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Proof of Jesus Series: Article 2
In the March 22, 2012, issue of the Sentinel, Article 1 of the Proof of Jesus Series (entitled, "Was Jesus Christ a Real Person?") appeared wherein scholarly observations and archaeological evidence combined to validate the veracity of statements about Jesus made by Gospel writers.
Critics of the Bible have classified Jesus Christ in the same category as Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny. "If you believe in Jesus you probably believe in unicorns and leprechauns," say the scoffers, "and are frantically searching for that elusive pot of gold at the end of a fading rainbow!"
But these critics-amateur taxonomists, to be sure-are overlooking critical evidence that speaks to a historical Jesus. For example, a consideration of very real rulers who were contemporaries of Jesus of Nazareth more than suggests the very real existence of this "Son of God."
"Pontius Pilate" Appears!: Pontius Pilate was the Roman governor who ordered Jesus' death. (Matthew 27:1, 22-24) However, outside the pages of the Bible, and "the vague recollections of Roman and Jewish historians" (as one observer put it), there was no hard evidence or archaeological proof that he existed. So, basically, Pilate didn't exist, and neither did Jesus exist. Suddenly, at the beginning of the decade that would give us the Beatles, the Vietnam War, the assassinations of a King and two Kennedys, a startling discovery was made by a humble worker a world away.
"In 1961," writes Michael J. Howard, "an Italian archaeological expedition was working in the ruins of the ancient Roman theater in Caesarea. A workman overturned a stone that had been used for one of the stairways. On the reverse side was the following, partially-obscured inscription in Latin: 'Caesariensibus Tiberium Pontius Pilatus Praefectus Iudaeae.' (To the people of Caesarea Tiberium Pontius Pilate Prefect of Judea.) It was a fatal blow to the doubts about Pilate's existence....For the first time there was contemporary epigraphic evidence of the life of the man who ordered the crucifixion of Christ."-John 19:13-16; Acts 4:27.
A simple inscription on a partially damaged limestone slab thirty-one by twenty-three inches that states in full, "[Pon]tius Pilate, the Prefect of Judea, has dedicated to the people of Caesarea a temple in honor of Tiberius," shatters the arguments of Bible critics and strengthens the faith of stalwart believers.
More details about the archaeological team from the University of Milan and its visit to the site of the ancient coastal city of Caesarea (situated about fifty-four miles north-northwest of Jerusalem), are found in the book Evidence for the Historical Jesus (2011):
"Two Italian archaeologists excavated the Mediterranean port city of Caesarea that served as the Roman capital of Palestine. During the dig they uncovered a two-by-three-foot inscription in Latin. Antonio Frova was able to reconstruct the inscription. To his surprise it read: 'Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judea, has presented the Tiberium to the Caesareans.' This was the first archaeological discovery of a historical reference to the existence of Pilate."
Horrible Herod, the "Messiah"?: Herod the Great, who reigned over Judea when Jesus was born, thought he himself was the Messiah. According to Professor Jim Fleming, "Herod did everything to become recipient of the messianic prophecy he had heard. The Macedonian helmet and Macedonian/Hasmonean star on his coin from the year 40 B.C. make it clear that his messianic aspirations go back to the very beginning of his career."
Little wonder, then, that King Herod "was angered upon hearing" that Eastern astrologers came to Jerusalem to pay their respects to Jesus, "the boy-king of the Jews." (Matthew 2:1-3, Carr's Christian Translation) Viciously intolerant of any perceived rival-no matter how young-Herod was quick to act. "He sent his soldiers out to kill all the boys in Bethlehem from two years of age and under," figuring Jesus to be around this age. (Matthew 2:16, CCT) Does Herod's murderous jealousy jibe with extrabiblical literature of his day?
Insight on the Scriptures states: "His greed for power and his suspicions now moved him to cause the murder of his wife Mariamne, three of his sons, his wife's brother and grandfather (Hyrcanus), several who had been his best friends, and many others." "Josephus, in books 17 and 18 of his Antiquities," reports Evidence, "details how troubled all Jerusalem became as Herod neared the end of his life and had three of his sons slain out of suspicion that they sought to usurp his kingdom."
Jesus Christ was as real as the rulers who shadowed his birth and death. Stay tuned for Article 3.
Dr. Firpo Carr can be reached at