For This They Were Willfully Ignorant. . .
Vol: 26 Issue: 17 Saturday, September 17, 2016
After searching for half his lifetime, Ehud Netzer, an archeologist from Hebrew University, claims to have found, to an historical certainty, the tomb of Herod the Great, ruled Judea from 37 BC to 4 BC.
The tomb was located at the base of Herodium, a man-made mountain on which Herod had build one of his most ornate summer palaces. The tomb is located nine miles south of Jerusalem and east of Bethlehem.
Herod was the king who, according to Matthew, ordered the “Massacre of the Innocents.” Herod had been elected “King of the Jews” by the Roman Senate in 40 BC, so the Magi’s claims were news to him.
When the Babylonian astrologers (the Magi) went to Herod to enquire about the birthplace of the “King of the Jews”, he ordered all male children under the age of two years in Bethlehem to be slaughtered, hoping, in the process, to kill this possible challenger to his rule.
The Bible says that Mary and Joseph fled into Egypt to avoid the slaughter, taking the infant Jesus with them.
Like all New Testament accounts, the Massacre of the Innocents is hotly disputed by ‘scholars’ who grow increasingly desperate in their efforts to discount the New Testament as a book of fables.
Many denied the existence of Herod the Great, despite eyewitness accounts of his life, his bloody reign and his slow, miserable and painful death.
Historical accounts by 1st century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus indicated that Herod was buried at Herodium, and Netzer had been excavating there since 1972.
He finally found the grave midway between the upper part of Herodium and the lower palaces, an area not previously studied.
Herod was also the king credited with expanding the second Jewish Temple atop Temple Mount, which was known to history as “Herod’s Temple”. (The Arabs — and in particular, the “Palestinians” continue to deny any such Temple ever existed.)
The Palestinian Ministry of Tourism declined to comment until the site could be examined by a team of Arab archeologists.
It is almost painful to watch the skeptics’ efforts to deconstruct this latest in the long list of archeological finds confirming the accuracy and reliability of the New Testament accounts.
I read through some of the reader’s comments on the story at the website of Canada’s Globe and Mail (2007).
Writing under such names as “Just the Truth From Canada” and “Truth Seeker” one finds comments like, “Ancient Israel, as described in biblical accounts, complete with magnificent gilt palaces, and huge, conquering armies, etc., etc. . . . is not historically accurate, but is folklore, a bunch of tribal fantasies.”
Note that this comment was attached to a story about the discovery of Herod’s tomb in EXACTLY such an ‘magnificent gilt palace’.
Writes another: “Israeli archaeologists probably have no right to dig in the occupied Palestinian West Bank .” To this writer, the discovery is irrelevant to history.
The West Bank is Palestinian, and no stupid historical facts are going to change his mind.
The facts are these, and they ARE facts, even if someone doesn’t like them. There has never been an archeological find that disputes any Bible account. Not a single one.
Pontius Pilate was once deemed by those claiming to be ‘scholars’ to be a New Testament myth. Why? Because there was no archeological confirmation. To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, the absence of evidence was universally accepted by liberal ‘scholars’ as evidence of absence.
But in 1962, an inscription was found in the town of Caesarea that said, “Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judea, has presented the Tiberium to the Caesareans.”
Sir William Ramsay, one of the greatest archeologists in history, was a confirmed atheist when set out on a quest to disprove the historical accuracy of Luke. What he discovered was that Luke was historically accurate to the tiniest detail. His conclusions?
“I began with a mind unfavorable to it…but more recently I found myself brought into contact with the Book of Acts as an authority for the topography, antiquities, and society of Asia Minor. It was gradually borne upon me that in various details the narrative showed marvelous truth.”
Consequently, Ramsay wrote, “Luke is a historian of first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy…this author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.”
Sir William Ramsay died a Christian.
Dr. William F. Albright, initially as skeptical as Dr. Ramsay, eventually came to write;
“The excessive skepticism shown toward the Bible [by certain schools of thought] has been progressively discredited. Discovery after discovery has established the accuracy of numerous details.”
Caiaphas, the High Priest of the Sanhedrin who ordered the execution of Jesus, was another such New Testament myth until the Caiaphas family tomb was accidentally discovered by workers constructing a road in a park just south of the Old City of Jerusalem.
Other recent archeological digs have uncovered:
1) The synagogue at Capernaum where Jesus cured a man with an unclean spirit and delivered the sermon on the bread of life.
2) The house of Peter at Capernaum where Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law and others.
3) Jacob’s well where Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman.
4) The Pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem, where Jesus healed a crippled man.
5) The Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem, where Jesus healed a blind man.
6) The tribunal at Corinth where Paul was tried.
7) The theater at Ephesus where the riot of silversmiths occurred.
8) Herod’s palace at Caesarea where Paul was kept under guard.
9) An Egyptian parchment confirming the census order that brought Mary and Joseph out of Egypt to Bethlehem to be taxed.
There are at least thirty-nine verifiable extra-Biblical accounts, (including 17 non-Christian sources, that bear witness from outside the New Testament to over 100 details about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
Apart from archeology, there is the question of logic. Dr. Ramsay and Dr. Albright both confirm, using scientific, archeological and historical evidences, Luke’s accuracy as an historian.
It is not logical to assume that, although accurate in every possible confirmable aspect, Luke lied about Jesus and then permitted himself to be martyred for that lie.
Neither is it logical to assume that, since Luke confirms the rest of the Gospel writers, they also allowed themselves to be put to death to preserve a lie.
It is illogical to argue that they were sincere, but that they were deceived about Who Jesus was.
Each recorded more or less identical events, under more or less identical circumstances. If it were one witness, one might assume he was mentally unbalanced, or hallucinating.
(Plus the uncounted multitudes who, within living memory of Jesus, gladly embraced martyrdom at Roman hands for their witness?)
The discovery of Herod’s Tomb is just one more rock atop a mountain of overwhelming evidence confirming the reliability of the New Testament accounts. Keep in mind that in every case, (every single solitary case) where evidence DOES exist, it confirms the Bible account.
Not one shred of archeological evidence disputes a single point of the Gospel account. At worst, there remain unconfirmed details.
It is upon such thin suppositions as the absence of confirmatory evidence that Bible skeptics build their argument that the Bible is an unreliable book of myths.
As each new piece of evidence is uncovered, they scurry to seek some other unconfirmed detail to replace it as the bedrock of their argument.
Peter predicted that “there shall come in the last days, scoffers,” explaining the motive for their skepticism as “walking after their own lusts.”
Paul, in describing the ‘strong delusion’ gave as the motivation for their rejection of the truth the fact that they ‘had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (2nd Thessalonians 2:11)
The skeptic delights in arguing that a righteous God would never condemn someone to eternal damnation just because they were unable to believe. I agree. God doesn’t condemn unbelievers because they CAN’T believe. They condemn themselves because they WON’T believe. Peter called them “willingly ignorant.”
There is more historical and documentary evidence attesting to the life and times of Jesus Christ than there is of Julius Caesar. But there are no skeptics of whom I am aware that have dedicated their lives and fortunes to denying the existence of Julius Caesar.
It takes conscious, deliberate effort — and a lot of it — to convince oneself, especially in the face of such overwhelming evidence, that Jesus Christ was less an historical figure than Julius Caesar.
There is no price, real or perceived, attached to belief in Julius Ceasar.
Belief in Jesus Christ, however, demands a change in perspective. Logically, if one believes in eternal accountability before a Righteous Judge, it therefore follows that it would throw a damper on the ‘pleasure of unrighteousness’.
In the final analysis, there is but one sin for which the unbeliever will stand convicted.
“Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.” (Matthew 12:31)
The term ‘blasphemy’ can best be understood as ‘defiant irreverence’. It is a state of defiant unbelief, despite the evidence. Or, as Peter describes it, “willful ignorance.”
“Blasphemy against the Holy Ghost” can be understood as a continued and persistently stubborn rejection of the gospel of salvation. This would be THE “unpardonable sin” because as long as a person remains in unbelief, he voluntarily excludes himself from forgiveness of sin.
It isn’t God that condemns the unbeliever to eternal separation in the Lake of Fire.
The unbeliever condemns himself by his choice to believe a lie, preferring instead, as Peter noted, to walk after their own lusts, thus ignoring the evidence out of willful ignorance.
“I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:19)
The same choice faces us all.