With over 300 digs taking place within its borders each year, Israel is one of the most archaeologically excavated countries in the world with approximately 40,000 artifacts unearthed annually including the finds of 50 foreign expeditions on Israeli soil.
About one third of all the antiquities found lend credence to the presence of Christians in the region spanning 2,000 years, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA). With Easter coming up, the IAA has opened its warehouse of treasure troves in Beit Shemesh for reporters to view artifacts that date as far back as the time of Yeshua.
Even though historians do not have any direct archaeological evidence of Yeshua the Messiah and his life on earth, they have a plethora of antiquities, discovered in recent decades, that shed light on his life and crucifixion.
The head of the IAA archaeological division, Gideon Avni, said their knowledge of this period has expanded over the past 20 years and now they can precisely depict how the country looked.
“Today we can reconstruct very accurately many, many aspects of the daily life of the time of Christ,” he said. “Historians now know how long it took to travel between cities and villages where Jesus preached, and what those places looked like at the time.”
The IAA calls its warehouse of ancient treasures the “Ali Baba cave.” It is a well lit, 54,000-square-feet area filled with ancient potsherds, jugs, lamps and other fascinating finds. For this particular display, the officials have set up a white table with fascinating finds dating back to the time of Yeshua the Messiah as well as others bearing the same name.
One burial box has the name “Yeshua” inscribed on it and archaeologists say that they have found about 30 other ancient burial boxes inscribed with that same name. Yeshua was a common name in Judea and Samaria two millennia ago. Nevertheless, believers in his Resurrection and Ascension would not be looking for his burial box.
There is a massive stone block bearing what appears to be a carved depiction of the Second Temple. It was discovered in 2009 at the site of an ancient synagogue on the banks of the Sea of Galilee. The experts have proposed that Yeshua may have preached at that synagogue.
Ritual purity in all ways of life for Jews was strictly enforced at the time of the Second Temple. Well-preserved cups and dishes found in Jerusalem give testament to the culinary manifestation of that fact. Also found in Jerusalem were burial boxes and ossuaries: one limestone box linked to a descendant of Caiaphas the Yeshua-hating Sadducee High Priest from the year 27 to 36.
On display is a replica of a heel bone dating to the 1st century. It is pierced with an iron nail and has wooden fragments on each end. Discovered in a Jewish burial box, it is the only evidence to date of a Jewish custom burial following a Roman crucifixion. The original is in the Israel Museum and experts have been able to piece together the brutal crucifixion. This victim’s feet were nailed to the sides of his cross and might be a more accurate reflection of what Yeshua went through, according to Avni. Traditional Christian art may not be based on fact.
“You have to remember that Christ was one among more than a million people living during this time in the Holy Land and there is no reason to believe Jesus did not exist just because archaeologists haven’t found physical evidence of him,” Avni said.
A highly respected Israeli scholar of Christianity and an expert in her field, Yisca Harani, said that the lack of physical evidence of Jesus is a “trivial mystery.”
“Why do we expect in antiquity that there would be some evidence of his existence? It’s the reality of human life,” she noted. “It’s either rulers or military men who had their memory inscribed in stone and artifacts.”
“What remained of Yeshua,” she emphasized, “are his words.”