The Rocks Cry Out

  For the past decade, public discussion on the historical Jesus has centered on the work of a group of scholars who call themselves "The Jesus Seminar." This self-anointed group has it, as their mission, "to wrestle the popular perception of Jesus from fundamentalists who control the religious airwaves...." Their problem is that the evidence is lining up in favor of those the Seminar dismisses as "fundamentalists." Participants in the Seminar, like John Dominic Crossan, who teaches at De Paul University, believe that the Gospels are propaganda written by men who never knew Jesus. As such, their works cannot be relied upon as history. Crossan argues that when the Gospels describe the empty tomb of Jesus, they aren't describing an actual event. So what happened to Jesus' body? Why didn't his enemies produce it after stories of the resurrection began to spread? According to Crossan, wild dogs probably ate it. Especially since crucified criminals were never buried in the manner described in the Gospels. Rather, their bodies were thrown in common grave where animals could get to them. At least that's what scholars used to believe. That is, until archeologists recently discovered the remains of a crucified man, dating from the time of Jesus, who had been buried in much the same manner as the Gospels describe. So much for wild dogs! This isn't the only instance of the scholars' theories being overtaken by archeological facts. Until five years ago, many scholars doubted the Gospels' accounts of Jesus' trial before the Sanhedrin. They could find no extra-biblical evidence that there had ever been a high priest named Caiaphas. Then, in 1995, workers excavating outside Jerusalem came across a burial cave. Inside the cave was a casket marked "Joseph, the son of Caiaphas." And scholars soon concluded that the Caiaphas in the inscription was the same one referred to in the Gospels. Archeological confirmation isn't limited to historical figures. Scientists have discovered that the desire of the Gospel writers to spread the good news about Christ didn't prevent them from accurately portraying first-century Palestine. Mendel Nun, an Israeli archeologist, told Biblical Archaeology Review that he is "continually surprised at how accurately the New Testament writers reflect natural phenomena [around the Sea of Galilee]." Even more exciting, excavations have uncovered what some scholars believe is the home of the Apostle Peter in Bethsaida—the place that served as Jesus' headquarters for much of His ministry. Excavations in and around Bethsaida have confirmed the portrait of the region presented in the Gospels. Discoveries like these are a powerful rebuke of those who, like the Jesus Seminar, maintain that the Scriptures sacrifice history for the sake of proclamation. That should not come as a surprise since the Bible makes specific historical claims about Jesus. For the Gospel writers, history was an inseparable part of the Gospel—not something they made up to suit their purposes. It's this commitment to history that is being confirmed by archeologists. So, the next time your neighbors tell you that the Scriptures aren't trustworthy, tell them about what archeologists are discovering: If you really want to know about Jesus and His world, there's no place like the Bible.


Chuck Colson


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