Holiday Drear

Holiday season seems to brings out the theologian in everyone. This past Christmas, USA Today ran an article called "Who Was Jesus?" compiling the latest pronouncements by liberal theologians on how the Gospels are just so much legend and myth. Newsday ran an article with a similar theme. So did the Toronto Star. So did U.S. News and World Report. The articles trotted out the dreary cynicism of critics who try to prove what free-thinkers they are by discrediting the Bible. Yet the media virtually ignored a much more interesting story—and one that supports the Bible. In recent months archaeologists have made two significant findings that shed new light on the life of Jesus. Two cities have been uncovered within a few miles of Nazareth, where Jesus grew up, which reveal a surprisingly advanced level of culture. Gently scraping away the dust of centuries, archaeologists have uncovered jewelry, stoneware dishes, imported finery, industrial olive presses, and a Roman amphitheater big enough to seat 4,000 spectators. Scholars were amazed. Obviously, Nazareth was no backwater village. It was situated in the middle of a cosmopolitan center of culture and commerce. Nor were Jesus' disciples ragged, rustic wanderers. They were small-business owners with considerable economic savvy, engaged in trade with far-off cities. Galilee, it turns out, was as urbane and sophisticated as any other part of the Roman empire. This is not the first time archaeologists have added to our historical understanding of the Bible. Time and time again, their patient work with shovel and spade has provided support for the biblical account. For example, there was a time when critics said Moses could not have written the Pentateuch, because writing hadn't even been invented yet in his day. Then archaeologists discovered that writing was well developed not only in Moses' day but even before Abraham. Centuries before Abraham was born, Egypt and Babylonia were already highly literate cultures, filled with schools and libraries. Dictionaries have been dug up written in four languages, compiled for translators. There was a time when critics cast doubt on the geography of the Bible. For example, the Encyclopedia Britannica once referred to the Hittites as "a mythological people mentioned only in the Bible"—as though anything mentioned only in the Bible must be mythological. But today Turkish museums overflow with the massive stone statues characteristic of Hittite culture. Critics once reserved their sharpest skepticism for the early chapters of Genesis, reducing the patriarchs to sheer legend. But today archaeology has shown that Genesis gives a highly accurate description of names, places, trade routes, and customs of patriarchal times. It's completely implausible to say this material was concocted a thousand years later. No one could invent stories that reflect so accurately a time by then long forgotten. Of course, there will always be critics. And there will always be newspapers and magazines eager to quote their cynical comments. But we ought to press the point home whenever we can: Every time the Bible has been put to the test of history, it has passed with high marks. Like a witness on the stand, it has been cross-examined—and found reliable.


Chuck Colson


  • Facebook Icon in Gold
  • Twitter Icon in Gold
  • LinkedIn Icon in Gold

Sign up for the Daily Commentary