Archeology Proves the Bible—Part 4

The New Testament Bears Witness

PALESTINE, the land which God promised to Abraham and his posterity, is also the country in which Jesus, the world’s Redeemer and Savior, was born. It was here that he conducted his world-changing ministry. It was here that he died to redeem the world of mankind from sin and death, and it was here that he rose from the dead. In Palestine today there are many legendary places which are shown to tourists, who are told that here Jesus did this, and here Jesus did that. On this hill he was crucified, they are told, and in this tomb he was buried.

It is natural that this should be true with respect to such an outstanding personage as Jesus. However, few of these legendary places have been authenticated as the actual sites of the occurrences associated with them. On the other hand, there is much in Palestine which does confirm the fact that this is the land in which Jesus was born, and where he served and died, and was raised from the dead; for there is much in this ancient Holy Land which has not changed since the Master walked in it in the pursuit of his ministry.

Jesus was a man of peace. He did not command a large and conquering army; he did not destroy and burn walled cities, leaving ruins to be discovered by archeologists later. But tracing the ministry of the Son of God, the New Testament identifies many geographical facts which are true of Palestine today. There is the river Jordan. It is the same Jordan in which Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. There is also the Sea of Galilee referred to so many times in connection with Jesus’ ministry. This is the same body of water on which Jesus walked and sailed, and it was at the Sea of Galilee that his fishermen disciples were found, and invited to become fishers of men. It was on the shore of Galilee that Jesus fed the five thousand with a small amount of bread and fish.


Capernaum was one of the principal cities on the shore of Galilee in the days of Jesus. Much of his early ministry was conducted here, and a number of his miracles were performed. He preached in the synagogue in Capernaum. On one of Jesus’ visits to Capernaum he said to the people of the city, “And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.”—Matt. 11:23

This was in reality a pronouncement of destruction that would come upon the city of Capernaum. “Hell” is the death condition, not a place of torment, and Capernaum was destroyed as a city, and remains in ruins to this day. A similar pronouncement was made upon Chorazin and Bethsaida. These cities, on or near the shore of Galilee, had been highly favored, even by nature, and principally because the Son of God bore witness to the truth in them, by word of mouth and by his mighty miracles. But where are these cities today? Two of them are marked by desolate heaps of ruins, while the exact location of the third is an uncertainty.

A synagogue has been constructed amidst the ruins of Capernaum, but it is not the ancient synagogue in which Jesus preached. The old synagogue lies buried beneath the ruins of this ancient and honorable city upon which Jesus pronounced doom. The ruins of Capernaum are an attraction of tourists today, but probably few of these tourists, when viewing these ruins, realize that they stand out as incontrovertible testimony to the accuracy of history pertaining to Jesus and the infallible nature of his prophecy. By contrast Tiberius, which also existed in Jesus’ day, still stands on the shore of Galilee because Jesus uttered no pronouncement of destruction against it.

The Pool of Siloam

The pool of Siloam is mentioned in connection with one of Jesus’ miracles—the giving of sight to a man who had been born blind. We read concerning this that Jesus “spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, and said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.”—John 9:6,7

Zev Vilnay, Ph.D., author of “Israel Guide,” informs us that at least a part of this pool can still be seen. King Hezekiah had a tunnel built from a spring outside the walls of Jerusalem to the pool of Siloam, which was within the walls. This was to supply water to the people of the city in case of siege. Dr. Vilnay writes, “The tunnel is still extant, its length being 553 m. (as the crow flies 335 m.) The waters of the Gihon flow through it from a height of 650 m. to the pool of Siloam, twenty m. lower down. From the Spring of Gihon the pool of Siloam can be reached through the dry bed of the Kidron.”

Here is another landmark of Jesus’ day. It is not a legend, but the authentic pool of water where the blind man washed, and through this cooperation with the Master, received his sight.

Jesus’ Last Days

The entire earthly life and ministry of Jesus is of vital concern to all Christians. While Jesus was for a time popular with the common people, largely because he was able to heal them of their diseases, and on some occasions restored their dead to life, the religious rulers were opposed to him, and his ministry was brought to what appeared to be an Ignominious end. His appearance in Israel and his conflict with the religious leaders were not considered important to historians, so little attention is given to him in secular history, although he is not completely ignored. The Roman historians Tacitus and Suetonius both refer to Christ; also Josephus, as we shall see.

The closing days of Jesus’ ministry are of special importance to us because through his death an opportunity of life was provided for all mankind. Concerning the Bible’s record of these tragic closing days, Werner Keller, in his book, The Bible as History has this to say:

“The descriptions of the trial, sentence, and crucifixion in the four Gospels have been checked with scientific thoroughness by many scholars and have been found to be historically reliable accounts even to the last detail. The chief witnesses for the prosecution against Jesus have been indirectly attested, and the place where sentence was pronounced has been accurately ascertained by excavations. The various incidents in the course of the trial can be verified from contemporary sources and modern research.”—p. 371

The Pavement

John 19:13 reads, “When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha.” It was from this Pavement that Pilate delivered Jesus to be crucified. (John 19:16) Father L. H. Vincent, an archeologist, through years of hard work, has found this Pavement. It escaped destruction when Jerusalem was devastated in A.D. 70.

We now have very revealing archeological data concerning Pontius Pilate, who questioned and condemned Jesus on the Pavement in his judgment hall. The Roman rulers of the time made their home in Caesarea. We quote an observation concerning Caesarea from Israel Guide, by Zev Vilnay, Ph.D.:

“The Roman amphitheatre is on the seashore, south of the Crusader wall. It was built in the second century and its remains were unearthed in 1961. Various debris and a fragment of a Roman inscription were brought to light. It mentions Emperor Tiberius and Pontius Pilate. This is the first archeological evidence of the famed procurator of Judea under whose rule Jesus’ crucifixion took place. He persecuted the Jews and specially kindled their hatred by desecrating the temple and looting its treasures.”—p. 327

The Jewish historian Josephus speaks of Jesus and of the fact that it was Pilate who condemned him to death. We quote:

“Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him.”—Antiquities of the Jews, p. 535

Jerusalem Destroyed

Joseph us not only thus historically verifies that Jesus lived and served, was crucified and raised from the dead at the time the Bible indicates, but he also records the terrible experiences which came upon the people of Jerusalem and, in fact, on the whole nation of Israel, as foretold by Jesus. Jesus said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.”—Matt. 23:37-39

Jerusalem was the capital of ancient Israel, and her children referred to by Jesus would be all the Israelites in and out of the city itself. When Jesus said of Jerusalem, “Your house is left unto you desolate,” his reference was to the entire Jewish polity which till then enjoyed the distinct position of being exclusively God’s chosen people, the progeny of Abraham through whom all the families of the earth were to be blessed. However, the destruction of the literal city of Jerusalem is also implied in this statement.

Referring to the beautiful temple within the city of Jerusalem Jesus said, “There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” (Matt. 24:2) This prophecy had such a complete fulfillment that only a small section of one of the temple’s walls escaped destruction. This small section of the temple wall is now known as the Wailing Wall.

The historian Josephus records in considerable detail the horrible experiences which came upon the Jewish people in connection with the siege and destruction of Jerusalem. He points out that the Roman army surrounded Jerusalem at the time of the Passover when thousands of Jews from all over Palestine, and from other countries, were in the city. Countless thousands lost their lives by starvation, by disease and plague. Mothers killed their own children to procure food.

Finally, however, the Jews were subdued and the Romans took charge. This was in A.D. 70. However, many of the Jews surrendered to the Romans, and secured a measure of amnesty, while others, still defiant, escaped. Many of these were known as the Sicarii. These banded together against those who had surrendered to the Romans, and inflicted much punishment upon them. Under the leadership of one Eleazar, 960 of the Sicarii took refuge in a strong Roman fort called Masada, and there they held out against the Roman army for a long time. But when it became apparent that they would either have to surrender or be killed, they chose, upon the advice of their leader, to commit suicide. Only two women and three children did not join in this suicide pact, and these lived to tell the story of what had occurred within the fort, which turned out to be the Tomb of Masada.

The historical account of Josephus concerning Masada has now been verified by Prof. Yigael Yadin, Dean of Archeology in the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Prof. Yadin told his story of Masada to our representatives who interviewed him in his home near Jerusalem. He was asked, “Can you describe your work at Masada, and what you consider the most important aspect of your work there?” He replied:

“Well, Masada is an example of archeology which is different from excavating the tells or sites of the Old Testament. Here we had, archeologically speaking, a sitting duck, if I may use that expression. We had the writings of the famous Jewish historian, Flavius Joseph us, in which he says that he was a commander in the first revolt of the Jews against the Romans in A.D. 66. That was against Titus. He describes in his writings in great detail how in the end Jerusalem was captured and the temple was burned.

“Only in one spot, in Masada, were found Jews who were resisting. Here 960 men, women, and children were holding back the whole might of the Roman Empire. He tells us how in the end they were surrounded by the Romans and how a siege wall was built around the fort. When everything was hopeless the people decided to take their own lives by their own hands rather than to submit to the yoke of the Romans. Then he describes how every man embraced his wife and children and then killed them, and then killed himself—both dramatic and tragic at the same time.

“Therefore Masada, even before our excavation, was a sort of symbol to the people of Israel and the world. It was a symbol of the way our people prefer death to servitude. It was also a challenge and a reminder to people of what can happen. So we went to the site. We knew from the writing what happened there. But we did not know what we would find.

“This excavation, which took place in 1966, we did with the help of thousands of volunteers from twenty-seven countries in the world. We did not want to go to this excavation with disinterested workers. We thought it would be sort of blasphemous. So we asked for volunteers. And, amazingly, thousands came, as I said, from all over the world, and they worked under very difficult conditions, and lived in tents. And we managed in eleven months of hard work to uncover the whole of the site, which normally would have taken about 26 years of excavation.

“The question was, Are the descriptions of Josephus correct, and what will we find? We knew, for example, that the first to fortify the site prior to this was Herod the Great; and when we found his palace, with beautiful mosaics and all, we were all very thrilled. But this was not the greatest moment of the excavation. Sometimes in archeology it is not the nice thing which has a story behind it. Sometimes a very small thing has a very great story. This was particularly true when we came to a floor covered with a thick layer of ashes, which was the evidence of the last tragic moments of A.D. 73, because Josephus said that before they killed themselves they burned the palace. These were exciting moments when we found the evidence of this.

“When we found the sandals of women and children, pieces of cloth and of cosmetic objects, and we knew that these belonged to the people in their last tragic moments, these were the greatest moments of the dig. The greatest of these alone was perhaps when we found on the floor scrolls of the Bible, and we could see the tragedy of these people before they committed suicide. They had the Holy Scriptures with them. They did not want to burn them—they could not burn the Bible—so they left them where they were.

“We found that the Romans did tear the scrolls to pieces. But even the pieces we discovered were important scientifically, because by these we could establish the date. We know that this tragedy took place in A.D. 73. So we knew that whatever we found there was prior to this date—sometimes fifty or a hundred years before. So this is an example of how a book written two thousand years ago [Josephus’ history] was a guide—room to room, more or less—and it proved to be very accurate.

“We found the remains of the Books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and Psalms. One of the very interesting discoveries was the synagogue of these zealots. This, in fact, is the oldest synagogue known up to now, and it was under the floor of this synagogue that we found these scrolls. This was a Jewish custom. When a scroll went out of use, or was blemished, they used to bury it under the floor of the synagogue.

“Now these scrolls were under the earth, so we found them to be in very bad shape. One of them, for example, turned out to be the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel. Essentially the entire scroll was decomposed. The only part which remained intact was the famous chapter of the resurrection of dry bones. We found remains of most of the books of the Old Testament that would obviously be there. These were pious Jews. They brought their books with them, and they left them there.”

We surely thank Prof. Yadin for this revealing account of his findings at Masada. The story of Masada is, of course, not in the Bible, but it is closely related to the Bible in that it gives us a further insight into the experiences of the descendants of Abraham, who are the people of the Bible. Besides, it helps us to realize the accuracy of the prophecies of Jesus, as well as of the Old Testament, concerning the tragic experiences which would come upon this people, and of how they would be scattered throughout the world.


Prof. Yadin mentioned finding a part of the prophecy of Ezekiel referring to the resurrection of dry bones. This is found in Ezekiel 37:1-14. A “valley of dry bones” is mentioned and said to represent the whole house of Israel. These bones are seen to come together, flesh appears on them, and finally they are given breath and they live. While the resurrection of both Jews and Gentiles from the dead is promised throughout the Bible, this prophecy pertains to the resurrection of the Israelites as a people from the various national graves in which, through the centuries, they have been scattered. Many Old Testament prophecies assure us that at this end of the present age the Jews would be restored to their own land.

In the New Testament we find Jesus saying, “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” (Luke 21:24) Here Jesus’ reference to Jerusalem includes the entire Jewish polity. We will not discuss the point here, but actually “the times of the Gentiles” is a period in prophecy of 2,520 years beginning with 606 B.C., when Zedekiah, the last Jewish king, was overthrown, and ending in 1914. It was the World War that began then that led to the opportunity for the Jewish people to return to their Promised Land. How accurately, therefore, was Jesus’ prophecy fulfilled!

The Prophet Joel wrote, “For behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations.” (Joel 3:1,2) We have been witnesses to the fact that while the Israelites have been gathering in their own land, all nations have been gathering, for war on the one hand, and in the hope of maintaining peace on the other. Daniel refers to these general events as “a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation.” (Dan. 12:1) Jesus referred to this “time of trouble” as a time of “tribulation” upon the world, and said that if it were not shortened no flesh would be saved.—Matt 24:21,22

We all know that the trouble in the world today could erupt into a general conflagration which, by the misuse of the power of the atom could destroy the entire human race. Thus Jesus’ accuracy as a prophet is again attested. He assures us, however, that the destruction of all flesh will not be permitted.

Click here to go to Part 5
Dawn Bible Students Association
|  Home Page  |  Table of Contents  |