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Author's Journal Transcripts for Bill Humble
Bible Archeology - Proofs From the Earth

 


Professor Bill Humble has traveled to the Holy Land numerous times over the past 30 years. He has visited many of the ancient sites that provide evidence of the accuracy of the Bible. He shares his insights with us in the KNLS series,  Bible Archeology—Proofs from the Earth.

 

 


 

Pontius Pilate Inscription. Discovered by Antonio Frova at the Caesarea theater in 1961. This is the only archaeological evidence of Pilate ever found. For information about Pilate’s role in the crucifixion of Jesus, read Matt. 27:11-56 and John 18:28—19:16.  Bill Humble photo - all rights reserved.  (Click photo to view a larger image)

Pilate Inscription

I have visited the Israel Museum in Jerusalem many times, and I have seen three ancient artifacts there that made the death of Jesus on the cross seem very real to me. The first of the three artifacts that brought me face-to-face with the death of Jesus was a monument with the name Pontius Pilate inscribed on it as seen on the left. Pilate, you may remember, was the Roman governor of Judaea who ordered the crucifixion of Jesus. The Jewish high court, called the Sanhedrin, had tried Jesus and sentenced him to death. But only the Romans could carry out the execution, so the Sanhedrin took Jesus to the Roman governor Pilate. Pilate examined Jesus and soon realized that he had not commited any crime worthy of death, and Pilate’s wife warned him not to have anything to do with this just man. Pilate wanted to set Jesus free, but the Jews demanded his death. And finally, when the Jews threatened to tell Caesar that Pilate was disloyal, the governor yielded to the political pressure and gave the dreadful order, "Let him be crucified." Except for written records, we had no evidence of governor Pilate until 1961, when an Italian archaeologist, Antonio Frova, was working in the theater at Caesarea on the Sea. And there he found a monument with the name Pontius Pilate inscribed on it. The name in Latin, Pilatus, can still be seen clearly. The inscription also has the word Tiberium. We’re not sure what the Tiberium was, but it may have been a temple honoring the emperor that Pilate had helped to build. When I saw that monument with the name "Pilate" I could hear his words, "Let him be crucified," and I could almost feel that I was standing there 2000 years ago, watching the trial and the crucifixion of Jesus.


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Ossuary (bone box) that contained the bones of the high priest Caiaphas. Discovered in a family burial tomb in southern Jerusalem in 1990. For more information about Caiaphas’ role in the death of Jesus, read Matt. 26:1-5 and 26:57—27:26. Bill Humble photo - all rights reserved.  (Click photo to view a larger image)

Caiaphas Ossuary

Let me tell you about the second of three ancient artifacts at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem that brought me face to face with the crucifixion of Jesus.  It is the 2,000 year old ossuary, seen on the left, that was found in Jerusalem in 1990. But you may ask, "What’s an ossuary? I’ve never heard that word." An ossuary is a "bone box" and archaeologists find many of them in the Holy Land. Back in New Testament times, the Jews buried their dead very much as we do. But later, after all the flesh was gone, they would collect the bones and put them in an ossuary, a box made of stone or marble about two feet long, and many of these ossuaries could be preserved in a family tomb. In 1990 archaeologists were working in southern Jerusalem and they found one of these family tombs that had never been opened. This tomb was 2,000 years old, from New Testament times, and it contained several ossuaries. One of the ossuaries was beautifully decorated. And it had a name inscribed on it, twice, and this is what excited the archaeologists. The name was "Caiaphas" and scholars think that this was the high priest named Caiaphas that we read about in the New Testament. According to the New Testament, when Caiaphas and the other Jewish leaders met to plot the arrest and death of Jesus, the meeting was held in Caiaphas’ palace. Later Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane and taken before Caiaphas and the Jewish court. The high priest put Jesus under oath and asked, "Are you the Christ, the Son of God." And when he said, "Yes," they condemned him to death. After the Caiaphas ossuary was discovered in their family tomb in 1990, the bones inside were examined, and then buried on the Mount of Olives. The ossuary was put on display in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. And when I saw it there, it seemed that I was standing in the presence of one of the men responsible for Jesus’ death, and it was a moving spiritual experience for me.


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Bones of young man named John who was crucified c. 50 A.D. Only archaeological evidence of crucifixion ever discovered. Discovery made by Dr. Vassilios Tzaferis on Mt. Scopus near Jerusalem in 1968. For account of Jesus’ crucifixion read Matt 27, Luke 23, and John 19.  Bill Humble photo - all rights reserved.  (Click photo to view a larger image)

Crucified Man

On the left you will see a photo of the third of three ancient artifacts there that brought me face-to-face with the death of Jesus.  Seeing these artifacts at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem was a deeply moving spiritual experience.  The items you see in the photo are the bones of a crucified man.  Why are these bones important?  The New Testament tells us that Jesus died on a cross, and his death, burial and resurrection lie at the heart of our Christian faith. Crucifixion was a common death in the Roman world and we know from ancient historians like Josephus that thousands of men died on crosses. But crucifixion was not only a cruel way to die, it was also a shameful and disgraceful death. So it is not surprising that families would not want to preserve evidence that a loved one had died on a cross. So no archaeological evidence of crucifixion had ever been discovered—not until 1968. But in 1968 Dr. Vassilios Tzaferis was excavating on Mt. Scopus near Jerusalem and he found several tombs with ossuaries (or bone boxes) from New Testament times. One ossuary had a name on it: John. It contained the bones of a young man, about 25 years old, and when the bones were examined at the Hadassah Medical School in Jerusalem, it was determined that this young man had died by crucifixion. The evidence was still there—a long nail driven through both ankle bones. The nail had hit a hard knot in the olive wood cross and the point had curled so that the nail could not be pulled out of the bones. So John was buried with the nail still there—the only archaeological evidence of crucifixion that has ever been found. Dr. Vassilios Tzaferis, who made this discovery, is a friend that I have worked with on an excavation in Israel. I’ve heard Dr. Tzaferis talk about how exciting it was to uncover this archaeological evidence of crucifixion. And when I saw those bones in the Israel Museum with the long nail still in place, I thought of the death of Jesus on the cross, and it became a deeply moving spiritual experience.


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Ancient steps to Jews’ temple, where Neil Armstrong said, "It means more to me to stand on these steps than to stand on the moon." Jesus taught in the temple (Matt. 21-23) and foretold its destruction (Matt. 24).  Bill Humble photo - all rights reserved.  (Click photo to view a larger image)

Temple Steps

Neil Armstrong will always be remembered, and honored, as the first man to stand on the moon, but I want to tell you about another place where he once stood. I have been to Jerusalem many times, and I always visit the temple mountain where the beautiful Dome of Rock stands today. But 2,000 years ago, in the days of Jesus, the Jews’ temple stood there on the mountain. The first temple, built by Solomon about 1000 BC had been destroyed, and then in the years just before Jesus’ birth Herod the Great had rebuilt the second temple. But the temple mountain was not large enough for the beautiful temple that Herod built, so Herod had enlarged the temple mountain by building a massive retaining wall around Mt. Moriah. On the south, he built broad steps that were the main entrance to the temple in Jesus’ day. Herod’s temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD, just as Jesus had foretold. But the massive wall around the temple mount and the broad steps were not destroyed. Beginning in 1968 Professor Benjamin Mazar excavated the south wall of the temple mountain, and he uncovered those broad steps that people had used to enter the temple in New Testament times. And that brings us back to Neil Armstrong. He is a devout believer and in the spring of 1988 he visited Jerusalem and stood on those steps. He asked his guide, "Do you mean to tell me that Jesus stood on these steps?" The guide answered, "Of course. Jesus was a Jew and went to the temple many times. And these steps were the main entrance to the temple. Of course Jesus stood on these steps." Neil Armstrong was quiet for a few moments, then said, "It means more to me to stand on these steps than to stand on the moon." When we visit the Holy Land and walk where Jesus walked, we are brought face-to-face with him and we leave with a richer deeper faith.


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