Table of Contents
New Testament Archaeology and History
All throughout the Old Testament, the God of creation continually used Israel to reveal whom He is, and share His message with the world. God made a promise to bring salvation to the world, and teach the way to return to him and obtain eternal life.
The New Testament archaeology attests to the fulfillment of all the promises of God, as He came to earth as the man Jesus Christ. Jesus set up His church at this time, which is the group of all believers. History and archaeology work together to confirm all the claims of the New Testament concerning both whom Jesus is, and the origins of the first church.
During Jesus Time [33 AD +]
Pool of Siloam
The pool of Siloam was described as one of the places Jesus visited in His ministry. A man born blind came to Jesus and asked if He could heal him, and Jesus did.
When Jesus had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and anointed the mans eyes with the clay, Jesus said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam (which is by interpretation, Sent). He went away therefore, and washed, and came seeing – John 9.6-7
This site was discovered during construction work that was ordered to repair a large water pipe south of Jerusalem’s temple mount in 2004. Archaeologists excavated part of the monumental pool that is recorded in the gospel of John.
Documentation to this find was eluded to by the Biblical New Testament Archaeology Review editor Hershel Shanks, whom detailed the information about this pool in his review.
Early Church Meeting
In the 1980’s, new testament history and new testament archaeology advocates and archaeologists discovered a simple house dating to the first century a.d. in Capernaum. According to the excavated material found in the house, it is reported that the function on the house changed dramatically to be a place for social gatherings.
This could have been a place that early Christians gathered, although evidence in circumstantial, it was houses like this early Christians associated with just like Jesus disciple, Peter. Evidence is pointed out by the Biblical Archaeology Review editor Hershel Shanks & scholar James F. Strange.
People of the first century in this area had to worry primarily about persecution if they where Christians, thus they met in places like early houses.
But Saul laid waste the church, entering into every house, and dragging men and women committed them to prison. – Acts 8.3
Pontius Pilate Inscription
For centuries, critics of the Bible would point to lack of evidence for any type of government official named Pontus Pilate, as a man of his stature would have ensured some sort of evidence throughout history.
Attesting to church archaeology and historic accuracy, This inscription of Pontius Pilate was discovered in 1962 at Caesarea Maritima.
This inscription date back to the first century a.d. confirmed Pilates existence, and that he played a role as an official over Judea for over a decade, as he is called a ‘prefect’ in the inscription.
Confirmation of the Crucifixion Method
There is only one time in all of recorded history that we find an execution method as heinous as the crucifixion. In fact we read that the Romans invented it as a specific form of torture for only the worst of criminals.
We find new testament archaeological evidence of the crucifixion in ossified bones, with nails still pierced and grafted together with the bone. This bone with the spike still in it, was found in an ossuary for a Jewish man named Yehohanan in 1968 (he was not related to any Biblical story).
And when they had crucified him, they parted his garments among them, casting lots; …Then are there crucified with him two robbers, one on the right hand and one on the left – Matthew 27.35-38
This evidence further confirms how the crucifixion took place as recorded in the Bible.
Herod was a tetrarch of the first century, in Jesus day. A tetrarch was a ruler in charge of a 1/4 of the land, although Herod was descendant of the original Israeli royal bloodline, he was not a king. Any acknowledgement to any king other than Caesar was considered treason, punishable by death.
Excavation at the Herodian Sites, also known as Masada, the Herodium temple mount, confirm who Herod was and his great visions for construction and architecture. Josephus also wrote about him and depicted his character as confirm in his new testament archaeological profile.
Ossuaries where the burial box of a Jewish person, a reburial practice that was in effect from 20 b.c. to 70 a.d. The remains would be laid to rest in one of these boxes, then sealed in a tomb, usually paid for by the family.
There have been a number of ossuaries discovered to confirms the claims of New Testament archaeology.
Ossuary of the High Priest Caiaphas
In the early 1990’s, a highly ornate limestone box was discovered and came to be known as the burial box for the High Priest Caiaphas.
Caiaphas was the High Priest during Jesus time, whom spoke by the Holy spirit warning the Pharisees who Jesus was, and that Jesus would be the one who dies for the sin of the whole world.
But a certain one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, nor do ye take account that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not… – John 11.49-50
Annas therefore sent him bound unto Caiaphas the high priest… – John 18.24
Ossuary of James the Brother of Jesus
One of the most scrutinized, scientifically tested, and severely scrutinized ossuaries is the burial box of the brother of Jesus, James.
In 2003 Harper of biblical Archaeology Review, and multiple other scholars have officially come to the conclusion due to such rigorous testing, that this ossuary is truly the burial box of James the brother of Jesus.
This is artifact gives us direct connection with Jesus himself and His physical ministry on the earth. The box specifically translated read:
‘James, the brother of Jesus’
This find not only confirms Jesus existence, and his family records according to the Biblical accounts.
- It proves Jesus lineage and Jewish heritage.
- The inscription was of an ancient Aramaic, the language originally spoke in the Old Testament.
- Ossuaries where symbols of belief in a resurrection, weather that belief was Jewish or Christian; it is proof of their belief non the less, and that this James believed in the resurrection, just as it was taught in the Bible.
- Of the 250 Ossuaries, only a handful have an inscription, that usually validates their heritage. Non other mentions a brother, meaning that his brother must have been someone of great importance. It would imply that a person would be known more by the name mentioned then their name alone or heritage.
But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother. – Galatians 1.19
Destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem
The temple of Jerusalem was destroyed by Caesar Nero in 70 a.d.
This was due to a rebellion that occurred in 66 a.d by the Jewish people. The rebellion lasted only until about 73 a.d. when all its member had been completely extinguished at Masada, but by this time the temple in Jerusalem had been completely destroyed, and all its treasure plundered.
The only part that remains to this day of the once great and might temple of God in Jerusalem in the wailing wall, where people to this day come to pray.
Various non-christian writers and historians have confirmed the accounts recorded in the Bible and New Testament archaeology. We find the acts of the early Christian and the Apostles, as well as data confirming whom Jesus was and His ministry among the records of these early writers, all confirming the information found in the New Testament archaeology.
Confirmation of Jesus
We have 4 different accounts in the Bible alone from four different authors, all confirming who Jesus was and His mission on earth. These four different, highly detailed accounts that detail Jesus ministry on earth became what we know of as the 4 gospels we use today.
People often don’t realize the gospel of Luke was recorded by both a Physician and Historian, a well educated and respected man, whom was interviewing multiple eye witnesses to build a historic report of what happen to Jesus Christ, and record whom He was.
1 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus – Luke 1.1-3
Additional New Testament verification come from extra-biblical documents, many of whom confirm the Bible as historically accurate by writings or eye-witnesses, yet many of whom where not even believers themselves.
Josephus was a Jewish Historian, who lived from 37 a.d. to 100 a.d. His major works where records of the Palestine people from 70 – 100 a.d., and is known for his most famous historical document Antiquities.
In his book 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.– Josephus Book 18. Ch. 3.3
Some of Josephus’ writings are slightly sarcastic, but they still confirm the historic account recorded in the bible, along with the miracles and description of who Jesus was. It needs to be understood, that all these writings where taken into account by someone who was not a believer. Josephus also confirms in his writing about Jesus many miracles, draw of a great crowd, death by crucifixion, and the proclamation that everyone said he was resurrected on the third day.
Pliny the Younger
Pliny was the Emperor of Bythynia of NW Turkey. In 112 a.d., one of his writing to Emperor Trajan he states:
They were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang an anthem to Christ as God, 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. – Pliny the Young to Emperor Bythynia
Tactitus was a very important Romans historian. In 115 a.d. he recorded Caesar Nero’s persecution of the Christians, as written in the following:
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 Rome. – Tacitus, Annals, 15.44
Additional Historic Accounts
There is a plethora of historic, extra-biblical sources that attest to over hundreds of facts regarding the life and teachings of Jesus and to early church archeology, a few examples coming from the following:
- Cornelius Tacitus (55-120 AD), “the greatest historian” of ancient Rome
- Gaius Suetonius Tranquillas, chief secretary of Emperor Hadrian (117-138 AD)
- Flavius Josephus (37-97 AD), court historian for Emperor Vespasian
- Pliny the Younger, Roman governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor around 112 AD
- Emperor Trajan, in reply to Pliny
- Emporer Hadrian (117-138 AD), in a letter to Minucius Fundanus, the Asian proconsul
- The Jewish Talmud, compiled between 70 and 200 AD
- Lucian, a second century Greek satirist
- Mara Bar-Serapion, of Syria, writing between 70 and 200 AD from prison to motivate his son to emulate wise teachers of the past
- The Gospel of Truth, probably by Valentius, around 135-160 AD
- The Aprocryphon of John, probably by Saturninus, around 120-130 AD
- The Gospel of Thomas, probably from 140-200 AD
- The Treatise On Resurrection, by uncertain author of the late second century, to Rheginos
- Acts of Pontius Pilate, reports sent from Pilate to Tiberius, referred to by Justin Martyr (150 AD)
- Phlegon, born about 80 AD, as reported by Origen (185-254 AD), mentioned that Jesus made certain predictions which had been fulfilled
- Clement, elder of Rome, letter to the Corinthian church (95 AD)
- Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, letter to the Trallians (110-115 AD)
- Ignatius, letter to the Smyrneans (110-115 AD)
- Ignatius, letter to the Magnesians (110-115 AD)
- Quadratus, to Emperor Hadrian about 125 AD
- (Pseudo-)Barnabas, written 130-138 AD
- Justin Martyr, to Emperor Antoninus Pius about 150 AD
- Justin Martyr, in Dialogue with Trypho, around 150 AD
References – Church Archeology
1.) Josephus’ account appears in: Cornfield, Gaalya ed., Josephus, The Jewish War (1982); Duruy, Victor, History of Rome vol. V (1883).
Bible Archaeology Report – Archaeology confirm the New Testament