Each year, on an almost daily basis, archaeological discoveries help us better understand the Bible and affirm its details about people, events, and culture.
Below are the top excavation findings reported in 2017 which have increased our knowledge of the biblical world and the early history of Christianity.
1. Tomb of Jesus Christ
The renovation of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem began last year, but it was new scientific tests in November 2017 that found that the tomb, believed to be where Jesus Christ’s body was rested after the crucifixion, matches previous historical accounts of the famous site.
Mortar samples collected from between the original limestone surface of the tomb and a marble slab that covers it were analyzed using optically stimulated luminescence, which allowed researchers to determine when quartz sediment was most recently exposed to light.
The tomb was dated back to 345 A.D., which aligns with accounts describing how Constantine, Rome’s first Christian emperor, discovered and enshrined it somewhere around 326, in his quest to lead the Roman empire to embrace Christianity.
2. Babylonian Conquest of Jerusalem
Excavation work carried out by the Israel Antiquities Authority at the Jerusalem Walls National Park found numerous pieces of evidence in July pointing to the conquest of Jerusalem by King Nebuchadnezzar of the Babylonian Empire in the sixth century B.C., as described in the Old Testament.
The IAA said that it found various unique and rare artifacts, including charred wood, grape seeds, pottery, fish scales and bones.
3. First Apocalypse of James
Biblical scholars from the University of Texas at Austin revealed in November that they discovered an “original copy” of the First Apocalypse of James, an ancient Christian text deemed heretical by the Church.
The scholars uncovered the fragments of the manuscript, written somewhere in the fifth or sixth century, while exploring archives at Oxford University.
The text, which is considered heretical because it falls outside the canon of the New Testament books, includes revelations made by Jesus to James about the heavenly realm.
4. Home of Jesus’ Disciples
In August, archaeologists said that they might have found the home of three of Jesus’ disciples in the lost Roman city of Julias off of the Sea of Galilee.
Julias was built as part of the town of Bethsaida, which John 1:44 in the Bible lists as the hometown of Philip, Andrew, and Peter.
Researchers from Kinneret College noted that the discovery of a church on the former site of the apostles’ home correlates with accounts of a Christian traveler in the eighth century, who said that “in the house of Tsaida the church is in honor of Peter and Andreas.”
5. King David’s Battle
Archaeologists said in January that they excavated an ancient wall dating back to the 10th century B.C. in southern Israel’s Arava desert region, alluding to King David’s capture of the land of Edom, as found in 2 Samuel 8:13 in the Bible.
The researchers found a copper smelting site along with the wall at the Timna copper mines, which once stood at least 16.5 feet tall.
Numerous sling stones found near the site also could serve as evidence of the large biblical battle, they added.
Erez Ben-Yosef of Tel Aviv University, head of the team that discovered the structure, pointed out that copper had a great value for military organizations back then.
6. Mug Workshop
The discovery of an ancient mug workshop near what was once the town of Cana in Israel hearkened back to one of the most famous Bible stories, namely the wedding where Jesus turned water into wine.
Archaeologist Yonatan Adler and his team found “fragments of chalkstone mugs and bowls along with thousands of cylindrical chalk cores discarded in the process of hollowing out the vessels with a lathe,” AFP reported.
John 2:1–12 mentions the wedding feast where Jesus performed His first miracle, and also details six large stone water jars, which were used for Jewish purification rites.
Adler suggested that such stone jars would have been produced somewhere in the area.
Additional Reporting by Christian Post, Christianity Today, National Geographic.