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WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 1, 2021)—Extra-biblical evidence confirms the existence of seven religious figures from the New Testament.
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, and (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.
Before confirming a biblical figure, Mykytiuk carefully examines the historical and archaeological sources to verify three criteria:
(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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