For the past 15 years, geoscientists have been unraveling the seismic history of the Dead Sea transform. At the least, this is valuable in assessing the seismic hazard to the region which will affect building codes and town and city planning. Initially, too little attention was paid to the historical sources for the earthquake catalogs.
Earthquake catalogs are lists of earthquakes reported in the historical period with date, towns and cities affected, and references. Geologists assigned seismite ages mostly from radiocarbon dating and then correlated them to the nearest historical event in a catalog. However, seismic modeling was showing that some of these correlations were in error. For instance, early on I realized that a 64 BC earthquake in Antioch, Syria could not have deformed Dead Sea sediments and the seismite Geologists were assigning to a 64 BC earthquake actually occurred around 130 BC and we have no historical record for a 130 BC earthquake (The catalogs get pretty silent for earthquakes before 66 AD when Rome began to brutally suppress the first rebellion in Judea). An Antioch epicenter was too far away (500 km.) and the shaking intensity would have died down to about 0.02 g, well below the 0.23 g threshold I had calculated was necessary to break the surface sediments. A 64 BC earthquake was erroneously listed in many catalogs as having an epicenter in Jerusalem because the Babylonian Talmud apparently reported damage to the second Temple in ~ 64 BC.
However, the west side of Temple area appears to be subject to seismic amplification. This means it appears to shake several times more violently than its surroundings. I started work on modeling in 2002 and made the case that we had to examine the historical sources more thoroughly. However, only recently has the broader geological community recognized this.
In ancient times, earthquakes were commonly thought to be work of the Gods and this shows up throughout the source documents from that time period that inform our earthquake catalogs; no more so than in the Holy Land. As Geologists, we have to remain cognizant that earthquake shaking may be overstated or fictitious and earthquakes may be created to make a spiritual or religious point. This may have happened in the Gospel of Matthew, it may have happened with the 64 BC Antioch earthquake, and it may have happened with a 363 AD earthquake where the damage appears to be overstated. We cannot divorce ourselves from source documents simply because they have religious overtones. What we can do, however, is we can let the sediments be our guide. And we do that; to the best of our ability.