The Stones Cry Out

    A few years ago, people exploring the caves around Jerusalem made the discovery of a lifetime: an ancient burial site containing the remains of a crucified man. The find was only one in a series that have overturned a century-old consensus which held that the gospels are almost entirely proclamation, with little, if any, real history. It turns out the remains belonged to a man who had been crucified in the first century A.D. As Jeffrey Sheler writes in his book Is The Bible True?, the skeleton confirms what the evangelists wrote about Jesus' death and burial in several important ways. First, there was the location. Scholars had long doubted the biblical account of Jesus' burial. They believed that crucified criminals were tossed in a mass grave and devoured by wild animals. But this man, a near contemporary of Jesus, was buried in the same way the Bible says that Jesus was. Then there's the physical evidence from the skeleton. The man's shin bones had been broken, which confirms what John wrote was the practice of the Roman executioners. The Bible tells us that, because He was already dead when the executioners reached him, Jesus was spared this act. The evidence is especially important since scholars have long dismissed the details of John's Passion narrative—treating them as theologically-motivated embellishments. Another account that has been corroborated by archeology is the story of Jesus healing the lame man in John chapter 5. In this story, John describes a five-sided pool just inside Jerusalem's Sheep Gate, where the sick came to be healed. Since no other document from antiquity—including the rest of the Bible—mentions such a place, it had long been assumed that John invented the locale. But, as Sheler points out, when archaeologists decided to dig where John said that the pool was located, they found a five-sided pool. What's more, the pool contained shrines to the Greek gods of healing. John hadn't made up the locale, after all. This dismissing of the biblical text, without bothering to dig, points out the weakness of liberal scholarly opinion: much of the suspicion about biblical texts can only be attributed to prejudice. That is, it's a conclusion arrived at before the facts are all in. Scholars long assumed that the Bible, like other documents of antiquity, is essentially propaganda. But this prejudice manifests profound ignorance of what Christians believe. Central to faith are history and memory. Christians believe that God has acted, and continues to act, in history. For us, remembering what God has done is an act of worship—something that brings us closer to God. Thus, while all these discoveries in the desert may come as a surprise to the skeptics, they're no surprise to believing Christians. Archaeology alone, of course, cannot bring a person to faith, but finds like these offer an eloquent argument for not dismissing the truth of Scripture before the evidence has been examined. Because, as we are learning, more and more every day, Jesus wasn't kidding when he told us, "the stones will cry out."


Chuck Colson


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