We live in an era of growing, misinformed skepticism about the historical reliability of the New Testament’s account of Jesus and his early followers. According to Richard Dawkins, ‘The only difference between The Da Vinci Code and the gospels is that the gospels are ancient fiction while The Da Vinci Code is modern fiction.’ And the late Christopher Hitchens said: ‘Holy writ is probably fiction, of a grand sort, to begin with.’
But is this actually the case?
Christian philosopher and apologist Peter S Williams is the author of several books, including CS Lewis vs the New Atheists and A Sceptic’s Guide to Atheism. His latest publication – Digging for Evidence, a free-to-download booklet published by Christian Evidence – gathers together the archaeological finds of the past 50 years which have unexpectedly shed fresh light on the New Testament.
They include the only nail ever recovered from the body of a crucifixion victim; a complete fishing boat from the time of Jesus buried deep in mud on the shore of the Sea of Galilee; and word squares found in the doomed town of Pompeii and other places around the Roman Empire. Together, they build up a surprising picture of the people and places which feature in the New Testament, and they show that even small details mentioned in passing in the gospels and letters of the early church are verified by work done on the ground by archaeologists.
Peter S Williams says: ‘I’m glad Christian Evidence are publishing this book because it’s one way of calling the bluff of influential but ignorant New Atheists who assert that there’s no evidence for the historical reliability of the Bible. Some so-called “sceptics” make rhetorical demands for evidence while turning a blind eye to relevant data from entire academic fields. Digging for Evidence will make some of the latest archaeological evidence relating to the New Testament freely available to all.’
The booklet, which includes links to articles, news reports and videos on the net, explores how modern archaeology illuminates and verifies the New Testament in three areas:
Culture – people’s beliefs and practices
Places – from urban centers to individual buildings
People – people’s names, titles and relationships
Digging for Evidence is available as a downloadable PDF.
Click here to download your copy
Photo: Ancient tombs in the Kidron Valley, Jerusalem. Credit: Oren Rozen