For Christians, Easter represents the climactic event in all of human history – the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Critics contend that it is a mythical story, based more on fiction than fact. Some even go so far as to accuse Christianity of stealing the “death-and-resurrection-of-a-god” motif from other religions (although scholars have rightly pointed out that stories of the death and resurrection of other gods, such as Dionysus and Adonis, post-date Christianity, so if anyone did the stealing, it was the pagan religions who “borrowed” the motif from Christianity1).
Archaeology is one field of study that must be considered in determining whether the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, as recorded in the gospel accounts in the Bible, are actual historical events. Over past 150 years, archaeological excavations in Israel have yielded much evidence for the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth. Excavations have confirmed many elements of the Christmas story, his ministry in Galilee and Judea, particularly in the Jewish synagogues, and the fact that the world in which Jesus lived has been so accurately described in the gospels.2 However, nowhere is the evidence so overwhelming as it is when one studies the details of the historical accounts of the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Here is a brief summary of the archaeological evidence for Easter.
When I was a teenager, I received a beautiful, leather-bound Thompson Chain Reference Bible as a prize at church. One of the resources it had at the end, just before the concordance and maps, was an “Archaeological Supplement,” written by Dr. G. Frederick Owens. It was a fascinating, faith-boosting experience to read about the excavation of the very sites I was reading about in the Bible.
Thus began my fascination with the archaeology of the Holy Land. The Indiana Jones movies only fueled this interest.
Now that I’m writing regular updates on current events in the world of biblical archaeology for the Associates For Biblical Research (shameless plug: http://www.biblearchaeology.org/currentevents.aspx), I’m sometimes asked where I find my information. Others have asked if there are any good resources that describe discoveries in archaeology which demonstrate the historical reliability of the Bible. In answer to those questions, I share this blog with some of the resources I’ve found helpful.
I have the privilege of being part of the Associates for Biblical Research, a group of archaeologists and Bible scholars dedicated to demonstrating the historical reliability of Scripture through archaeological and biblical research. I serve in a small way by following the happenings in the world of biblical archaeology and writing a weekly Current Events update for their website – biblearchaeolgy.org.
As we approach the end of 2016, I thought I’d look back at the most exciting discoveries and announcements from the archaeological world that relate to the Bible. In choosing the top ten, I focused on discoveries that were both spectacular and also specifically related to biblical people, places and events (as opposed to the many discoveries that are made in Bible lands which teach us much about the different cultures; these discoveries are helpful too, but I’ve chosen to narrow the focus for my list). Here then are what I consider to be the top ten discoveries in biblical archaeology in 2016.
Many people approach the Christmas story in the Bible the same way they do the story of jolly old St. Nick. It’s a nice tradition to celebrate during the festive season, and possibly based in some historical fact, but more myth than truth. I mean really, shepherds seeing angels? Wisemen bringing gifts? A virgin birth? (You do know how babies are made, right?!).
However, the two earliest records of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth were written by a man who spent years following him (Matthew) and by a historian who carefully investigated the claims by speaking directly with eyewitnesses (Luke). Further, they were written within the lifetime of those who actually knew Jesus: his mother, his siblings, and his disciples.1 Peter himself said, “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Pt 1:16). Finally, the accounts of that first Christmas contain numerous historical synchronisms and descriptions of specific places and customs. Is it possible over 2000 years later to determine the credibility of the Christmas story through archaeology? I believe it is.
Dr. Voddie Baucham (in his Expository Apologetics 101 sermon) states: “There is a piece to discipleship we’ve neglected. It’s called indoctrination…[Instead] we’re producing passionate people with empty heads who love the Jesus they don’t know very well, and who are driven to and fro by every wind of doctrine.”
Indoctrination has come to be synonymous with brainwashing. That’s not its original meaning however. At its heart it means “to instruct especially in fundamentals” (notice the root word is doctrine).
As I head into my third decade of youth ministry, I’ve come to realize more and more the importance of teaching sound doctrine to teens, and stressing the need for them to obey the teaching of Scripture. At it’s heart, this is what it means to be a disciple (See Matt. 28:18:20 and 2 Tim. 2:2).
On Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016, I led a seminar at Boot Camp North, a youth leader training seminar organized by Jeremy Edgar at Bible Fellowship Assembly. My topic was entitled: “Useful For…The Importance Of The Bible In Discipleship.” Anyone who is interested can download my seminar notes here: useful-for-the-importance-of-the-bible-in-the-process-of-discipleship
I’ve also made available the first three lessons of my teaching series, “Word Up,” which is an apologetics unit designed to teach teens the core doctrine of Scripture (Inspiration, Inerrancy, and Authority), as well as answer common questions or objections to this teaching. You can download the Powerpoint presentations and lesson plans here:
-Lesson 1: word-up-inspiration-lesson
-Lesson 2: word-up-inerrancy-lesson
-Lesson 3: word-up-authority-lesson
The Powerpoint presentations for the above lessons can be found here:
Feel free to share and use for glory of God!
Our children are growing up in a culture of confusion when it comes to the issues of gender and sexuality. Facebook now allows uses to choose between 58 gender options. To date people identify with over 2o sexual orientations, including heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, asexual, autosexual, demisexual, omnisexual, pansexual, polysexual, spectrasexual, etc. Ontario’s new Health and Physical Education curriculum reflects and promotes this confusion.
As elders at Island Bible Chapel, we understand our role as shepherds (1 Peter 5:2; Acts 20:28). Part of being a shepherd is protecting the flock. We are concerned for the protection of our children’s innocence and about the moral teaching of the young in our church.
To give parents assistance and direction as they care for their children in a world with much gender and sexual confusion, I (with the blessing of the elders at IBC) presented a seminar entitled, “Clarity Amidst Confusion: How Christian Parents Can Respond To Ontario’s New Sex. Ed. Curriculum.”
To download the notes from this seminar, please click here: clarity-amidst-confusion-sex-ed-curriculum-for-parents
I believe it is important to speak the truth in love on this important issue. In order to be seen as “loving” some do not want to confront issues with the truth. In order to cling to the “truth” some communicate in a loving way. My goal has been to avoid both extremes and speak the truth in love.
Finally, I will end with a quote from Rick Warren, which I believes captures both our culture and the way I want my response to be: compassionate with conviction.
“Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.”
It was a privilege to speak recently to teens at Camp Aush-Bik-Koong (campabk.com). This year I chose to preach on Heb. 11, the classic passage in Scripture about faith. In the evenings we studied the chapter bit-by-bit. In the morning sessions I looked at the archaeological evidence for some of the major people of faith mentioned.
If you’ve read my blog in the past, you know that I have an affection for the field of biblical archaeology, and do some writing for the folks at biblearchaeology.org (the Associates for Biblical Research – a group of bible scholars and archaeologists dedicated to demonstrating the historical reliability of God’s Word through their work). Their research was very helpful as I prepared to speak to the teens at Camp ABK. Several of the archaeologists at ABR were gracious enough to take time out of their busy schedules to share a word or two with the teens at Camp ABK. Read the rest of this entry
I’m always interested to hear how people describe the Bible.
In a Huffington Post article from a few years ago Jeffery Small declared, “I fear that an insistence on a literal or historical reading of the Bible will ultimately lead to the irrelevance of Christianity in our society. By throwing off the shackles of having to believe in the historicity of the Bible, we are free to interpret the stories as a testament to the religious experiences of people from a different age”
While the author and I would disagree about whether a historical reading will lead to the irrelevance of Christianity in our society (I would argue the exact opposite is true), I do agree that discarding the historicity of Scripture allows one to freely interpret the stories however one likes. I’m not sure that’s a good thing. Moreover, it ignores a crucial fact that cannot be escaped: the Bible claims to be a document rooted in actual history.
Spring Folly is northern Ontario’s longest-running Christian youth retreat. Thousands of teenagers have attended over the years. Maybe you were one of them. Here are 10 things you probably didn’t know about Spring Folly:
Perhaps you’ve heard the story of how Jesus walked on the water, or about how he calmed the storm, healed the blind man of Jericho and turned the water into wine.
How about the story of how Jesus curses a boy who bumps into him, causing him to fall down dead? You’re not familiar with that one?
All five stories are told in ancient documents about Jesus. The first four come from the biographies of Jesus in the Bible (The gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John respectively). The last one is from a document called The Infancy Gospel of Thomas.