Gospel Of John
John also wrote a big chunk of the New Testament, including the Gospel of John, letters, and the Book of Revelation, so that's where I went next... Again, I wasn't focusing on the "theological stuff" yet -- I just wanted to test the "historical" elements first...
Well, I soon discovered that John's accuracy is also supported by recent discoveries.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus heals a man at the Pool of Bethesda. John describes the pool as having five porticoes. 1 Until recently, this site was a point of scholarly skepticism. Then, 40 feet underground, archaeologists discovered a pool with five porticoes, and a surrounding area that perfectly matches John's description. 2 Later in the text, John describes the Pool of Siloam, 3 another site of contention for hundreds of years. Well, archaeologists discovered this pool in 1897. 4
Further in John's Gospel, John describes Pontius Pilate speaking to Jesus from the judgment seat in a place called "the Pavement" ("Gabbatha" in Hebrew). 5 For hundreds of years, scholars used this "myth" to reject John's record of Jesus and the trial by Pilate, because there was no historical record of a court called Gabbatha or "The Pavement" in Jerusalem. However, famous archaeologist William Albright revealed that this place was in fact the court of the Tower of Antonia, which was destroyed by the Romans in 66-70 AD. It was left buried when Jerusalem was rebuilt in the time of Hadrian, but it was recently uncovered during excavations there. 6
OK, that's great stuff for "site support," but what about some of these "larger-than-life" characters such as Pontius Pilate, the procurator of Rome who presided over the trial of Jesus?
Well, in 1961, archaeologists discovered a plaque fragment in Caesarea, a Roman city along the Mediterranean coast of Israel. The plaque was written in Latin and imbedded in a section of steps leading to Caesarea's Amphitheatre. The inscription includes the following: "Pontius Pilatus, Prefect of Judea has dedicated to the people of Caesarea a temple in honor of Tiberius." Emperor Tiberius reigned from 14 to 37 AD, perfectly meshing with the New Testament account that records Pontius Pilate ruling as governor from 26 to 36 AD. 7
Tacitus, a well-known first century Roman historian, also mentioned Pontius Pilate:
- Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus... 8
I was blown away...! Are there other ancient writings outside the Bible mentioning New Testament people and events -- even Jesus Himself?
I made a big star in my notes... I was definitely coming back to this one...!
OK, now what...?
All of this stuff happened -- historically, I mean... I still didn't accept the theological implications of these events, but they obviously happened nonetheless... They weren't myths... They weren't hoaxes... They were historical events.
So, how could I start testing the depths of these events? What drove the writers of the Bible to such passion? What compelled these men to write and defend such profound messages in connection with these historical events?
Come on! Were there really divine underpinnings to all of these books? Intellectually, I now knew something "metaphysical" was out there... More than "metaphysical" -- something with intelligence. But, could I really accept that these books were from outside our dimensions of time and space...?
I was ready to accept the Bible as a very special book. I was even ready to declare its historical trustworthiness. But the notion of "divine inspiration" still seemed a little over the edge to me. I just couldn't get my skeptical mind around that one
If God truly delivered this book from outside our four dimensions, wouldn't he just tell us? I understand that the writers of the Bible say it's divinely inspired, but that's not enough for me. It just seems that if God truly delivered this book to mankind through a group of 40 or so authors that he would give us something to hang our hats on Yes, I'm stunned by the Bible's historical veracity, archaeological support, internal integrity, etc. - the evidence is fantastic, and definitely sets the Bible apart -- but how could I ever be asked to jump the chasm from "really special book" to "divinely inspired letter from God"?
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1 John 5:1-15.
3 John 9:7.
5 John 19:13.
6 William Albright, The Archaeology of Palestine, Penguin Books, 1960.
7 Price, The Stones Cry Out, 307-308.
8 Tacitus, Annales, Historiae, Chapter 15, paragraphs 54.
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