59 Confirmed or Historically Probable Facts in the Gospel of John


Magnifying_glass_icon 750Discover the facts and the historical evidence in the Gospel of John at Truthbomb Apologetics. I’ve quoted more than a third of the fifty-nine listed in his blog. Follow the link to read them all.

  1. Archaeology confirms the use of stone water jars in New Testament times [John 2:6].
  2. Archaeology confirms the proper place of Jacob’s Well [4:6].
  3. Josephus [Wars of the Jews 2.232] confirms there was significant hostility between Jews and Samaritans during Jesus’ time [4:9].
  4. “Come down” accurately describes the topography of western Galilee. [There’s a significant elevation drop from Cana to Capernaum.] [4:46, 49, 51].
  5. Archaeology confirms the proper location of Bethesda [5:2]. [Excavations between 1914 and 1938 uncovered that pool and found it to be just as John described it. Since that structure did not exist after the Romans destroyed the city in A.D. 70, it’s unlikely any later non-eyewitness could have described it in such vivid detail. Moreover, John says that this structure “is in Jerusalem,” implying that he’s writing before 70].
  6. The two predominant opinions of Jesus, one that Jesus was a “good man” and the other that he “deceives people,” would not be the two choices John would have made up [7:12]; a later Christian writer would have probably inserted the opinion that Jesus was God.
  7. Expulsion from the synagogue by the Pharisees was a legitimate fear of the Jews; notice that the healed man professes his faith in Jesus only after he is expelled from the synagogue by the Pharisees [9:13-39], at which point he has nothing to lose. This rings of authenticity.
  8. Given the later animosity between Christians and Jews, the positive depiction of Jews comforting Martha and Mary is an unlikely invention [11:19].
  9. Caiaphas was indeed the high priest that year [11:49]; we learn from Josephus that Caiaphas held the office from A.D. 18-37.
  10. The obscure and tiny village of Ephraim [11:54] near Jerusalem is mentioned by Josephus.
  11. Waving of palm branches was a common Jewish practice for celebrating military victories and welcoming national rulers [12:13].
  12. The standard Jewish posture for prayers was looking “toward heaven” [17:1].
  13. No specific reference to fulfilled Scripture is given regarding the predicted betrayal by Judas; a fiction writer or later Christian redactor probably would have identified the Old Testament Scripture to which Jesus was referring [17:12].
  14. John’s claim that the high priest knew him [18:15] seems historical; invention of this claim serves no purpose and would expose John to being discredited by the Jewish authorities.
  15. There are good historical reasons to believe Pilate’s reluctance to deal with Jesus [18:28ff.]: Pilate had to walk a fine line between keeping the Jews happy and keeping Rome happy; any civil unrest could mean his job [the Jews knew of his competing concerns when they taunted him, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar,” 19:12]; the Jewish philosopher Philo records the Jews successfully pressuring Pilate in a similar way to get their demands met [To Gaius 38.301-302].
  16. A surface similar to the Stone Pavement has been identified near the Antonia Fortress [19:13] with markings that may indicate soldiers played games there [as in the gambling for his clothes in 19:24].
  17. Crucifixion victims normally carried their own crossbeams [19:17].
  18. After the spear was thrust into Jesus’ side, out came what appeared to be blood and water [19:34]. Today we know that a crucified person might have a watery fluid father in the sac around the heart called the pericardium. John would not have known of this medical condition, and could not have recorded this phenomenon unless he was an eyewitness or had access to eyewitness testimony.
  19. Josephus [Antiquities 17.199] confirms that spices [19:39] were used for royal burials; this detail shows that Nicodemus was not expecting Jesus to rise from the dead, and it also demonstrates that John was not inserting later Christian faith into the text.
  20. Mary Magdalene [20:1], a formerly demon-possessed woman [Luke 8:2], would not be invented as the empty tomb’s first witness; in fact, women in general would not be presented as witnesses in a made-up story.
  21. “Rabboni” [20:16], the Aramaic for “teacher,” seems an authentic detail because it’s another unlikely invention for a writer trying to exalt the risen Jesus.
  22. The fear of the disciples to ask Jesus who he was [21:12] is an unlikely concoction; it demonstrates natural human amazement at the risen Jesus and perhaps the fact that there was something different about the resurrection body.

Source: The magnifying glass icon is in the public domain (Wikimedia Commons).

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