At this time of year, a jolly old guy in a red suit becomes a focal point for the vast majority of people in our country. However, very few people realize that our “Santa Claus” is based on an actual historical figure. His name was Nicholas (hence “Saint Nick”) and he was a 4th century bishop in what is modern day Turkey! His generosity saved a family and became the basis for the legend of Santa!
In John chapter 9 we read the story of the blind man that Jesus healed by making mud and telling him to wash in the Pool of Siloam. In 2004, engineers working on the plumbing system of Jerusalem discovered the steps of a ritual pool that dates to the time of Jesus!
David is arguably one of the two or three most central figures in the Old Testament and one of his most memorable moments is the slaying of Goliath, the Philistine champion. In that story we read that Goliath was from a city, probably the largest city in the region at the time, called Gath. There is now archaeological evidence of that very city!
In July of 2017, archaeologists uncovered what may be evidence of the original biblical Tabernacle at Shiloh on the West Bank in Israel. The Tabernacle was set up at Shiloh approximately 1400 B.C. and destroyed by the Philistines around 350 years later. While it was active, it was the spiritual center of Judaism and the site of many of the animal sacrifices that were commanded by God. Interestingly, at the site they have dug through “a tremendous amount of bone.”
According to Josephus, the Jewish historian who lived during the time of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, the town of Bethsaida was converted into a Greco-Roman polis, or city by Philip, the son of Herod the Great. The new city was named Julias and its location has remained an archaeological mystery. In late 2017, archaeologists in El-Araj, on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, began to uncover the remains of what might be that biblically important town. Bethsaida was the home of Jesus’ Apostles, Peter, Andrew and Philip!
It has been a contention for years that the New Testament account of Jesus burial and hence, His resurrection could not be accurate. There are many reasons that skeptics list as “evidence” that this prominent narrative in the New Testament is simply not reliable but one argument that has been consistently espoused is that a man condemned and crucified for essentially being an enemy of the state, would not have been given a proper Jewish burial.
That argument has been “left in the dust”, so to speak (please excuse a little Biblical Archaeology humor there), by the 1968 discovery of the remains of a crucifixion victim from approximately the time of Jesus.