A Book to trust #11 Archaeology confirming or denying claims of the Bible #2 New Testament

Concerning New Testament events have also receiving much debate, a.o. concerning the events around the birth of the Nazarene Jeshua (Jesus Christ) and the events around the person himself. The physician Luke, who was chosen to follow the rebbe, his book, with the accounts of the life of Jesus, was also scoffed at by critics unable to find outside support for persons and events mentioned within it. Though critics presumed it guilty until proven innocent, the book of Luke is continually being affirmed by on-going archaeology. Research shows that not many years prior to Jesus’ birth a regular enrolment of taxpayers by Rome was actually initiated. Such a census or an enumeration of people, houses, firms, or other important items took place in Syria and Judea, the southernmost of the three traditional divisions of ancient Palestine, as documented in an ancient inscription called the Titulus Venetus. {Habermas, G.R. ‘The Verdict of History’ Thomas Nelson, Inc. 1988 p.152}

In several places could be found papyrus rolls with information the way of life and the organisation of life at the Roman Empire. An Egyptian papyrus from 104 CE confirms the necessity of returning to one’s homeland for this census:

“Because of the approaching census it is necessary that 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.” {Elder, op. cit.}

Lots of people do forget that in civilian papers there is also a lot which can be found about the for the religious leaders at the beginning of our contemporary era annoying figure born from the tribe of King David. Civic writings talk about two figures with the name Jeshua, both being rebellious in a certain way, but the one called Jeshua but also known as Jahushua or Jeshua Ben Josef (Jesus the son of Joseph) or son of Josef or (in old spelling) Yosef ben Dovid (Joseph the son of David) preaching not a fight with weapons but more calling for peace, whilst the other Jesus being more a ancient Robin Hood, living in caves of the desert and attacking the Roman convoys.

Both lived at the time of Pontius Pilate, governor of Judea, which many also did not want to believe he would have existed. In 1961 when an excavation of Caesarea, the Roman capital of Palestine, was uncovered an inscription bearing both Pilate’s name and title was found proving this man was a Roman equestrian (knight) of the Samnite clan of the Pontii (hence his name Pontius) who became the Roman prefect (governor) of Judaea (26–36 ce), through the intervention of Sejanus, a favourite of the second Roman emperor (14–37 ce) and adopted son of Augustus, Tiberius. (That his title was prefect is confirmed by an inscription from Caesarea in Palestine.) {Encyclopedia Britannica + McDowell, Josh ‘He Walked Among Us’ Here’s Life 1988 p.215}

Similarly did the Roman official who dismissed the charges brought by the Jews against the apostle Paul (Acts 18:12–17),  Junius Gallio, proconsul of Achaea, and Lysanias, tetrarch of Abilene, go from Bible myth to archaeological fact. {Norman Geisler, Ron Brooks ‘When Skeptics Ask’ SP Publ. 1990 p.2010}

The elder brother of the philosopher and tragedian Lucius Annaeus Seneca, Novatus assumed the name Gallio after his adoption by the senator Junius Gallio. Upon the accession of the emperor Claudius (reigned 41–54), Gallio probably accompanied his illustrious brother into exile on the island of Corsica, Seneca having fallen victim to the intrigues of Claudius’ wife, Messalina. The two brothers evidently returned to Rome in 49, when Claudius’ new wife, Agrippina the Younger, selected Seneca to be tutor to the emperor Nero (reigned 54–68). The episode involving the apostle Paul, which occurred when Gallio was serving as proconsul of Achaea (in Greece) in 51, indicates that Roman provincial officials at that time were remaining aloof from the struggle between the Jews and the new Christian religion. He became consul in 55. After Nero forced Seneca to commit suicide, Gallio also took his own life.{Encyclopedia Britannica}

Wien- Parlament-Tacitus.jpg
Modern statue representing the senator and a historian of the Roman Empire Tacitus outside the Austrian Parliament Building

We may not forget there were also some known public figures in the entourage of the Nazarene rebbe Jeshua. Being of a certain importance they got the title of Publius as “first man” and this use of “politarchs” as civil authorities were neither believed by critics until discovered in non-biblical texts. Only after those discoveries anti-bible people wanted to accept that the doctor Luke was one of those public figures like the Roman general and politician under the first Roman emperor Augustus, Publius Quinctilius Varus and Publius Cornelius Tacitus (56 AD – c.120), better known as Tacitus, a senator and a historian of the Roman Empire, the Roman senator and historian who also has provided lots of material for getting to know the period and persons better who lived in the region where the rebbe and his followers preached, around the first century of this common era. The surviving portions of his two major works—the Annals and the Histories—examine the reigns of the emperors Tiberius, Claudius, Nero, and those who reigned in the Year of the Four Emperors (69 CE). These two works span the history of the Roman Empire from the death of Augustus, in 14 CE, to the years of the First Jewish–Roman War, in 70 CE.

As a physician Luke knew very well what was possible and what was exceptional or even unbelievable, to surpass the normal or usual. Being a Publius he was not just some ordinary doctor, but respected public figure. The other person who also received much respect and was known to be a very religious man was Saul, the Pharisee, by English speaking Christians better known as apostle Paul.
After the death of Jesus of Nazareth (the Christ, or the Anointed One of God) in the 1st century this self-righteous religious zealot looked with disgust at the followers of that man who went against his known Jewish doctrines. As a devout Jew and strong defender of the Jewish faith he was dedicated to persecuting the early disciples of Jeshua (Jesus) who instead of diminishing spread in the area of Jerusalem. He had consented to Stephen’s death. (Acts 8:1)

The brother of the Nazarene rebbe after he had witnessed all those things which happened to his brother got his other brothers Joseph (Joses), Judas (Jude), and Simon interested to defend the teachings of their brother Jeshua and to make communities where he was taken as the brother of the community, with its members as “Brothers in Christ”, forming the first little Christian groups. We can find Alexandrian, Western Greek manuscripts with mentioning “Joseph” (Ἰωσήφ) being looked at as  a leader of such group of followers of Christ. Saul was determined to get rid of those groups which for him spread like a fungus.

Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, James D. Tabor, co-founder with Herbert W. Armstrong and president of the Worldwide Church of God, later to become in some countries the Grace Communion International (GCI) or Radio Church of God, did a lot of research on the 1st century era and found how the extended family founded a royal dynasty in the days before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE.. In the 3rd century, biological relatives on account of their connection with the nuclear family of Jesus, without explicit reference to brothers or sisters, were called the desposyni {Sextus Julius Africanus Africanus, The Epistle to Aristides, p. 242}, from the Greek δεσπόσυνοι, plural of δεσπόσυνος, meaning “of or belonging to the master or lord” {δεσπόσυνος. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project.}. Tertullian (c. 160 – c. 225) had already recognised that brotherhood and the 3rd-century Antidicomarianites (“opponents of Mary”) maintained that, when Joseph became Mary’s husband, he was a widower with six children, and that he had normal marital relations with Mary, but they later held that Jesus was not born of these relations.

The Conversion & Call of Saul of Tarsus

After having killed many of Jesus his followers Saul got a very strange experience, been thrown of his horse and been blinded. for him that even was a turning point in his life. Having been such an uncompromising opponent of the followers of Jesus, he converted to their faith and even became one of the most zealous champions of that faith.

Bartolomeo Montagna - Saint Paul - Google Art Project.jpg
saul of Tarsus or Paul who became the writer of many important 1st centur letters to followers of Jeshua (Jesus Christ, the Anointed of God)

The form of Christianity that grew out of this movement, led by the apostle Paul, was, according to Tabor, a decisive break with the Ebionite-like original teachings of John the Baptist and his cousin Jeshua the Jewish rabbi Jesus). In a back-jacket endorsement Arthur J. Droge, Professor of New Testament and Early Christian Literature and Director at the University of California at San Diego, writes

“James Tabor presents what may be the boldest reconstruction yet of the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth. Working with the surviving evidence like a CSI detective – especially the testimonies concerning Jesus’ family and the Jerusalem Nazarenes – Tabor succeeds in reinscribing what has been lost (and in some cases erased) from the historical record. At once scholarly and accessible, Tabor’s book may very well inaugurate a new phase in the quest for the historical Jesus.”

Craig L. Blomberg records a number of archaeological finds that coincide with events recorded in the gospel according to John:

Remains of the Second Temple Pool of Siloam.
The Judgment on the Gabbatha by James Tissot, c. 1890

 

 

Archaeologists have unearthed the five porticoes of the pool of Bethesda by the Sheep Gate (John 5:2), the pool of Siloam (9:1-7), Jacob’s well at Sychar (4:5), the ‘Pavement’ or  judgment  place (Gabbatha – Aramaic גבתא) or Lithostrōtos (Greek λιθόστρωτος) where Pilate tried Jesus (19:13), and Solomon’s porch (Portico or Colonnade) in the temple precincts (10:22-23)… Since then, discovery of an ossuary (bone-box) of a crucified man named Johanan from first-century Palestine confirms that nails were driven in his ankles, as in Christ’s; previously some skeptics thought that the Romans used only ropes to affix the legs of condemned men to their crosses.  Though already for a long time historians had discussed the killing of robbers and murderers by the Romans, it being done not on crosses put on wooden poles or stakes, with a little platform for the feet so that they would not fall from the stake. Based on examination of historical sources that Jesus Christ died on the cross, it took unto the findings of the Swedish theologian Gunnar Samuelsson and some previous defenders of such theory that at last more people came to consider the Renaissance pictures of a crucified Jesus false representations and accepted the words of the original texts were there is written “wooden stake”. Though it is also known that sometimes the Romans  simply tied a victim to a cut tree or wooden stake, in which case he might live for several days before he died from pain, thirst, hunger, and exposure to the sun. In other cases, such as the execution of Jesus, they nailed the hands and feet of the accused to a stake. (Lu 24:20; Joh 19:14-16; 20:25; Ac 2:23, 36)​

17 Bearing the torture stake for himself, he went out to the so-called Skull Place,+ which is called Golʹgo·tha in Hebrew.+ 18 There they nailed him to the stake+ alongside two other men, one on each side, with Jesus in the middle.+ {Joh 19:17, 18 Study Bible}

In the original manuscripts can be found Stau·rosʹ which in both the classical Greek and Koine carries no thought of a “cross” made of two timbers. It means only an upright stake, pale, pile, or pole, as might be used for a fence, stockade, or palisade. Douglas’ New Bible Dictionary of 1985 under “Cross,” page 253 says :

“The Gk. word for ‘cross’ (stauros; verb stauroo . . . ) means primarily an upright stake or beam, and secondarily a stake used as an instrument for punishment and execution.”

When reading the Bible we should be careful not to be carried way by paintings or pictures, human imaginations we have seen, but should keep ourselves to the historical facts and to the plain words lie they are written in the collected books of the Biblical Canon.

At a certain time people did not know about certain facts but more and more archaeologists uncover the hidden facts of ancient past. There still has to be uncovered a lot, but that does not mean we have to wait until we see the proof for those mentioned people in the Bible of mentioned events.

Sir William Ramsay, famed archaeologist, began a study of Asia Minor with little regard for the book of Acts. He later wrote

I may fairly claim to have entered on this investigation without prejudice in favor of the conclusion which I shall now seek to justify to the reader. On the contrary, I began with a mind unfavorable to it,… 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. {Ramsay, William M. ‘St. Paul the Traveler and the Roman Citizen’ Baker ,1982 p.8}

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Preceding

A Book to trust #1 Background book for debate

A Book to trust #2 Book of Truth

A Book to trust #3 Creation and Creator

A Book to trust #4 Cause of Being and Truth

A Book to trust #5 Words directed to create order

A Book to trust #6 True God and true words

A Book to trust #7 Heavenly Father not withholding knowledge

A Book to trust #8 Father of the universe wanting His creatures to know Him

A Book to trust #9 Consistency

A Book to trust #10 Archaeology confirming or denying claims of the Bible #1 Old Testament

Next

A Book to trust #12 Archaeology confirming or denying claims of the Bible #3 Material evidence to survive

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Additional reading

  1. A fact of History or just a fancy Story
  2. Objects around the birth and death of Jesus
  3. Jesus three days in hell
  4. Swedish theologian finds historical proof Jesus did not die on a cross
  5. Icons and crucifixes
  6. Marriage of Jesus 7 Impaled

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