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Sifting the Evidence-the world of the bible- Part 2

The second part of this DVD focusses on the New Testament and Sinkinson explains that the gospels  contain important details that can be examined and tested. Sir William Ramsay is a classic example of someone who did exactly that. Ramsay was a first rank historian and former sceptic trained in the historical-critical method. He went to Asia Minor (Turkey) together with his team and upon examining the accuracy of the names and places and details contained within the book of Luke and Acts, he became a believer himself.

King Herod (The Great) and Pontius Pilate

King Herod the Great infamously reigned Judea from 37BC to 4BC and he left his mark building a fortress near Jerusalem and notably another one at Masada. It was mentioned that Josephus’ description of Herod’s despicable character is consistent with the biblical narrative in which he ordered the Hebrew boys in Bethlehem to be slaughtered. Herod murdered those he perceived to be a threat and even family members. Near Herodium, Herod’s sarcophagus was discovered.

Interestingly Pontius Pilate’s bronze signet ring was also discovered at Herodium. At Caesarea, a stone containing an inscription, “Pontius Pilate Prefect of Judea” was uncovered. The term for “prefect” used in the gospels with reference to Pontius Pilate is “governor,” which demonstrates the author had a clear understanding of Pilate’s role. The Aqueduct at Caesarea still remains by the sea and I walked there during one of my visits to Israel.

The Reliability of the Gospels

Sinkinson interviewed Dr. Peter Williams, Principal of Tyndale House, Cambridge, concerning the reliability of the gospels. Sometimes people attempt to put forward an argument that people in that era and in that location were largely illiterate. Williams points out that everyone had access to both coinage and architecture that contained writing.

Other people try to argue that there is a time gap between when the gospels were written and when we have our earliest fragments or manuscripts, so the text is apparently subject to alterations. Nevertheless, the earliest manuscript evidence we have for the New Testament is early 2nd Century and one of those is kept in Oxford and the other in Manchester. The one in Manchester is a small fragment from John’s Gospel and is kept at the John Rylands Library. Williams stated that we have more extensive manuscript evidence from the third century and full manuscript evidence from the fourth century. This contrasts greatly compared with manuscript evidence of other ancient literature in which the copies are far later than the originals and far fewer in number.

What next? The Man from Galilee

The DVD also features the Qumran region in relation to the Essenes, the Decapolis region, the Sea of Galilee, the Pool of Siloam which was still in use at the time of Jesus (cf. John 9) and the Mount of Olives. All these details and excavations authenticate the reliability of the New Testament in relation to significant characters and locations. Moreover, Sinkinson helpfully draws our attention to something and someone of far greater importance than the fascinating world of biblical archaeology in that we must not lose sight of the Man from Galilee.

The Man from Galilee spoke the famous words of the Sermon on the Mount. His talmidim (disciples) were the ones who went on to turn the world upside down since they were faithful to Him and to His teaching which was from above. He was the ultimate heavenly scholar and although He never changes (Hebrews 13:8), He transforms people from the inside to the glory of God, as they come to follow Him through repentance and faith.