20 Pieces of Evidence That Support Events in the Bible
20 Pieces of Evidence That Support Events in the Bible

20 Pieces of Evidence That Support Events in the Bible

Steve - March 15, 2019

20 Pieces of Evidence That Support Events in the Bible
The Prophet Isaiah, as depicted in a Russian icon from first quarter of 18th century. Wikimedia Commons.

6. Among the oldest pieces of physical proof for any individual appearing in the Bible, an ancient seal bearing the name of the Prophet Isaiah strongly indicates the physical existence of a correlatory figure

Isaiah, an 8th-century BCE prophet commonly ascribed authorship of the eponymous sixty-six chapter book of the Bible, remains a highly disputed figure within the biblical narrative. Living supposedly during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, who reigned as Kings of Judah between the mid-8th century and the late-7th century, Isaiah, however, enjoys no corroborating reference in any alternative historical sources reducing his story that of considerable skepticism. Despite this doubt regarding the veracity of his legend, Isaiah most likely did exist and remains the most ancient biblical character for whom archaeological evidence has been discovered concerning.

In the course of an archaeological excavation in Jerusalem, in a stroke of luck, a small clay seal dating to the 8th-century BCE was discovered. Although surviving only partially, upon the ancient artifact is inscribed the name “Yesha’yahu” – Isaiah in Hebrew – and is followed by what is believed to be the beginning of the ancient Hebrew word for prophet: “Nvy…” The conclusion one must reach from this historic find is that, although by no means confirming anything stated in the Book of Isaiah, that an individual in a position of religious significance bearing his name almost certainly did exist around this time.

20 Pieces of Evidence That Support Events in the Bible
Christ Before Caiaphas, by Matthias Storm (c. the early 1630s). Wikimedia Commons.

5. Caiaphas, a Jewish high priest and prominent antagonist of Jesus, was an uncertain historical character until his remains were discovered by an unassuming bulldozer in Jerusalem

Joseph Caiaphas, commonly known simply by his last name, was, according to the New Testament, the Jewish high priest responsible for the plot to kill Jesus. Beyond the Bible itself, few historical references corroborate the narrative offered, with Romano-Jewish historian Josephus providing the only legitimate written source. Claiming that Caiaphas was appointed as a member of the high priesthood by the Roman prefect Valerius Gratus in 18 CE, this divisive historical conclusion was uncertain until the accidental discovery of the Caiaphas ossuary in the Peace Forest, Jerusalem, in 1990.

Found after a tomb’s roof was unintentionally opened by a bulldozer during construction works, the discovered necropolis bore similarities to other Second Temple period burial sites in Jerusalem. Contained within were twelve ossuaries, including two bearing the name “Caiaphas”, one of which was inscribed in a highly ornate fashion: “Joseph, son of Caiaphas” and held the remains of a sixty-year-old male dating from the 1st century of the Common Era. Although not confirming the particulars of the biblical narrative, the find definitively validates that such an individual did exist around the time described and was of high status.

20 Pieces of Evidence That Support Events in the Bible
An image of the archaeological site of the “Spring Citadel” in Jerusalem. Eli Mandelbaum/Israel Antiquities Authority.

4. The ancient fortress of Jerusalem, the disputed discovery of the “Spring Citadel” supposedly captured by David offers partial corroboration of aspects of the ancient biblical narrative regarding the Kingdom of Judah

A prominent feature of the early biblical narrative, the “Spring Citadel” was a giant 18th-century BCE fortress that protected the city of Jerusalem from prospective invaders. Allowing access to the Gihon Spring only from inside the city, its 7 meter thick walls were overcome by the armies of David during his conquest of the city against the Jebusites before disappearing from history at some later date. A focal point of archaeological inquiry in an effort to verify aspects of several important historical moments of the Bible, after almost twenty years of searching evidence of the ancient fortification was eventually identified.

Discovering remnants of stacked five-ton stones reaching approximately 6 meters in thickness, the largest walls to date stemming from the pre-Herod era of the region, the archaeological find is also situated suspiciously close to the ancient city’s water source, seemingly confirming the historicity of the citadel. However, demonstrating the problems endemic in the Bible’s historical reliability, radiocarbon dating of the site has now brought into question the entire biblical timeline, suggesting that the fortress was constructed at a much later date than originally assumed.

20 Pieces of Evidence That Support Events in the Bible
An engraved seal depicting Herod the Great; author and date unknown. Wikimedia Commons.

3. Although not corroborating the biblical narrative of Herod hunting Jesus, the King of Judea unquestionably existed and ruled, at least at times, in a tyrannical fashion

Herod I, also known as Herod the Great, reigned as the Roman client king of Judea and acts as a key antagonist in the New Testament narrative of the life of Jesus. Claimed in the Gospel of Matthew to have ordered the so-called “Massacre of the Innocents” and the murder of the baby Jesus in response to a prophecy, no historical evidence exists to support or corroborate this alleged event, which is today widely regarded as a fictitious invention by later Christians. However, this untrue insertion does not overrule the existence of Herod as ruler of Judea at the time of Jesus’ birth or his immense influence upon the world in which Jesus grew up.

A controversial ruler, Herod did unquestionably exist and was possessed of murderous proclivities. Responsible for the deaths of his wife, brother-in-law, and three of his sons, in addition to hundreds of others, Matthew’s depiction of Herod as a cruel and authoritarian ruler was not without merit. Dying in 4 BCE, the estimated year of Jesus’ birth, Herod was buried in a gigantic mausoleum complete with a pool more than twice the size of an Olympic swimming pool. Unfortunately, despite recovering his sarcophagus, along with definitive proof corroborating countless Roman sources of Herod’s existence, his body has already been looted.

20 Pieces of Evidence That Support Events in the Bible
“Ecce Homo”, translated as “Behold the Man!”. By Antonio Ciseri (c.1860-1880). Wikimedia Commons.

2. Like Herod, supporting historical evidence for the existence of Pontius Pilate, the Roman official responsible for condemning Jesus to death, is abundant

Pontius Pilate, the fifth prefect of the Roman province of Judea under the reign of Emperor Tiberius, is widely held by the Christian biblical narrative as the official responsible for the trial and sentencing of Jesus. Detailed as seeking to spare Jesus his execution, appealing to the crowd for his pardon, all four canonical gospels depict Pilate as eventually relenting to popular demand and washing his hands of the affair. Although this narrative is uncertain, with no corroborating evidence to support it, the existence of Pilate, in general, is upheld by a number of independent historical sources, among them the “Pilate Stone”.

Discovered in 1961, the Pilate Stone is a limestone block bearing a Latin inscription situated behind the stage house of the Roman theatre at Caesarea: the administrative center of the Roman governors of Judea. Detailing that Pilate was indeed a prefect of Judea, this archaeological find offers plausible support to his overall role in Jesus’ involvement with the authorities. In addition to the Pilate Stone, the Roman official was recorded by several contemporary historical writers, including Tacitus, Philo, and Josephus, who highlight his harsh suppression of religious dissent and eventual removal in or around 37 CE for these oppressive tactics.

20 Pieces of Evidence That Support Events in the Bible
“Judas Iscariot”, by James Tissot (c. 1886-1894). Wikimedia Commons.

1. Among the most important figures in the Christian canon, the existence of Judas Iscariot was not widely accepted by the historical community for many years

Judas Iscariot, one of the original Twelve Disciples of Jesus, remains among the most notorious and important individuals in the New Testament, responsible for the betrayal of Jesus to the Romans in the Garden of Gethsemane. Today synonymous with betrayal and widely accepted to have been a real person, lacking corroborating evidence outside Christian literature, the literal existence of Judas was a topic of considerable historical debate for many centuries. Relying instead on logical argumentation rather than actual earthly discoveries, historians have coalesced around the firm conclusion that such a person did indeed exist.

Firstly, as reasoned by Ehrman who contended Judas’ betrayal “is about as historically certain as anything else in the tradition”, the inclusion of an Apostle turning on Jesus would not have been made up for its negative aspersions cast upon the divine persona by connotation. Moreover, few narrative traditions are shared by all four canonical gospels, contradicting each other on many other crucial points; Judas, in contrast, is almost unique in their collective agreement. As a result, the prevailing historical opinion has concluded that although “we only know two basic facts about Judas”, one of these is that “he handed over Jesus to the Jerusalem authorities”.

 

Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

History Collection – David vs. Goliath: Round Two of the Little Guy Triumphs

Biblical Archeology Society – The Tel Dan Inscription: The First Historical Evidence of King David from the Bible

British Library – The Ten Plagues of Egypt

The Washington Post – No, really: There Is A Scientific Explanation For The Parting Of The Red Sea In Exodus

The New York Times – Tomb May Hold the Bones of Priest Who Judged Jesus

“Setting the Record Straight: What Are We Making of the Tel Dan Inscription”, George Athas, Journal of Semitic Studies (2006)

“Jesus and the Rise of Early Christianity: A History of the New Testament”, Paul Barnett, InterVarsity Press (2002)

“For the Very First Time: A Residential Building from the Time of Jesus was Exposed in the Heart of Nazareth”, Israeli Antiquities Authority (December 21, 2009)

“The First Intermediate Period and the Middle Kingdom”, Harco Willems, in “A Companion to Ancient Egypt”, Alan B. Lloyd, John Wiley & Sons (2010)

“Edom, Edomites: Archaeological Encyclopaedia of the Holy Land”, Avraham Negev and Shimon Gibson, Continuum Publishing (2005)

“Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times”, Donald Redford, Princeton University Press (1992)

“Resurrecting the Brother of Jesus: The James Ossuary Controversy and the Quest for Religious Relics”, Ryan Byrne, University of North Carolina Press (2009)

“Just James: The Brother of Jesus in History and Tradition”, John Painter, University of South Carolina Press (2004)

“King Solomon’s Wall Found: Proof of Bible Tale?”, Mati Milstein, National Geographic Magazine (February 27, 2010)

“The Flood Myth”, Alan Dundes, University of California Press (1988)

“From Eden to Exile: Unravelling Mysteries of the Bible”, Eric H. Cline, National Geographic (2007)

“Recent Discoveries in the City of David, Jerusalem”, R. Reich, E. Shukron, and O. Lernau, Israel Exploration Journal (2007)

“The Tower of Babel and the Origin of the World’s Cultures”, Theodore Hiebert, Journal of Biblical Literature (2007)

“Understanding the Bible”, Stephen L. Harris, McGraw-Hill Publishing (2006)

“The Geopolitical History of Philistine Gath”, W. Schniedewind, Bulletin of the American School of Oriental Research (1998)

“Excavating Philistine Gath: Have We Found Goliath’s Hometown”, A. Maeir and C. Ehrlich, Biblical Archaeological Review (2001)

“The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of its Sacred Texts”, Israel Finkelstein, Touchstone (2002)

“Fit for a Queen: Jezebel’s Royal Seal”, Marjo C.A. Korpel, Biblical Archaeological Society (2008)

“History and Ideology in the Old Testament”, James Barr, Oxford University Press (2005)

“Nehemiah’s Wall Found”, Stephen Flurry, The Trumpet (January 2008)

“Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence”, Robert E. Van Voorst, Eerdmans Publishing (2000)

“The Historical Figure of Jesus”, Ed P. Sanders, Allen Lane Penguin Press (1994)

“Biblical plagues and the parting of Red Sea ‘caused by volcano'”, Jonathan Petre, The Telegraph (November 11, 2002)

“Ancient Israel in Sinai: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Wilderness Tradition”, James K. Hoffmeier, Oxford University Press (2005)

“Isaiah: A Commentary”, Brevard S. Childs, John Knox Press (2000)

“Caiaphas’ Cave”, Times Magazine (August 24, 1992)

“Caiaphas: Friend of Rome and Judge of Jesus?”, Helen Catharine Bond, John Knox (2004)

“Israeli Archaeologist Says He Has Found King David’s Citadel”, Associated Press (May 7, 2014)

“Carbon dating undermines biblical narrative for ancient Jerusalem tower”, Amanda Borschel-dan, Times of Israel (June 19, 2017)

“The Many Faces of Herod the Great”, Adam Kolman Marshak, Eerdmans Publishing (2015)

“The Life and Times of Herod the Great”, Stewart Perowne, Sutton (2003)

“A New Inscription Which Mentions Pilate as ‘Prefect'”, Jerry Vardaman, Journal of Biblical Literature (1962)

“Pontius Pilate in History and Interpretation, Helen K. Bond”, Cambridge University Press (1998)

“Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium”, Bart D. Ehrman, Oxford University Press (1999)

“Judas: A Biography”, Susan Gubar, W.W. Norton & Company (2009)

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