41 Facts Confirmed in the New Testament, from William Paley

In William Paley’s book “A View of the Evidences of Christianity,” Part II, chapter 6, he lists 41 facts confirmed in the New Testament. Of course, it is not an exhaustive list of every fact brought to light over the years, nor was it an exhaustive list in his time either. However, it is a nice sample size of eternal facts they were able to get correct. When combined, they demonstrate a cumulative case the New Testament authors where intimately familiar with the culture of 1st century Judea. Later imposters would surely not have been able to get this many facts correct. The writers of the New Testament possessed local knowledge which could belong only to an inhabitant of that country and to one living in that age.

 

  1. Matthew 2:22  “But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee
    1. In this passage it is shown that Archelaus was ruling over Judea, but implied that he was not ruling over Galilee.
    2. Josephus tells us that Herod the Great, who ruled over all of Israel, appointed Archelaus to rule over just Judea
    3. Matthew said that Archelaus reigned, as king, which is backed by Josephus telling us that Herod the Great gave him the title of King. The same word the apostles used to describe Archelaus as king, Josephus used also
  2. Luke 1:3 “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness.”
    1. Herod the great decreed that his two sons were to be tetrarchs. One, Herod Antipas, to be over Galilee and Peraea, and the other, Philip, to be over Trachonitis.
    2. Josephus tells of how Herod Antipas was removed by the successor of Tiberius and that Philip died in the twentieth year of Tiberius
  3. Mark 6:17 “For it was Herod who had sent and seized John and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because he had married her.”
    1. Josephus tells of how Herod the tetrarch visited his brother, also Herod. He then fell in love with his brothers wife and wanted to marry her
    2. Josephus also says that Herodias was married to Herod, son of the Great, had a child, but then left him to be with Herod the tetrarch.
  4. Acts 12:1 “About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church.”
    1. Herod in this, addressed as Agrippa by Josephus, had not been referenced as a king until, as Josephus tells us, in the last three years of his life, Caligula crowned him King over the tetrarchie of Philip
  5. Acts 12:19-23 “And after Herod searched for him and did not find him, he examined the sentries and ordered that they should be put to death. Then he went down from Judea to Caesarea and spent time there.Now Herod was angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon, and they came to him with one accord, and having persuaded Blastus, the king’s chamberlain, they asked for peace, because their country depended on the king’s country for food. On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.”
    1. Josephus affirming quote: (Paraphrased)
      1. “He went to the city of Caesarea. Here he celebrated in honor of Caesar. On the second day of the shows, early in the morning, he came into the theatre, dressed in a robe of silver. The rays of the rising sun, reflected from such a splendid clothes, gave him a majestic appearance. They called him a god.The king neither reproved these persons, nor rejected the impious flattery. Immediately after this he was seized with pains in his bowels, extremely violent at the very first. He was carried his palace. These pains continually tormenting him, he died in five days’ time.”
  6. Acts 24:24 “After some days Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, and he sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus.”
    1. Josephus affirming quote: (Paraphrased)
      1. “Agrippa gave his sister Drusilla in marriage to Azizus, king of the Emesenes, when he had consented to be circumcised. But this marriage of Drusilla with Azizus ended when Felix, procurator of Judea, having had a sight of her, he loved her. She broke the laws of her country, and married Felix.”
  7. Acts 25:13 “Now when some days had passed, Agrippa the king and Bernice arrived at Caesarea and greeted Festus.”
    1. Agrippa here is the son of Herod Agrippa, who was king over Judea. Agrippa was going to succeed his father when he died, but when that was going to happen, he was only seventeen and the emperor was persuaded not to allow it.
    2. Agrippa wasn’t king over Judea but he had many territories bordering it. He was referred to as king because of his exercise of power and his father. This is why he saluted Festus as king over Judea
  8. Acts 13:6 “When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they came upon a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus. He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence…”
    1. This verse shows that this false prophet was with the proconsul of Cyprus, Sergius Paulus, who was under Claudius
    2. The Roman empire was in control of Cyprus until it had given it over to the proconsul
    3. That is why the apostles talk about how they went to the proconsul of Cyprus and are correct  
  9. Josephus also tells of how the power of life and death resided in the hands of the governor. However the Jews also had magistrates and councils.
    1. This idea is found in all gospels to the crucifixion of Jesus
  10. Acts 9:31 “So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up.”
    1. This peace comes from the fact that Caligula was trying to put his statue in the temple, so all the churches diverted their attention to this problem.
  11. Acts 21:30 “And they took Paul, and drew him out of the temple; and forthwith the doors were shut. And as they went about to kill him, tidings came to the chief captain of the band that all Jerusalem was in an uproar. Then the chief captain came near, and took him and commanded him to be bound with two chains, and demanded who he was, and what he had done; and some cried one thing, and some another, among the multitude: and, when he could not know the certainty for the tumult, he commanded him to be carried into the castle. And when he came upon the stairs, so it was, that he was borne of the soldiers for the violence of the people.”
    1. In this passage there are soldiers at the castle, the stairs, adjoining to the temple
    2. Josephus’ affirming quote:
      1. “Antonia was situated at the angle of the western and northern porticoes of the outer temple. It was built upon a rock fifty cubits high, steep on all sides. On that side where it joined to the porticoes of the temple, there were stairs reaching to each portico, by which the guard descended; for there was always lodged here a Roman legion; and posting themselves in their armour in several places in the porticoes, they kept a watch on the people on the feast-days to prevent all disorders; for as the temple was a guard to the city, so was Antonia to the temple.”
  12.  Acts 4:1 “And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them.”
    1. Here we have a person who has the title Captain of the Temple who, along with the priests and the sadducees, apprehended the apostles
    2. Josephus affirming quote:
      1. “And at the temple, Eleazer, the son of Ananias the high priest, a young man of a bold and resolute disposition, then captain, persuaded those who performed the sacred ministrations not to receive the gift or sacrifice of any stranger.”  
  13. Acts 25:12 “Then Festus, when he had conferred with his council, answered, ‘To Caesar you have appealed; to Caesar you shall go.’”
    1. Festus conferring with a council of other Roman officers was very usual in the situation according to Cicero’s speech against Verres
  14. Acts 16:13 “And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer…”
    1. The noteworthy phrase of this passage is when it says that the riverside was where they were suppose to pray
    2. Philo talks about how early in the morning, many people flocked to the shores and, “lifted up their voice in one accord.”
    3. Josephus also tells of how there was a decree that any Jews that wanted to observe the sabbath must do so on the sea-side
  15. Acts 26:5 “They have known for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that according to the straightest part of our religion I have lived as a Pharisee.”
    1. Josephus says that, “The Pharisees were reckoned the most religious of any of the Jews, and to be the most exact and skilful in explaining the laws.”
    2. The greek word for straight (found in Acts), and exact (said by Josephus) are the same.
  16. Mark 7:3-4 “For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders, and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.”
    1. Affirming quote of Josephus:
      1. “The Pharisees have delivered up to the people many institutions, as received from the fathers, which are not written in the law of Moses.”
  17. Acts 23:8 “For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all.”
    1. Affirming quote of Josephus: (Paraphrased)
      1. “They (the Pharisees) believe every soul is immortal, but that the soul of the good only passes into another body, and that the soul of the wicked is punished with eternal punishment.” On the other hand, “It is the opinion of the Sadducees that souls perish with the bodies.”
  18. Acts 5:17 “But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with indignation.”
    1. Josephus’ affirming quote:
      1. “ High priest of the Jews, forsook the Pharisees upon a disgust, and joined himself to the party of the Sadducees.”
  19. Luke 9:51 “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem.”
    1. Josephus’ affirming quote: (Paraphrased)
      1. “It was the custom of the Galileans, who went up to the holy city at the feasts, to travel through the country of Samaria. As they were in their journey, some inhabitants of the village called Ginaea, which lies on the borders of Samaria and the great plain, killed many of them.”
  20. John 4:20 “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.”
    1. Affirming quote of Josephus:
      1. “Commanding them to meet Him at mount Gerizim, which is by them (the Samaritans) esteemed the most sacred of all mountains.”
  21. Matthew 26:3 “Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas…”
    1. Account of Josephus:
      1. “Gratus gave the high priesthood to Simon, the son of Camithus. He, having enjoyed this honour not above a year, was succeeded by Joseph, who is also called Caiaphas.”
    2. Account of the removal of Caiaphas:
      1. “And having done these things he took away the priesthood from the high priest Joseph, who is called Caiaphas.”
  22. Acts 23:4 “Those who stood by said, ‘Would you revile God’s high priest?’ And Paul said, ‘I did not know, brothers, that he was the high priest…’”
    1. Upon questioning why Paul wouldn’t know that Ananias (who is the one spoken about) isn’t the high priest, it’s because he isn’t.
    2. Josephus tells us that he was rid of office and then when his successor was murdered by order of Felix, Ananias brought upon the responsibilities of High priest while not being one
  23. Matthew 26:59 “Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking false testimony…”
    1. It is very strange to see Matthew say high priests in the plural form because there was only suppose to be one high priest.
    2. However, Josephus agreed:
      1. “Then might be seen the high priests themselves with ashes on their heads and their breasts naked.”
    3. This is because the high priest at the time, Caiaphas, and others (Annas) shared many of the same powers making them seem equal (Acts 4:6)
    4. Even in Luke 3:1 says that, “Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests…”
      1. This aligns with Josephus in saying, “Quadratus sent two others of the most powerful men of the Jews, as also the high priests Jonathan and Ananias.”
  24. John 19:19-20 “And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross.”
    1. Quote from Dio Cassius:
      1. “Having led him through the midst of the court or assembly, with a writing signifying the cause of his death, and afterwards crucifying him.”
    2. “And it was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin.”
      1. This was also usual for the Romans to do. Josephus’ quote: “Did ye not erect pillars with inscriptions on them, in the Greek and in our language?”
  25. Matthew 27: 26 “When he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.”
    1. Josephus writes about this by saying:
      1. “Being beaten, they were crucified opposite to the citadel.”
      2. “Whom, having first scourged with whips, he crucified.”
  26. John 19:16 “And they took Jesus, and led him away; and he bearing his cross went forth.”
    1. Quote pertaining to Rome
      1. “Every kind of wickedness produces its own particular torment; just as every malefactor, when he is brought forth to execution, carries his own cross.” -Plutarch
  27. John 19:32 “So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him.”
    1. A secular writer notices the circumstance of breaking the legs
      1. “Eo pius, ut etiam vetus veterrimumque supplicium, patibulum, et cruribus suffringendis, primus removerit.” Note: This was translated to roughly for me to discern its meaning.  
  28. Acts 3:1 “Now Peter and John went up together into the temple, at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour.”
    1. Josephus:
      1. “Twice every day, in the morning and at the ninth hour, the priests perform their, duty at the altar.”
  29. Acts 15:21 “For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.”
    1. Quote of Josephus:
      1. “He (Moses) gave us the law, the most excellent of all institutions; nor did he appoint that it should be heard once only, or twice, or often, but that, laying aside all other works, we should meet together every week to hear it read, and gain a perfect understanding of it.”
  30. Acts 21:23 “Do therefore what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; take these men and purify yourself along with them and pay their expenses, so that they may shave their heads.”
    1. Josephus’ affirmation:
      1. “It is customary for those who have been afflicted with some distemper, or have laboured under any other difficulties, to make a vow thirty days before they offer sacrifices, to abstain from wine, and shave the hair of their heads.”
  31. 2 Corinthians 11:24 “Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one.”
    1. Affirmation from Josephus:
      1. “He that acts contrary hereto let him receive forty stripes from the officer.”
    2. Affirmation in Deuteronomy 25:3:
      1. “Forty stripes he may be given but not exceed”
    3. This shows that the author of Corinthians wasn’t guided by books but rather facts because his statement aligns with the customs with the time
  32. Luke 3:12 “Then came also tax-collectors to be baptized.”
    1. It is generally accepted that tax-collectors were Jewish even though they were under the Roman rule
    2. This is proven by a quote by Josephus:
      1. “But Florus not restraining these practices by his authority, the chief men of the Jews, among whom was John the publican, not knowing well what course to take, wait upon Florus and give him eight talents of silver to stop the building.”
  33. Acts 22:25 “And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said unto the centurion that stood by, Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman and uncondemned?”
    1. Referenced was latin that translated into:
      1. “This crime, it is a Roman citizen to be bound; crime beaten.”
      2. “Was beaten with rods, in the middle of the forum at Messana, a Roman citizen, so I judge no one at the same time groans, no other expression of that wretched man amid his sound of the blows, but the these things, I am a Roman citizen. “
    2. While somewhat applicable, Paley leaves it up to the reader to make the connection
  34. Acts 22:27 “Then the chief captain came, and said unto him (Paul), Tell me, Art thou a Roman? He said Yea.”
    1. The Roman citizenship was at one point a very high honor because of its great value, however Jews were becoming Roman citizens because its value was rapidly declining
    2. Quote:
      1. “This privilege, which had been bought formerly at a great price, became so cheap, that it was commonly said a man might be made a Roman citizen for a few pieces of broken glass.”
  35. Acts 28:16 “And when we came to Rome the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard; but Paul was suffered to dwell by himself, with a soldier that kept him.”
    1. Josephus explains that after Caligula came to the throne, Paul was made to be prisoner, in his own home, with one other guard
  36. Acts 27:1 “And when it was determined that we should sail into Italy, they delivered Paul, and certain other prisoners, unto one named Julius.”
    1. This passage hints at boating prisoners to Rome to be tried is a normal practice due to the fact that Paul is with other prisoners
    2. Josephus’ Affirmation:
      1. “Felix, for some slight offence, bound and sent to Rome several priests of his acquaintance, and very good and honest men, to answer for themselves to Caesar.”
  37. Acts 11:27 “And in these days came prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch; and there stood up one of them, named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be a great famine throughout all the world (or all the country); which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar.”
    1. Josephus affirmation:
      1. “In their time (i. e. about the fifth or sixth year of Claudius) a great famine happened in Judea.”
  38. Acts 18:1-2 “Because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome.”
    1. Latin quote translation: (Severely paraphrased)
      1. “Jews causing many disturbances, and provoking Claudius, were expelled them from Rome.”
  39. Acts 5:37 “After this man, rose up Judas of Galilee, in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him.”
    1. Quote of Josephus
      1. “He (Judas of Galilee) persuaded not a few to enrol themselves when Cyrenius the censor was sent into Judea.”
  40. Acts 21:38 “Are you not the Egyptian, then, who recently stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand men of the Assassins out into the wilderness?”
    1. Confirmation by Josephus:
      1. “But the Egyptian false prophet brought a yet heavier disaster upon the Jews; for this impostor, coming into the country, and gaining the reputation of a prophet, gathered together thirty thousand men, who were deceived by him. Having brought them round out of the wilderness, up to the mount of Olives, he intended from thence to make his attack upon Jerusalem; but Felix, coming suddenly upon him with the Roman soldiers, prevented the attack. — A great number, or (as it should rather be rendered) the greatest part, of those that were with him were either slain or taken prisoners.”
  41. Acts 17:22 “Then Paul stood in the midst of Marshill, and said, men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are too superstitious; for, as I passed by and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore you all ignorantly worship, him I declare unto you.”
    1. Pausanias tells us that there was in fact in alter to the Unknown god of the Romans in saying:
      1. “And nigh unto it is an altar of unknown gods.”

 

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