Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary

5 Mar 2012

Archaeology, the Resurrection, and Faith


Here we go again. A new sensational archaeological announcement that proves that there were first century Jews who embraced Christ and the hope of the resurrection! Or not. This new discovery, made rather suspiciously by the same folks who made the last sensational announcement in 2007 (Jesus’ family ossuary), adds a new angle to the story. It seems that they have discovered another ossuary, labelled this time not with a sensational name (Jesus), but a sensational image: the “sign of Jonah” (Matt 12:39-40).

It turns out that early Christian imagery is somewhat scarce in Jerusalem, a phenomenon that creates an unsettling gap in the “quest for the historical Jesus.” Scholars of faith are not troubled by this gap, pointing out the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 as an obvious reason for the scarcity of early Christian artifacts in the vicinity of the city. Still, it would be nice to stumble on some evidence of first-century Jewish Christianity. And now, for the moment at least, it seems like we have that evidence. Maybe.

But this all leads to a bigger question: does it really matter whether we have archaeological evidence for Christ’s resurrection? In a word, No. The Christian’s final authority is not the sciences, but the Scriptures, and we can have 100% certainty of their accuracy irrespective of independent corroborating sources. That’s what faith is.

Now there is surely some satisfaction for the believer when faith is accompanied by sight. We are, after all, sensate creatures and every tiny contribution to the completed picture gives us delight. I personally hope that the discovery of first-century Jewish Christians near Jerusalem is valid. I hope they make more discoveries like this one that comport with Scripture. Because it truly is satisfying for Christians whenever faith becomes sight, however insignificantly. That’s part of the reason we yearn for Christ’s return. But until then, please don’t imagine that we have to wait for sight in order that faith may be clothed with certainty. We can have have absolute and unshakeable certainty today that Jesus rose from the dead whether or not we receive visual proof of his resurrection (John 20:29). And that is because we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor 5:7).