Skeptics have also cited lack of evidence for the Roman governor Pontius Pilate and the Jewish chief priest Joseph Caiaphas, key figures in the trial leading to Jesus’ crucifixion. If Pilate and Caiaphas didn’t exist, then the entire account of Jesus’ death and resurrection would be suspect.
But, in 1961 archaeologists discovered a stone inscribed with the name of “Pontius Pilate prefect of Judea.”(46) And in 1990 archaeologists discovered an ossuary (bone box) with the inscription of Caiaphas.(47)
Hundreds of other New Testament details have also been verified. Classical historian Colin Hemer, for example, “identifies 84 facts in the last 16 chapters of Acts that have been confirmed by Archaeological research.”(48)
Archaeologist Sir William Ramsey originally thought that both Luke’s Gospel and his book of Acts were forgeries written in the 2nd century. After extensive research, Ramsey concluded that Luke wrote his own eyewitness accounts as well as those related to him by the apostles. Ramsey wrote,
Luke is a historian of the first rank.… This author should be placed along with the very greatest historians.… Luke’s history is unsurpassed in respect of its trustworthiness.(49)
Historian Paul Johnson summarizes the impact of these discoveries.
What is clear beyond doubt is that whereas in the nineteenth century the tendency was to cast doubt on the veracity of Judeo-Christian records,…in the twentieth century it has moved in quite the opposite direction, and there is no sign of the process coming to an end. It is the skeptics who have reason to fear the course of discovery.(50)
Further evidence for the New Testament’s validity is that nearly all its words are cited in over 36,000 private letters and nonbiblical documents.(51)
Clark Pinnock, professor of interpretations at McMaster Divinity College, compares the reliability of the New Testament with other ancient history.
There exists no document from the ancient world witnessed by so excellent a set of textual and historical testimonies.… Skepticism regarding the historical credentials of Christianity is based upon an irrational basis.(52)
What about Jesus’ Miracles and Resurrection?
Some believe the historicity of the New Testament, but not its miracles. The third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, just couldn’t bring himself to believe in anything supernatural. So he took a pair of scissors and removed every miracle from his personal New Testament.
However, if the Bible is scientifically and historically accurate, and if its predictions of future events are true, then miracles shouldn’t be too difficult to believe. Certainly, if God created and finely-tuned the universe, coded DNA, and engineered the human brain, he should be able to perform miracles. And presumably, he could do so without violating the natural laws he created.
Jesus’ greatest miracle is his resurrection from the dead. His convinced followers gave their lives proclaiming it really happened. A New York Times article acknowledges, “Something happened!”
Shortly after Jesus was executed, his followers were suddenly galvanized from a baffled and cowering group into people whose message about a living Jesus and a coming kingdom, preached at the risk of their lives, eventually changed an empire. Something happened … But exactly what?(53)
English journalist Frank Morison believed Jesus’ resurrection didn’t happen, and began writing a book documenting the evidence against it. However, the evidence Morison discovered turned his skepticism into belief. Although his investigation is beyond the scope of this article, you can read what Morison discovered at http://y-jesus.com/wwrj/6-jesus-rise-dead/
(To read more on the reliability of the New Testament see http://y-jesus.com/wwrj/4-are-gospels-true/.)
Is the Bible Prophetically Accurate?
As previously noted, the atheist Bertrand Russell said the only thing that would convince him of God’s existence is, “if I heard a voice from heaven and it predicted a series of things and they came to pass.”
According to the Bible, God has infinite knowledge, including everything in the future. But how can he know the future when it hasn’t happened yet?
Since God is outside of our time dimension, C. S. Lewis reasons he is able to see past, present and future just as an author of a book knows the ending from the beginning. “What we call ‘tomorrow’ is visible to Him in just the same way as what we call ‘today’….He is already in tomorrow.”(54)