Many news outlets have reported over the past week regarding scientific tests conducted at the traditional tomb of Jesus. National Geographic reported construction materials from the tomb date to the Roman era. Further, limestone tested at the site reveals remnants of a tomb from 1,700 years ago.
This limestone dates to the fourth century, a time when Romans enshrined this area in reverence of the site as the traditional location of the tomb of Jesus. What does this information mean?
First, it shows the location of the tomb of Jesus fits the time and location noted in the New Testament accounts. The Gospel writers mention a rock tomb with a stone rolled in front of it outside of the old city of Jerusalem.
Second, the evidence points to Christians commemorating this location at a very early time period. Before the New Testament circulated regularly as 27 books, the location of the tomb of Jesus had long been known and visited by his followers.
Third, this finding confirms something often overlooked in Christian history. Location was often considered of tremendous value to early believers in Jesus. Even if a person was not functionally literate, those who understood the importance of where Jesus was buried often invested time to visit the location.Fourth, the biblical story and history are inseparable. Unlike some religious traditions, Christianity is based on historical people and events confirmed through a wide variety of archaeological and historical sources. While Christians believe “by grace through faith” (Ephesians 2:8-9), we also base our faith on facts.
In a cultural context when spiritual beliefs are often based on feelings, it is helpful to remember the Christian faith is based on facts rather than fake news. There may be a variety of interpretations regarding the Christian tradition. However, Christianity affirms Jesus was the one who both rested as a dead man in a tomb and lived to tell about it.
This story began in Bethlehem, the location we celebrate at this time of year as Christmas. Yet this story is more than a story. It is history, living history, that remains revered today.
Dillon Burroughs is the author and coauthor of numerous books and blogs about his experiences of handwriting the Bible at the Holy Writ Project on Patheos.com. Find out more about Dillon at Facebook or Twitter.