by Peter S. Williams
Establishing the historical reliability of both the Old and New Testaments. This is only a partial example, and these examples have been seriously altered to make it possible to include in this comment, but references are given for your further study.
Archaeology and the Historical Reliability of the New Testament
Peter S. Williams
Peter S. Williams examines the historical reliability of the New Testament in the light of the findings of archaeology.
“On the whole … archaeological work has unquestionably strengthened confidence in the reliability of the Scriptural record. More than one archaeologist has found his respect for the Bible increased by the experience of excavation in Palestine. Archaeology has in many cases refuted the views of modern critics. ” — Millar Burrows, Professor of Archaeology, Yale University.
Charlotte Allen observes that “Archaeology, which was then a young science, was by and large ignored by the academic biblical scholars of the [nineteenth] century. For the great German exegeses of the era … a voyage to Palestine was beside the point; as the life of the historical Jesus was for them solely a matter of interpreting texts. “[Today, scholars know that archaeological data can be a valuable aid to interpreting texts, as well as providing independent adjudication of a text’s historical veracity.
As Nelson Glueck states, “It may be staled categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference “, whereas on the other “Scores of archaeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or exact detail historical statements in the Bible. “
Archaeologist William F. Albright observes:
The excessive skepticism shown toward the Bible by important historical schools of the eighteenth-and-nineteenth centuries, certain phases of which Mill appear periodically, has been progressively discredited. Discovery after discovery has established the accuracy of innumerable details and has brought increased recognition to the value of the Bible as a source of history. Likewise, Joseph Free confirms “Archaeology has confirmed countless passages which had been rejected by critics as unhistorical or contrary to known facts. “Theologian Craig L. Blomberg notes how:
archaeology can demonstrate that the places mentioned in the Gospels really existed and that customs, living conditions, topography, household and workplace furniture and tools, roads, coins, buildings and numerous other ‘stage props’ correspond.”‘ the Gospels describe them. It can show that the names of certain characters in the Gospels are accurate, when we find inscriptional references to them elsewhere. Events and teachings ascribed to Jesus become intelligible and therefore plausible when read against everything we know about life in Palestine in the first third of the first century.
Archaeologist Jonathan L. Reed observes that “The many archaeological discoveries relating to people, places, or titles mentioned in Acts do lend credence to its historicity at one level; many of the specific details in Acts are factual. “ And as Lee Strobel observes:
In trying to determine if a witness is being truthful, journalists and lawyers will test all the elements of his or her testimony that can be tested. If this investigation reveals that the person was wrong in those details, this casts considerable doubt on the veracity of his or her entire story. However, if the minutiae check out, this is some indication — not conclusive proof but some evidence — that maybe the witness is being reliable in his or her overall account.
Archaeologists in Israel have discovered a rare clay seal mark and a 2,600-year-old stone stamp bearing Biblical names amid the ruins of a building destroyed by the ancient Babylonians.
The amazing finds, which date to the First Temple period, were made in Jerusalem’s famous City of David. The artifacts were discovered in the remains of a structure razed in the 6th century B.C., likely during the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C., according to experts.
In a statement, Prof. Yuval Gadot of Tel Aviv University and the Israel Antiquities Authority, which oversaw the dig, said charred pottery shards were found in the building, indicating that the seal mark and stamp survived a major fire. Both artifacts feature ancient Hebrew script.
In ancient times, a seal stamp, or bulla, was used to authenticate documents or items.
The Nathan-Melech/Eved Hamelech seal stamp found in the City of David. (Photo Credit: Eliyahu Yanai, City of David)
The Nathan-Melech/Eved Hamelech seal stamp found in the City of David. (Photo Credit: Eliyahu Yanai, City of David)
The tiny 1 cm seal stamp has been dated to sometime from the middle of the seventh century to the start of the sixth century B.C. Deciphered by Dr. Anat Mendel-Geberovich of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Center for the Study of Ancient Jerusalem, the stamp features the words: “(Belonging) to Nathan-Melech, Servant of the King.” In the second book of Kings 23:11 “Nathan-Melech” is described as an official in the court of King Josiah. The seal is described as the first archaeological evidence of the Biblical name.
“Although it is not possible to determine with complete certainty that the Nathan-Melech who is mentioned in the Bible was in fact the owner of the stamp, it is impossible to ignore some of the details that link them together,” said Mendel-Geberovich, in the statement.
A 1 cm stamp-seal made of bluish agate stone was also found in the ruins. The stamp is engraved with the name: “(Belonging) to Ikar son of Matanyahu.” The name “Matanyahu” appears in the Bible and on other stamps and seal marks, but the name “Ikar” has not been seen before.
The Ikar Ben Matanyahu seal found in the City of David. (Photo Credit: Eliyahu Yanai, City of David)
The Ikar Ben Matanyahu seal found in the City of David. (Photo Credit: Eliyahu Yanai, City of David)
Mendel-Geberovich believes that “Ikar,” which can be translated as “farmer,” likely refers to a private individual, as opposed to a description of the person’s occupation.
Stamp seals, which were often used to sign documents, where often set in their owners’ signet rings. It is unclear who “Ikar” was.
“These artifacts attest to the highly developed system of administration in the Kingdom of Judah and add considerable information to our understanding of the economic status of Jerusalem and its administrative system during the First Temple period, as well as personal information about the king’s closest officials and administrators who lived and worked in the city,” said Prof. Gadot of Tel Aviv University and Dr. Yiftah Shalev of the Israel Antiquities Authority, in the statement.
The excavation took place at the Givati Parking Lot in Jerusalem’s City of David.
The excavation took place at the Givati Parking Lot in Jerusalem’s City of David
Israel continues to reveal fresh details of its incredible history. Archaeologists in the City of David, for example, recently discovered an unusual clay jar fragment depicting a ‘grotesque’ ancient deity for scaring away evil spirits. Experts also recently uncovered the estate of a wealthy ancient Samaritan at Zur Natan in central Israel.
In another project, researchers have been shedding new light on the history of a Biblical site linked to the Ark of the Covenant.
Engravings of ships were also recently found on an ancient water cistern discovered in a city in the Negev desert.
Givati Parking Lot Excavations in the City of David, where the discoveries were made.
Givati Parking Lot Excavations in the City of David, where the discoveries were made. (Photo credit: Kobi Harati)
Elsewhere, archaeologists confirmed the first full spelling of “Jerusalem” on an ancient stone inscription excavated in the area of Jerusalem’s International Convention Center, known as Binyanei Ha’Uma.
In separate excavations, experts discovered a site that may offer fresh insight into the ancient biblical kingdom of David and Solomon, and a trove of bronze coins, the last remnants of an ancient Jewish revolt against the Roman Empire, near the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
In February 2018, archaeologists announced the discovery of a clay seal mark that may bear the signature of the biblical Prophet Isaiah.
The Nathan-Melech/Eved Hamelech seal found in the City of David.
The Nathan-Melech/Eved Hamelech seal found in the City of David. (Photo Credit: Eliyahu Yanai, City of David)
Other recent finds in recent years include the skeleton of a pregnant woman, dating back 3,200 years, in Israel’s Timna Valley, at a place once called King Solomon’s Mines.
At the site of an ancient city on the West Bank, archaeologists are also hunting for evidence of the tabernacle that once housed the Ark of the Covenant.
Some experts also believe they have found the lost Roman city of Julias, formerly the village of Bethsaida, which was the home of Jesus’ apostles Peter, Andrew and Philip.
Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers
We will review archaeological evidence under the following three categories:
- Culture — Beliefs and Practices
- Places — Urban centers and individual buildings
- People — Titles, Names and Relationships
Here is a selection of finds relating to cultural practices mentioned in the New Testament.
In 1968 an ancient burial site was uncovered containing about 35 bodies. One named Yohanan Ben Ha’galgol had a 7 inch nail driven through both feet. Yohanan’s legs were crushed by a blow consistent with the common use of Roman ‘crucifragium’ John 19:31-32 . This find proves that a victim of crucifixion (like Jesus) could receive a proper Jewish burial.
Leprosy in the First Century
Some have suggested that there was no ‘leprosy’ (i.e. Mycobacterium Leprae or Hansen’s Disease) in the Middle East in Jesus day:
However, thanks to archaeology there is now dramatic evidence of ifs existence in the early first century. Scientific testing of the burial shroud in the so-called ‘Shroud Tomb ‘ has confirmed [he presence of leprosy… Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) radio carbon dating confirmed the first-century date of both shroud and skeletal remains. DNA testing confirmed that the man rapped in the shroud was related to other members whose skeletal remains were recovered in the tomb. This DNA testing also revealed that the man has suffered from leprosy.
First-Century Fishing Boat
In the 1980s, drought exposed a well-preserved first-century fishing boat (measuring 26.5 feet long, 7.5 feet wide and 4.5 feet high) in the mud of the Sea of Galilee:
Under the direction of the Israeli Antiquities Authority, archaeologists began a race against time to carefully extract the boat from the mud before the waters returned… Eventually it was placed in a climate-controlled environment to protect it from aging… Pots and lamps found inside the boat dated it to the first century. Carbon-14 testing further confirmed the dating. The design of the boat was typical of fishing boats used during that period on the Sea of Galilee. In the back of the boat was a raised section like the one where Jesus could have been sleeping, as indicated in the Gospel accounts. The boat could accommodate 15 people including crew. This archaeological discovery confirms the description given in the Bible.
The Politarch Inscription Pompeii Palindromes
Excavated at Pompeii, the Roman city engulfed in liquid mud when Vesuvius erupted in AD 79, were two palindromic inscriptions of:
the famous SATOR or ROTAS square, one scratched on the wall of a private house, the other on a pillar in a public exercise yard. This palindrome appears at sites across the Roman Empire in later centuries… All sorts of ingenious explanations have been offered for this remarkable square. On the principle that the simplest explanation is the best; unraveling it as a Christian text gains first place. With the N at the center, the other letters can be re-arranged in a cross shape to read PATERNOSTER [‘Our Father’] horizontally and vertically, with A [alpha] and O (omega) at each end. If this is correct; there were people in Pompeii “who knew at least the first words of the Lord’s prayer in Latin before 79.
The Alexamenos Graffito
This piece of graffiti, from near the Palatine Hill in Rome and rather roughly dated to late in the second-century AD, was apparently drawn by one Roman soldier to mock the faith of a fellow soldier who was a Christian. It shows a man standing by a crucifixion victim with the head of a donkey. The Greek caption reads: “Alexamenos worships [his] God”.
Christian Church at Megiddo, c. 230 AD
John Dickson reports that: “Megiddo is the site of the earliest church building yet found. This strategic trade city contains the remains of a Christian prayer hall dating to the third century. It contains three mosaic inscriptions pointing to its Christian use. “One Greek inscription, which refers to the table in the center of the hall that was probably used for communion, states: “The God-loving Akeplous has offered (he table to the God Jesus Christ”. The fish that adorn the center of one of four mosaics in the hall are a Christian symbol — the word ichthys (Greek for fish): “is an anagram of the words lesous Christos Theou Yios Soter: Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour” (for video of this find cf. http://youtu.be/a21cDvAMzQ8).
Here is a selection of finds relating to places mentioned in the New Testament.
In May 2012 the Israel Antiquities Authority announced the discovery of a bulla (a small clay seal) that mentions Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus (cf. links to a photo and video of the bulla):
Theologian R.T. France describes Nazareth as:
so insignificant that its name occurs nowhere in Jewish literature until long after the time of Jesus. It was a small village, largely devoted to agriculture, bypassed by the main roads which ran to the near-by Hellenistic city of Sepphoris, The capital of Galilee… it’s population has been estimated at between 500 and 2, 000, and The remains of its buildings show no sign of wealth in the relevant period.
Lee Strobel notes that “Skeptics have been asserting for a long time that Nazareth never existed during the time when the New Testament says Jesus spent his childhood there. However, Paul Barnett reports that “in 1961 a mosaic dated from the third century in which Nazareth appears was unearthed in Caesarea Maritima. Nazareth … is not mentioned in the Old Testament, nor in Josephus ‘s work. Questions as to its genuineness were resolved by this discovery
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 the time of Jesus. The building that we found is small and modest and it is most likely typical of the dwellings in Nazareth in that period.
There are sixteen references to Capernaum (Caper = ‘village’ of Nahum), by the Sea of Galilee, in the gospels: R. T. France notes that:
The houses excavated at Capernaum were one-story buildings, with an outside staircase giving access to the flat roof. The roof was not of stone, but of wooden beams or branches thatched with rush and daubed with mud This explains Mark’s description of how four men carried a potential patient onto the roof and, literally, ‘uncovered the roof and dug it out ‘ so as to let the man down in front of Jesus (Mark 2:1-4), and [he size of the rooms in such houses (never more than five meters across, and often much smaller) shows how quite a modest crowd could make this the only means of access.
The Synagogue in Capernaum
Jesus taught in the synagogue in Capernaum according to Mark 1 :21-22 and Luke 4:31-36. Luke 7:1-10 records how Jesus healed the slave of a Roman centurion posted locally.
The Roman Presence in Capernaum
Randall Price notes that “Recently the Roman presence was confirmed through the excavation at Capernaun of a number of Roman-style buildings, including a Roman bathhouse. ” As Ian Wilson reports: “In this regard, archaeologists have found evidence of Roman military presence in Capernaum in the form of a long bathhouse, of positively non-Jewish design, that almost certainly belonged to the garrison commanded by Jesus ‘s centurion.
Peter’s House in Capernaum
It was pointed out to early pilgrims such as Egeria, the mother of emperor Constantine, who recorded c. AD 380 that: “In Capernaum the house of the prince of the apostles has been made into a church with its original walls still standing. It is where the Lord cured the paralytic. ” Peter Walker affirms “graffiti that referred to Jesus as Lord and Messiah .
provides strong evidence that the room was used as a place of Christian worship — almost certainly because it was believed to be the room used by Jesus, perhaps the home of Simon Peter (Luke 4:38) … Given that The early tradition goes back to the first century, this is almost certainly the very place where Jesus stayed— the home of his chief apostle, Peter.
Jerusalem and The Pool of Bethesda
John 5:1-15 describes a pool in Jerusalem, near the Sheep Gate, called Bethesda, surrounded by five covered colonnades. Until the 19th century, there was no evidence outside of John for the existence of this pool and John’s unusual description “caused bible scholars to doubt the reliability of John ‘s account, but (he pool was duly uncovered in the 1930s — with four colonnades around its edges and one across its middle. Ian Wilson reports: “Exhaustive excavations by Israeli archaeologist Professor Joachim Jeremias have brought to light precisely such a building, still including two huge, deep-cut cisterns, in the environs of Jerusalem ‘s Crusader Church of St Anne.
Jerusalem and The Pool of Siloam
In the 400s AD, a church was built above a pool attached to Hezekiah’s water tunnel to commemorate the healing of a blind man reported in John 9:1-7. Until recently, this was considered to be the Pool of Siloam from the time of Christ. However, during sewerage works in June 2004 engineers stumbled upon a first century ritual pool when they uncovered some ancient steps during pipe maintenance near the mouth of Hezekiah’s tunnel. By the summer of 2005, archaeologists had revealed what was “without doubt the missing pool of Siloam. Mark D. Roberts reports that: “In the plaster of this pool were found coins that establish the date of the pool to the years before and after Jesus. There is little question that this is in fact the pool of Siloam, to which Jesus sent the blind man in John 9.
Bethany and The Tomb of Lazarus
Peter Walker writes: “There is no doubting the general location of Bethany. The Arabic village of El-Azarieh preserves in its name the way the Byzantines referred to it — as the ‘Lazarium ‘, that is, ‘the place of Lazarus’. Until recently this was a tiny village… There is a strong likelihood that Lazarus ‘ tomb has been correctly identified and preserved.
Here is a selection of finds relating to people mentioned in the New Testament.
Herod the Great
We have a bronze coin minted by Herod the Great. On the obverse side (i.e. the bottom) is a tripod and ceremonial bowl with the inscription ‘Herod king’ and the year the coin was struck,
Erastus, Treasurer of Corinth
John McRay reports that:
Before AD 50, an area 62 feet square was paved with stone at the northeast corner of the theater in Corinth, Greece. Excavations there revealed part of a Latin inscription carved into the pavement which reads, ‘Erastus in return for his aedilship laid [the pavement] at his own expense. ‘ The Erastus of this inscription is identified in the excavation publication as the Eraslus mentioned by Paul in Romans, a letter written from Corinth, in which Erastus is referred to as ‘the city treasurer’ [Romans 16:23/ …
Gallio, Proconsul of Achaea
“This designation in Acts 18:12-17 M’as thought to be impossible. But an inscription at Delphi notes this exact title for the man, and it dates him to the time Paul leas in Corinth (AD
Multiple Historical Figures Named in Luke 3: 1-2
In Luke 3:1-2 we see references to eight historical figures:
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar — when  Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch [a governor of a quarter of a province] of Galilee, his brother
Philip tetrarch of lturea and Traconitis [cf. Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 18.106-108], and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene — during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert. (Luke 3:1-2 [cf Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 18:5.2]
The historicity of all eight figures is assured, and archaeological evidence plays its role here, as the following examples demonstrate:
[l] Tiberius Caesar
The Denarius coin, 14-37 AD, is commonly referred to as the ‘Tribute Penny’ from the Bible. The coin shows a portrait of Tiberius Caesar. Craig L. Blomberg comments: “Jesus ‘famous saying about giving to Caesar what was his and to God what his (Mark 12:17 and parallels) makes even more sense when one discovers that most of the Roman coins in use at’ the time had images of Caesar on them.
 Pontius Pilate
“In 1961, in Caesarea Maritima, where Pontius Pilate lived, an inscription was found which, among other things, confirms not only the rule of Pilate in Judea but also his preference for the title ‘Prefect’. The inscription isn’t complete anymore, but there ‘s little question about what it once said. In Latin the inscription reads:
The original wording was thus:
[PRAEF]ECTUS IDUA [EA]
Translated, this reads: “To Tiberius, Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judea.
 Lysanias, Tetrach of Abilene
Scholars used to say that Luke didn’t know what he was talking about, because everybody knew that Lysanias was the ruler of Chalcis, who was killed in 36 BC. But then an inscription was found at Albia near Damascus from the time of Tiberius (AD 14-37) which names Lysanias as Tetrarch just as Luke had written. It turned out there had been two government officials named Lysanias!
- Caiaphas the High Priest
In a tomb located to the south of Jerusalem discovered several ossuaries, one of which contains what many scholars believe to be the bones of the former high priest Caiaphas and his family. On the side and back of the ossuary is the inscription: “Yosefbar [son of] Caifa
- John the Baptist
On July 28th 2010 a team of Bulgarian archaeologists excavated a small alabaster box containing several pieces of bone from under the altar of the fourth century AD St. Ivan the Forerunner Church on Sveti Ivan, a Black Sea island off Sozopol on the Bulgarian coast: “We knew we would find a reliquary there and our expectations came true “, lead archaeologist Professor Kazimir Popkonstantinov wrote in an e-mail to CNN: seems rather logical to suggest the founders of the monastery did their best to bring relics of its patron saint. That saint was John the Baptist, after whom the Island of Svetti Ivan (St, John) and St, Ivan (John) the Forerunner Church were named.
Alexander of Cyrene
When Jesus was on the way to be crucified, the Roman soldiers forced a man called Simon from Cyrene to carry his cross-beam (cf. Matthew 27:32• Luke 23:26). Simon had sons called Alexander and Rufus (Mark 15:21; Romans 16:13). In 1941, Israeli archaeologist Eleazar Sukenik discovered a tomb in the Kidron valley in eastern Jerusalem. the chance that the Simon on the ossuary refers to the Simon of Cyrene mentioned in the Gospels seems very likely.
The Barsabbas Family
Modem archaeological findings cast light upon these references to Joseph and Judas Barsabbas. As reported by Jerusalem Christian Review (December 2000 online edition), Israeli archaeologists have uncovered a 1st century tomb in the mountainside off the Kidron Valley, containing ossuaries bearing signs of the cross. The inscriptions identify the cave as the tomb of the Barsabbas family. Historian Ory N. Mazar states that “at least some members of this family were among the very first disciples of Christ. ” The ossuaries included:
- Simon Bar-Saba, the Hebrew version of ‘Simon Barsabbas’
- Mary, daughter of Simon maybe one of the several Marys in the NT (eg. Matthew 28: 1 )
- Joseph Barsabbas
- The other candidate from Acts, Matthias, may have belonged to the same family, as one of the other coffins in the same cave carries the name M’T’I’, Hebrew for ‘Matthias’ • Another Son of Saba was Judah (the Hebrew form of the Greek Judas) Barsabbas
Professor Mazar comments:
the impact of these fascinating discoveries is multiplied when we consider the additional evidence found in the tomb such as coins and artifacts, that clearly show the tomb was hermetically sealed less than a decade after the crucifixion of Christ. This is years before any part of the New Testament was written, proving that the Scriptures are consistent with the archaeological evidence.
The Tomb of St. Phillip the Apostle
A July 29th 2011 Biblical Archaeological Society Press Release announced that: “During the course of excavating a Byzantine-era church in the ancient Greek city of Hierapolis (in modern southwest Turkey), Professor Francesco D ‘Andria and his archaeological team have discovered the tomb of St. Philip, one of the twelve apostles
The ‘James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus’ Ossuary
James, the brother of Jesus, was martyred in AD 62. A mid-1st century AD chalk ossuary discovered in 2002 bears the inscription “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus” ( ‘Ya’akov bar Yosefakhui di Yeshua’).
The Empty Shroud
The intensively studied ‘Shroud of Turin’ — which bears a superficial, photographically negative image of a flogged and crucified man (an image that also contains three dimensional information) — was formerly dismissed by many on the basis of 1988 carbon dating tests giving the Shroud a medieval date. However, recent peer-reviewed scientific findings show that this carbon dating is unreliable because the dated samples were taken from a medieval patch, On the other hand, a mass of historical and forensic evidence points towards an earlier and even first-century date for the Shroud
A statistical comparison between data from the Shroud and the New Testament’s description of various irregular details of Jesus’ punishment establishes that if the Shroud is a genuine 1 st century artifact then it probably was Jesus’ actual burial cloth.
Archaeology adds to the cumulative case for the historical reliability of the New Testament by empirically verifying references to specific cultural practices, beliefs, places and people. As Paul
archaeology neither proves nor disproves the New Testament. It does, however, endorse the narratives at many points, especially in the case of inscriptions, which by their nature are specific. Here we meet characters secondary to the main story — the Herods, [he high priest and several Roman governors. Moreover, through archaeology we are able to fill in background details that enhance the narratives in both the Gospels and in the book of Acts. Archaeological findings have confirmed that [he texts of the New Testament are from first to last historical and geographical in character.
A few “old testament” evidences
Archaeological finds that contradict the contentions of biblical minimalists and other revisionists have been listed above. There are many more, however, that corroborate biblical evidence, and the following list provides only the most significant discoveries:
A Common Flood Story. Not just the Hebrews (Gen. 6—8), but Mesopotamians, Egyptians, and Greeks all report a flood in primordial times. A Sumerian king list from c. 2100 BC divides itself into two categories: those kings who ruled before a great flood and those who ruled after it. One of the earliest examples of Sumero-Akkadian-Babylonian literature, the Gilgamesh Epic, describes a great flood sent as punishment by the gods, with humanity saved only when the pious Utnapishtim (AKA, “the Mesopotamian Noah”) builds a ship and saves the animal world thereon. A later Greek counterpart, the story of Deucalion and Phyrra, tells of a couple who survived a great flood sent by an angry Zeus. Taking refuge atop Mount Parnassus (AKA, “the Greek Ararat’), they supposedly repopulated the earth by heaving stones behind them that sprang into human beings.
The Code of Hammurabi. This seven-foot black diorite stele, discovered at Susa and presently located in the Louvre museum, contains 282 engraved laws of Babylonian King Hammurabi (fl. 1750 BC). The common basis for this law code is the lex talionis (“the law of the tooth”), showing that there was a common Semitic law of retribution in the ancient Near East, which is clearly reflected in the Pentateuch. Exodus 21 for example, reads: “But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot…” (niv).
The Nuzi Tablets. The some 20,000 cuneiform clay tablets discovered at the ruins of Nuzi, east of the Tigris River and date-able to c. 1500 BC, reveal institutions, practices, and customs remarkably congruent to those found in Genesis. These tablets include treaties, marriage arrangements, rules regarding inheritance, adoption, and the like.
The Existence of Hittites. Genesis 23 reports that Abraham buried Sarah in the Cave of Machpelah, which he purchased from Ephron the Hittite. Second Samuel 1 1 tells of David’s adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite. A century ago the Hittites were unknown outside of the Old Testament, and critics claimed that they were a figment of biblical imagination. In 1906, however, archaeologists digging east of Ankara, Turkey, discovered the ruins of Hattusas, the ancient Hittite capital at what is today called Boghazkoy, as well as its vast collection of Hittite historical records, which showed an empire flourishing in the mid-second millennium BC. This critical challenge, among many others, was immediately proved worthless — a pattern that would often be repeated in the decades to come.
The Merneptah Stele. A seven-foot slab engraved with hieroglyphics, also called the Israel Stele, boasts of the Egyptian pharaoh’s conquest of Libyans and peoples in Palestine, including the Israelite’s: “Israel — his seed is not.” This is the earliest reference to Israel in non biblical sources and demonstrates that, as of c. 1230 BC, the Hebrews were already living in the Promised Land.
Biblical Cities Attested Archaeologically. In addition to Jericho, places such as Haran, Hazor, Dan, Megiddo, Shechem, Samaria, Shiloh, Gezer, Gibeah, Beth Shemesh, Beth Shean, Beersheba, Lachish, and many other urban sites have been excavated, quite apart from such larger and obvious locations as Jerusalem or Babylon. Such geographical markers are extremely significant in demonstrating that fact, not fantasy, is intended in the Old Testament historical narratives; otherwise, the specificity regarding these urban sites would have been replaced by “Once upon a time” narratives with only hazy geographical parameters, if any.
Israel’s enemies in the Hebrew Bible likewise are not contrived but solidly historical. Among the most dangerous of these were the Philistines, the people after whom Palestine itself would be named. Their earliest depiction is on the Temple of Rameses Ill at Thebes, c. 1150 BC, as “peoples of the sea” who invaded the Delta area and later the coastal plain of Canaan. The Pentapolis (five cities) they established — namely Ashkelon, Ashdod, Gaza, Gath, and Ekron — have all been excavated, at least in part, and some remain cities to this day. Such precise urban evidence measures favorably when compared with the geographical sites claimed in the holy books of other religious systems, which often have no basis whatever in reality.
Shishak’s Invasion of Judah. First Kings 14 and 2 Chronicles 12 tell of Pharaoh Shishak’s conquest of Judah in the fifth year of the reign of King Rehoboam, the brainless son of Solomon, and how Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem was robbed of its treasures on that occasion. This victory is also commemorated in hieroglyphic wall carvings on the Temple of Amon at Thebes.
The Moabite Stone. Second Kings 3 reports that Mesha, the king of Moab, rebelled against the king of Israel following the death of Ahab. A three-foot stone slab, also called the Mesha Stele, confirms the revolt by claiming triumph over Ahab’s family, c. 850 BC, and that Israel had “perished forever.” Obelisk of Shalmaneser Ill. In 2 Kings 9—10, Jehu is mentioned as King of Israel (841—814 BC). That the growing power of Assyria was already encroaching on the northern kings prior to their ultimate conquest in 722 BC is demonstrated by a six-and-a-half-foot black obelisk discovered in the ruins of the palace at Nimrud in 1846. On it, Jehu is shown kneeling before Shalmaneser Il! and offering tribute to the Assyrian king, the only relief we have to date of a Hebrew monarch. Burial Plaque of King Uzziah. Down in Judah, King Uzziah ruled from 792 to 740 BC, a contemporary of Amos, Hosea, and Isaiah. Like Solomon, he began well and ended badly. In 2
Chronicles 26 his sin is recorded, which resulted in his being struck with leprosy later in life. When Uzziah died, he was interred in a “field of burial that belonged to the kings.” His stone burial plaque has been discovered on the Mount of Olives, and it reads: “Here, the bones of Uzziah, King of Judah, were brought. Do not open.”
Hezekiah’s Siloam Tunnel Inscription. King Hezekiah of Judah ruled from 721 to 686 BC. Fearing a siege by the Assyrian king, Sennacherib, Hezekiah preserved Jerusalem’s water supply by cutting a tunnel through 1,750 feet of solid rock from the Gihon Spring to the Pool of Siloam inside the city walls (2 Kings 20; 2 Chron. 32). At the Siloam end of the tunnel, an inscription, presently in the archaeological museum at Istanbul, Turkey, celebrates this remarkable accomplishment. The tunnel is probably the only biblical site that has not changed its appearance in 2,700 years.
The Sennacherib Prism. After having conquered the 10 northern tribes of Israel, the Assyrians moved southward to do the same to Judah (2 Kings 18—19). The prophet Isaiah, however, told
Hezekiah that God would protect Judah and Jerusalem against Sennacherib (2 Chron. 32; Isa. 36— 37). Assyrian records virtually confirm this. The cuneiform on a hexagonal, 1 5-inch baked clay prism found at the Assyrian capital of Nineveh describes Sennacherib’s invasion of Judah in 701 BC in which it claims that the Assyrian king shut Hezekiah inside Jerusalem “like a caged bird.” Like the biblical record, however, it does not state that he conquered Jerusalem, which the prism certainly would have done had this been the case. The Assyrians, in fact, bypassed Jerusalem on their way to Egypt, and the city would not fall until the time of Nebuchadnezzar and the Neo-Babylonians in 586 BC. Sennacherib himself returned to Nineveh where his own sons murdered him.
New International Version Study Bible: An Illustrated Walk Through Biblical History and Culture (Zondervan, 2005)
Paul Barnett, ts The New Testament Reliable?, second edition (IVP, 2003)
Craig A. Evans, Jesus and His World; The Archaeological Evidence (London: SPCK, 2012)
Jack Finegan, The Archaeology of the New Testament; The Life ofJesus and the Beginning of the Early Church, revised edition (Princeton University Press, 1992)
Gary R. Habermas, The Secret of the Ta[piot Tomb: Unravel!ing the Mystery of the Jesus Family Tomb (Holman Reference, 2007)
John C. lannone, The Mystery of the Shroud of Turin: New Scientific Evidence (St Pauts, 1998)
John McRay, Archaeology & the New Testament (Baker Academic, 1991)
John McRay, ‘Archaeologica: Evidence for the New Testament* in John Ashton & Michael Westacott (eds.), The Big Argument: Does God Exist? (Master Books, 2006)
Alan Millard, Discoveries From The Time Of Jesus (Lion, 1990)
Randall price, The Stones Cry Out: What Archaeology Reveals About the Truth of the Bible (Harvest House, 1997)
Charles L Quarles,-Buried Hope or Risen Savior? The Search for the Jesus Tomb (B&h Academic, 2008)
Hershel Shanks & Ben Witherington, The Brother of Jesus: The Dramatic Story & Meaning of the First Archaeological Link to Jesus & His Family (Continuum, 2003)
Jeffery Sheler, Is The Bible True? How Modern Debates & Discoveries Affirm The Essence Of The Scriptures (HarperCollins, 2000)
Kenneth E. Stevenson, Image of the Risen Christ: Remarkable New Evidence About The Shroud (Frontier Research, 1999)
Carsten Peter Thiede, The Emmaus Mystery (Continuum, 2005)
Peter Walker, The Weekend that Changed the World: The Mystery of Jerusalem’s Empty Tomb (Marsha!! Pickering, 1_999)
Peter Walker, In The Footsteps of Jesus: An Illustrated Guide to the Places of the Holy Land (Lion, 2009)
Referring to the Tulmud in which every mention of Christ is in a negative sense is use simply to verify that Jesus Christ was a real person, and that He was crucified, being considered a false teacher, and a worker of magic tricks (miractr—d •
Sanhedrin 43a relates the trial and execution of a sorcerer named Jesus (Yeshu in Hebrew) and his five disciples. The sorcerer is stoned and hanged on the Eve of Passover.
Sanhedrin 107 tells of a Jesus (“Yeshu”) “offended his teacher by paying too much attention to the innkeeper’s wife. Jesus wished to be forgiven, but [his rabbi] was too slow to forgive him, and Jesus in despair went away and put up a brick (idol] and worshipped it.”
In Gittin 56b, 57a a story is mentioned in which Onkelos summons up the spirit of a Yeshu who sought to harm Israel. He describes his punishment in the afterEife as boiling in excrement.
Some scholars claim that the Hebrew name Yeshu is not a short form of the name Yeshua, but rather an acrostic for the Hebrew phrase “may his name and memory be blotted out” created by taking the first letter of the Hebrew words.
In addition, at the 1240 Disputation of Paris, Donin presented the allegation that the Talmud was blasphemous towards Mary, the mother of Jesus (Miriam in Hebrew), and this criticism has been repeated by many Christian sources. The texts cited by critics include Sanhedrin 67a, Sanhedrin 106a, and Shabbath 104b. However, the references to Mary are not specific, and some assert that they do not refer to Jesus’ mother, or perhaps refer to Mary Magdalen.Scholars have identified the following references in the Talmud that some conclude refer to Jesus:
- Jesus as a sorcerer with disciples (b Sanh 43a-b)
- Healing in the name of Jesus (Hui 2:22f; AZ 2:22/12; y Shab 124:4/13; QohR 1:8; b AZ 27b)
- As a Torah teacher (b AZ 17a; Hul 2:24; QohR 1:8)
- As a son or disciple that turned out badly (Sanh 103a/b; Ber 17b)
- As a frivolous disciple who practiced magic and turned to idolatry (Sanh 107b; Sot 47a)
- Jesus’ punishment in afterlife (b Git 56b, 57a)
- Jesus’ execution (b Sanh 43a-b)
- Jesus as the son of Mary (Shab 104b, Sanh 67a)
- As a sorcerer with disciples
Sanhedrin 43a relates the trial and execution of Jesus and his five disciples. Here, Jesus is a sorcerer who has enticed other Jews to apostasy.
Healing in the name of Jesus
- Scholars have identified passages in the Talmud and associated Talmudic texts that involve invoking Jesusr name, as the messiah of Christianity, in order to perform magical healing:
- Tosefta Hullin 2:22f— “Jacob … came to heal him in the name of Jesus son of Pantera ll section exists in variant spellings of Jesus: mi-shem Yeshu ben Pantera (principal edition), mishem Yeshu ben Pandera (London MS), mi-shem Yeshua ben Pantera (Vienna
Abodah Zarah 2:2/12 — “Jacob … came to heal him. He said to him: we will speak to you in the name of Jesus son of Pandera” (Editions or MS: Venice)
- Jerusalem Shabboth 14:4/13 — “Jacob … came in the name of Jesus Pandera to heal him” (Editions or MS: Venice)
- Qohelet Rabbah 1:8(3) — “Jacob came to heal him in the name of Jesus son of Pandera l‘
(Editions or MSS: Vatican 291, Oxford 164, Pesaro 1519)
- Babylonian Abodah Zarah 27b — “Jacob … came to heal him” (Editions or MSS: New York 15, Pearo, Vilna)
- Jerusalem Abodah Zarah 2:2/7 — “someone … whispered to him in the name of Jesus son of Pandera” (Editions or MS: Venice)
- Jerusalem Shabboth 14:4/8 — “someone … whispered to him in the name of Jesus son of Pandera ‘l (Editions or MS: Venice)
Scholars have identified passages that mention Jesus, as the messiah of Christianity, in the context of a Torah teacher:
- Babylonian Abodah Zarah 17a — “One of the disciples of Jesus the Nazarene found me” (Editions or Mss: Munich 95, Paris 1377, New York 15)
- Tosefta Hullin 2:24— lt He told me of a word of heresy in the name of Jesus son of Pantiri”
- Qohelet Rabbah 1:8(3) — “He told me a word in the name of Jesus son of Pandera” (Editions or MSS: Oxford 164, Vatican 291, Pesaro 1519)
- Babylonian Abodah Zarah 17a — “Thus I was taught by Jesus the Nazarene” (Editions or MSS: Munich 95, Paris 1337)
The son or disciple who turned out badly
Sanhedrin 103a and Berachot 17b talk about a Yeshu ha-Nosri (Jesus of Nazareth) who “burns his food in public”, possibly a reference to pagan sacrifices or a metaphor for apostasy. The passages identified by scholars in this context are:
- Babylonian Sanhedrin 103a — “that you will not have a son or disciple … like Jesus the Nazarene” (Editions or MSS: Firenze 11.1.8—9, Barco, Munich 95)
- Babylonian Berakoth 17b — “that we will not have a son or disciple … like Jesus the Nazarene” (Editions or MS: Oxford 23)
As a sinful student who practiced magic and turned to idolatry
Passages in Sanhedrin 107b and Sotah 47a refer to an individual (Yeshu) that some scholars conclude is a reference to Jesus, regarded as the messiah of ChristianitySome passages that have been identified by scholars as mentioning Jesus, as the messiah of Christianity, in this context incJude:
- Babylonian Sanhedrin 107b — “not as Yehoshua b. Perahya who pushed Jesus the Nazarene away” (Editions or MSS: Barco, Vilna)
- Babylonian Sotah 47a — “not as Yehoshua b. Perahya who pushed Jesus the Nazarene away” (Editions or MSS: Vatican 110, Vilna, Munich 95)
- Babyonian Sanhedrin 107b — ltJesus said to him: Rabbi, her eyes are narrow” (Editions or MSS: Herzog 1)
- Babylonian Sotah 47a — “Jesus the Nazarene said to him: Rabbi, her eyes are narrow” (Editions or MS: Oxford 20)
- Babylonian Sanhedrin 107b — “The master said: Jesus the Nazarene practiced magic (Editions or MSS: Firenze 11.18—9, Barco )
- Babylonian Sotah 47a — “The master said: Jesus the Nazarene because he practiced magic” (Editions or MS: Munich 95)
Punishment in the afterlife
In Gittin 56b-57a a story is recorded in which Onkefos, a nephew of the Roman emperor Titus who destroyed the Second Temple, intent on converting to Judaism, summons up the spirits of Yeshu and others to help make up his mind. Each describes his punishment in the afterlife.
— Babylonian Talmud, Gittin 56b-57a
Scholars have identified passages that mention Jesus in the context of his execution:
- Babylonian Sanhedrin 43a-b -“on the eve of Passover they hanged Jesus the Nazarene” (Editions or MSS: Herzog 1, Karlsruhe 2)
- Babylonian Sanhedrin 43a-b — “Jesus the Nazarene is going forth to be stoned” (Editions or MSs: Herzog 1, Firenze 11.1.8—9, Karlsruhe 2)
- Babylonian Sanhedrin 43a-b — “Do you suppose Jesus the Nazarene was one for whom a defense could be made?” (Editions or MSS: Herzog 1, Firenze 11.1.8—9, Karlsruhe 2)
- Babylonian Sanhedrin 43a-b — ‘tWith Jesus the Nazarene it was different” (Editions or MSS: Herzog 1, Firenze 11.1.8—9, Karlsruhe 2)
- In the Florence manuscript of the Talmud (1177 CE) an addition is made to Sanhedrin 438 saying that Yeshu was hanged on the eve of the Sabbath.
Mother and father
Tombstone of Tiberius Julius Abdes Pantera, a soldier who has been claimed to be the “Pantera” named by Talmud.
Some Talmudic sources include passages which identify a “son of Pandera ll (ben Pandera in Hebrew), and some scholars conclude that these are references to the messiah of Christianity.
The Talmud, and other talmudic texts, contain several references to the “son of Pandera ll . A few of the references explicitly name Jesus (“Yeshu”) as the “son of Panderalt : these explicit connections are found in the Tosefta, the Qohelet Rabbah, and the Jerusalem Talmud, but not in the Babylonian Talmud. The explicit connections found in the Jerusalem Talmud are debated because the name “Jesus” (“Yeshu tl ) is found only in a marginal gloss in some manuscripts, but other scholars conclude that it was in the original versions of the Jerusalem Talmud.
The texts include several spellings for the father’s name (Pandera, Panthera, Pandira, Pantirj, or Pantera) and some scholars conclude that these are all references to the same individual,  but other scholars suggest that they may be unrelated references. [n some of the texts, the father produced a son with a woman named Mary. Several of the texts indicate that the mother was not married to Pandera, and was committing adultery and — by implication —Jesus was a bastard child. Some of the texts indicate that Maryls husband’s name was Stada.
Some Talmudic sources include passages which identify a ‘Ison of Stada” or “son of Stara” (ben Stada or ben Stara in Hebrew), and some scholars conclude that these are references to the messiah of
Son of Pantera / Pandera in a healing context
Two talmudic-era texts that explicitly associate Jesus as the son of Pantera/Pandera are:
- Tosefta Hullin 2:22f “Jacob … came to heal him in the name of Jesus son of Pantera ll
- Qohelet Rabbah 1:8(3) “Jacob … came to heat him in the name of Jesus son of Pandera tl
Both of the above passages describe situations where Jesus’ name is invoked to perform magical healing. In addition, some editions of the Jerusalem Talmud explicitly identify Jesus as the son of Pandera:
- Jerusalem Abodah Zarah 2:2/7 “someone … whispered to him in the name of Jesus son of Panderal’
- Jerusalem Shabboth 14:4/8 “someone … whispered to him in the name of Jesus son of Pandera”
- Jerusalem Abodah Zarah 2:2/12 “Jacob … came to heal him. He said to him: we will speak to you in the name of Jesus son of Pandera ‘t
- Jerusalem Shabboth 14:4/13 “Jacob … came in the name of Jesus Pandera to heal him”
However, some editions of the Jerusalem Talmud do not contain the name Jesus in these passages, so the association in this case is disputed, The parallel passages in the Babylonian Talmud do not contain the name Jesus.
Son of Pantiri / Pandera in a teaching context
Other Talmudic narratives describe Jesus as the son of a Pantiri or Pandera, in a teaching context:
- Tosefta Huffin 2:24 “He told me of a word of heresy in the name of Jesus son of Pantiri ll
- Qohelet Rabbah 1:8(3) “He told me a word in the name of Jesus son of Pandera ‘t
However, the parallel accounts in the Babylonian Talmud mention Jesus but do not mention the father’s name:
Babylonian Abodah Zarah 17a “One of the disciples of Jesus the Nazarene found me t‘
Babylonian Abodah Zarah 17a “Thus I was taught by Jesus the Nazarene”
Pandera and alleged adultery by Mary
The Babylonian talmud contains narratives that discuss an anonymous person who brought witchcraft out of Egypt, and the person is identified as “son of Pandera” or “son of Stada”. The Talmud discusses whether the individual (the name Jesus is not present in these passages) is the son of Stada, or Pandera, and a suggestion is made that the mother Mary committed adultery.
- Babylonian Shabbat 104b “Was he the son of Stara (and not) the son of Pandera? ‘t (Editions or MSs: Oxford 23, Soncino)
- Babylonian Sanhedrin 67a “Was he the son of Stara (and not) the son of Pandera?” (Editions or MSS: Herzog 1, Karlsruhe 2, … )
- Babylonian Shabbat 104b “husband Stada, lover Pandera” (Editions or MSS: Vatican 108, Munich 95, Vilna )
- Babylonian Sanhedrin 67a “husband Stara, lover Pandera” (Editions or MSS: Herzog 1, Barco)
- Babylonian Shabbat 104b “husband Pappos, mother Stada il (Editions or MSS: Vilna, Munich 95 )
- Babylonian Sanhedrin 67a “husband Pappos, mother Stada ‘l (Editions or MSS: Vilna, Munich 95)
- Babylonian Shabbat 104b “his mother Miriam who let grow (her) women’s hairl‘ (Editions or MSS: Vilna, Oxford 23, Soncino)
- Babylonian Sanhedrin 67a “his mother Miriam who let grow (her) women’s hair” (Editions or MSs: Karlsruhe 2, Munich 95)
Mary as the mother
There is no Talmudic text that directly associates Jesus with Mary (Miriam), instead the association is indirect: Jesus is associated with a father (“son of Pandera”), and in other passages, Pandera is associated with Mary (as her lover).
Typically both Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds use the generic minim for heretics. Aside from mentions of the five disciples of “Yeshu ha Notzri,” the plural Notzrim, “Christians,” are only clearly mentioned once in the Babylonian Talmud, (where it is amended to Netzarim, people of the watch) in B.Ta fanit 27b with a late parallel in Masekhet Soferim 17:4. And then “The day of the Notzri according to Rabbi Ishmael is forbidden for ever” in some texts of B.Avodah Zarah 6a.
Relation to the Toledot Yeshu
The Toledot Yeshu (History of Jesus) is a Jewish anti-Christian polemic that purports to be a biography of Jesus. Some scholars conclude that the Toledot Yeshu is an expansion and elaboration on anti-Christian themes in the Talmud. Stephen Gero suggests that an early version of the To!edot Yeshu narrative preceded the Talmud, and that the Talmud drew upon the Toledot Yeshu, but Rubenstein and Schäfer discount that possibility, because they date the origin of the Toiedot Yeshu in the early Middle Ages or Late Antiquity.
Related narrative from Celsus
The Platonistjc philosopher Celsus, writing circa 150 to 200 CE, wrote a narrative describing a Jew who discounts the story of the Virgin Birth of Jesus. Scholars have remarked on the parallels (adultery, father’s name “Panthera”, return from Egypt, magical powers) between Celsus l account and the Talmudic narratives. In Celsus! account, the Jew says:
. .[Jesus] came from a Jewish village and from a poor country woman who earned her living by spinning. He says that she was driven out by her husband, who was a carpenter by trade, as she was convicted of adultery. Then he says that after she had been driven out by her husband and while she was wandering about in a disgraceful way she secretly gave birth to Jesus. He states that because he [Jesus] was poor he hired himself out as a workman in Egypt, and there tried his hand at certain magical powers on which the Egyptians pride themselves; he returned full of conceit, because of these powers, and on account of them gave himself the title of God . . . the mother of Jesus is described as having been turned out by the carpenter who was betrothed to her, as she had been convicted of adultery and had a child by a certain soldier named Panthera.ll