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NT personal names in ancient inscriptions?

November 2009
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While wandering around in Corinth las September, looking for  various inscriptions, I started thinking over again: how many inscriptions do we in fact have that contains names of persons also mentioned in the New Testament pages?

I must admit, that while being there, trying to recapitulate from memory, only three inscriptions came to my mind. Of course, one should probably leave out of such a consideration the names of the emperors (Luke 2:1; 3:1) and other Roman official persons as the procurators, including even the inscription concerning Pontius Pilate, and  Gallio (Acts 18:12) even though this lastmentined is very important for the dating of Paul.

I was, and am, however, more thinking about Jewish and Christian persons mentioned in the NT:

  • The Erastus inscription, on this see a posting of mine below. Erastus probably had some sort of official position in Corinth, but the point is, that if he is identical with the Erastus mentioned in the NT, he was also a Christian (cf. Acts 19:22; Rom 16:23; 2 Tim 4:20).
  • The Caiaphas ossuary, one of the High priests in Jerusalem ( Matt 26:3.57; Luke 3:2; John 11:49; 18:13.14.24.28; Acts 4:6). The authenticity of this inscription is still dicussed.
  • The famous, not to say infamous James ossuary, having an inscription mentioning  James, brother of Jesus (Gal 1:19).

A search through Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East, and the volumes of New Documents Illustrating Early Christianity (so far 9 volumes), did not provide any more inscriptions.

Looking into the book of Craig A. Evans,  Ancient Texts for New Testament Studies; a guide to the background literature (Peabody, Ma; Hendrickson, 2005), pp. 306ff. (on Google), I see he has not much more; but he is more positive concerning the two ossuaries.

The conclusion then is disappointing; while the two ossuary inscriptions are questionable, and it is possible that the Erastus mentioned in the Corinthian inscription might not be the one mentioned by Paul, what are we then left with?

Close to nothing; the Erastus inscription being the only one being close to a plausible inscription mentioning a person, even a Christian,  also mentioned in the New Testament.

Those of  who remember the immense interest the presentation of the James ossuary received some years ago, would know that these facts are some of the reasons for the enormous interest this ossuary arose.


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