The Gospel Coalition

The Story: According to Discovery News, a new report in the International Geology Review claims that, based on earthquake activity at the Dead Sea near Jerusalem, Jesus was most likely crucified on Friday, April 3, in the year 33.

The Background: Matthew 27 says that at the moment Jesus died on the cross "the earth shook, and the rocks were split." Based on that evidence, a team of geologist believe they are able to narrow down the date of an earthquake in the first century.

Annual layers of deposition in the sediments near the Red Sea reveal that at least two major earthquakes affected the core: a widespread earthquake in 31 B.C. and a seismic event that happened sometime between the years 26 and 36. "The day and date of the crucifixion (Good Friday) are known with a fair degree of precision," said geologist Jefferson Williams of Supersonic Geophysical. 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, being the best match, according to the researchers.


Why It Matters: In a recent discussion on science and the Bible, theologian R.C. Sproul said,

I believe firmly that all of truth is God's truth, and I believe that God has not only given revelation in sacred Scripture, but also, the sacred Scripture itself tells us that God reveals Himself in nature---which we call natural revelation. And, I once asked a seminary class of mine that was a conservative group, I said, "How many of you believe that God's revelation in Scripture is infallible?" And they all raised their hand. And I said, "And how many of you believe that God's revelation in nature is infallible, and nobody raised their hand. It's the same God who's giving the revelation.


Because all truth is God's truth we can expect to find examples of natural revelation shedding light on that which is revealed to us through special revelation (i.e., the Bible). It also means that there will be times when special revelation illuminates our study of natural revelation.

Whether this recent finding is of significance for Biblical studies or for geology is a question that only geologists and theologians can answer. But for the rest of us the significance is that it provides a tangible reminder that while our interpretations may be flawed, all God's revelation---whether in nature or his Word---is infallible.

(Via: Neatorama)



Comments:

Meredith

May 31, 2012 at 01:15 PM

Dr. Larson's website (attempted to link directly to the page that talks about the day of the cross): http://www.bethlehemstar.net/day/day.htm

Dr. Larson goes through historical and astronomical (don't confuse with astrological) evidence. The earthquake findings just seem to pile on the evidence.

Wilson

May 30, 2012 at 12:39 PM

Joe, some (but not all) of the Biologos thinkers do hold strongly to the position that biological evolutionary processes do allow for the belief in a historical Adam and Eve. What is more, the even stronger position that scripture allows for evolution while requiring a historical Adam and Eve has been argued for by Dr. Keller, who is, of course, a founder of TGC.

There is certainly room for intelligent, godly people to disagree on the issue. We all, including those such as myself who find the Biologos position compelling, also agree that a correct understanding of Scripture will never disagree with a correct understanding of the scientific data. The question sometimes is simply which is incorrect: the scientific understanding or the *understanding* of Scripture. That is a very different problem than suggesting that Scripture itself might be mistaken.

I may be misreading your last sentence and if I am, please forgive me in the spirit of intellectual generosity. If I am reading it correctly, however, I'm not sure it's fair or helpful to assume that the Biologos folks (Dr. Keller among them) are likely to follow their conclusions away from Biblical truth. The moderate amount I have read from them always holds a very reverent attitude toward scripture. There is simply an interpretive disagreement about how the first chapters of Genesis are meant to be understood regarding our historical origins.

Dave Sarafolean

May 30, 2012 at 12:04 PM

J,

I'm pretty familiar with R.C. Sproul's theology and I don't think that he is confused. Rather, I understand his use of the term "natural theology" to be synonymous with "general revelation." That Romans 1 speaks about general revelation is beyond dispute.

Scott Markloff

May 30, 2012 at 12:02 PM

"And I said, "And how many of you believe that God's revelation in nature is infallible, and nobody raised their hand. It's the same God who's giving the revelation."

I believe that the reason that no one raised their hands is not so much because they doubt God's veracity in what He communicated in nature as much as they doubt our ability as humans to understand it, especially in light of how current science continually casts doubts on, if not outright denies, the existance of God.

I don't take it as a denial of God's ability to communicate through nature as much as questioning secular humans ability at interpreting the data properly.

Joe Carter

May 30, 2012 at 10:55 PM

***Joe, some (but not all) of the Biologos thinkers do hold strongly to the position that biological evolutionary processes do allow for the belief in a historical Adam and Eve.***

I think the question of whether biological evolutionary processes are consistent with a historical Adam and Eve is a valid question for exploration. I was only addressing the point you raised about polygenesis (humans descended from different lineages) vs monogenesis (humans descended from an original couple—Adam and Eve).

How we get to the first man and women is certainly debatable. But to claim that Adam and Eve were not historical not only goes against Scripture, but opens some serious problems for the inherent dignity of all human beings.

***The question sometimes is simply which is incorrect: the scientific understanding or the *understanding* of Scripture. That is a very different problem than suggesting that Scripture itself might be mistaken.***

I completely agree.

***If I am reading it correctly, however, I'm not sure it's fair or helpful to assume that the Biologos folks (Dr. Keller among them) are likely to follow their conclusions away from Biblical truth.***

Dr. Keller is certainly on the conservative end of the spectrum at Biologos, so I'd be surprised if his views are shared by the majority. From my reading of their work so far, it appears that they are primarily concerned with finding ways to read Scripture in the light of current science rather than saying that the current scientific understanding is likely to be in error where it assumes the Bible is wrong (such as on the historicity of Adam and Eve).

I hope I'm not being unfair to them, but I am under the impression that they've been more interested in convincing Christians that we may need to change our interpretive models of Scripture than they have in convincing the scientific community that they are likely wrong about their current interpretation of the natural world.

J

May 30, 2012 at 10:28 AM

Natural Revelation is not the same as extra biblical knowledge. R.C. Sproul is confused on this point. He believes that the facts that we gain when we look at nature/evidence is called Natural Revelation. Natural Revelation is the truth that GOD REVEALS HIMSELF, through nature, not just that trustworthy facts are out there. God gets himself through through the things made. Romans 1.

Peter

May 30, 2012 at 09:31 AM

Thanks for the correction, Kevin. I knew there was an eclipse but couldn't remember if it was lunar or solar...

Dave Sarafolean

May 30, 2012 at 08:54 AM

Joe,

I appreciate your reply. Our opinions on the matter are quite similar. I threw this question out there for everyone's benefit as this represents the latest clash between science (rooted in general revelation) and Scripture (special revelation).

I think the Orthodox Presbyterian Church's statement on Creation is quite helpful, particularly the section entitled, "HERMENEUTICS: GENERAL AND SPECIAL REVELATION". That paper is available here:
http://opc.org/ga_papers.html

Best Regards

Spencer Barfuss

May 30, 2012 at 06:58 AM

Peter, there WAS a solar eclipse on that date! Dr. Rick Larson has discovered this using astronomy software. Even you can check it out with his calcuations. You all need to read his research concerning the star of Bethlehem, and even better if you can go to one of his presentations, or buy the DVD. It is honestly the most goose bump producing presentation I have ever seen!

Check out the eclipse part of his site here!

zilch

May 30, 2012 at 03:13 AM

Heather- yes, I'd rather get to know people in real life too. But there are also lots of interesting folk online, and although chatting in cyberspace is certainly not the ideal form of communication, it's a lot better than nothing, especially because you're more likely to meet people who believe radically differently than you do online.

In my case, here in Vienna there are of course Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists, and others too, but there aren't too many fundamentalists- most people here don't make a big deal out of being a believer or not. In the US it's much more of a big deal, and that interests me, so I do spend a fair amount of time chatting online, for reasons I've stated before.

In any case, have a great day- cheers from sunny Vienna, zilch

Peter

May 30, 2012 at 02:48 PM

Hi Spencer. Yes, I have seen that DVD, and recall it talking about an eclipse...I just did not remember the date that Dr. Larson provided.

Kevin N

May 30, 2012 at 01:23 AM

Peter -- there would be no solar eclipse because the Passover occurs when there is a full moon. When there is a full moon, there can be a lunar eclipse, but not a solar eclipse. In fact, as the moon was rising over Jerusalem on April 3, 33AD, there was a lunar eclipse.

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Stephen

May 29, 2012 at 12:39 PM

"When data about the Jewish calendar and astronomical calculations are factored in, a handful of possible dates result, with Friday, April 3, 33, being the best match, according to the researchers."

Joe Carter

May 29, 2012 at 12:17 PM

Most Christians agree that the Gospels are accurate in recording the day of the Crucifixion on Good Friday. We also agree that Jesus died around 33 years of age between AD 30 and 36. The seismic evidence merely narrows the window and provide corroborating evidence to determine the closest year.

Heather E. Carrillo

May 29, 2012 at 12:04 PM

"The day and date of the crucifixion (Good Friday) are known with a fair degree of precision," said geologist Jefferson Williams of Supersonic Geophysical. But the year has been in question.

Jason Glover

May 29, 2012 at 11:55 AM

Not trying to nitpick here but the title is pretty misleading. The earthquake evidence (a seismic event that happened sometime between the years 26 and 36) is far from being anywhere close to revealing the "exact" date of Jesus' death. Good antecdotal evidence and I certainly believe it confirms the Scriptures, but it doesn't reveal any exact date.

Joe Carter

May 29, 2012 at 11:03 PM

***I'd like to get your response to a current controversy flowing from Bio-logos. The Human Genome Project has concluded that it is impossible for humanity to have arisen from two people (Adam and Eve).***

For almost 40 years, geneticists believed that noncoding DNA (aka "junk DNA") had no biological function. Over the last several years, though, that has proven to be quite mistaken. The problem isn't that the scientists were mistaken, but that they made the claims about junk DNA so firmly when their evidence was simply a lack of knowledge.

Genetics is a relatively young field and there is simply too much that isn't known. When we hear claims being made about such a underdeveloped field that someone has concluded something is impossible, we should view it with a great deal of skepticism.

As for Bio-logos, I'm sure they mean well but their methods are often considered suspect by both scientists and theologians—groups that have no problem saying their field should interpretive priority over the other.

On this issue, I side with the conservative evangelical (and Catholic and Orthodox) theologians: It is imperative to believe—as Paul and Jesus did—that Adam and Eve were real historical people. If we are not descended from a pair that was created in imago dei, then it is possible that some people living today are descended from a genetic line that *was not* created in the image of God. Imagine the implications for such theologically supported racism.

Will the Christians at Bio-logos be willing to follow where their conclusions lead them? (My guess is that they will when it leads away from orthodox Biblical theology but will not when their conclusions conflict with the views are deemed too politically incorrect for liberal secularism.)

[...] Earthquake Evidence May Reveal Exact Date of Jesus’ Crucifixion — By itself, of course, this evidence proves nothing, but it is always interesting (and never shocking) when natural revelation sheds light one what is revealed to us through special revelation. [...]

Peter

May 29, 2012 at 05:17 PM

Now, if astronomers can prove that there was also a solar eclipse on that same date...because in addition to an earthquake, the sky was also darkened.

Heather E. Carrillo

May 29, 2012 at 04:10 PM

Hey, it's not my blog...I don't make the rules. I think they keep it an open forum.
I just get confused because I don't follow or comment on any atheist or agnostic blogs. I just figure online reading is optional...why waste time on people you already know are wrong...I'd rather just get to know people like that in real life rather than online. So, I was just wondering.

zilch

May 29, 2012 at 03:52 PM

Heather- I'm aware that I probably wouldn't agree with Jason about many things, but I do agree that this post is deceptively titled.

And why do I follow and comment on TGC? Because I'm interested in why people believe what they believe, and I enjoy chatting with them about it, and putting in my two cents' worth as well. It's a big world filled with all kinds of people, and I figure the more I know about them, and the more they know about me, the better off we all are. But if I'm not welcome here, then I'll be off to greener pastures.

cheers from dark Vienna, zilch

Gabriel

May 29, 2012 at 03:49 PM

Let's also be careful about using the term "natural revelation." Biblically understood, natural revelation is what nature tells us about God (Psalm 19; Romans 1).

Natural revelation has nothing to do with what we think we discover about nature itself. If it did, "revelation" would have a dramatically altered definition and it would most definitely be fallible.

Melody

May 29, 2012 at 03:21 PM

Did anyone click on the links?

Heather E. Carrillo

May 29, 2012 at 03:12 PM

I don't think you'd actually agree with Jason. He's more concerned with the title of this post. He is a believer.

Zilch: I must ask...why do you follow and comment on TGC?

Dave Sarafolean

May 29, 2012 at 02:45 PM

I agree with the quote from R.C. Sproul. After that you wrote:

"Because all truth is God's truth we can expect to find examples of natural revelation shedding light on that which is revealed to us through special revelation (i.e., the Bible). It also means that there will be times when special revelation illuminates our study of natural revelation."

I'd like to get your response to a current controversy flowing from Bio-logos. The Human Genome Project has concluded that it is impossible for humanity to have arisen from two people (Adam and Eve). Thus we must come up with other interpretations to square the Bible with natural revelation. Bio-logos is trying to do that by blending creation and evolution. One theory is that Adam was chosen from a pre-existing group of hominids.

Based on the Sproul quote and what you've written how would you respond to what is coming out of the Human Genome Project and Biologos?

zilch

May 29, 2012 at 02:40 PM

Well, I read the Discovery article too, and I agree with Jason.
In fact, the title of this post, "Earthquake Evidence May Reveal Exact Date of Jesus' Crucifixion", has it exactly backwards: what the Discovery people are claiming is that the presumed date of Jesus' crucifixion may reveal the exact date of an earthquake. No science going on here.

Heather E. Carrillo

May 29, 2012 at 02:12 PM

Ah I gotcha...I'm imagining that this post is a synopsis of a longer article published in Discovery News. Did you click on the link in blue? I actually haven't yet either, but maybe if you are curious as to how the geologists pinpointed it, it would tell you there.

Jason Glover

May 29, 2012 at 02:06 PM

Thanks Heather. But, I am still failing to see how the geologist pin-pointed the year as 33AD. The article indicates that all they can determine is that a seismic event occurred between 26 and 36AD. That doesn't mean that 33AD is correct, just that 33AD falls in that range...along with 10 other possible years. Again, good supporting evidence for 33AD being quite likely...nothing close to "revealing the date."

Heather E. Carrillo

May 29, 2012 at 01:42 PM

Sure, I don't think you are being antagonistic, I think most of us were trying to point out to you the fact that most biblical scholars (as in...so many we can almost say ALL) are in agreement as to day and month. The point is that they have uncovered the year. Geologists have apparently found out that it was 33AD. The day and month were never in question. I mean, they were...a while ago, but they aren't right now.

Jason Glover

May 29, 2012 at 01:29 PM

Maybe I am misunderstanding this...I am not playing the antagonist on purpose here. Its just that I am concerned that when we, as believers, make statements like "Earthquake Evidence May Reveal Exact Date of Jesus' Crucifixion," we are saying something that is pretty powerful and gains the attention of skeptics. Therefore, we need to make sure that we are being clear and up-front.

From what I read in the article...there has long been a tradition, from the Jewish calender and astronomical traditions, that April 3rd, 33AD is the best match for the crucifixion date. Then, unconnected but supportive, comes the recent geological discovery states that there was a seismic event between 26 and 36AD. I cannot see how the wide ranger of time in which that seismic event occurred helps to narrow the window to anything close to an "exact date." Again, it certainly can substantiate the claim that 33AD is likely, but the data itself does not do what the title claims...it does not reveal anything about the actual date. The date was already widely agreed upon it seems, the geological info only helps strengthen the case that the Scriptures are true. And I do not mean "only" in a negative way.

It is an amazing thing to see natural evidence supporting the things in the Word, all I am saying is that the title of this piece is misleading and we must strive for clarity as we bring witness to the cross.

zilch

June 2, 2012 at 10:38 AM

Joe, you say:

How we get to the first man and women is certainly debatable. But to claim that Adam and Eve were not historical not only goes against Scripture, but opens some serious problems for the inherent dignity of all human beings.

How so? I recognize and respect the dignity of all human beings, even though I don't believe in Adam and Eve. So what if we all came from pond slime? Dignity evolved, just as love and reason evolved. I don't see how that's a problem.

cheers from cloudy Vienna, zilch

[...] New geoological studies show that Jesus may have been crucified on Friday, April 3, in the year 33 – check out the article HERE. [...]

[...] Dating the Crucifixion.  Joe Carter points to a news report coming from the “International Geology Review” that claims “based on earthquake activity at the Dead Sea near Jerusalem, Jesus was most likely crucified on Friday, April 3, in the year 33.”  Carter’s news clipping reminds us that God’s revelation in Scripture and nature are both infallible, and that this new piece of data gives us plausible evidence confirming what the Bible already declares: “And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split” (Matthew 27:51). [...]

Spencer Barfuss

April 3, 2013 at 12:38 PM

Here is Dr. Larson's latest upcoming work that he's trying to get funding for. It is regarding the earthquake that happened the day Jesus was crucified. Check it out here: http://www.christquake.com

Jefferson Williams

April 3, 2013 at 03:00 AM

This is a very late response but I am the author of the research article in question. We dated an earthquake to have occurred between 26 and 36 AD. We did not identify the exact date of the crucifixion. That misunderstanding is due to the lazy and sensationalistic tabloid reporting of the Discovery Channel on this subject which, understandably, caused confusion. Basically, Discovery's article is a mess that is full of mistakes and misinformation. I created a site titled www.DeadSeaQuake.info to explain this research (which is ongoing) to the lay person and I can email the actual research article (for free) to anyone who is interested. Jefferson.Williams@gmail.com. I am glad to see people on this site were critically questioning the claim of the Discovery article. Unfortunately, the illogical claims in the article are attributed to me when they really should be attributed to Jennifer Viegas and the Discovery Channel.