BIBLE HISTORY DAILY

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.”

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26 Responses

  1. arturol7 says:

    John 20:24-29New International Version (NIV)
    Jesus Appears to Thomas
    24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus[a]), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

    But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

    26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

    28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

    29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

  2. Dan says:

    Hi
    If Jesus was crucified on Friday, how do we get the 3 days and 3 nights period in the grave to fulfill the prophecy in Matt 12:40, which proves His Messiahship?

    Thanks

  3. gary says:

    The only author in the Bible who mentions anything about guards being at the tomb, Matthew, says that the guards were not posted until the next day after Jesus body had been placed in the tomb, and, even though Joseph of Arimethea had rolled a great stone in front of the tomb, he had not sealed it. So, the tomb of Jesus was left unguarded and unsealed the entire first night, in the darkness, and probably part of the next day. That would provide ample time and ample opportunity for someone to have moved or stolen the body.

    So even if the biblical account of the “guards at the tomb” story is correct, the fact that there is a time period when the tomb was left unguarded, blows a hole in the Christian claim that a resurrection is the best explanation for the empty tomb and the disciples’ belief that Jesus had been resurrected. For instance, if grave robbers had taken the body, the Jews would say that the disciples took the body and the disciples would say that Jesus had fulfilled his prophecy and had risen from the dead.

  4. gary says:

    Jesus’ resurrection after his death is the ultimate and defining proof of Jesus’ divinity. Just about everyone knows the story, which is summarized in the Apostles’ Creed. Jesus was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. On the third day he arose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.

    There is only one way for Jesus to prove that he rose from the dead. He had to appear to people. Therefore, several different places in the Bible describe Jesus’ appearances after his death:

    •Matthew chapter 28
    •Mark chapter 16
    •Luke chapter 24
    •John Chapter 20 and 21

    1 Corinthians 15:3-6 provides a nice summary of those passages, as written by Paul:

    For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. As you can see in this passage, Jesus appeared to hundreds of people a number of different times.

    Being like Paul: When we look at these Bible passages, there is a question that comes to mind — why did Jesus stop making these appearances? Why isn’t Jesus appearing today? It really is odd. Obviously Paul benefitted from a personal meeting with the resurrected Christ. Because of the personal visit, Paul could see for himself the truth of the resurrection, and he could ask Jesus questions. So… Why doesn’t Jesus appear to everyone and prove that he is resurrected, just like he appeared to Paul? There is nothing to stop Jesus from materializing in your kitchen tonight to have a personal chat with you. And if you think about it, Jesus really does need to appear to each of us. If Paul needed a personal visit from Jesus to know that Jesus was resurrected, then why wouldn’t you? It is an important question for the following reasons:

    •We are told by the Bible that Jesus appeared to hundreds of people.

    •We therefore know that it is OK for Jesus to appear to people — it does not take away their free will, for example.

    •We know that it would be easy for Jesus to appear to everyone all through history, since Jesus is all-powerful and timeless.

    •We know that, if Jesus did reappear to everyone, it would be incredibly helpful. We could all know, personally, that Jesus is resurrected and that Jesus is God. If Paul (and all the other people in the Bible) needed a personal visit to know that Jesus was resurrected, then why not you and me?

    •Yet, we all know that Jesus has not appeared to anyone in 2,000 years.

    THINK folks! Which is more likely: A dead man walked out of his grave 2,000 years ago, ate a broiled fish lunch with his fishing buddies and then 40 days later levitated into outer space, or, this entire story of a Resurrection is a legend: a legend based on false sightings and/or visions and hallucinations, of well-intentioned but uneducated, illiterate, hope-shattered, superstitious Galilean peasants, desperately trying to keep alive their only source of hope in their miserable, first century existence?

  5. იესო ქრისტეს სიკვდილი – I ნაწილი | seminarieli says:

    […] [7]-შეად : http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-topics/crucifixion/jesus’-crucifixion-refl… […]

  6. The Shroud of Turin: Relic or Forgery? | newsantiques.com says:

    […] 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 […]

  7. “Estudo indica possível terremoto no dia da morte de Jesus” | Entendendo a Vida says:

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

  8. Earthquake Data Confirms Holy Friday As A Very Supernatural Day | agnus dei - english romanian blog says:

    […] 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… […]

  9. Art of Reason – Ancient earthquakes | Arguing With Friends says:

    […] 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 […]

  10. William Kelly 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…..

  11. K-House eNews for June 05, 2012 | Messiah Available says:

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

Write a Reply or Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


26 Responses

  1. arturol7 says:

    John 20:24-29New International Version (NIV)
    Jesus Appears to Thomas
    24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus[a]), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

    But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

    26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

    28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

    29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

  2. Dan says:

    Hi
    If Jesus was crucified on Friday, how do we get the 3 days and 3 nights period in the grave to fulfill the prophecy in Matt 12:40, which proves His Messiahship?

    Thanks

  3. gary says:

    The only author in the Bible who mentions anything about guards being at the tomb, Matthew, says that the guards were not posted until the next day after Jesus body had been placed in the tomb, and, even though Joseph of Arimethea had rolled a great stone in front of the tomb, he had not sealed it. So, the tomb of Jesus was left unguarded and unsealed the entire first night, in the darkness, and probably part of the next day. That would provide ample time and ample opportunity for someone to have moved or stolen the body.

    So even if the biblical account of the “guards at the tomb” story is correct, the fact that there is a time period when the tomb was left unguarded, blows a hole in the Christian claim that a resurrection is the best explanation for the empty tomb and the disciples’ belief that Jesus had been resurrected. For instance, if grave robbers had taken the body, the Jews would say that the disciples took the body and the disciples would say that Jesus had fulfilled his prophecy and had risen from the dead.

  4. gary says:

    Jesus’ resurrection after his death is the ultimate and defining proof of Jesus’ divinity. Just about everyone knows the story, which is summarized in the Apostles’ Creed. Jesus was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. On the third day he arose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.

    There is only one way for Jesus to prove that he rose from the dead. He had to appear to people. Therefore, several different places in the Bible describe Jesus’ appearances after his death:

    •Matthew chapter 28
    •Mark chapter 16
    •Luke chapter 24
    •John Chapter 20 and 21

    1 Corinthians 15:3-6 provides a nice summary of those passages, as written by Paul:

    For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. As you can see in this passage, Jesus appeared to hundreds of people a number of different times.

    Being like Paul: When we look at these Bible passages, there is a question that comes to mind — why did Jesus stop making these appearances? Why isn’t Jesus appearing today? It really is odd. Obviously Paul benefitted from a personal meeting with the resurrected Christ. Because of the personal visit, Paul could see for himself the truth of the resurrection, and he could ask Jesus questions. So… Why doesn’t Jesus appear to everyone and prove that he is resurrected, just like he appeared to Paul? There is nothing to stop Jesus from materializing in your kitchen tonight to have a personal chat with you. And if you think about it, Jesus really does need to appear to each of us. If Paul needed a personal visit from Jesus to know that Jesus was resurrected, then why wouldn’t you? It is an important question for the following reasons:

    •We are told by the Bible that Jesus appeared to hundreds of people.

    •We therefore know that it is OK for Jesus to appear to people — it does not take away their free will, for example.

    •We know that it would be easy for Jesus to appear to everyone all through history, since Jesus is all-powerful and timeless.

    •We know that, if Jesus did reappear to everyone, it would be incredibly helpful. We could all know, personally, that Jesus is resurrected and that Jesus is God. If Paul (and all the other people in the Bible) needed a personal visit to know that Jesus was resurrected, then why not you and me?

    •Yet, we all know that Jesus has not appeared to anyone in 2,000 years.

    THINK folks! Which is more likely: A dead man walked out of his grave 2,000 years ago, ate a broiled fish lunch with his fishing buddies and then 40 days later levitated into outer space, or, this entire story of a Resurrection is a legend: a legend based on false sightings and/or visions and hallucinations, of well-intentioned but uneducated, illiterate, hope-shattered, superstitious Galilean peasants, desperately trying to keep alive their only source of hope in their miserable, first century existence?

  5. იესო ქრისტეს სიკვდილი – I ნაწილი | seminarieli says:

    […] [7]-შეად : http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-topics/crucifixion/jesus’-crucifixion-refl… […]

  6. The Shroud of Turin: Relic or Forgery? | newsantiques.com says:

    […] 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 […]

  7. “Estudo indica possível terremoto no dia da morte de Jesus” | Entendendo a Vida says:

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

  8. Earthquake Data Confirms Holy Friday As A Very Supernatural Day | agnus dei - english romanian blog says:

    […] 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… […]

  9. Art of Reason – Ancient earthquakes | Arguing With Friends says:

    […] 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 […]

  10. William Kelly 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…..

  11. K-House eNews for June 05, 2012 | Messiah Available says:

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

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