It is my viewpoint that the Bible does not need proof in order to be validated as a legitimate source of truth. The role of archaeology is to confirm what the Bible already reveals as history. As I tell each of the groups who travel with me to Israel, archaeology is used not needing to prove the Bible’s historicity, but to reveal the context in which the history of both the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures take place. Simply, archaeology is used to enlighten its accuracy. In a remarkable way, it sheds light on the stories of the Scriptures, without contradiction.
In the words of an archaeologist, “In every instance where the findings of archaeology pertain to the Biblical record, the archaeological evidence confirms, sometimes in detailed fashion, the historical accuracy of Scripture. In those instances where the archaeological findings seem to be at variance with the Bible, the discrepancy lies with the archaeological evidence, (i.e., improper interpretation, lack of evidence, etc…) — not with the Bible.” (Dr. Bryant C. Wood, archaeologist, Associates for Biblical Research).
With this being said, an amazing find in 1961 took place at Caesarea. While excavating the ancient theater built by King Herod in 18BC, the limestone block upon which the inscription was etched was discovered by Italian archaeologist Dr. Antonio Frova. He found this stone being reused in the 4th century AD as part of the set of stairs leading up to the seating. The discovering of the inscription laid to rest the debate about the historical accuracy about the man responsible for sentencing Jesus to death in Jerusalem.
The inscription is is 82 cm high and 65 cm wide. The stone is on display in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, while a fiberglass replica was placed near the palace area of this Mediterranean port city.
Pontius Pilate was the Roman Prefect of Judea who ruled from 26-32 AD. It was Tiberius Caesar (who succeeded Augustus in 14 AD) who appointed Pilate. Pilate, the 5th procurator of Judea, made his official residence in Caesarea, the Roman capital of this imperial province. . Other than a few bronze coins, this is the only occurrence of the name of Pontius Pilate in any ancient inscription. The only information regarding this ruthless ruler comes from Josephus, the Jewish historian, and Philo of Alexandria. Tacitus, a Roman historian, references Pilate when speaking of the cruel punishments inflicted by Nero upon the Christians. He wrote that the name Christian was derived from Jesus Christ, “who was put to death when Tiberius was emperor by the procurator Pontius Pilate (Annals xv.44).” With such limited references to Pilate, this is why the discovery of the inscription is so very significant.
While the Jews were allowed limited self-government under Roman rule, Pilate still ruled the land. According to history, Pilate moved his army headquarters from Caesarea to Jerusalem, using the Antonia Fortress (located on the NW corner of the Temple Mount) as his base. Of course this outraged the Jews, but this serves as the context of Pilate’s confrontation of Jesus once Caiaphas, the Jewish High Priest, handed Jesus over for judgement. Pilate had traveled to Jerusalem in order to maintain order during the Passover observation that drew over 100,000 Jews to the Jerusalem Temple.
According to the Gospels, Pilate spoke to Jesus (John 18:33-19:12), and weighed the charges being brought against Him. While Pilate seemingly tried to avoid judging Jesus, finding no case against Him, he finally had Jesus brutally scourged. Finally, according to John 19:15-16 – “But they cried out, ‘Away with Him, away with Him! Crucify Him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar!’ Then he (Pilate) delivered Him to them tobe crucified. So they took Jesus and led Him away.”
And God’s redemptive plan continued to unfold…