Posted by: Randall Niles | December 11, 2008

Biblical Archaeology in Israel

I’m just back from an incredible trip to Israel! My son and I had a number of archaeological sites to ourselves, since the tourist season was generally over. Hopefully, we got some good video footage and images for future leverage on the Internet. I also obtained some great antiquities from a contact in Jerusalem, so I’m excited to use those in future apologetics lessons…
I’m reminded that archeology wasn’t even a “soft” science prior to the 19th century — it was merely treasure hunting and grave robbing. Therefore, many excavations were botched and many discoveries were lost. With the rise in academic interest and technology, a systematic approach to archaeology has taken off in the last century, revealing a great deal about the ancient world. When it comes to the New Testament accounts, archaeology in Israel is now providing dramatic support!

The foundations of the Jewish Temple Mount built by Herod the Great still stand in Jerusalem. The “Southern Steps” where Jesus and his followers entered the Temple are preserved in an active excavation site. The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is generally considered a credible site for the birth place of Jesus. The huge Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem is also considered a reliable historical site covering the locations of the crucifixion and burial of Christ.

In the Galilee region, towns such as Nazareth and Tiberias are still active. Capernaum and Chorazin, two sites Jesus visited often, have been excavated and preserved. Sites of famous teachings such as Kursi (the swine miracle), Tabgha (loaves and fishes), Mount of Beatitudes (Sermon on the Mount) and Caesarea Philippi (Peter’s confession) are all preserved as reliable historical sites.

The archaeological support is growing every day…The synagogue at Capernaum where Jesus cured a man with an unclean spirit and delivered the sermon on the bread of life. The house of Peter at Capernaum where Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law and others. Jacob’s well where Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman. The Pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem, where Jesus healed a crippled man. The Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem, where Jesus healed a blind man. The huge city of Caesarea on the Mediterranean Sea, where Paul was imprisoned for two years awaiting his trial in Rome…

Of course, none of this archaeological evidence proves the underlying theology, but it’s very powerful support for the historical record. The places existed and the events happened. The specific writers were impacted by what they saw, and wrote credible accounts that are fully grounded in geographical, historical, and archaeological facts.

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