Archeologists say they may have uncovered site where Jesus stood trial

Archeologists excavating an old jail in Jerusalem uncovered what appears to be the remains of Herod's palace – the place many biblical scholars identify as the location of the trial of Jesus by Pontius Pilate.  The extraordinary find is located next to the Tower of David museum and is sure to be a popular attraction when it opens to the public.

Washington Post:

“For those Christians who care about accuracy in regards to historical facts, this is very forceful,” said Yisca Harani, an expert on Christianity and pilgrimage to the Holy Land. “For others, however, those who come for the general mental exercise of being in Jerusalem, they don’t care as long as [their journey] ends in Golgotha — the site of the Crucifixion.”

Today, many Christian pilgrims to Jerusalem walk the Stations of the Cross, or Via Dolorosa, taking them from where it is believed Roman procurator Pontius Pilate held the trial and sentenced Jesus to death, to where Jesus was eventually crucified and buried.

Harani said that since pilgrims started making their way to Jerusalem centuries ago, the route of the Via Dolorosa has changed several times, depending on who ruled the city at the time and what they deemed important.

In the Byzantine period, for example, the Via Dolorosa began closer to the area where the museum now sits in the western part of the city. It was only after the 13th century that the starting point moved to the Antonia Fortress, the site of a former Roman military barracks, which today sits beneath a school close to the al-Aqsa mosque and the golden Dome of the Rock.

As with many biblical finds – especially relating to the birth and death of Christ – there is controversy surrounding the matching of events told in the Bible and the historical evidence.

The debate over the site of the trial continues among Christian spiritual leaders, historians and archaeologists. Questions about the location stem from various interpretations of the Gospels, which describe how Jesus of Nazareth was brought before Pilate in the “praetorium,” a Latin term for a general’s tent within a Roman encampment. Some say Pilate’s praetorium would have been in the military barracks, others say the Roman general would probably have been a guest in the palace built by Herod.

Today, historians and archaeologists are certain that Herod’s palace was on the city’s western side, where the Tower of David Museum and the Ottoman-era prison stand.

For Shimon Gibson, an archaeology professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, there is little doubt that the trial occurred somewhere within Herod’s palace compound. In the Gospel of John, the trial is described as taking place near a gate and on a bumpy stone pavement — details that fit with previous archaeological findings near the prison, he said.

“There is, of course, no inscription stating it happened here, but everything — archaeological, historical and gospel accounts — all falls into place and makes sense,” Gibson said.

For many Christians, the work of the archeologists is an interesting aside but not relevant to their faith.  That's why even though most historians dismiss the notion that the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem sits on the exact spot Christ was born, many of the faithful make a pilgrimage to the church anyway.  Historical accuracy takes second place to faith.

In the case of Herod's palace, history and the Bible appear to have joined and confirmed the notion that faith and science can coexist.

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