When you walk in the land of Israel, you are literally walking in a land rich in history. When we were there, I received a message that says, “Sing the song ‘I walked today where Jesus walked.’” The song goes this way, “I walked today where Jesus walked, In days of long ago. I wandered down each path He knew, with reverent step and slow. Those little lanes, they have not changed, A sweet peace fills the air. I walked today where Jesus walked, And felt His presence there.”
One of the things that we can be thankful this Thanksgiving Month of November is that archaeological discoveries in Israel prove that the Bible is true.
Let me mention a few of the things that we saw there:
First, the wonder of the architecture and engineering of Masada. This place was built by Herod the Great as a fortress. It overlooks the Dead Sea. The aqueduct system is a marvel. Herod built this as a place of refuge in case of a revolt. This is also the site of the last stand of the Jews against the Romans in the year 74 AD after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD.
What is interesting for Christians is that the Gospel of Matthew recorded that Herod the Great was the king who was approached by the Magi on where the king of the Jews was born. He subsequently ordered the massacre of the innocents in order to kill Jesus. This record of Matthew was proven true by the archaeological finding that indeed there was a person named Herod the Great.
Second, the excavation of the “Pilate stone” in Caesarea Maritima. Outside the New Testament, there was no official record that can be found that talks about Pontius Pilate. Some doubted if Pontius Pilate ever existed. But in 1961, a group of Italian archaeologists found a damaged limestone with a Latin inscription that in English reads, “To the Divine Augusti [this] Tiberieum …Pontius Pilate…prefect of Judea…has dedicated [this].”
For Christians, this piece of stone is an affirmation that there was a historical person by the name of Pontius Pilate, a Roman prefect or governor of Judaea between 26 to 36 AD under Emperor Tiberius. He was the one who presided at the trial of Jesus and gave the order to crucify Jesus. This means that story about Jesus’ trial, suffering and crucifixion is true.
Third, the discovery of the synagogue in Capernaum. What is interesting in the ruins of the synagogue in Capernaum is that there were two synagogues. One was built in the 4th century AD on top of another ruined synagogue during the time of Jesus. There is now a line in the ruins that indicate the where the floor of the older synagogue ends, and the newer synagogue begins. The synagogue from the time of Jesus was built with the local (black) basalt rock.
The ruins of the synagogue in Capernaum only proves true what we can find in Mark 1:21. It says, “They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach.” Capernaum was at the center of the ministry of Jesus Galilee. This is also the hometown of Peter, James, Andrew and John, and the tax collector Matthew.
Indeed, archaeological findings that prove true the Bible are reasons to give thanks to God.
Rev. Francis Neil G. Jalando-on
Office of Communications
Central Philippine University