Archaeologists In Israel Discovered A Major Clue About Jesus’ Life After The Resurrection

On a hill not far from Jerusalem, archaeologists working at a previously unexamined location make an incredible discovery. Digging at the ancient site, one that goes back thousands of years, the international team discover evidence that could solve an enduring Biblical mystery. And it’s all to do with Jesus’ travels following the resurrection.

According to the Bible, following Jesus’ death on the cross, he was buried in a stone-sealed tomb. Three days after his passing, the Messiah came back to life in an event known to Christians as the Resurrection. A few weeks later, he ascended to Heaven. But before leaving Earth, the Son of God spent some time among his disciples.

It’s likely that you’re familiar with many of the post-resurrection encounters of Jesus. There was, of course, the tale of Doubting Thomas, a disciple who refused to believe the Messiah had returned to life. He duly appeared to his follower, who instantly recanted when in his leader’s presence. But the events don’t end there.

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There’s also Jesus’ appearance to his disciples while they were sequestered together following their leader’s crucifixion. Then, according to the Bible, he would visit his followers again, this time on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. There, he provided a generous catch of fish for them. Although the disciples did not immediately recognize Jesus, they soon realized it was him.

John’s Gospel in the New Testament mentions Jesus forgiving Peter. Why? The disciple had thrice denied knowing his leader during the trial that led to his death. The Messiah, after the resurrection, then questioned his follower’s loyalty three times, before reinstating him as a true believer. But there’s still one further story yet to tell.

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Known to Christians the world over as “The Road to Emmaus,” this event is said to have occurred on the same day as the resurrection. Appearing in Luke’s Gospel, the scene is set when two of Jesus’ disciples make their way from Jerusalem to the town of Emmaus on foot. The pair, identified by many experts as Cleopas and an unknown colleague, were deep in conversation as they walked.

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The disciples were discussing the events surrounding Jesus’ death and resurrection when they were approached by a stranger. The man asked the pair what they were discussing.. Astonished that he had not heard by now, they explained the news from Jerusalem. Namely, that Jesus had been crucified and yet, somehow, his tomb was empty.

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The stranger then took the opportunity to teach the two disciples about the Old Testament’s Messiah prophecies. He explained that in Jesus had to go through such trials before entering the Kingdom of Heaven. From there, he went through the Bible, from Moses onwards, contextualizing the events of the day.

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Perhaps impressed by the man’s knowledge, the pair invited him to dinner with them that evening. As you’ve probably guessed, that stranger was, in fact, Jesus in disguise. It wasn’t until they sat down to eat, according to Luke’s Gospel, that the resurrected Messiah finally revealed his true identity. At which point, he vanished.

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The disciples then made the way back to Jerusalem. They gathered the rest of their group and explained what they had seen. Jesus had been resurrected and they’d seen it with their own eyes. They recounted their discussion and how they hadn’t recognized their leader until he joined them for dinner. Clearly, before Jesus’ ascension, he got around quite a bit.

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And all of that traveling means that Biblical archaeologists have plenty of locations to choose from when it comes to searching for evidence of Jesus’ existence. However,  more than that, their studies can also provide insight into the lives of people that lived in Israel more than 2,000 years ago. And it’s this search for clues about life during that era that has led to some amazing discoveries.

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One such project in modern-day Israel has been doing exactly that – looking at what everyday life was like thousands of years ago. Excavating a site not far from Jerusalem, archaeologists were looking at a settlement dating back to the Iron Age. And their work has unearthed something astonishing, almost by accident.

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In a joint venture, archaeologists from both Tel Aviv University and the Collège De France in Paris, funded by San Francisco’s Shmunis Family Foundation, began digging a few miles from Jerusalem. Ostensibly searching for clues as to the political situation in the area at the time, they found a lot more than they bargained for. They would eventually uncover a wealth of Biblical-era artifacts.

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Led jointly by Tel Aviv’s Israel Finkelstein alongside Collège De France’s Christophe Nicolle and Thomas Römer, the team chose a remote, as yet unexplored region west of Jerusalem known as Kiriath-Jearim. During the dig, archaeologists found pottery remnants dating back more than 2,000 years. That date puts the site well within the Biblical era.

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Located on a hill eight miles west of Jerusalem, the site itself sits within the boundaries of a convent. Being private land, no serious archaeological dig has ever taken place there. Then, in 2017, Finkelstein, Nicolle and Römer were given permission to excavate, but with one very strict condition. The compound’s existing buildings, along with the nuns, were to remain undisturbed.

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This restriction presented the team with an issue. How could they choose the most promising dig sites in the very specific areas between the buildings with minimum disruption? In the end, the solution came from the past. Experts used aerial photographs of the area taken during World War One, alongside modern images captured by drone.

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In 2019 Finkelstein told The Times of Israel, “The hi-tech methods helped us to visualize the ancient topography [of the area]. These methods helped in dictating fields of excavations which, indeed, proved to be highly successful.” And we’re not just talking about digging up assorted pottery fragments.

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During one of the digs, starting in 2017 but not reported until 2019, archaeologists found an enormous raised platform at the site. Clearly man-made, the area also dates back to around the 8th century B.C.E. [Before Common Era]. But what use would such a huge construction project serve an ancient town such as Kiriath-Jearim? Finkelstein has his theories.

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During that interview with The Times of Israel, the archaeologist explained that the platform most likely served several purposes. One would have been to house the town’s administrative center, most likely including offices for high officials. Its elevated position sent a powerful signal of authority to citizens.

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Finkelstein told the newspaper, “The elevated platform [at Kiriath-Jearim] was built in order to accommodate an Israelite administration compound.” For the archaeologist, its purpose was clear: the area and its contents was “aimed at dominating,” those around it. But it appears there was another use altogether for this imposing terrace.

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The discovery of the platform at Kiriath-Jearim has also raised the tantalizing prospect of discovering a very specific Biblical object. Finkelstein believes that the area also housed a religious relic held sacred by Judaism. Kept in a temple high above the town, the archaeologists believe that the Ark of the Covenant held pride of place on the man-made podium.

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The Ark of the Covenant, a sacred artifact in Judaism, is mentioned repeatedly in the Old Testament. From the God-given assembly instructions, to its disappearance and possible hiding places, the Ark certainly has a fascinating history. But what, exactly, was it? And why was it so special to followers of the Jewish faith?

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This sacred artifact was constructed according to precise instructions given by God to Moses, as written in Exodus. The chest had to be built using acacia wood and covered in gold. Two cherubs adorned its lid and a special shrine was erected to house it. But the reason it’s so holy to Judaism isn’t simply down to its divine construction specifications. It’s also due to its contents.

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Contained within the Ark, according to the Old Testament, were the Ten Commandments. Or, more specifically, the tablets on which they were inscribed. As given to Moses by God, these hallowed rules include, “Thou shalt not kill,” and form the basis of many modern-day legal systems. The golden chest and its contents were reportedly kept on a shrine behind luxurious curtains. But it was so much more than a simple storage box.

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The Hebrew Bible also makes mention of the Ark’s special, dangerous powers. From stopping rivers to defeating the enemies of Judaism, the golden chest played an important role in the faith. But despite its alleged weaponization, the chest was itself subject to attack and subsequently stolen on at least one occasion. That event, though, didn’t end well for the perpetrators.

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The Ark vanished after the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem in 587 B.C.E. Subsequently acquired by the Philistines, it began to have very negative consequences for its new owners. High instances of disease and cancer among the local population forced officials to make a huge decision. Believing the sacred chest responsible for the afflictions, the Philistines decided to simply return it to the rightful owners.

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And the town to which the Philistines returned the Ark just happened to be… Kiriath-Jearim. Given Finkelstein et al’s recent findings, then, it’s easy to see why the team believes the recently discovered platform once held the golden chest. At least, it would be if they thought that it existed in the first place.

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In fact, according to Finkelstein’s interview with The Times of Israel, he believes the story of the Ark is exactly that ‒ just a legend. Indeed, no physical evidence of the sacred vessel has been found at Kiriath-Jearim. And for the team, that backs up the idea that the chest never really existed. But why make up such an incredible story?

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For Finkelstein, the story of the Ark boils down to politics. The platform’s construction, most likely by an invading faction, was to demonstrate superiority over the local population. But a shrine to the legend of the chest also served the purpose of retroactively explaining its journey to the temple in Jerusalem, a site sacred in Judaism as told in the Bible.

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So if the Ark was never in Kiriath-Jearim, what Biblical mystery were we referring to earlier? Well, the theories about the sacred artifact were soon overshadowed when the team that uncovered the platform made an even bigger discovery. They continued digging around the raised area and came across something astonishing. And it’s this find that helps solve the aforementioned mystery.

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As well as the many artifacts discovered at Kiriath-Jearim, the team also uncovered evidence of fortification around the town. And by fortification we mean really, really big stone walls. Built around 2,200 years ago, they still stand around six feet tall and over nine feet thick in some places. Clearly, whoever built them meant business.

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The team dated the fortification to the Biblical period using a technique that tells them when certain elements last saw sunlight. That dating has convinced the archaeologists that Kiriath-Jearim wasn’t just home to an Ark shrine. In fact, they believe that the town is also the New Testament town of Emmaus.

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What makes the team so convinced this is the fabled town of Emmaus? It appears the Bible mentions that several towns around Jerusalem featured these heavily fortified walls. Many of those settlements had been found, but Emmaus remained elusive. That is, until now. Those defensive structures, though, aren’t the only evidence for Kiriath-Jearim’s ancient identity.

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As well as the walls, Kiriath-Jearim’s location seven miles west of Jerusalem seems to confirm the site’s history. As described in the Bible, Emmaus is roughly that far from the city. And then there’s the fact that Emmaus was the only town in that direction to have been fortified in such a way. Clearly, the case for the towns being one and the same is rather compelling. As Thomas  Römer told Fox News in 2019, “Geographically, I think that the distance to Jerusalem fits well.”

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Römer went on, “I do think that Kiriath-Jearim could have been the Emmaus of the New Testament.” Of course, the discovery of the town has huge implications for Biblical scholars. As we mentioned earlier, the town appears in the Gospel of Luke as the location to which Jesus traveled after his resurrection. But why does that matter?

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If Emmaus really was an actual town that existed around the time that the New Testament is set, firstly, that adds weight to the argument for real-world setting of the Bible. In addition, it adds valuable clues as to the political and social situation in the area at the time. And in turn, all of that information helps give us a clearer picture of life during the era.

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Clearly, then, the possible discovery of Emmaus is a huge development. There are, though, those who remain skeptical that the Biblical town has actually been found. Tel Aviv University’s Benjamin Isaac, an ancient history professor, believes that Kiriath-Jearim isn’t the only town with a decent claim to the title.

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Professor Isaac told the Daily Mail in 2019, “Finkelstein and Römer have a good case archaeologically, geographically and and topographically. However, it is a hypothesis and remains a hypothesis.” For the professor, the existence of the walls simply isn’t enough to say for sure that Kiriath-Jearim is Emmaus. And with at least two other towns also claiming to be the site, he may have a point.

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Historically, scholars have ascribed the name Emmaus to an ancient settlement that once sat between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Mostly, this is down to a third century scholar having identified it as so, despite it being 15 miles from former. There is, however, another candidate, and it lies between Kiriath-Jearim and Tel Aviv.

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The settlement of Motza, as it’s known these days, found itself as a candidate for the original site of Emmaus thanks to the ancient Jewish historian Josephus. For many, though, the town is simply too close to Jerusalem to be a serious contender. All of which leaves Kiriath-Jearim as the likeliest location . And as they told The Daily Mail, as far as the team are concerned, they’ve found the true location of Emmaus – site of a fabled Biblical miracle.

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