A couple of geologists are now claiming that they may have nailed down the year that Jesus was crucified by looking at varve data to determine the year that an earthquake occurred, because the Bible says that when Jesus was resurrected, the earth shook. Yes, I’m serious.
The latest investigation, reported in the journal International Geology Review, focused on earthquake activity at the Dead Sea, located 13 miles from Jerusalem. The Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 27, mentions that an earthquake coincided with the crucifixion:
“And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open.”
To analyze earthquake activity in the region, geologist Jefferson Williams of Supersonic Geophysical and colleagues Markus Schwab and Achim Brauer of the German Research Center for Geosciences studied three cores from the beach of the Ein Gedi Spa adjacent to the Dead Sea.
Varves, which are annual layers of deposition in the sediments, reveal that at least two major earthquakes affected the core: a widespread earthquake in 31 B.C. and an early first century seismic event that happened sometime between 26 A.D. and 36 A.D.
The latter period occurred during “the years when Pontius Pilate was procurator of Judea and when the earthquake of the Gospel of Matthew is historically constrained,” Williams said.
“The day and date of the crucifixion (Good Friday) are known with a fair degree of precision,” he said. But the year has been in question…When data about the Jewish calendar and astronomical calculations are factored in, a handful of possible dates result, with Friday April 3, 33 A.D. being the best match, according to the researchers.
Wow, how compelling. Except, as Staks Rosch points out, the verse from Matthew says much more than that. It said that this earthquake, which seems not to have been noticed by any non-Biblical historian or contemporary account, continued “…and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.”
Imagine for a moment that a document claimed that when Martin Luther King was killed, an earthquake occurred that shook Washington, DC, and the zombies of Washington, Lincoln and Jefferson rose from the grave and wandered around the city, appearing to many people — with no one actually noticing that it happened. The Washington Post didn’t report either the earthquake or the band of zombies wandering the streets, nor did anyone else. And if a scientist came by and said, “Hey, we found evidence of a small earthquake somewhere within a few years of King’s assassination,” would you accept that as evidence of this happening? Of course not.