Part 8 How does archeology support the New Testament

We have greater archeological support for the New Testament than the Old because of the more recent historical events.  Over the years there have been important finds that give credence to the Biblical Jesus.

The New Testament contains 27 books.  The four Gospels that tell the life of Jesus are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  Each of the four writers included incredible detail to provide the historian with a clear picture of whom Jesus was and the surrounding culture.  The historical book after the Gospels is the Book of Acts.  Here we have the record of the early church with disciples spreading the word about the resurrected Jesus.  Over the years key journals have recorded archeological digs supporting the accuracy of these five books (4 Gospels & Acts) of the New Testament.

Concerning the Book of Acts, author Luke was extremely careful in his recounting the growth of the early Christian Church. The description of cities the Apostles visited is no longer in question as to their historical accuracy.  One notable historian Sir William Ramsay, a skeptic, was determined to develop an independent historical/geographical study of first-century Asia Minor. He assumed the Book of Acts was unreliable and tried to ignore its historical references in his studies. However, the amount of usable historical information concerning first-century Asia Minor was too little for him to proceed. In desperation he was forced to consult the Book of Acts for any possible help. Ramsay discovered that it was remarkably accurate and true to first-century history. The following is Ramsay testifying to what changed his mind: 

“I may fairly claim to have entered on this investigation without prejudice in favour of the conclusions which I shall now seek to justify to the reader. On the contrary, I began with a mind unfavourable to it, for the ingenuity and apparent completeness of the Tübingen theory had at one time quite convinced me. It did not then lie in my line of life to investigate the subject minutely, but more recently I found myself brought into contact with the Book of Acts as an authority for the topography, antiquities and society of Asia Minor. It was gradually borne upon me that in various details the narrative showed marvelous truth. In fact, beginning with a fixed idea that the work was essentially a second century composition, and never relying on its evidence as trustworthy for first century conditions, I gradually came to find it a useful ally in some obscure and difficult investigations.”[1]  

Ramsay's concluded that “Luke's history is unsurpassed in respect to its trustworthiness.”[2]   He went on to state, “Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements trustworthy . . . this author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.”[3]  As a skeptic Ramsay was forced to change his mind about the Book of Acts based on the evidence.  We learn a great deal about the early church and the life of the early disciples from this book.

In the Book of John we find historical support from archeological evidence. In chapter 5 we come across a story of Jesus healing a man at the pool of Bethesda.  In his account John writes that five colonnades (columns) surrounded this pool.  Now this seems to be an insignificant detail.  Why write about such a trivial matter as to how many columns surround the pool?

Some scholars say John wrote his gospel 40-50 years after the death of Jesus.  If they are right, and I am not saying they are, that’s an extended amount of time since the healing took place.  Personally, I would have had a hard time 50 years later just remembering the healing occurred by a pool not to mention remembering 5 columns.

So guess what happened? A few years ago an archeological dig uncovered a pool like the one mentioned in John 5.  And what do you think they found?  It had 5 columns surrounding it.  Now this doesn’t prove the Bible is historically accurate but don’t you think it is significant that John included this seemingly insignificant detail.  Why would John be so precise in his description of the place where Jesus healed a man?  I believe it is because he wanted to honor Jesus Christ by recording the events accurately.  The Bible, as opposed to the vast majority of spiritual writings, opens itself up to historical investigation.  If Christianity is a make believe story, this is a terrible mistake; historians would have a field day destroying the Bible.  In actuality scholarly books have been written detailing the many archeological finds that support the New Testament.

Other religious books have been shown to be fiction based on the lack of historical evidence.  The Book of Mormon serves as a prime example.  Archeologists have shown the historical evidence for the writings of Joseph Smith cannot be supported.  There is zero evidence for the ancient people Joseph Smith writes about.  Organizations like the Smithsonian Institute have concluded the Book of Mormon is simply a made up story; it is a fable, a myth created by the fertile imagination of Joseph Smith.

Go to part 9 here


[1] Sir William Ramsay, St. Paul The Traveler and Roman Citizen. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1962, p. 36

[2] ibid. p. 81

[3] Sir William Ramsay, The Bearing of Recent Discoveries on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1953, p. 222

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