BIBLE HISTORY DAILY

7 “Real” Religious Figures from the New Testament

Extra-biblical evidence confirms the existence of seven religious figures from the New Testament

John The Baptist in 13th century mosaic in the Hagia Sophia

John the Baptist is depicted in this 13th-century mosaic from the Hagia Sophia, located in Istanbul, Turkey. Photo: Public Domain.

Although the New Testament is full of intriguing characters, only a handful of them have been substantiated through extra-biblical evidence—that is, evidence outside the Bible, such as coins, inscribed statues, and historical texts. It is much more common for political leaders than religious figures to appear in these sources. Yet seven religious figures from the New Testament can be confirmed by archaeological and manuscript evidence.

This group consists of three prominent figures in the New Testament, a renowned Pharisee, and three high priests:

(1) Jesus
(2) John the Baptist
(3) James, the brother of Jesus
(4) Gamaliel the Elder
(5) Annas, son of Seth
(6) Caiaphas
(7) Ananias, son of Nebedaios

In “New Testament Religious Figures Confirmed,” published in the Summer 2021 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, Lawrence Mykytiuk details the documentation for six of these figures. The first figure, Jesus, had been previously documented in a separate article: “Did Jesus Exist? Searching for Evidence Beyond the Bible.

These seven figures are in addition to 23 political figures from the New Testament and 53 people from the Old Testament who have been confirmed by archaeological and textual evidence. In earlier articles—“Archaeology Confirms 50 Real People in the Bible,” “Archaeology Confirms 3 More Bible People,” and “New Testament Political Figures Confirmed”—Mykytiuk presented the evidence for these 76 figures. His article in the Summer 2021 issue Biblical Archaeology Review concludes his popular series, bringing the count to 83 people from the Bible who have been confirmed by archaeology and textual sources outside the Bible.


In the free ebook Who Was Jesus? Exploring the History of Jesus’ Life, examine fundamental questions about Jesus of Nazareth. Where was he really born—Bethlehem or Nazareth? Did he marry? Is there evidence outside of the Bible that proves he actually walked the earth?


Before confirming a biblical figure, Mykytiuk carefully examines the historical and archaeological sources:

To make a firm identification, one must interpret ancient writings outside the Bible by other such writings, not the Bible, and then make sure that: (1) sources are genuine, not forged or unreliable; (2) the time-and-place setting of the person in the ancient writing matches the setting of the person in the Bible; and (3) marks of an individual, such as name, father’s name, title, or work location, distinguish two different people from each other and avoid the impression they are one and the same.

If an individual mentioned in an archaeological source matches with a biblical figure in regard to these criteria, his or her identity can be confirmed. The seven confirmed religious figures all appear in the writings of the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus: Jewish Antiquities, The Jewish War, or The Life of Josephus. Gamaliel the Elder also appears in the Mishnah. Jesus additionally appears in Tacitus’s Annals, Lucian of Samosata’s Passing of Peregrinus, and Celsus’s On the True Doctrine (via Origen, Against Celsus).

Learn more about these seven figures—and others who were not able to be confirmed archaeologically—in Lawrence Mykytiuk’s article “New Testament Religious Figures Confirmed,” published in the Summer 2021 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review. This article concludes his popular Biblical Archaeology Review series on people from the Bible who have been confirmed by archaeological and historical evidence—that is, until archaeology reveals more figures!

For those who want to dig deeper into the evidence, see Mykytiuk’s extensive documentation for the seven religious and 23 political New Testament figures in “30 People in the New Testament Confirmed.

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Subscribers: Read the full article “New Testament Religious Figures Confirmed” by Lawrence Mykytiuk in the Summer 2021 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

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Members, read more in the BAS Library by Lawrence Mykytiuk:

Not a BAS Library or All-Access Member yet? Join today.

 

New Testament Political Figures Confirmed
53 people from the Hebrew Bible have been confirmed by archaeology. What about the New Testament? Lawrence Mykytiuk examines the political figures in the New Testament who can be identified in the archaeological record and by extra-Biblical writings. Find out who makes the cut.

Archaeology Confirms 3 More Bible People
Author Lawrence Mykytiuk has updated his popular BAR article “Archaeology Confirms 50 Real People in the Bible” from the March/April 2014 issue with evidence of more real Hebrew Bible people. Who makes the new cut?

Archaeology Confirms 50 Real People in the Bible
How many people in the Hebrew Bible have been confirmed archaeologically?

The startling answer is at least 50!

Did Jesus Exist? Searching for Evidence Beyond the Bible
After two decades toiling in the quiet groves of academe, I published an article in BAR titled “Archaeology Confirms 50 Real People in the Bible.”  The enormous interest this article generated was a complete surprise to me. Nearly 40 websites in six languages, reflecting a wide spectrum of secular and religious orientations, linked to BAR’s supplementary web page. Some even posted translations.

I thought about following up with a similar article on people in the New Testament, but I soon realized that this would be so dominated by the question of Jesus’ existence that I needed to consider this question separately. This is that article

83 Real Bible People
Lawrence Mykytiuk’s popular BAR feature “Archaeology Confirms 50 Real People in the Bible” describes 50 Hebrew Bible figures that have been identified archaeologically. His subsequent follow-up articles have increased the number of figures that can be identified archaeologically to 83. In this BAS Library Special Collection read all five of Lawrence Mykytiuk’s BAR articles that, together, reveal 83 biblical personalities—from both the Hebrew Bible and New Testament—confirmed by sources outside the Bible.

53 People in the BAS Library
Lawrence Mykytiuk’s popular BAR feature “Archaeology Confirms 50 Real People in the Bible” describes 50 Hebrew Bible figures that have been identified archaeologically. His follow-up article, “Archaeology Confirms 3 More Bible People,” adds another three people to the list. In this BAS Library Special Collection, BAR editors have arranged an extensive list of Biblical Archaeology Review, Bible Review and Archaeology Odyssey that provide additional context for each figure.

 

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