Archeology provides only one piece of evidence regarding Pontius Pilate; this inscription from Judea with his name on it. On the middle line, one can make out the end of his first name and most of his last name (Pilatus); all in Latin.

The inscription in the stone above is the lone piece of archeological evidence confirming that Pontius Pilate was the Prefect of Judea. In the middle row, from left to right, one can read most of the name Pontius Pilatus (Pontius Pilate in Latin). Since, according to Tacitus (Annals), Pontius Pilate was Prefect of Judea between 26 and 36 AD and according to all four canonical gospels, Pilate was the Prefect who had Jesus killed, we assume that Jesus died between 26 and 36 AD.

New Testament Scholarship is in fairly good agreement on three important points surrounding the date of the crucifixion

1. It happened between 26 and 36 AD

2. It happened during spring around the time of Passover or Easter (14 or 15 Nisan in the Jewish Calendar)

3. Although the exact year is unknown, two years (30 and 33 AD) are most commonly cited as the most likely year of the crucifixion.

Armed with these facts, we can test the sediments. Current research is focused  on refining the year estimate and determining the time of year that the seismite was formed (e.g Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall).

It should be noted that many New Testament Scholars consider the earthquake account in Matthew to be fictitious.

Next section  → 04 Seismite Formation 




    • admin said:

      Valerie, I just created a facebook page for this. It is

    • admin said:

      Interesting paper Steven and good work. While we disagree on biblical inerrancy (You think the Bible is inerrant and I think it has errors), it is good to know that someone else has been pursuing similar research. Thank you for your input.

  1. Ton Majoor said:

    Interesting material evidence. Two remarks: 1. Matthew refers to the violent aftershock on resurrection day as a ‘great earthquake’ (seismos megas). Wouldn’t the crucifixion earthquake by definition be a foreshock then? 2. If this mega earthquake, like the first one, was accompanied by a splitting of rock, then such a natural event might explain the empty tomb. Couldn’t the earthquake have buried the body of Jesus into a crevice in the rock (J.C. Edelmann, 1746)? Matthew could be hinting at this possibility in 12:40: the Son of Man being for three days in the heart of the earth, like Jona was in the whale’s belly.

    • admin said:

      Ton, yes, you are correct that, if the description in Matthew is of a real event, the first quake could have been a foreshock and the the second quake could have been the main shock. Interesting observations.

      • Hello Jeff,

        1. Edelmann was a rationalist and spiritualist of the german Enlightment. His famous opinion on the missing body in connection with the earthquake is based on only one sentence in his Confession of Faith (1746):

        “… I admit that the body of Lord Jesus in his grave could have been buried in such a way, that it could not have been found anywhere.” (my translation). Edelmann did not mention a splitting of the rock, though.

        Joh. Chr. Edelmann, 1746, Glaubensbekenntnis, p.196: „… gebe ich zu, dass der Leib des Herrn Jesu in seinem Grabe dergestalt habe verschüttet werden können, dass er nirgend mehr zu finden gewesen.“, cited by Lilienthal (1764), p.159,

        For the crevice in the earth and its closing again by further vibrations, see the explanation of another spiritualist, R.J.L. Steiner (1913):

        That earthquake shook the tomb in which Jesus’ body lay – and the stone which had been placed before the tomb was ripped away and a crevice opened in the ground and the body fell onto the crevice. Further vibrations caused the ground to close over the crevice. And when the people came in the morning the tomb was empty, for the earth had received Jesus’ body; the stone, however, remained apart from the tomb.

        2. I read possible explanations of the ‘great earthquake’ besides a blind thrust on the internet (shifting debris and the Old City’s subterranean labyrinth of cisterns and tunnels):

        The three-year study, conducted by the Geological Survey of Israel and released this week, found that the Old City is more at risk than modern neighborhoods because of its ancient construction and the underground layers of shifting debris left behind by ransacking armies, said Amos Bein, the center’s director.

        “The layer below is not made of solid rock, but rather a kind of rubble,” Bein said. Those weak foundations could magnify an earthquake’s seismic wave, he said.

        Researchers used computers to map Jerusalem’s topography, geology, soil and the Old City’s subterranean labyrinth of cisterns and tunnels.

        Regards, Ton

        • admin said:

          Thanks for alerting me to that. I contacted the Geological Survey of Israel and they sent me the work on Seismic Hazard in Jerusalem by Amos Salamon and two other authors. It is a really good and needed piece of work. I have exchanged a few emails with Amos exchanging our ideas about Paleoseismicity and what information can be gleaned about the causitive earthquakes arising from a better understanding of the mechanical deformation of the sediments during earthquakes.

          As we obtain a better understanding of the nature of the earthquakes that can be generated in the region and how earthquake energy is guided through the earth’s underground structures and then coupled to the surface soils and buildings, we can better predict potential damage from future earthquakes. That means we can create better seismic hazard maps, write better building codes, and engage in better city and town planning. If we do that, that means that our investments and planning will save more lives and more structures in future earthquakes than if we did not keep pushing our knowledge forward.

  2. Paul Hartsock said:

    Great article, admittedly unrelated question……….”How old do you, as a geologist who appears to believe in the inerrancy of scripture, believe the earth to be? Thank you, your reply will be helpful to me in my private studies.

    • admin said:

      Thank you Paul. I am a Geologist but I do not believe in the inerrancy of scripture. Regarding the age of the planet, my work in Geology leads me to believe this is a very old planet. I can’t see any other explanation for the thick and varied sedimentary sequences that I have been dealing with during my entire career. I generally accept the age of 4.54 +/- 0.05 billion years although, admittedly, I have no expertise in Cosmochemistry and Lead-Lead Radiometric Dating which I believe provides the foundation for that age estimate.

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