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Archeological proof of Jesus’ life abounds

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–While archeological proof of Jesus’ birth may be scarce, there’s no shortage of evidence supporting the reality of His life on earth, a seminary professor told Baptist Press.

L. Scott Kellum, assistant professor of New Testament and Greek at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., gave examples including the identification of Peter’s house at Capernaum and the limestone coffin — called an ossuary — of Caiaphas, the high-priest who interrogated Jesus.

Kellum also noted that archeologists have found a Christian burial site dated to A.D. 50 at Bethany; Jacob’s well mentioned in John 4 in the story of the woman at the well; the synagogue at Capernaum where Jesus taught; the pool of Siloam; a fishing boat big enough to carry 13 men; the possible tomb of Lazarus; and other sites and finds that, to varying degrees, validate the Gospels and Jesus.

“Even though rare, some sites regarding the nativity bear the stamp of probability,” Kellum said. “Under the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth, there is a cave which probably was a first-century storeroom. Given the family of Mary is known to have lived in Nazareth well into the third century, the veneration of this site may mark the actual place where Gabriel spoke to the mother of Jesus.”

Emperor Constantine’s mother, Helena, in the third century identified a cave in Bethlehem as the site of Jesus’ birth. Such caves often were employed as stables during the first century, Kellum said. Also, surviving second-century literary records describe a cave being honored as the site of Jesus’ birth.

“It is not unlikely that the place venerated today as the birthplace of Jesus is the site,” he said.

Scholars have long accused Luke of inaccuracy by dating the birth of Jesus during a census by a Syrian governor named Quirinius, as recorded in chapter 2, verse 2 of Luke’s Gospel.

“The Quirinius we know from other sources ruled Syria and did a census in A.D. 6,” Kellum said, noting that Luke demonstrates knowledge of the census in Acts 5:37.

A census in A.D. 6 would have been about 12 years too late for the birth of Jesus, Kellum said, but archeologists “have found a coin with an inscription naming a Quirinius proconsul of Syria from 11–4 B.C., at precisely the right time.”
Edited by Art Toalston and Erin Roach.

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