Our 2021 Vacation Bible School, “Destination Dig”, is now just a few days away! (It begins, Monday, August 2.) We’re grateful to have the opportunity to gather once again with children from our congregation and community and to share the message of Jesus with them through the lessons and activities at VBS. The theme of this year’s VBS involves history and archaeology. While we’ll be focusing on the life of Jesus from His birth to His resurrection, we’ll also think about some of the other real people and places that we learn about in the Bible.

I think it’s important for both children and adults to consider that Bible stories are more than just stories. They are true stories. The Bible tells us how God worked in real time and space, especially when He sent Jesus to share our humanity and to take away our sin. Because the Bible tells us the truth, it has real implications for our lives. God’s Word about sin and grace, Law and Gospel, heaven and hell, and so much more is all true!

Here are just a couple examples of archaeological discoveries that back up what we read in our Bibles:

The Pilate Inscription – Pontius Pilate was the Roman governor of Judea for about ten years, including the years of Jesus’ public ministry, His death and resurrection, and the beginnings of the church. However, history outside of the Bible has little to say about Pilate’s life and tenure as governor. While Pilate’s role in history is described in all four Gospels in the Bible, skeptics questioned whether Pilate even existed. A 1961 discovery changed that. An ancient stone step was overturned in Caesarea Maritima. On the underside of the step, was an older inscription from the time of Jesus. The inscription referenced “Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judea” and his role in the construction of a building called the Tiberium, possibly a temple dedicated to the Roman Emperor Tiberius. The stone had been recycled as part of a later construction project, but its brief message made an important point: Pontius Pilate was indeed a historical person. When we confess that Jesus “suffered under Pontius Pilate”, we can be confident that it actually happened!

The Dead Sea Scrolls – How can we know that the Old Testament we read today is reliable and reflects the original Old Testament writings? A 1947 discovery helped answer this question. A shepherd boy stumbled upon a series of caves just northwest of the Dead Sea. This led to the discovery of jar upon jar containing ancient scrolls. In the years afterward, archaeologists would discover almost 900 scrolls written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. The scrolls included portions of all but one Old Testament book. The scrolls were written and stored there likely more than 100 years before Christ’s birth. As Biblical scholars analyze the Dead Sea Scrolls, they compare the writings to the Old Testament that has been handed down to us. Their findings show that the Old Testament we read today is reliable and reflects the ancient message that God delivered to Abraham, Moses, David, and the Israelites. The Dead Sea Scrolls will be one of the discoveries that children will learn about at VBS this year.

While our faith does not rest on archaeological discoveries like these but on God’s promises in the Gospel, archaeology does help to illustrate the world of Bible times. Discoveries such as the Pilate Inscription or the Dead Sea Scrolls provide added confirmation that what we read in God’s Word reflects true history. This is also added confirmation that Scripture delivers Christ’s Word of truth and grace for our hearts and lives today. 

Peace in Christ,

                        Pastor Kory Janneke