Test #3: What additional historical evidence supports the Jesus of the Bible?
The Bible can be investigated historically. The writers named cities, kings, religious rulers, battles, and important people that can be verified or denied by archeology and written historical records.
As mentioned earlier, historian Dr. William Ramsay said the following about Luke (wrote Book of Luke and Acts). “But, while recognizing the risk, and the probable condemnation that awaits the rash attempt, I will venture to add one to the number of the critics, by stating in the following chapters reasons for placing the author of Acts among the historians of the first rank.” Dr. Ramsay wrote an entire book supporting his reasons for classifying Luke’s Book of Acts as historically accurate.
I will briefly examine three areas I believe give additional evidence for the historical reliability of the Bible.
- Dating of the texts
- Manuscript evidence
- Testimony of the writers
1. Dating of the 4 Gospels
For this discussion I will not address the dating of the Book of John. Let’s start with some historical dates that are uncontested and accepted by the vast majority of scholars.
- Fall of Jerusalem AD 70
- Martyrdom of Paul and Peter AD 68
- Letters from Paul AD 45-68
- Crucifixion of Jesus AD 32
Jesus was most likely crucified in AD 32-33. The vast majority of New Testament scholars date the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) within the lifetime of the eyewitnesses of the life of Jesus. Many scholars, such as the Jesus Seminar, try to late date the Gospels after AD 70. I believe a primary reason is the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) all contain a prediction or prophecy by Jesus accurately describing the destruction of the temple, which occurred in AD 70. If Jesus actually made this prediction 40 years prior, this would qualify as an incredible supernatural prophecy. Historians who reject the possibility of the supernatural reject the idea Jesus could have known the temple would be destroyed. In Luke 21:5-6 (also Matt. 24:1-2, Mark 13:1)we read, “Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, 6 “As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.” These verses are so accurate the anti-supernatural scholars feel forced to say these Gospel writers had to write after AD 70.
What this shows is an anti-supernatural bias. Before any evidence is examined, their belief that miracles are impossible, force them to say the Gospels were written after AD 70. However, in recent years there are a growing number of scholars who date the Gospels from AD 40 to AD 70.
One example supporting an earlier dating is the fact that the Book of Acts doesn’t record the death of the Apostle Paul in 68 AD. The deaths of other key disciples (Stephen in Acts 7:60, James in Acts 12:2) were described in Acts. A description of Paul’s death would have been important because of his major role in the early church.
Another interesting proof is the fact that Luke records the prophecy of Jesus proclaiming that the temple would be completely destroyed and yet, it is never mentioned. Wouldn’t you think that if the book of Acts was written after 70 AD Luke would have proudly included the destruction of the temple as a fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy? This event would have confirmed the very words of Jesus. Yet, instead what we find is no mention of the destruction of the temple. It is only logical to conclude that Luke wrote Acts prior to the annihilation of the temple.
Finally, nothing is said of the death of Peter, the other key player in the Book of Acts. Ancient writers record he was crucified upside down before the destruction of the temple in 70 AD and yet, nothing is mentioned in Acts concerning his death.
Based on the evidence, if we date Dr. Luke’s second book, the Book of Acts, around 64-68 then the Gospel of Luke, his first book, must have been written years earlier. This means the book of Luke was written 25-35 years after the crucifixion of Jesus. Many scholars believe Luke was written after Matthew and Mark. The time period after the death of Jesus and the writing of the Gospels is not nearly enough to develop a legend. This short span of time between the events occurring and their recording meets the criteria for accurate historical reliability.
 Ramsay, William, “Paul the Traveler and Roman Citizen,” HODDER AND STOUGHTONLONDON MCMVII, Database © 2004 WORDsearch Corp
 Moreland, J.P. & Kai Nielsen, “Does God Exist,” Debate, Prometheus Books, 1993 pg. 39
 Moreland, J.P., “Scaling the Secular City,” Baker Book House, 1987 pg. 14
 Ibid., pg. 39
 Moreland, J.P., “Scaling the Secular City,” Baker Book House, 1987 pg. 152-154
 Ibid., pg. 207
 Craig, William Lane, “Reasonable Faith,” Crossway Books, 1984 pg. 207