence to make them think otherwise.”

    That last line is important: “nor any archaeological evidence to make them think otherwise.”

    As Rabbi Sherwin Wine said: “The Jews did not begin with Abraham. The Jews did not emerge as a nation under the leadership of Moses. They were never rescued from slavery in Egypt. They never stopped at Sinai.”

    And as the world’s leading biblical archaeologist, Professor Ze’ev Herzog of Tel Aviv University confirmed: “The patriarchs’ acts are legendary stories, we did not sojourn in Egypt or make an exodus, we did not conquer the land. Those who take an interest have known these facts for years.”

    So, as we know the Pentateuch is historical fiction, an inventive myth spun with geopolitical thread, the question the Christian apologist has to answer is how do you explain Jesus’ terrible blunder in not knowing basic regional history? He names Moses and Abraham as real historical characters. Did he not know history?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I am sure she will in good time. It’s actually not a difficult argument to make.
        There is a history of the Jews in Eyptian history if you look deeply at the right point in times.

        Like

      2. If you’re referring to the unpublished work of Rohl, then you do not have a case. The Amarna letters prove him wrong. Carbon dating proves him wrong. Babylonian chronology proves him wrong. Linguistics proves him wrong.

        Like

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