Thursday, October 2, 2008


In the past 2 posts we looked at different kinds of "tests" to determine the reliability of the Bible as a true and accurate document. We looked at the reliability of the manuscripts, and also at the internal evidence- or the reliability and truthfulness of the actual writers of the Books contained in the Bible. This time, we'll look at the external evidence- that is from sources other than those who wrote the Bible, and focus more on other historical materials and also archeological evidences that point to the Bible as being inerrant in it's content, and the validity of the words and descriptions.While there aren't a ton of writings from non Christians - there are a number of sources which were written very close to the time of the Biblical authors who were the disciples and followers of Christ and the first Christian followers.The Jewish Historian Josephus (A.D 37-100) writings contain references to many of the people mentioned in the New Testament. From Antiquities XX 9:1, he writes, At this time, there was a wise man called Jesus... Pilate condemned Him to be condemned and to die. And those who had become His desciples did not abandon His discipleship. They reported that He had appeared to them three days after His crucifixion and that He was alive; accordingly, He was perhaps the Messiah concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders (xviii 33, Arabic text)
Roman historian Corneilius Tacitus (A.D 55?- after 115) Wrote: Hence to suppress the rumor, he (Emperor Nero) falsely charged with the guilt, and punished with the most exquisite tortures, the persons commonly called Christians, who were hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius: but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also. (Annals XV 44)
Greek Satirist, Lucian (2nd Century) wrote about Christ:The man who was crucified in Palestine because he introduced this new cult into the world....Furthermore, their first lawgiver persuaded them that they were all brothers one of another after they have transgressed once for all by denying the Greek gods and by worshipping that crucified sophist himself and living under his laws. (On the death of Peregrine)
These aren't exactly friendly views of Christ or His followers, which makes the evidence of the historical fact of Christ's crucifixion and the beginnings of Christian faith all the more believable. If there was only evidence from believers or those who sympathized with Christ and his followers, it just wouldn't be as believeable. Here's one more (although there are more, I don't have the space in one entry to include them all)
The Babylonian Talmud (Jewish Talmud completed in A.D. 500) contains the following reference to Jesus in the verse from Sanhedrin 43a, "Eve of Passover":On the eve of Passover they hanged Yeshu (of Nazareth) and the herald went before him for forty days saying (Yeshu of Nazareth) is going to be stoned in that he hath practiced sorcery and beguiled and led astray Israel. Let everyone knowing aught in his defense come and plead for him. But they found naught in his defense and hanged him on the ever of Passover.
Combining just the above quotes from secular sources, wecan see that there is evidence of an actual person named Jesus, from Nazareth, who by decree from Pontius Pilate- Roman Governor of Judea, was put to death by crucifixion on the cross. There is also evidence here that shows that people did in fact claim to see Jesus alive 3 days after His death. These statements show people, places and events which are written about in the Bible-
Now, for the second part of the external test, we come to look at archaeological evidence. Even only in the past few years there have been many major finds in and around Israel which show items from people and places written about in the Bible- both Old and New Testament times. Here are just a few examples, and if you're interested in learning more, I'll leave links at the end of this post for more articles.
We looked in the earlier post in this series at the Doctor Luke, who wrote the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts, and showed how he was meticulous in writing down geographical, political and other facts in his writings. At one time however, Historians thought Luke had totally goofed on his portrayal of place and times surrounding the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:1-3) Critics argued that there had been no census taken, that Quirinius was not Governor of Syria at that time and that no one had to return to their ancestral home place.
It is now known that Romans had a regular enrollment of taxpayers and that they also held a census every 14 years. This was begun under Agustus and the first took place in either 23 or 22 B.C. or in 9-8 B.C. The latter one would be the one which Luke was referring to.Also, evidence has been shown that Quirinius was governor of Syria around 7 B.C. This is based on an inscription found in Antioch ascribing to Quirinius. Because of this finding, it's assumed that he was governor twice- once in 7 B.C. and in 6A.D ( the date ascribed by Josephus)As for the practice of enrolling for the census, a papyrus found in Egypt gives the directions for this practice. It reads: Because of the approaching census it is necessary for all those residing for any cause away from their homes should at once prepare to return to their own governments in order that they may complete the family registration of the enrollment and that the tilled lands may retain those belonging to them.
Until 1961, the only historical reference to Pontius Pilate were only made because the Gospels alluded to him. Two Italian archaeologists excavated the Mediterranean port city of Caesarea that served as the Roman capital of Palestine (the name Palestine was given by the Romans) During their dig, they discovered a 2x3 foot inscription which read "Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judea, has presented the Tiberium to the Caesareans."
In the Northwest quarter of the Old city of Jerusalem, was the area known as Bathesda (New Town) in the 1st century A.D. Excavations near the area a hundred years ago uncovered the remains of an ancient Church which marked the spot of Bathseda. Later excavations uncovered the pool itself- or actually two pools,lying north and south with a rock partition between them.
Here's one more:
Matthew writes that some of the guards around Jesus' tomb came into the city to tell the chief priests all that had happened (after the Angel came and rolled the stone away from the cave opening) After talking about it all, the priests and elders paid the Roman soldiers a large sum of money in return for the soldiers telling everyone that they saw Jesus' own disciples come and roll the stone and take Jesus' body away. "You are to say, 'His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep' And if this should come to the governors ears, we will win him over and keep you out of trouble". (Matthew 28:11-15)
Well. this news did reach the governor and went all the way to Rome as well. The Emperor, most likely Claudius, sent word back to Palestine- his decree, originally written in Latin, and translated into Greek, was posted in Nazareth- the home of Jesus. In 1878, a white marble slab was found with this inscription:Ordinance of Caesar. It is my pleasure that graves and tombs remain perpetually undisturbed for those who have made them for the cult of their ancestors or children or members of their house. If, however, anyone charges that another has either extracted the buried, or maliciously transferred them to other places in order to wrong them, or displaced the sealing on other stones, against such a one I order that a trial be instituted, as in respect of the gods, so in regard to the cult of mortals. For it shall be much more obligatory to honor the buried. Let it be absolutely forbidden for anyone to disturb them. In case of violation I desire that the offender be sentenced to capital punishment on the charge of violation of sepulcher.
Scholars date the stone before A.D. 50, and since the Roman government didn't assume the administration of Galilee until after teh death of Agrippa, the inscription must have taken place after A.D. 44 Claudius was emperor from 41-54, and he expelled all Jews and Jewish Christians from Rome.He seems to have studied the Jewish situationand not liking it, he wrote in one of his letters of A.D. 41, that he "expressly forbids the Alexandrian Jews to bring or invite other Jews to come by sea from Syria. If they do not abstain from this conduce,I shall proceed against them for fomenting this malady common to the world. " It is commonly believed by use of the word 'malady', he was talking about the growing Christian community across the Roman Empire.
Well, that's about all the time I have for this subject. Please go to the previous 2 posts if you haven't read them yet, to understand how these historical tests have proved to millions that the Bible is inerrant, totally reliable in it's content and truthful in every way. Most of this evidence has been given for the New Testament, however as much evidence proves the validity of the Old Testament as well- and keeping in mind that the New Testament writers and Jesus Himself often quoted the Old Testament writings- therefore, proving the validity and truthfulness of them.
For further reading on Biblical Archaeological findings, here are plenty of links.

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