Summary: Archeology cannot form faith, but it can inform faith. Archeology brings forth the tangible remnants of history so that faith can have a reasonable context in which to develop.
No doubt that Christmas has some incredible claims contained within the narratives found in the Bible! Claims that could make the skeptic or searcher scratch their head wondering is this an episode of the “Twilight Zone”?
Maybe you have felt this way at times and maybe you still have some major reservations about this greatest story ever told! Well, you’re at the right place this morning, because over the next 3 weeks we will dig through the archaeology of Christmas, soar through the astronomy of Christmas and peer through the Christology of Christmas and see for ourselves the powerful truth claims of Christmas!
Think about it - the drama behind all the power, the determination found in the problems and the devilish and mentally deranged personalities make the Christmas story better than “All My Children”, “As The World Turns” and “The Guiding Light” all put together!!
The Christmas story is only found in the book of Mathew and Luke. It is Luke who gives the most detailed description and the most theological truths to the birth of Christ. And it’s archaeology that helps us 2000 years removed from that 1st Christmas to put real substance to the claims of Christmas.
Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “I believe in the shovel. It has fed the tribes of mankind. It has furnished them water, coal, iron, and gold. And now it is giving them truth – historic truth, the mines of which have never been opened till our times.”
In the Israeli Antiquities Authority database, archaeology has access to more than 100,000 historic biblical artifacts discovered in Israel since 1948.
Bible archaeology has only been around about 150 years and before that it was treasure hunters that dangerously searched for history in the dirt! SLIDE Indiana Jones…In the last 50 years, archaeology has continually brought forth new…
2 Facts To Carry Into This Study:
• The proper use of biblical archaeology is to confirm, correct, clarify and complement the Bible’s theology.
Psalm 85:11 “Truth shall spring out of the earth…”
• Archeology cannot form faith, but it can inform faith. Archeology brings forth the tangible remnants of history so that faith can have a reasonable context in which to develop.
There will always be a battle between facts and faith. The early Church Father Tertullian wrote, “I do not understand in order to believe, I believe in order to understand.”
John McRay wrote the handbook on Biblical archaeology. He studied at Hebrew University, Vanderbilt University of Divinity and University of Chicago. He now is a professor of N.T. archaeology at Wheaton Collage. In His masterpiece “Archaeology and the New Testament”, he writes, “Archaeology has not produced anything that is unequivocally a contradiction to the Bible. On the contrary…there have been many opinions of skeptical scholars that have become codified into fact over the years…”
Habakkuk 2:11 “The stones of the wall will cry out, and the beams of the woodwork will echo it.” NIV
It’s almost as if we are able touch and feel the 1st century for ourselves!
A good example of this is found in Caesarea a sea port of Herods that contained a massive harbor. 1st century Jewish historian Josephus recorded that the harbor was as massive as a harbor in Athens. But for the longest time no one believed him and thought he had been smoking something before he stated this – but again archaeology to the rescue!
SLIDE - Underwater archaeological excavation provides the primary information for the history of harbor’s construction. The harbor was built using materials that would allow the concrete to harden underwater. The 40 acre harbor would accommodate 300 ships.
SLIDE - Josephus called this a “most magnificent palace” that Herod the Great built out into the waters of Caesarea. The pool in the center was nearly Olympic size - filled with fresh water.
This is important because of the roll that this harbor played in the life of Paul. Paul imprisoned on the grounds of this palace. If Luke gets this wrong – the N.T. has just lost all credibility!
READ LUKE 1:1-4
Notice the key words: “Eyewitness” – Luke is uses apostles as the primary source of his writing. This is important because remember Caesarea – Luke was with Paul on most of his journeys and Paul was imprisoned at the Caesarea’s harbor for 2 years which would have give in him plenty of time to go and begin his research and investigation the Christmas claims before writing the Book of Luke!
“Having perfect understanding” = literally he’s saying, “having traced out”
“Certainty” = firmness or stability. In the first century it was used to describe a legal financial transition – money that was paid as assurance of living up to your word. Today we get the idea of “security deposit” from this word.