Archaeology may support the credibility of Luke, but what do scientists say about John, whose Gospel was sometimes questioned because he referred to locations that couldn’t be verified? Some scholars have charged that if he failed to get these basic details straight, then he must not have been close to the events of Jesus’ life. Some have even speculated that John may have been written well into the second century.
These charges, however, have been turned upside down in recent years. For example, John 5:1–15 records how Jesus healed an invalid by the Pool of Bethesda. John provides the detail that the pool was surrounded by five colonnades. For a long time people cited this as an example of John being inaccurate, because no such place had been found.
However, in a more recent excavation of the Pool of Bethesda—it lies maybe 40 feet below ground—archaeologists discovered five porticoes, that is, five colonnaded porches or walkways, exactly as John had described. And there are other discoveries—the Pool of Siloam from John 9:7, Jacob’s Well from John 4:12, the probable location of the Stone Pavement near the Jaffa Gate where Jesus appeared before Pilate in John 19:13—all of which have lent historical credibility to John’s Gospel.
These discoveries challenge the allegation that the Gospel of John was written by someone distant from Jesus and who lived long after Jesus’ ministry. In addition to these discoveries, archaeologists have found a fragment of a copy of John 18 that leading papyrologists have dated between A.D.100 and 150, with the earlier date being preferred. German scholar Adolph Deissman said it should be dated to the 90s. By establishing that copies of the Gospel of John existed this early and as far away as Egypt, archaeology has effectively dismantled speculation that the Gospel was composed well into the second century, too long after Jesus’ life to be reliable.
Adapted from interviews with Dr. John McRay