Vol: 26 Issue: 16 Wednesday, August 16, 2017
“For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” (2 Peter 1:16)
For centuries, there have been those who formulate the accusation that most of the events, places, and people found in the New Testament did not exist. For example, the existence of Pontius Pilate was questioned by secular historians and archaeologists alike.
But in 1961, the Pilate Stone was discovered at the site of Caesarea Maritima, the seat of the Roman prefect of Judea.
It records the dedication of a ‘Tiberium‘ (a building in honor of the emperor Tiberius) by “Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judea”.
Tacitus, a Roman historian of the first century, also confirms the New Testament designation of Pilate. He writes,
“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. . . .”
The John Rylands papyrus is the oldest existing fragment of Scripture and bears the record of part of the trial of Jesus before Pontius Pilate. It dates to AD 125.
German scholars of the 18th and 19th century’s “Age of Enlightenment” based much of their “Jesus Myth Theory” on the absence of archeological confirmation of the existence of major New Testament figures, particularly that of Caiaphas, the High Priest who presided over the trial of Jesus.
In early 1990, workers widening a road in Jerusalem’s Peace Forest stumbled upon some ancient artifacts and an unusually large burial site. Under Israeli law, excavation was halted until the Jewish Department of Antiquities could take a look.
What they discovered was so revolutionary that at first, the government sat on it while it decided what to do. It took two years before researchers had reassured themselves that what they thought they found was what they thought it was — and before the Israeli government decided to share their conclusions.
It was a burial cave that contained twelve limestone ossuaries, or “bone boxes.” As was the custom of the time, the bodies were almost certainly first laid out in a niche of a burial cave. After the flesh had decomposed, the bones were gathered and placed in the ossuary.
Jewish ossuaries are fairly easy to date. They were only used in Judea during the latter part of the Roman occupation during the first century, due to the shortage of available cemetery space.
The practice ceased after the Destruction of the Temple in AD 70 and was never resumed.
So pretty much any ossuary discovered in Israel automatically dates to the Late Second Temple Period and not before or after. The twelve ossuaries discovered in 1990 contained the remains of sixty-three individuals.
The most beautifully decorated of the ossuaries was inscribed with the name “Joseph son of (or, of the family of) Caiaphas.”
That was the full name of the high priest who arrested Jesus, as documented by Josephus. Inside were the remains of a sixty-year old male who archeology says was almost certainly the remains of the New Testament’s Caiaphas who presided over the trial of Jesus.
Israeli archeologists confirmed that it had apparently been sealed since Rome’s conquest of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, some 40 years after the date assigned to Jesus’ crucifixion.
Archeologist Jonathan Reed wrote that the ossuary bearing Caiaphas’ name “is one of the most beautiful ever found,” an indication of high status for the person whose bones it contained.
In addition to human remains and ossuaries, the Israel Antiquities Authority’s 1990 inventory from the Caiaphas Tomb also included a curious entry: two Roman nails. Shortly thereafter, the nails mysteriously disappeared.
Twenty-one years after the Caiaphas Tomb was found, an April 13, 2011, article written by Karl Vick in Time Magazine announced that Israeli journalist Simcha Jacobovici had located the two nails from the tomb.
“Most interesting of all, perhaps, is that 20 years passed before anyone brought attention to the nails in the tomb of the man history knows only for his key role in Christ’s crucifixion. The implication, never stated quite out loud in the documentary, is that Jewish archeologists in charge of the dig had little stomach for drawing attention to the Jewish official the Gospels cast as the main villain in the Passion play. Jacobovici notes that Caiaphas may be the only figure named in the Bible whose tomb most scholars agree has been discovered, and the producer spends half the documentary trying to locate it and get a peek inside. The site, uncovered during construction of a park, ends up beneath a stretch of road near a playground.”
Aside from why the Roman nails were kept out of the official IAA antiquities collection, a deeper mystery is why Roman nails would be found in a Jewish tomb at all.
Are they the nails upon which hung the Savior of all mankind? According to Jacobvici, they ‘probably are’ – but nobody is saying for sure.
All four Gospels give details of the crucifixion of Christ. Their accurate portrayal of this Roman practice has been confirmed by archaeology.
“For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know Whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” (2 Timothy 1:12)
In 1968, a gravesite in the city of Jerusalem was uncovered containing thirty-five bodies. Each of the men apparently died from crucifixion at the hands of the Romans.
The inscription identified one such individual as Yohan Ben Ha’galgol. Studies of the bones performed by osteologists and doctors from the Hadassah Medical School determined the man was twenty-eight years old, stood five feet six inches, and had some slight facial defects due to a cleft right palate.
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. A 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.
“For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken.” (John 19:36)
In 2002 another ossuary that was inscribed with the words “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus” was claimed to be a forgery. Israeli dealer Oded Golan was then charged with forging the James ossuary.
In October 2010 court proceedings for the trial of Golan and another defendant were concluded. The presiding judge, Aharon Farkash, at one point questioned whether the trial should even continue.
“Have you really proved beyond a reasonable doubt that these artifacts are fakes as charged in the indictment? The experts disagreed among themselves,” Farkash told the prosecutor.
Then there is the logic factor. If the Crucifixion was indeed the final act in the life of Jesus, it seems unlikely that thirty years later someone would be buried an ossuary bragging about being related to Him.
So the James ossuary is probably real – or at least, the best experts in the world cannot say with certainty that it is not. To date, the court has yet to render a final verdict.
The Caiaphas ossuary is certainly authentic, as are the Roman nails it contained.
The Gospel record of the crucifixion of Jesus is confirmed by eyewitness testimony and the testimony of Yohan ben Ha’gagagol and that of his thirty-four comrades in death.
Julius Africanus, quoting the first century historian Thallus, wrote that during the Cruxifixion;
“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.”
Archaeologists excavating a Corinthian theatre in 1928 discovered an inscription. It reads, “Erastus in return for his aedilship laid the pavement at his own expense.”
The pavement was laid in 50 A.D. The designation of treasurer describes the work of a Corinthian aedile.
In Acts 28:7, Luke gives Publius, the chief man on the island of Malta, the title, “first man of the island.” Scholars questioned this strange title and deemed it historically inaccurate.
Inscriptions have recently been discovered on the island that indeed gives Publius the title of “first man.”
“In all, Luke names thirty-two countries, fifty-four cities, and nine islands without error,” noted historian A.N. Sherwin-White.
The JPost reported the confirmation of the authenticity of an ossuary containing the remains of Caiapha’s daughter, Miriam.
I can personally attest to having stood in the lost city of Capernaum. I’ve seen the excavated remains of the house of Peter the Apostle and taught in the remains of the synagogue where Christ preached. I was in Jerusalem in 1992 when the Caiaphas announcement was made.
Until 1968 all these were also believed to be mythological.
I’ve stood in the remains of Herod’s Summer Palace atop the Masada. I’ve seen the “Jesus Boat” the remains of a fishing boat found in the northwest corner of the Sea of Galilee.
It’s all real. It’s all true.
In 1873, the family tomb of Mary, Martha and Lazarus was discovered and excavated on the Mount of Olives near the ancient town of Bethany by French archaeologist Charles Clermont-Ganneau.
A few years later, archeologist P. Bagatti excavated a tomb he discovered containing ossuaries marked with a cross and bearing the names of Jonathan, Joseph, Jarius, Judah, Matthias, Menahem, Salome, Simon, and Zechariah.”
During the fall of 1945, Dr. Eleazar Sukenik of Hebrew University investigated another first century Jewish catacomb at the southern end of the Kidron Valley on the road to Bethlehem.
He found several ossuaries with the sign of the cross, Greek inscriptions, a coin minted in A.D. 41 for King Herod Agrippa 1, proving the tomb was sealed by A.D. 42.
One ossuary contained the remains of Annias and Sapphira, mentioned in Acts Chapter Five. Another ossuary bore the name of the decedent and the Greek inscription “Iota, Chi and Beta,” which means, “Jesus Christ, the Redeemer.”
And several years ago they found another Jewish Christian ossuary in Jerusalem that contained the inscription “Alexander, son of Simon of Cyrene.”
And it was just a few years or so ago that the existence of a group of about 70 ‘books’ containing lead pages bound by rungs dating to the Dead Sea Scrolls period was announced in Jordan. One of them contained a bas relief picture depicting a crucifixion outside the walls of Jerusalem.
So that’s the archeological evidence that supports the existence of Jesus of Nazareth and the New Testament record. There is more, but these are just the highlights.
Now, we will present the archeological support for the theory of evolution. . . .
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” (2 Timothy 4:2-3)
There IS no evidence for evolution. Not one single genuine transitional life form has ever been discovered. Which should be harder to find? The tomb of a particular Jew like Caiaphas buried twenty centuries ago?
Or the fossilized remains of at least one life form captured in the process of evolving?
The Bible is true. It has been confirmed and verified in every possible venue. Conversely, not one single fact of Scripture has ever conclusively been disproved. Allow yourself to marvel on that for a second.
Bible accuracy can only be checked by looking backward, but in every instance where the Bible’s accuracy CAN be checked, it HAS been checked and it has ALWAYS survived the investigation intact.
You can be certain that it will be just as accurate looking forward.
“And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.” (Luke 21:28)
Featured Commentary: Apoceclipse Now ~Wendy Wippel