Is Jesus’ Crucifixion Reflected in Soil Deposition?

A Geological Study May Indicate Earthquake Described by Matthew

Earthquake

The Gospel of Matthew describes an earthquake during Jesus’ Crucifixion. Sediment disturbances mentioned in a recent article in the International Geology Review points to the Biblical earthquake and may give a concrete date of the crucifixion. Painting by James Jacques Tissot.

 

According to the Gospel of Matthew, an earthquake shook Jerusalem on the day of Jesus’ crucifixion. A new study of cores and seismic activity near the Dead Sea in the latest issue of International Geology Review* may provide scientific data relating to the event described in Matthew 27. Moreover, a recent report by Discovery News suggested** that the new research on sediment disturbances can be combined with Biblical, astronomical and calendrical information to give a precise date of the crucifixion: Friday, April 3rd, 33 C.E.

Matthew 27:50-54 reads:

“Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many. Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, ‘Truly this man was God’s Son!’”

Geologists Jefferson B. Williams, Markus J. Schwab and A. Brauer examined disturbances in sediment depositions to identify two earthquakes: one large earthquake in 31 B.C.E., and another, smaller quake between 26 and 36 C.E. In the abstract of their paper, the authors write, “Plausible candidates include the earthquake reported in the Gospel of Matthew, an earthquake that occurred sometime before or after the crucifixion and was in effect ‘borrowed’ by the author of the Gospel of Matthew, and a local earthquake between 26 and 36 AD that was sufficiently energetic to deform the sediments at Ein Gedi but not energetic enough to produce a still extant and extra-biblical historical record. If the last possibility is true, this would mean that the report of an earthquake in the Gospel of Matthew is a type of allegory.”



In our free eBook Easter: Exploring the Resurrection of Jesus, expert Bible scholars and archaeologists offer in-depth research and reflections on this important event. Discover what they say about the story of the resurrection, the location of Biblical Emmaus, Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb, the ancient Jewish roots of bodily resurrection, and the possible endings of the Gospel of Mark.



The geologists compared their findings with Biblical information, including the chronology of the reign of Pontius Pilate, the Gospels’ accounts of the crucifixion occurring on a Friday evening, and the Synoptic Gospel account that Jesus died just before Passover on the 15th day of Nisan. Using this Biblical information in conjunction with the geological report, the author of the Discovery News story reasoned that Friday April 3, 33 C.E. is the most likely date of the crucifixion.*** While there are no direct extant archaeological artifacts relating to Jesus’ crucifixion, the disturbances in soil deposition may reflect the earthquake described by Matthew. This quake, occurring during Jesus’ crucifixion, would have been too minor to be described by non-Biblical histories, but major enough to terrify the surrounding centurions.

 


 

Curious about what archaeology can tell us about Roman crucifixion? Read Hershel Shanks’s “Scholars’ Corner: New Analysis of the Crucified Man” as it appeared in Biblical Archaeology Review today in Bible History Daily.


 

Notes

* Williams, Jefferson B., Markus J Schwab and A. Brauer. “An early first-century earthquake in the Dead Sea” International Geology Review, Volume 54, Issue 10, 2012.

** “Day of Jesus’ Crucifixion Believed Determined.” Discovery News

*** Update: Geologist Jefferson Williams responded to Bible History Daily about the online attention given to the geological study. Bible History Daily has updated the article to reflect his commentary, and has copied a portion of his comment here that clarifies the initial report (read the full comment in the comments section below):
“I am the primary author of the research article and the original Discovery Article grossly misrepresented our work… Our article had very little to do with the date of the crucifixion. The article discussed Earthquake Geology and primarily how we arrived at a date for this earthquake (31 AD +/- 5 years). Because of uncertainties associated with the text of Matthew 27, we departed from previous Dead Sea Paleoseismology and dated the earthquake based purely on what we saw in the sediments. We then used an article by Humphreys and Waddington to compare our earthquake date with the date range of the crucifixion and the two years most commonly cited; 30 AD and 33 AD. If I had a do-over, I never would have mentioned those years since the only relevant textual information for our 3 conclusions was the date range of 26-36 AD. We are not New Testament Scholars and did not try to add textual information to come up with an exact date. Unfortunately, that was the impression of the Discovery article and this spread all over the internet.”

Posted in Crucifixion.

Tagged with , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Add Your Comments

21 Responses

Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.

  1. Connie says

    What day would have this been on a lunar Calendar?

  2. Clark says

    Does the suggested date take into account the Gregorian reform of the Roman calendar? That is, is this supposed to be April 3rd or April 13th?

  3. CHARLES says

    Why do you all want to change BC Before Christ to BCE….Is Christ that awful that He has to be eliminated from everything…What was so wrong with BC, and AD except that Christ was infolved?

  4. George says

    The geologists’ chronological certainty seems unfounded. Matthew explicitly reports strong seismic activity as the occasions of both the storm on the Sea of Galilee Jesus stilled in 8:24 (seismos megas) and the moving of the stone sealing Jesus’ tomb and in 28:2 (seismos . . . megas). In 27:51, he reports that the earth was shaken (he gE eseisthE) and stones split, but does not use the adjective “great” as in the other references.

  5. Robin says

    Comments #1 and #2 are good ones. I suspect that the article would have taken into account the lunar calendar and the Gregorian reform. I hope to find the magazine and read further!!

  6. Megiddo says

    For the 33 C.E. to be accurate Jesus would have been 38-39 yrs old. According to the Notes in the NIV John the Baptist was born in 7 B.C., Jesus 6 months later. The year of the quake in 26 C.E. may be more accurate being that Jesus would have been 31-32 yrs. old at crucifixion. The flight to Egypt and the death of Herrod should support Jesus being born BEFORE. 5-6 Before C.E.

  7. David says

    Something that must be taken into account is the words of Jesus Christ as written in Matthew 12:39-40. I quote: “39 But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:
    40 For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (KJV) And, according to Matthew 28:1 “1 In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.” (KJV) Remember, this was written by a Jew about Jews. The Jewish calendar starts a new day at sundown. So, the sabbath ends at sundown, Saturday. And, we know from other passages, that Christ was crucified on Passover and was resurrected on the Feast of Firstfruits. The Feast of Firstfuits starts on the day after the sabbath after Passover. Which means it always starts sundown on the Saturday after the Passover. In order to fulfill what Christ said, Passover would have had to occur on a Wednesday. He would be in the ground Wednesday night, Thursday day, Thursday night, Friday day, Friday night, Saturday day. That’s 3 days and 3 nights. His resurrection most likely occurred shortly after sundown on a Saturday. So, you are looking for a year when Passover started on sundown Tuesday.

  8. Robin says

    #7 is interesting, and he recounts an old, or minority, argument about the timing of Passover. The only Wednesday passover between 26 and 36 AD was March 24 of 34 A.D. According to Humphreys and Waddington, this date is too late, considering the timing of Paul’s conversion which they feel can be confidently dated to AD 34.. I have heard–though there are disagreements–that part of a day constituted a “day” in the era of the NT.
    Thus, the part of a day that remained on Frieday April 3 constituted a “day,” followed by night and then Saturday the 2nd day, and on Sunday, just after sunrise would be the third day. Durant, of course, said this is “two days,” but there are others who argue that this constiutes the three days. There are many arguments for April 3 of 33 AD that make sense–incl\ the info about Pilate being in hot water after the death of Sejanuis. Three days and three nights? Hagner in WBC noted that the comparison with the Jonah experience was not quite exact in a variety of ways—i.e., Jonah did not die as Jesus did and “the early Church described Jesus as being active… between his death and resurrection” ciitng I Peter and Eph. The lack of exact likeness between the two is an obsession of “some modern interpreters,” and did not bother the early Church. But still—interesting to hear other views!

  9. Rollan says

    The article is promoted in a way that gives the impression of greater possibility of accuracy over the dating than the given margin for at least the smaller quake allows. Jesus died in AD 30, not least because the Talmud, suggestively for gospel accounts, recorded things started to go wrong in the Temple 40 yrs before the temple was destroyed. That’s not 33 AD. Apart from various arguments for 30 AD there is the celestial evidence. There are certain patterns associated with quakes. Astrologers wisely don’t normally predict quakes as the typical signs are precisely typical and the pattern need not accompany tremors every time though typical signs should be present when they do occur. Thus as pointed out by the AFA recently May 20th’s Italian quake showed showed Pluto suitably angular and in affliction to Uranus at the time of the recent main Italian quake. This is the kind of pattern one would expect. On 6th April 30 AD Pluto was angular, afflicted and opposite Saturn within a pattern that would very much accompany quaking and is overall so painful it would also reflect a world historical death.

    I am only writing this because someone has prodded me into doing so, but frankly, as a doctor or religious studies I am almost too weary to bother making any comment after nearly a quarter century of confronting what is the dismissive intellectual snobbery of some, the fundamentalist biblical prejudices of others, the insulting indifference and cheap scepticism of publishing, media, which is preventing major data regarding Christ being known to the world because of prejudices regarding “astrology” – I must regrettably include Biblical Archaeology itself in this which a few years back published on the Magi and then refused an invitation to even look at the evidence of astro-archaeology now published as “Testament of the Magi” (see Amazon). I use the NRSV so wasn’t aware re the NIV note cited in this debate but it is correct if it makes out the year of Christ’s birth to be 7 BC and the crucifixion AD 30. And if one pursues the related line of inquiry opened up by the D’Occhieppo/Hughes theses on ancient astronomy/astrology then one can arrive at a clearly expressive, unmistakable pattern for Christ’s birth and life such as ancient Magi would understand but which recent knowledge can dramatically embellish. It can do so to such exactitude that Christ’s house of origins following traditional magian ideas can even reveal such as the names of his ancestors (using asteroids not seen or named till modern times but necessarily true because once into the magian universe all time is one). The data works to this day as when the impossibly combined natal James conjunct Part of Brothers was hit off at the time of the discovery of the James Ossuary. It all works except that scientism hasn’t the will or humility to consider such things might work. It would disturb too many ideas so it has to be wrong, therefore it must be rejected and dismissed (rather like Christ himself one might say – “no room at the inn!). Not even astrologers are much interested if for rather different reasons – as one put it to me the picture I was dealing in was too close for comfort, so intimately revealing it was frightening, they would prefer the icon. But I think that would go for most people to a degree. Keep looking for Jesus, making noises about finds but never quite wanting the core revelations, journey rather than arrive. David Hughes has not even wished to look at the astrological confirmation and enlargement of his own theories despite the Society of Authors, his own publisher, one of my editors who knew him, all asking him to get in touch in addition to my own occasional emails over the years. Sadly I have even read (in an article of the Flamsteed Astronomical Society in London) that Hughes only went into his researches on the Bethlehem Star on the offer of big bucks and certainly he regularly hogs media on this subject while I who entered the arena for truth and now dispose of vastly more detail of public interest, am excluded. If this message is not ignored or condemned I should be surprised, it would only fit the usual pattern. But I can only say people questing for evidence about Jesus need to examine themselves. What are you doing it for, how and why?

  10. Jefferson says

    I am the primary author of the research article and the original Discovery Article grossly misrepresented our work. While this is one of the better rewrites of the Discovery article the line “Using this data in conjunction with the geological report, the authors of the study reasoned that Friday April 3, 33 C.E. is the most likely date of the crucifixion.” is not true. Our article had very little to do with the date of the crucifixion. The article discussed Earthquake Geology and primarily how we arrived at a date for this earthquake (31 AD +/- 5 years). Because of uncertainties associated with the text of Matthew 27, we departed from previous Dead Sea Paleoseismology and dated the earthquake based purely on what we saw in the sediments. We then used an article by Humphreys and Waddington to compare our earthquake date with the date range of the crucifixion and the two years most commonly cited; 30 AD and 33 AD. If I had a do-over, I never would have mentioned those years since the only relevant textual information for our 3 conclusions was the date range of 26-36 AD. We are not New Testament Scholars and did not try to add textual information to come up with an exact date. Unfortunately, that was the impression of the Discovery article and this spread all over the internet.

  11. Esther says

    Foremost, in between, and bottom line, ” HE IS RISEN”.. We serve a RISEN, LIVING, SAVIOR, GOD.

  12. Wes says

    Thank you 7. Even Daniel acknowledged that the Messiah would be “cut off” in the midst of the week…..and which day is the ‘midst’ of the week???

  13. Lynda says

    Why do religious people seek tangible proof of Biblical events to shore up their faith? Remember what Jesus said to doubting Thomas–”Blessed are they, etc.” I think that those who seek tangible proof of Biblical events are sure to run into unresolvable contradictions–if anything, it shakes the underpinnings of the faith. The writers of the gospel were writing scripture for believers, not scientific texts.

  14. William says

    Let’s not forget the types and shadows of the Jewish Festivals, 10th of Nisan , 14th Nisan, and the Firstfruits after the Sabbath Week..Should explain it all…..

Continuing the Discussion

  1. Important News Headlines - 6th June 2012 | Command the Raven linked to this post on June 7, 2012

    [...] Geologists Offer Evidence Of Crucifixion Earthquake – June 04, 2012 According to the Gospel of Matthew, an earthquake shook Jerusalem on the day of Jesus’ crucifixion. A new study of cores and seismic activity near the Dead Sea in the latest issue of International Geology Review may provide scientific data relating to the event described in Matthew 27 [show/hide]Matthew 27 Jesus Delivered to Pilate [27:1]When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. [2]And they bound him and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate the governor. Judas Hangs Himself [3]Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, [4]saying, "I have sinned by betraying innocent blood." They said, "What is that to us? See to it yourself." [5]And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself. [6]But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, "It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since it is blood money." [7]So they took counsel and bought with them the potter's field as a burial place for strangers. [8]Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. [9]Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, "And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on whom a price had been set by some of the sons of Israel, [10]and they gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord directed me." Jesus Before Pilate [11]Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, "Are you the King of the Jews?" Jesus said, "You have said so." [12]But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer. [13]Then Pilate said to him, "Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?" [14]But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed. The Crowd Chooses Barabbas [15]Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. [16]And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. [17]So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, "Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?" [18]For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. [19]Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, "Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream." [20]Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. [21]The governor again said to them, "Which of the two do you want me to release for you?" And they said, "Barabbas." [22]Pilate said to them, "Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?" They all said, "Let him be crucified!" [23]And he said, "Why, what evil has he done?" But they shouted all the more, "Let him be crucified!" Pilate Delivers Jesus to Be Crucified [24]So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, "I am innocent of this man's blood; see to it yourselves." [25]And all the people answered, "His blood be on us and on our children!" [26]Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified. Jesus Is Mocked [27]Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor's headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. [28]And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, [29]and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!" [30]And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. [31]And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him. The Crucifixion [32]As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry his cross. [33]And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), [34]they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. [35]And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots. [36]Then they sat down and kept watch over him there. [37]And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, "This is Jesus, the King of the Jews." [38]Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. [39]And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads [40]and saying, "You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross." [41]So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, [42]"He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. [43]He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, 'I am the Son of God.'" [44]And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way. The Death of Jesus [45]Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. [46]And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" that is, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" [47]And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, "This man is calling Elijah." [48]And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. [49]But the others said, "Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him." [50]And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. [51]And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. [52]The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, [53]and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. [54]When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, "Truly this was the Son of God!" [55]There were also many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him, [56]among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee. Jesus Is Buried [57]When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. [58]He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. [59]And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud [60]and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. [61]Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb. The Guard at the Tomb [62]The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate [63]and said, "Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, 'After three days I will rise.' [64]Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, 'He has risen from the dead,' and the last fraud will be worse than the first." [65]Pilate said to them, "You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can." [66]So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard. (ESV). Geologists Jefferson B. Williams, Markus J. Schwab and A. Brauer examined disturbances in sediment depositions to identify two earthquakes: one large earthquake in 31 B.C., and another, smaller quake between A.D. 26 and 36. This quake, occurring during Jesus’ crucifixion, would have been too minor to be described by non-Biblical histories, but major enough to terrify the surrounding centurions. Biblical Archeology Society [...]

  2. Jesus Lives! » Blog Archive » Important News Headlines – 6th June 2012 linked to this post on June 7, 2012

    [...] Geologists Offer Evidence Of Crucifixion Earthquake – June 04, 2012 According to the Gospel of Matthew, an earthquake shook Jerusalem on the day of Jesus’ crucifixion. A new study of cores and seismic activity near the Dead Sea in the latest issue of International Geology Review may provide scientific data relating to the event described in Matthew 27. Geologists Jefferson B. Williams, Markus J. Schwab and A. Brauer examined disturbances in sediment depositions to identify two earthquakes: one large earthquake in 31 B.C., and another, smaller quake between A.D. 26 and 36. This quake, occurring during Jesus’ crucifixion, would have been too minor to be described by non-Biblical histories, but major enough to terrify the surrounding centurions. Biblical Archeology Society No Comments » Subscribe to the comments for this post [...]

  3. K-House eNews for June 05, 2012 | Messiah Available linked to this post on July 11, 2012

    [...] Geologists Offer Evidence Of Crucifixion Earthquake [...]

  4. Art of Reason – Ancient earthquakes | Arguing With Friends linked to this post on January 15, 2013

    [...] around on the internet brings us to the Bible History Daily website and this article. At the bottom of the article is an update received from the author of the original geological [...]

  5. Earthquake Data Confirms Holy Friday As A Very Supernatural Day | agnus dei - english + romanian blog linked to this post on March 29, 2013

    [...] from Chris Putnam at LogosApologia http://www.logosapologia.org/?p=1962 for full documentation. As of June 2012 now confirmed by new data see:http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/da… [...]

  6. “Estudo indica possível terremoto no dia da morte de Jesus” | Entendendo a Vida linked to this post on March 29, 2013

    [...] Biblical Archaeology Avalie:Espalhe esse artigo:Curtir isso:Curtir Carregando… Tags: arqueologia, biblical, [...]

  7. The Shroud of Turin: Relic or Forgery? | newsantiques.com linked to this post on March 2, 2014

    [...] Carpinteri of a Politecnico di Torino in Italy hypothesized in a newly published study that an earthquake that strike Jerusalem in 33 C.E. might have been clever adequate to means proton radiation. This materialisation in spin might have [...]


Some HTML is OK

or, reply to this post via trackback.


Enter Your Log In Credentials

Change Password

×