The Gospels have many narratives which describe places, people or customs from the
time of Jesus. Some of these have been excavated by archaeologists and the correspondence
between them and evidence in the Gospels is outstandingly good. The evidence can
be divided into categories and is summarised below.
The evidence of archaeology is especially useful for the Gospels because in 66AD,
about 40 years after the start of Jesus’ ministry, a war began between the Romans
and Jewish rebels. This resulted in the destruction of the culture and society of
the area and in 70AD Jerusalem was rased to the ground; Josephus claims that no-one
who looked at its site would have supposed that a city had ever been built there.
As a consequence the detail of the area and life within it was, to a great degree,
forgotten. If the Gospels had been invented later on they would not have contained
correct and accurate detail.
Evidence of Customs and Lifestyle
The gospels contain various references to customs which were carried out at the time
of Jesus, but were discontinued later on. These customs are found in the Gospels,
usually referred to as an aside.
Fishing Boat: A fishing boat has been discovered on the northwest coast of the Sea
of Galilee. This shows the kind of boat in which Jesus would have sailed on the lake.
Construction of buildings: Luke described a house constructed with a tiled roof.
Excavations at Gamla show that in the area of Galilee this is how houses were built.
Stone Water Pots: John’s Gospel describes the use of stone water pots. These would
be expensive and in general earthenware pots were used, but in Judea and Galilee
it was common for such pots to be made of stone.
Evidence of Places
The Gospels mention many places, some of them in considerable detail. Again, comparison
with archaeology shows that the places generally exist as described.
Capernaum: This is described in the Gospels and has been excavated by archaeologists.
Of particular interest is a set of synagogue foundations from the time of Jesus.
Nain: Luke’s Gospel includes a mention of the city gates, which have been identified.
Sychar: This is in Samaria; there is a description of events there in John. The
detail of the place matches the Gospel account extremely well.
People in the Gospels
Some of the people mentioned in the Gospels who had a high social standing have left
evidence of their existence. These include Herod the Great and his successors, Pontius
Pilate and Caiaphas the high priest.
Places in Jerusalem
The city of Jerusalem is the site of a large number of incidents in the Gospels,
especially in John. The places identified include the pools of Siloam and Bethesda,
various details of the Temple, the Governor’s residence, the house of the high priest
and the route from Bethany to Jerusalem. Jerusalem has been heavily excavated since
the six day war in 1967 and a detailed correspondence has been found between the
buildings and layout of Jerusalem and the descriptions in the Gospels.
The Temple: There is considerable mention of the Temple porticoes where Jesus taught
The Pool of Bethesda: This is described in accurate detail in John’s Gospel.
The Praetorium: This is where the governor lived when he was in Jerusalem, and where
Jesus was tried by the governor and sentenced to death.
The detail in the Gospels shows much more than merely a general knowledge of Judea
and Galilee in the time of Jesus. It shows a detailed knowledge of the period and
this detail is embedded in the narrative. Often the detail is obscure and insignificant,
which means that it was unlikely to have been placed there deliberately by the writer.
This is direct evidence that the narratives of the Gospels were not invented in the
late first or early second century, but represent detailed and accurated accounts
of actual events in Judea and Galilee as Jesus taught and worked.