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Jerusalem Quake

26 - 36 AD

by Jefferson Williams









Introduction & Summary

The Passion Narrative chronicling the death and supposed resurrection of Jesus is likely the most influential story in the History of Western Civilization. In a few renderings of this story, an earthquake is reported to have occurred in the moments after Jesus’ death on the cross and right before the discovery of his empty tomb. Although the veracity and chronological accuracy of these accounts are in question, paleoseismic and archeoseismic evidence indicates that an earthquake struck Judea around this time and caused some damage to the second Temple in Jerusalem.

Semantics

This earthquake is referred to as the 33 AD earthquake in most earthquake catalogs. In some catalogs, it may be referred to as a 30 AD earthquake. Both dates refer to the same textual account – The Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament. The reason for the differing dates has to do with uncertainty regarding the year of Jesus’ death. This uncertainty is discussed in the Textual evidence section. In the interest of clarity, I will refer to the earthquake seen in paleoseismic and archeoseismic evidence as the Jerusalem Quake and the earthquake referred to in the New Testament account as the Crucifixion Quake. It is not know what relation, if any, exists between the Jerusalem Quake and the alleged Crucifixion Quake.

Textual Evidence

Text (with hotlink) Original Language Biographical Info Religion Date of Composition Location Composed Notes
Canonical Gospel Accounts - Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John Greek
Background

The four canonical Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) were written by anonymous authors with the headings of attributed authorship added, by some estimates, in the 2nd century CE. Depending on the Gospel, they are thought to have been composed between ~60 and 110 CE. The first three Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) are known as the Synoptic Gospels due to similarities in wording and narrative structure. Because of this, there is a presumed literary relationship between them (e.g., the authors of Matthew and Luke accessed copies of the Gospel of Mark before they finished their compositions). These Gospels were canonized (i.e, deemed authoritative and worthy of inclusion in the New Testament) through a process of growing consensus and Church Councils that took place over a few hundred years.

Christian ~60 - ~110 CE Various In an allegorical passage, the Gospel of Matthew recounts an Earthquake in the moments after Jesus' death on the cross and again ~36 hours later just before the discovery of the empty tomb at Golgotha. None of the other canonical Gospel accounts mention these earthquakes. Matthew, Mark, and Luke describe a tearing of the curtain of the Second Temple in the moments after Jesus' death.
Gospel of the Hebrews Hebrew, possibly Aramaic
Background

The Gospel of the Hebrews is mentioned by a number of early writers (Edwards, 2009). Legend has it that it was composed in Hebrew by the Disciple Matthew in Jerusalem before ~40 CE after which he left; possibly to evangelize in Parthia1 Whether this legend is true is a matter of dispute. Some scholars believe that the Gospel of the Hebrews was written in the second century CE and was derived from earlier canonical Gospels. Edwards (2009) argues that the Gospel of the Hebrews was written early – earlier than the four canonical gospels. He notes that it was referred to by a minimum of 17 authors2 writing from the 2nd to 8th centuries CE – starting with Papias who, writing between ~95 and ~120 CE said3

Therefore Matthew put the logia in an ordered arrangement in the Hebrew language, but each person interpreted them as best he could
Footnotes

1 The source of the legends and church traditions for the dispersal of the Apostles appears to be shrouded in mystery. The oldest textual sources mentioning these traditions were written centuries or millenia after the fact leaving one only able to speculate about their origins and wonder about their veracity. Nevertheless, by the time Eusebius finished writing Church History in ~324 CE, there was an account by Papias (and Iraneus,Pantaenus, Clement of Alexandria, possibly Hegesippus, Hippolytus, Origen, and likely others) that Matthew, also known as Levi, had written a Hebrew Gospel before his departure to parts possibly unknown. In Book III, Ch XXXIX, Verse 16 of History of the Church by Eusebius, it is written

Matthew had begun by preaching to Hebrews; and when he made up his mind to go to others too, he committed his own gospel to writing in his native tongue, so that for those with whom he was no longer present the gap left by his departure was filled by what he wrote.

2 For Example
3 From Eusebius Church History Book 3 Chapter XXXIX – The Writings of Papias p. 127

Jewish Christian Reputed to have been written between ~33 CE and ~40 CE. This Gospel has been lost but parts of it were quoted by later authors - primarily Jerome. Quotations supplied by Jerome came from a copy he accessed in 398 CE. Jerusalem The apocryphal Gospel of the Hebrews accessed by Jerome states that the lintel of the Second Temple broke in the moments after Jesus' death implying that this was caused by seismic activity. A lintel break due to seismic activity could explain the tearing of the curtain of the Second Temple reported in the canonical Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Lintel damage is a frequent seismic effect as the lintel is one of the weakest parts of a structure.
Nature of the Canonical Gospel Accounts The earliest possible date for the composition of the canonical Gospels appears to be after the 50s CE.
Acts of the Apostles Greek
Background

The Acts of the Apostles is the 5th book of the New Testament and tells the story of the early Christian community from just after Jesus' death in ~33 CE until just before the Apostle Paul's Martyrdom in Rome in the first half of the 60s CE. It's author, who also wrote the Gospel of Luke, is anonymous. Church tradition says it was authored by a companion of Paul the Apostle known as Luke the Evangelist. It's date of composition is debated. Estimates range from ~62 CE when the text ends to 110 CE.

Christian ~62 - ~110 CEE Rome ? The canonical Acts of the Apostles mentions a small seismic shock (possibly an aftershock) perhaps ~8 weeks after Jesus' death. The Acts of the Apostles is apparently beset with chronological inconsistencies.
The Doors of Hekal
Background on the Talmuds

The Talmud is the textual record of generations of rabbinic debate about law, philosophy, and biblical interpretation, compiled between the 3rd and 8th centuries CE and structured as commentary (the Gemara) on the Mishnah with stories interwoven (sefaria.org). The Mishnah is a written collection of Jewish oral traditions. The Gemara is commentary and debates on the Mishnah. The Mishnah and the Gemara make up the core of the Talmud. The Talmud exists in two versions: the more commonly studied Babylonian Talmud was compiled in present-day Iraq, while the Jerusalem Talmud was compiled in Israel (sefaria.org).

Biography of Josephus

Josephus was born in Jerusalem to a father of priestly descent and a mother who claimed Royal Hasmonean Ancestry. He was the head of the Jewish forces in Galilee fighting the Romans in the first Jewish War when under an elaborate set of circumstances, he switched sides and ended up helping the Romans with intelligence. As such, he was an eyewitness to the War and the final siege of Jerusalem along with the destruction of the Second Temple. He was granted Roman citizenship during the war and had close ties to the Flavian Dynasty.

Biography of Tacitus

Guidoboni et al (1994) described Tacitus and his works as follows:

Tacitus (c.55 — c.120 A.D.)

A Latin historian, who was also a senator, magistrate, provincial governor and orator. His first historical work was the Historiae, of which only the first four books and part of the fifth survive. It covered the events of the years 68 —96. Later on he wrote what are known as the Annales ab excessu dici Augusti libri. They were concerned with the period from the death of Augustus (14 AD.) to 68, but only books 1-4, part of book 5, and books 11-16 survive. He made use of documents as well as historical works, of which we cannot always identify the authors.

The Babylonian Talmud, Josephus, and Tacitus relate that the Doors of Hekal of the Second Temple would spontaneously open due to supernatural forces. Spontaneous door opening could be due to prior seismic damage. The date for the spontaneous door opening is not well established. Perhaps it was in the 30s CE. Josephus also describes what could be another potential aftershock.
The Chamber of Hewn Stones Hebrew, Aramaic
Background on the Talmuds

The Talmud is the textual record of generations of rabbinic debate about law, philosophy, and biblical interpretation, compiled between the 3rd and 8th centuries CE and structured as commentary (the Gemara) on the Mishnah with stories interwoven (sefaria.org). The Mishnah is a written collection of Jewish oral traditions. The Gemara is commentary and debates on the Mishnah. The Mishnah and the Gemara make up the core of the Talmud. The Talmud exists in two versions: the more commonly studied Babylonian Talmud was compiled in present-day Iraq, while the Jerusalem Talmud was compiled in Israel (sefaria.org).

The Babylonian Talmud describes how the Sanhedrin was exiled from the Chamber of Hewn Stones around ~30 CE which it attributes to the fact that they no longer had the authority to judge cases of fines and/or cases of capital punishment. Some have speculated that the reason for the exile is that the Chamber had been seismically damaged and made structurally unsound.
Temple Repair reported in The Jewish War by Josephus Greek, possibly translated from an earlier version in Aramaic
Biography

Josephus was born in Jerusalem to a father of priestly descent and a mother who claimed Royal Hasmonean Ancestry. He was the head of the Jewish forces in Galilee fighting the Romans in the first Jewish War when under an elaborate set of circumstances, he switched sides and ended up helping the Romans with intelligence. As such, he was an eyewitness to the War and the final siege of Jerusalem along with the destruction of the Second Temple. He was granted Roman citizenship during the war and had close ties to the Flavian Dynasty.

Jewish about 75 CE Rome Josephus relates that between 41 and 44 CE, timbers were brought to the Second Temple for the purposes of construction or possibly reconstruction.
Year of Jesus’ Death The year of Jesus' death is not specified anywhere in the New Testament however chronological clues in the canonical Gospel Accounts along with an analysis using methods of Historical Astronomy indicates that 33 and 30 CE are the most likely years. The full time span for when Jesus died is constrained from 26 to 36 or 37 CE.
Intensity of Shaking in Jerusalem Second Temple damage suggests an Intensity of VI or VII.
Conflation with an earthquake in Northern Turkey Some ancient authors conflated the report of an earthquake in the moments after Jesus' death with the Solar Eclipse Quake of 29 CE in what is now northwestern Turkey. Due to the distances between northwestern Turkey and Jerusalem and other reasons, this is not possible.
Gospel of Peter Greek
Background

Although the apocryphal Gospel of Peter was referred to by a number of ancient authors, a copy of the text was not found until an extant ~8th century CE copy was discovered in archaeological excavations in Upper Egypt between 1886 and 1887 CE (Foster, 2007:319). When this Gospel was first composed is unknown but Eusebius wrote that a copy was circulating in the late second century CE (Foster, 2007:319). The text opens with a scene in the Passion Narrative and the author claims to be the Disciple Peter.

Christian Scholars are divided as to the exact date of the text. Ehrman and Pleše (2011) place it in the middle of the 2nd century CE. The apocryphal Gospel of Peter recounts an Earthquake in the moments after Jesus' death as well as the tearing of the curtain of the Second Temple.
Gospel of Nicodemus also known as The Acts of Pilate Greek although questions of original language are debated
Background

The apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus, also known as The Acts of Pilate, claims to be authored by Nicodemus who is mentioned in the Gospel of John as a member of the Sanhedrin who privately visited and spoke with Jesus and paid for Jesus' burial expenses.

The Gospel begins with Jesus' trial. Some variants of this Gospel (Ch XV-XIX) include an account of the descent of Jesus’ spirit into Hell (actually Sheol) in the time between his death on the Cross and supposed resurrection ~36 hours later. This addition is interesting in that it provides a potential back story to the earthquakes in Matthew’s Passion narrative. If the earthquakes in Matthew are entirely fictional, this back story in the Gospel of Nicodemus could partially explain why the author of Matthew or his source inserted two earthquakes into the narrative. The descent of Jesus’ spirit into and later out of Sheol would necessarily be accompanied by a splitting of the earth which would manifest in the form of earthquakes; one on the way down and another on the way up. The Gospel of Matthew also describes graves being opened from the first earthquake with the occupants of those graves coming out after Jesus' Resurrection which would presumably coincide more or less with the second earthquake. This back story would thus indicate that these were souls released from Sheol by Jesus during his time there.

The language used by Matthew suggests he was alluding to a passage titled "The Valley of the Dry Bones" in the 37th Chapter of The Old Testament Book of Ezekiel. This prophecy, although seemingly a prophecy about the coming return of the Jewish People to Zion after the Babylonian Captivity, also contains the first mention of Resurrection in the Old Testament. The author of Matthew and others may have seen the vision of "The Valley of the Dry Bones" as having a second prophetic meaning foretelling the resurrection of the dead. Credit to New Testament Scholar Dr. David Sloan for this exegesis.

As the Gospel Of Nicodemus shows evidence of having been cobbled together by more than one author and possesses a number of variants, assigning a single definitive date to it's composition is a difficult and messy exercise. A common estimate is that one version of the Gospel in its final form was completed sometime in the 4th century CE.

Christian 4th or 5th century CE The apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus describes an earthquake and tearing of the curtain of the Second Temple in the moments before Jesus' death as well as a second earthquake associated with the discovery of the empty tomb. This Gospel also presents an interesting backstory which could provide a literary reason why an earthquake was included in some versions (e.g., Matthew) of the Passion narrative (see Biography drop down to the left for details).
Literary Motif - An earthquake after the death of a a famous person An earthquake is also reported after the deaths of Buddha, Mohammed, and Julius Caesar
Text (with hotlink) Original Language Biographical Info Religion Date of Composition Location Composed Notes
Canonical Gospel Accounts - Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John

Background and Biography

Background and Biography

The four canonical Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) were written by anonymous authors with the headings of attributed authorship added, by some estimates, in the 2nd century CE. Depending on the Gospel, they are thought to have been composed between ~60 and 110 CE. The first three Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) are known as the Synoptic Gospels due to similarities in wording and narrative structure. Because of this, there is a presumed literary relationship between them (e.g., the authors of Matthew and Luke accessed copies of the Gospel of Mark before they finished their compositions). These Gospels were canonized (i.e, deemed authoritative and worthy of inclusion in the New Testament) through a process of growing consensus and Church Councils that took place over a few hundred years.

Excerpts
Embedded Gospel Accounts

Gospel of Matthew Chapter 27 - NIV English Translation - Embedded

  • see Verses 51-54


Gospel of Matthew Chapter 27 - Greek - Embedded

  • see Verses 51-54


Gospel of Matthew Chapter 27 - Interlinear - Embedded

  • see Verses 51-54


Gospel of Matthew Chapter 28 - NIV English Translation - Embedded

  • see Verse 2


Gospel of Matthew Chapter 28 - Greek - Embedded

  • see Verse 2


Gospel of Matthew Chapter 28 - Interlinear - Embedded

  • see Verse 2


Gospel of Mark Chapter 15 - NIV English Translation - Embedded

  • see Verses 38-39


Gospel of Mark Chapter 15 - Greek - Embedded

  • see Verses 38-39


Gospel of Mark Chapter 15 - Interlinear - Embedded

  • see Verses 38-39


Gospel of Luke Chapter 23 - NIV English Translation - Embedded

  • see Verse 44-47


Gospel of Luke Chapter 23 - Greek - Embedded

  • see Verse 44-47


Gospel of Luke Chapter 23 - Interlinear - Embedded

  • see Verse 44-47


Gospel of John Chapter 19 - NIV English Translation - Embedded

  • see Verse 28-37


Gospel of John Chapter 19 - Greek - Embedded

  • see Verse 28-37


Gospel of John Chapter 19 - Interlinear - Embedded

  • see Verse 28-37


Earthquakes in the Gospel of Matthew

In the New Testament Gospel of Matthew, two earthquakes are mentioned in the midst of the Passion narrative. Both describe seismic shaking in Jerusalem. The first description comes from the 27th Chapter of Matthew.

50 Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. 51 And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; 52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, 53 And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. 54 Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.
Approximately ~36 hours later, a second earthquake is mentioned in the 28th Chapter of Matthew
28 In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. 2 And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. 3 His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: 4 And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. 5 And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. 6 He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. 7 And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you. 8 And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.
From a seismic perspective, this could describe a foreshock and main shock or a main shock and an aftershock. However the supernatural imagery, symbolism, and apparent theological agenda of the author brings into question whether the earthquakes are used as a literary device meant to impart a spiritual meaning rather than describing a real event.

Tearing of the Temple Curtain

Two other gospel accounts (Mark and Luke) mention the tearing of the Temple Curtain in the moments surrounding Jesus death but do not mention an earthquake. The fourth canonical Gospel account John mentions neither. The second Temple had two veils or curtains – a large one visible from the outside and an inner one, not visible from the outside. The inner curtain was placed in front of the Inner Sanctum of the Temple – a place known as the Holy of the Holies. None of the canonical Gospel accounts are specific about which curtain was torn. Further, since the Temple faced the east, the outer veil would not have been visible from the traditional site of Golgotha where Jesus is thought to have been crucified. This indicates that the frightened Centurion at the end of the first account would not likely have been able to see a curtain tear. However, at an alternate crucixion site proposed by Dr. James Tabor and others (the Mount of Olives), the outer curtain would have been visible. For a discussion of evidence supporting the traditional crucifixion site at what is now the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, see the collapsible panel below. For a possible exegesis of Matthew's storytelling regarding the two earthquakes, see the Textual evidence section on the Gospel of Nicodemus.

Notes
The Traditional Crucifixion Site

Most scholars believe the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is built on top of Golgotha. Archaeologist Dr. Dan Bahat is quoted as follows:

The early Christian community of Jerusalem appears to have held liturgical celebrations at Christ's tomb from the time of the resurrection until the city was taken by the Romans in 66 AD. Less than a century later, in 135 AD, Emperor Hadrian filled in the quarry to provide a level foundation for a temple to Aphrodite. The site remained buried beneath the pagan temple until Emperor Constantine the Great converted to Christianity in 312 AD. He soon showed an interest in the holy places associated with his new faith, and commissioned numerous churches to be built throughout the Holy Land. The most important of these, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, was begun in 326 AD. Constantine's builders dug away the hillside to leave the rock-hewn tomb of Christ isolated and with enough room to built a church around it. They also cleared away Hadrian's temple and the material with which an old quarry had been filled to provide the temple's foundations. In the process, according to contemporary Christian historians, the Rock of Golgotha was found. The Church was formally dedicated in 335 with an oration by Constantine's biographer, Eusebius of Caesarea.
After defeating Jewish forces in the Bar Kokhba revolt of ~130 CE, Roman Emperor Hadrian took drastic measures to prevent future rebellions (the Bar Kokhba revolt was the third Jewish revolt against Rome in the previous 60 years). He banned Jews from the city of Jerusalem, rebuilt the city, and renamed it Aelia Capitolina. He also apparently sought to wipe out places of Jewish and Christian religious practices in the city by building Rome sanctioned Temples dedicated to pagan Gods on top of the holiest site for Jews (Temple Mount) and the holiest site for Christians (Golgotha) thus marking the location of these sites approximately 100 years after Jesus' death. Although Golgotha was "identified" by Constantine's builders and his mother Helen approximately 300 years after Jesus' death, the site had apparently been marked by Hadrian's efforts 200 years prior. Subsequent building work on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre uncovered corroborating evidence of rock cut tombs under the Roman Temple at the site. More recent archaeological work has confirmed the presence of tombs cut in the first century BCE and the first century CE surrounding the site and that the site was just outside the city walls at the time of Jesus' death. Numerous writers have interpreted Gospel accounts (e.g. John 19:17) and Jewish customs of cleanliness and uncleanliness to indicate that Golgotha would have been outside the city walls.

Gospel of the Hebrews

Background and Biography

Background and Biography

The Gospel of the Hebrews is mentioned by a number of early writers (Edwards, 2009). Legend has it that it was composed in Hebrew by the Disciple Matthew in Jerusalem before ~40 CE after which he left; possibly to evangelize in Parthia1 Whether this legend is true is a matter of dispute. Some scholars believe that the Gospel of the Hebrews was written in the second century CE and was derived from earlier canonical Gospels. Edwards (2009) argues that the Gospel of the Hebrews was written early – earlier than the four canonical gospels. He notes that it was referred to by a minimum of 17 authors2 writing from the 2nd to 8th centuries CE – starting with Papias who, writing between ~95 and ~120 CE said3

Therefore Matthew put the logia in an ordered arrangement in the Hebrew language, but each person interpreted them as best he could
Footnotes

1 The source of the legends and church traditions for the dispersal of the Apostles appears to be shrouded in mystery. The oldest textual sources mentioning these traditions were written centuries or millenia after the fact leaving one only able to speculate about their origins and wonder about their veracity. Nevertheless, by the time Eusebius finished writing Church History in ~324 CE, there was an account by Papias (and Iraneus,Pantaenus, Clement of Alexandria, possibly Hegesippus, Hippolytus, Origen, and likely others) that Matthew, also known as Levi, had written a Hebrew Gospel before his departure to parts possibly unknown. In Book III, Ch XXXIX, Verse 16 of History of the Church by Eusebius, it is written

Matthew had begun by preaching to Hebrews; and when he made up his mind to go to others too, he committed his own gospel to writing in his native tongue, so that for those with whom he was no longer present the gap left by his departure was filled by what he wrote.

2 e.g.
3 From Eusebius Church History Book 3 Chapter XXXIX – The Writings of Papias p. 127

Earthquake in the Gospel of the Hebrews

Two quotes taken from the apocryphal Gospel of the Hebrews mention Temple damage and, implicitly, the earthquake. This gospel, supposedly originally written in Hebrew or possibly Aramaic is not extant and only exists in fragments mentioned by other writers. Church Scholar Jerome4 obtained a copy of this gospel from the library in Caesarea. Writing around 398 CE, he stated the following in two different passages about the Gospel of the Hebrews.
In the gospel we often mention we read that the immense Temple lintel fell and broke into pieces
and
In like manner, the Gospel of the Nazarenes says that at the death of Christ the Temple lintel of great size was broken
Edwards (2009:88-90) indicates that in Jerome’s writings, the “gospel we often mention” and the Gospel of the Nazarenes both refer the Gospel of the Hebrews5. What is interesting about this description is it’s compatibility with the accounts in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark5 which state that the curtain tore from top to bottom. Although this top to bottom description has traditionally been understood to indicate that the curtain tore due to God and not man, the top to bottom tearing is consistent with a lintel breaking and tearing the curtain from the top where it would have been affixed to the Temple structure. A lintel break is a common seismic effect on stone structures as can be observed in the ~90 cases of doorway, lintel, and archway damage observed at at Qalat Nimrod due to the 1759 CE Baalbek and Safed Quakes.
Footnotes

4 Jerome was fluent in Latin, Hebrew, and Greek and translated both the Old and New Testaments into Latin more or less creating the Vulgate – a Latin Bible widely (and later officially) used by the Catholic Church until 1979.

5 Since Jerome was reading a copy of this gospel centuries after it was first produced, it is not known how faithful Jerome’s copy was to the original text.

6 Modern New Testament Scholarship makes a strong case that the author of the Gospel of Matthew had access to a copy of the Gospel of Mark so the top to bottom curtain tearing in Matthew could be redacted (i.e. copied and edited) from Mark. 90% of Mark is present in Matthew.

Online Versions and Further Reading

Nature of the Canonical Gospel Accounts

The alleged early authorship of the Gospel of the Hebrews is important due to the later dates when the canonical gospels are thought to have been written. The New Testament letters of Paul can be reliably dated to the 50’s CE and it appears that no Gospel quotes are contained within them; making an argument that the canonical Gospel accounts did not exist in a written form at that time (a competing argument is shown in the collapsible dropdown below). Despite their titles, the four canonical gospels are thought to be written by anonymous authors something so common in Greek literature at the time that there is word for this type of literature – pseudepigrapha.

An argument that Paul quoted a Gospel Account (Luke)

Paul may quote Luke (10:7)

And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house.
in 1 Timothy 5:18
For the scripture saith, "thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn." And, "The labourer is worthy of his reward."
"The labourer is worthy of his reward." is not found in the Old Testament. 1 Timothy is one of the disputed letters by Paul. Some letters by Paul are thought to be authentically written or dictated by Paul while others are thought to be Pseudepigrapha - i.e they are disputed. Some believe that Paul preferred to confront his Jewish educated critics by quoting from the Septuagint, indicating that Paul would have less of a tendency to quote Gospel accounts.

Gospel of Luke Chapter 10 - NIV English Translation - Embedded

  • see Verse 7


1 Timothy Chapter 5- NIV English Translation - Embedded

  • see Verse 18


Aftershock in the Acts of the Apostles

Background and Biography

Background and Biography

The Acts of the Apostles is the 5th book of the New Testament and tells the story of the early Christian community from just after Jesus' death in ~33 CE until just before the Apostle Paul's Martyrdom in Rome in the first half of the 60s CE. It's author, who also wrote the Gospel of Luke, is anonymous. Church tradition says it was authored by a companion of Paul the Apostle known as Luke the Evangelist. It's date of composition is debated. Estimates range from ~62 CE when the text ends to 110 CE.

Excerpts

A potential aftershock is described in Verse 31 of Chapter 16 of The Acts of the Apostles.
Acts of the Apostles Chpater 16 - Verses 23 to 31 - English Translation

The Believers Pray

23 On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:

‘Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
26 The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together
against the Lord
and against his anointed one.


27 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. 29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

Acts of the Apostles Chpater 16 - Verses 23 to 31 - Original Greek

23 ἀπολυθέντες δὲ ἦλθον πρὸς τοὺς ἰδίους καὶ ἀπήγγειλαν ὅσα πρὸς αὐτοὺς οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ οἱ πρεσβύτεροι εἶπαν
24 οἱ δὲ ἀκούσαντες ὁμοθυμαδὸν ἦραν φωνὴν πρὸς τὸν θεὸν καὶ εἶπαν δέσποτα σὺ ὁ ποιήσας τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν καὶ τὴν θάλασσαν καὶ πάντα τὰ ἐν αὐτοῖς
25 ὁ τοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν διὰ πνεύματος ἁγίου στόματος Δαυὶδ παιδός σου εἰπών ἱνατί ἐφρύαξαν ἔθνη καὶ λαοὶ ἐμελέτησαν κενά
26 παρέστησαν οἱ βασιλεῖς τῆς γῆς καὶ οἱ ἄρχοντες συνήχθησαν ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτὸ κατὰ τοῦ κυρίου καὶ κατὰ τοῦ Χριστοῦ αὐτοῦ
27 συνήχθησαν γὰρ ἐπ᾽ ἀληθείας ἐν τῇ πόλει ταύτῃ ἐπὶ τὸν ἅγιον παῖδά σου Ἰησοῦν ὃν ἔχρισας Ἡρῴδης τε καὶ Πόντιος Πιλᾶτος σὺν ἔθνεσιν καὶ λαοῖς Ἰσραήλ
28 ποιῆσαι ὅσα ἡ χείρ σου καὶ ἡ βουλή σου προώρισεν γενέσθαι
28 ποιῆσαι ὅσα ἡ χείρ σου καὶ ἡ βουλή σου προώρισεν γενέσθαι
29 καὶ τὰ νῦν κύριε ἔπιδε ἐπὶ τὰς ἀπειλὰς αὐτῶν καὶ δὸς τοῖς δούλοις σου μετὰ παρρησίας πάσης λαλεῖν τὸν λόγον σου
30 ἐν τῷ τὴν χεῖρά σου ἐκτείνειν σε εἰς ἴασιν καὶ σημεῖα καὶ τέρατα γίνεσθαι διὰ τοῦ ὀνόματος τοῦ ἁγίου παιδός σου Ἰησοῦ
31 καὶ δεηθέντων αὐτῶν ἐσαλεύθη ὁ τόπος ἐν ᾧ ἦσαν συνηγμένοι καὶ ἐπλήσθησαν ἅπαντες τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος καὶ ἐλάλουν τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ μετὰ παρρησίας

Acts of the Apostles Chapter 4 - NIV English Translation - Embedded

  • see Verse 31


Acts of the Apostles Chapter 4 - Greek - Embedded

  • see Verse 31


Acts of the Apostles Chapter 4 - Interlinear - Embedded

  • see Acts 4:31


Chronology

A possible aftershock is described in Chapter 4 Verse 31 of the Acts of the Apostles. The accuracy of this part of the Acts of the Apostles is a matter of debate as is the timing of the seismic shock but, taken at face value, it records an aftershock perhaps 8 weeks after the two shocks described in Matthew - i.e sometime around the beginning of June.

Seismic Effects Locations Online Versions and Further Reading

The Doors of Hekal and another potential aftershock

Background and Biography

Background on the Talmuds

The Talmud is the textual record of generations of rabbinic debate about law, philosophy, and biblical interpretation, compiled between the 3rd and 8th centuries CE and structured as commentary (the Gemara) on the Mishnah with stories interwoven (sefaria.org). The Mishnah is a written collection of Jewish oral traditions. The Gemara is commentary and debates on the Mishnah. The Mishnah and the Gemara make up the core of the Talmud. The Talmud exists in two versions: the more commonly studied Babylonian Talmud was compiled in present-day Iraq, while the Jerusalem Talmud was compiled in Israel (sefaria.org).

Biography of Josephus

Josephus was born in Jerusalem to a father of priestly descent and a mother who claimed Royal Hasmonean Ancestry. He was the head of the Jewish forces in Galilee fighting the Romans in the first Jewish War when under an elaborate set of circumstances, he switched sides and ended up helping the Romans with intelligence. As such, he was an eyewitness to the War and the final siege of Jerusalem along with the destruction of the Second Temple. He was granted Roman citizenship during the war and had close ties to the Flavian Dynasty.

Biography of Tacitus

Guidoboni et al (1994) described Tacitus and his works as follows:

Tacitus (c.55 — c.120 A.D.)

A Latin historian, who was also a senator, magistrate, provincial governor and orator. His first historical work was the Historiae, of which only the first four books and part of the fifth survive. It covered the events of the years 68 —96. Later on he wrote what are known as the Annales ab excessu dici Augusti libri. They were concerned with the period from the death of Augustus (14 AD.) to 68, but only books 1-4, part of book 5, and books 11-16 survive. He made use of documents as well as historical works, of which we cannot always identify the authors.

Excerpts
Embedded Texts

William Davidson Translation of Babylonian Talmud - Yoma 39 b - English and Hebrew - embedded

  • see Yoma 39b starting with And the doors of the Sanctuary opened by themselves


English Translation by Whiston (1737) of The Jewish War Book 6 - Embedded

  • see Chapter 5 Paragraph 3


English Translation by Church and Brodribb (1888) of The Histories by Tacitus Book 5 - Embedded

  • see page 199 bottom paragraph starting with Prodigies had occurred, which this nation, prone to superstition


The Babylonian Talmud

The Babylonian Talmud may contain indirect evidence for an earthquake shock to the second Temple sometime around 30 CE. In Yoma 39 b Paragraph 2, one can read:
Our Rabbis taught: During the last forty years before the destruction of the Temple the lot [‘For the Lord’] did not come up in the right hand; nor did the crimson-coloured strap become white; nor did the westernmost light shine; and the doors of the Hekal would open by themselves, until Rabbi Johanan ben Zakkai rebuked them, saying: Hekal, Hekal, why wilt thou be the alarmer thyself?
Since the second Temple was destroyed in 70 CE, 40 years before its destruction refers to ~30 CE. The signs above were interpreted as omens of the Temple’s ensuing destruction. Many of the signs appear superstitious but the spontaneous opening of the doors of Hekal (the main sanctuary building) could be a reflection of seismic damage to the doorway as doors that do not open or close properly are a frequent result of light structural damage from an earthquake. Subsidence is also a possible cause of distortion of a door frame.

Josephus

Josephus describes a similar portent foreshadowing destruction of the second Temple in Book 6 Chapter 5 Paragraph 3 of the Jewish War
Moreover, the eastern gate of the inner [court of the] temple, which was of brass, and vastly heavy, and had been with difficulty shut by twenty men, and rested upon a basis armed with iron, and had bolts fastened very deep into the firm floor, which was there made of one entire stone, was seen to be opened of its own accord about the sixth hour of the night.
Josephus does not provide a firm date for this spontaneous door opening; only stating that it happened "before the Jews' rebellion, and before those commotions which preceded the war". Like the Talmud, Josephus described other portents some of which seem possible (e.g. a celestial object described as looking like a sword and a comet) and others which seem fantastical (e.g. a heifer birthing a lamb in the Temple). While this suggests oral transmission, embellishment, and invention, a second source describing spontaneous opening of the doors gives more credence to the door opening observation in the Talmud.

Tacitus

Tacitus in Histories Book 5 Paragraph 13 recounts portents (or prodigies) similar to Josephus including the following describing doors of the second Temple:
The doors of the inner shrine were suddenly thrown open, and a voice of more than mortal tone was heard to cry that the Gods were departing. At the same instant there was a mighty stir as of departure.
The similarity of other prodigies (or portents) mentioned by Tacitus in paragraph 13 suggests that Josephus was one of Tacitus' sources so this cannot be necessarily be viewed as independent corroboration. Like Josephus, Tacitus did not provide a firm date for the spontaneous door opening only stating that it "had occurred" before the first Roman-Jewish War.

Josephus records a potential aftershock

Later in Book 6 Chapter 5 Paragraph 3 of the Jewish War, Josephus, in describing these portents or prodigies, includes what could be a seismic aftershock on the 21st of May some days after the doors of Hekal spontaneously opened.
Besides these, a few days after that feast, on the one and twentieth day of the month Artemisius, [Jyar,] a certain prodigious and incredible phenomenon appeared: I suppose the account of it would seem to be a fable, were it not related by those that saw it, and were not the events that followed it of so considerable a nature as to deserve such signals; for, before sun-setting, chariots and troops of soldiers in their armor were seen running about among the clouds, and surrounding of cities. Moreover, at that feast which we call Pentecost, as the priests were going by night into the inner [court of the temple,] as their custom was, to perform their sacred ministrations, they said that, in the first place, they felt a quaking, and heard a great noise, and after that they heard a sound as of a great multitude, saying, "Let us remove hence."

The Chamber of Hewn Stones

Background and Biography

Background on the Talmuds

The Talmud is the textual record of generations of rabbinic debate about law, philosophy, and biblical interpretation, compiled between the 3rd and 8th centuries CE and structured as commentary (the Gemara) on the Mishnah with stories interwoven (sefaria.org). The Mishnah is a written collection of Jewish oral traditions. The Gemara is commentary and debates on the Mishnah. The Mishnah and the Gemara make up the core of the Talmud. The Talmud exists in two versions: the more commonly studied Babylonian Talmud was compiled in present-day Iraq, while the Jerusalem Talmud was compiled in Israel (sefaria.org).

Excerpts
William Davidson Translation of Babylonian Talmud - Shabbat 15 a - English and Hebrew - embedded

  • see Shabbat 15a starting with He sent to them: This is what my father said:


In Shabbat 15 a of the Babylonian Talmud we can read
Forty Years before the Temple was destroyed, the Sanhedrin was exiled from the Chamber of Hewn Stones and sat in the Stores on the Temple Mount.
The Talmud deduces that the Chamber of Hewn Stones was built into the north wall of the Temple, half inside the sanctuary and half outside, with doors providing access both to the temple and to the outside. The name presumably arises to distinguish it from the buildings in the temple complex used for ritual purposes, which had to be constructed of unhewn stones. The Commentary on the Talmud gives a reason for moving the Sanhedrin. Depending on the Rabbi, they no longer had the authority to judge cases of fines and/or cases of capital punishment. However it is also possible that the structure was unsafe; possibly due to seismic damage or differential settlement on Temple Mount. By ~30 CE, the Herodian Temple Mount rebuilding project should have been mostly completed. Herodian building projects, marked by their use of large heavy stones, may have been occasionally beset by subsidence problems when built on weak soils such as was apparently underlain on Temple Mount. Josephus, for example, mentions foundation failures on Temple Mount1. Subsidence problems have also taken place in the breakwaters of a Herodian project in Caesarea2.
Footnotes

1 Antiquities of the Jews – Book XV – Chapter 11 – Paragraph 3

English Translation by Whiston (1737) of Antiquities of the Jews – Book XV - Embedded

  • see Chapter 11 – Paragraph 3 starting with So Herod took away the old foundations, and laid others


2 Galili et al (2021) make the case that the mostly likely reason for subsidence of the breakwaters is due to Geotechnical reasons - i.e., Engineering failures.

Temple Repair reported in The Jewish War by Josephus

Background and Biography

Biography of Josephus

Josephus was born in Jerusalem to a father of priestly descent and a mother who claimed Royal Hasmonean Ancestry. He was the head of the Jewish forces in Galilee fighting the Romans in the first Jewish War when under an elaborate set of circumstances, he switched sides and ended up helping the Romans with intelligence. As such, he was an eyewitness to the War and the final siege of Jerusalem along with the destruction of the Second Temple. He was granted Roman citizenship during the war and had close ties to the Flavian Dynasty.

Synopsis

In Book 5 of the Jewish War, Josephus related that construction materials (timbers) had been brought to the Temple during the reign of Herod Agrippa (41-44 CE) to be used in Temple construction or possibly reconstruction. This quote from Josephus is placed in the context of using those timbers at a later date to construct war machines during the first Jewish War (66-73 CE) against Rome.

Excerpts
English Translation of The Jewish War Book 5 by Whiston et al (1895)

  • The Jewish War Book V Ch 1 Paragraph 5
  • from Whiston et al (1895)
5. And now, as the city was engaged in a war on all sides, from these treacherous crowds of wicked men, the people of the city, between them, were like a great body torn in pieces. The aged men and the women were in such distress by their internal calamities, that they wished for the Romans, and earnestly hoped for an external war, in order to their delivery from their domestical miseries. The citizens themselves were under a terrible consternation and fear; nor had they any opportunity of taking counsel, and of changing their conduct; nor were there any hopes of coming to an agreement with their enemies; nor could such as had a mind flee away; for guards were set at all places, and the heads of the robbers, although they were seditious one against another in other respects, yet did they agree in killing those that were for peace with the Romans, or were suspected of an inclination to desert them, as their common enemies. They agreed in nothing but this, to kill those that were innocent. The noise also of those that were fighting was incessant, both by day and by night; but the lamentations of those that mourned exceeded the other; nor was there ever any occasion for them to leave off their lamentations, because their calamities came perpetually one upon another, although the deep consternation they were in prevented their outward wailing; but being constrained by their fear to conceal their inward passions, they were inwardly tormented, without daring to open their lips in groans. :Nor was any regard paid to those that were still alive, by their relations; nor was there any care taken of burial for those that were dead; the occasion of both which was this, that every one despaired of himself; for those that were not among the seditious had no great desires of any thing, as expecting for certain that they should very soon be destroyed; but for the seditious themselves, they fought against each other, while they trod upon the dead bodies as they lay heaped one upon another, and taking up a mad rage from those dead bodies that were under their feet, became the fiercer thereupon. They, moreover, were still inventing somewhat or other that was pernicious against themselves; and when they had resolved upon any thing, they executed it without mercy, and omitted no method of torment or of barbarity. Nay, John abused the sacred materials, (5) and employed them in the construction of his engines of war; for the people and the priests had formerly determined to support the temple, and raise the holy house twenty cubits higher; for King Agrippa (r. 41-44 CE) had at a very great expense, and with very great pains, brought thither such materials as were proper for that purpose, being pieces of timber very well worth seeing, both for their straightness and their largeness; but the war coming on, and interrupting the work, John had them cut, and prepared for the building him towers, he finding them long enough to oppose from them those his adversaries that thought him from the temple that was above him. He also had them brought and erected behind the inner court over against the west end of the cloisters, where alone he could erect them ; whereas the other sides of that court had so many steps as would not let them come nigh enough the cloisters.

Greek

Πανταχόθεν δὲ τῆς πόλεως πολεμουμένης ὑπὸ τῶν ἐπιβούλων καὶ συγκλύδων μέσος ὁ δῆμος ὥσπερ μέγα σῶμα διεσπαράσσετο. [28] γηραιοὶ δὲ καὶ γυναῖκες ὑπ᾽ ἀμηχανίας τῶν εἴσω κακῶν ηὔχοντο Ῥωμαίοις καὶ τὸν ἔξωθεν πόλεμον ἐπ᾽ ἐλευθερίᾳ τῶν εἴσω κακῶν ἐκαραδόκουν. [29] κατάπληξις δὲ δεινὴ καὶ δέος ἦν τοῖς γνησίοις, καὶ οὔτε βουλῆς καιρὸς εἰς μεταβολὴν οὔτε συμβάσεως ἐλπὶς οὔτε φυγὴ τοῖς ἐθέλουσιν: [30] ἐφρουρεῖτο γὰρ πάντα, καὶ τὰ λοιπὰ στασιάζοντες οἱ ἀρχιλῃσταὶ τοὺς εἰρηνικὰ Ῥωμαίοις φρονοῦντας ἢ πρὸς αὐτομολίαν ὑπόπτους ὡς κοινοὺς πολεμίους ἀνῄρουν καὶ μόνον ὡμονόουν τὸ φονεύειν τοὺς σωτηρίας ἀξίους. [31] καὶ τῶν μὲν μαχομένων ἀδιάλειπτος ἦν κραυγὴ μεθ᾽ ἡμέραν τε καὶ νύκτωρ, δεινότεροι δὲ οἱ τῶν πενθούντων ὀδυρμοὶ δέει. [32] καὶ θρήνων μὲν αἰτίας ἐπαλλήλους αἱ συμφοραὶ προσέφερον, τὰς δ᾽ οἰμωγὰς ἐνέκλειεν ἡ κατάπληξις αὐτῶν, φιμούμενοι δὲ τά γε πάθη τῷ φόβῳ μεμυκόσι τοῖς στεναγμοῖς ἐβασανίζοντο. [33] καὶ οὔτε πρὸς τοὺς ζῶντας ἦν αἰδὼς ἔτι τοῖς προσήκουσιν οὔτε πρόνοια τῶν ἀπολωλότων ταφῆς. αἴτιον δὲ ἀμφοτέρων ἡ καθ᾽ ἑαυτὸν ἀπόγνωσις ἑκάστου: παρεῖσαν γὰρ εἰς πάντα τὰς προθυμίας οἱ μὴ στασιάζοντες ὡς ἀπολούμενοι πάντως ὅσον οὐδέπω. [34] πατοῦντες δὴ τοὺς νεκροὺς ἐπ᾽ ἀλλήλοις σεσωρευμένους οἱ στασιασταὶ συνεπλέκοντο καὶ τὴν ἀπόνοιαν ἀπὸ τῶν ἐν ποσὶ πτωμάτων σπῶντες ἦσαν ἀγριώτεροι. [35] προσεξευρίσκοντες δ᾽ ἀεί τι καθ᾽ αὑτῶν ὀλέθριον καὶ πᾶν τὸ δοχθὲν ἀφειδῶς δρῶντες οὐδεμίαν οὔτ᾽ αἰκίας ὁδὸν οὔτε ὠμότητος παρέλειπον. [36] ἀμέλει Ἰωάννης τὴν ἱερὰν ὕλην εἰς πολεμιστηρίων κατασκευὴν ὀργάνων ἀπεχρήσατο: δόξαν γάρ ποτε τῷ λαῷ καὶ τοῖς ἀρχιερεῦσιν ὑποστηρίξαντας τὸν ναὸν εἴκοσι πήχεις προσυψῶσαι, κατάγει μὲν ἀπὸ τοῦ Λιβάνου μεγίστοις ἀναλώμασι καὶ πόνοις τὴν χρήσιμον ὕλην ὁ βασιλεὺς Ἀγρίππας, ξύλα θέας ἄξια τήν τε εὐθύτητα καὶ τὸ μέγεθος: [37] μεσολαβήσαντος δὲ τοῦ πολέμου τὸ ἔργον Ἰωάννης τεμὼν αὐτὰ πύργους κατεσκεύασεν ἐξαρκοῦν τὸ μῆκος εὑρὼν πρὸς τοὺς ἀπὸ τοῦ καθύπερθεν ἱεροῦ μαχομένους, [38] ἵστησί τε προσαγαγὼν κατόπιν τοῦ περιβόλου τῆς πρὸς δύσιν ἐξέδρας ἄντικρυς, ᾗπερ καὶ μόνῃ δυνατὸν ἦν τῶν ἄλλων μερῶν βαθμοῖς πόρρωθεν διειλημμένων.

English Translation of The Jewish War Book 5 by Whiston (1737) - embedded

  • see Chapter 1 Paragraph 5
  • The Jewish War Book V Ch 1 Paragraph 5
  • from Whiston (1737)


Online Versions and Further Reading

Year of Jesus’ Death

The year that Jesus died is not explicitly stated in any of the four canonical gospels. The only solid information we have is that Jesus died during the reign of Pontius Pilate something which is agreed on by all 4 gospels as well as the Roman Historian Tacitus in Annals, book 15, chapter 44 and the Jewish Historian Josephus in Antiquities of the Jews Book 18 Chapter 3 Paragraph 31. Pilate’s reign, which is verified with archeologic evidence , is dated to 26 -~37 CE based on Josephus’ writings in his book Jewish Antiquities2. Using techniques of historical astronomy and textual clues3. Humphreys (2011) identified 4 possible years for the crucifixion during Pilates reign – 27 CE, 30 CE, 33 CE, and 34 CE. 27 CE and 34 CE were rejected on historical grounds leaving two possible dates – 7 April 30 CE and 3 April 33 CE. This is how the years 30 and 33 CE are variously reported as the date of the alleged Earthquake(s) of the Crucifixion.

Footnotes

1 Although many scholars believe this passage was likely rewritten by a later Christian scribe, the core of the original passage is thought to have contained an account that Jesus died under the reign of Pontius Pilate.

English Translation by Whiston (1737) of Antiquities of the Jews – Book XVII - Embedded

  • see Chapter 3 – Paragraph 3 starting with Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man


2 See Finegan (1998) Section 620 - Pilate’s reign is based on Josephus Jewish Antiquities Book XVIII Chapter 2 Paragraph 2 for the start of Pilates reign and Jewish Antiquities Book XVIII Chapter 4 Paragraph 2 for the length of Pilate’s reign (10 years) and the end of Pilates reign (~37 AD).
English Translation by Whiston (1737) of Antiquities of the Jews – Book XVII - Embedded

  • see Chapter 2 – Paragraph 2 for the start of Pilate's reign - starting with 2. As Coponius, who we told you was sent
  • see Chapter 4 – Paragraph 2 for the length of Pilate's reign - starting with 2. But when this tumult was appeased


3 Humphreys (2011) sought to establish when 14 or 15 Nisan fell on a Friday during Pilates reign. The Gospel accounts state that the crucifixion occurred on the day before Sabbath which Humphreys(2011) assumed to be on a Friday and on either the 14th or 15th of Nisan. John states that the date was 14 Nisan and the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) state that the date was 15 Nisan. Humphreys (2011) proposes that the reason for the 14 vs. 15 Nisan discrepancy is because the Gospel writers used two different calendar systems with John using the official Jewish calendar of the Priests of the Temple in Jerusalem and Matthew, Mark, and Luke using the pre-exilic calendar of ancient Israel where exile refers to the Babylonian conquest and captivity.

The presumption that the day before the Sabbath is a Friday is complicated by the fact that some Jewish Holidays are considered to be a Sabbath even when they don't fall on the day after Friday. In Chapter 28 of the Gospel of Matthew, Mary and the other Mary are described in an interlinear translation as arriving at the empty tomb after then Sabbaths (Ὀψὲ δὲ σαββάτων) where Sabbaths is plural in the original Greek (σαββάτων). Despite this, the majority of English translations translate Sabbaths as the singular word Sabbath (after the sabbath) indicating that the day was Sunday - the first day of the week. The following from New Testament Scholar Dirk Jongkind explains this language
Sabbath is the name of the day but also designates a week. Both the plural and singular are used for both meanings yet normally the intention is clear. ‘The first of the [sabbaths]’ is normally understood to be a standard Hebraism for first of the week (and not ‘weeks’). It is clear that a ‘sabbath day’ was not intended. Compare for example Luke 18:12 (fasting twice a week [‘sabbath’ singular - σαββάτου]. The expression ‘first (day) of the week’ is used throughout all the gospels and in Acts, always with the plural ‘sabbaths’
Luke 18:2 - Interlinear - Embedded



The specification for the first day of the Feast of the Unleavened Bread which follows the Passover meal is in Numbers 28:16-17
16 “‘On the fourteenth day of the first month the Lord’s Passover is to be held. 17 On the fifteenth day of this month there is to be a festival; for seven days eat bread made without yeast.
Numbers 28:16-25 - Embedded



Tacitus Annals Book 15 - Embedded

  • see Chapter 44 starting with Such indeed were the precautions of human wisdom


Intensity of Shaking in Jerusalem

If one concentrates solely on seismic descriptions in the Gospel of Matthew, there is mention of grave damage and limited damage to the Second Temple. The grave damage could be estimated to reflect a Modified Mercalli Intensity (MMI) level of VI and damage to the lintel of the Second Temple merits an MMI rating of VII. However, the Temple Mount Platform on which the Second Temple was located appears to have suffered from a seismic amplification effect once the Herodian Temple rebuilding project was completed perhaps around ~27 - ~28 CE. Salamon et. al. (2010) noted that structures on the Temple Mount appear to undergo frequent damage during earthquakes. A more detailed discussion about seismic amplification on the Temple Mount is contained in the Notes section of this catalog entry. Considering the amplification effect, one can revise down the Temple damage to reflect an area wide MMI intensity of VI. This is compatible with estimates by Williams (2004)) that the Jerusalem Earthquake of 26-36 CE was caused by an earthquake with a magnitude between 6.0 and 6.5 with an epicenter in the south part of the Dead Sea perhaps close to the modern Jordanian village of Al Masraa. Such an earthquake would result in an approximate MMI Intensity of VI in Jerusalem. At this intensity, it is unlikely that lives were lost but damage to weak structures (e.g. graves) or structures subject to seismic amplification (e.g. Temple damage) is possible.

If Williams (2004) magnitude and epicenter estimates are accurate and seismic amplification was in effect on Temple Mount, the question remains whether the earthquake description in the Gospel of Matthew is accurate in terms of chronology or whether it reflects an earthquake from around that time which was somehow incorporated into the New Testament account perhaps seeding the imagination of the author or getting conflated with the Passion narrative in the various oral traditions that would have been circulating in the years following Jesus’ death.

Conflation with an earthquake in Northern Turkey

In some catalogs, earthquake damage in Nicea, Pontus or Bithynia (all in modern day northern Turkey) is listed as occurring in 30 or 33 CE. This is a mistake that has propagated from earlier catalogs. For details see the catalog entry for the Solar Eclipse Quake.

Gospel of Peter

Background and Biography

Background and Biography

Although the apocryphal Gospel of Peter was referred to by a number of ancient authors, a copy of the text was not found until an extant ~8th century CE copy was discovered in archaeological excavations in Upper Egypt between 1886 and 1887 CE (Foster, 2007:319). When this Gospel was first composed is unknown but Eusebius wrote that a copy was circulating in the late second century CE (Foster, 2007:319). The text opens with a scene in the Passion Narrative and the author claims to be the Disciple Peter.

Excerpts

In the apocryphal Gospel of Peter an earthquake is mentioned in the moments after Jesus death but not immediately before the discovery of the empty tomb.
English translation of the Gospel of Peter - Sections 15-24

[15] But is was midday, and darkness held fast all Judea; and they were distressed and anxious lest the sun had set, since he was still living. [For] it is written for them: Let not the sun set on one put to death. [16] And someone of them said: 'Give him to drink gall with vinegary wine.' And having made a mixture, they gave to drink. [17] And they fulfilled all things and completed the sins on their own head. [18] But many went around with lamps, thinking that it was night, and they fell. [19] And the Lord screamed out, saying: 'My power, O power, you have forsaken me.' And having said this, he was taken up. [20] And at the same hour the veil of the Jerusalem sanctuary was torn into two. [21] And they drew out the nails from the hands of the Lord and placed him on the earth; and all the earth was shaken, and a great fear came about. [22] Then the sun shone, and it was found to be the ninth hour. [23] And the Jews rejoiced and gave his body to Joseph that he might bury it, since he was one who had seen the many good things he did. [24] And having taken the Lord, he washed and tied him with a linen cloth and brought him into his own sepulcher, called the Garden of Joseph.

Gospel of Peter - Embedded

  • See 6 starting with 6 And then they drew out the nails


Seismic Effects Locations Online Versions and Further Reading

Gospel of Nicodemus also known as The Acts of Pilate

Background and Biography

Background and Biography

The apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus, also known as The Acts of Pilate, claims to be authored by Nicodemus who is mentioned in the Gospel of John as a member of the Sanhedrin who privately visited and spoke with Jesus and paid for Jesus' burial expenses.

The Gospel begins with Jesus' trial. Some variants of this Gospel (Ch XV-XIX) include an account of the descent of Jesus’ spirit into Hell (actually Sheol) in the time between his death on the Cross and supposed resurrection ~36 hours later. This addition is interesting in that it provides a potential back story to the earthquakes in Matthew’s Passion narrative. If the earthquakes in Matthew are entirely fictional, this back story in the Gospel of Nicodemus could partially explain why the author of Matthew or his source inserted two earthquakes into the narrative. The descent of Jesus’ spirit into and later out of Sheol would necessarily be accompanied by a splitting of the earth which would manifest in the form of earthquakes; one on the way down and another on the way up. The Gospel of Matthew also describes graves being opened from the first earthquake with the occupants of those graves coming out after Jesus' Resurrection which would presumably coincide more or less with the second earthquake. This back story would thus indicate that these were souls released from Sheol by Jesus during his time there.

The language used by Matthew suggests he was alluding to a passage titled "The Valley of the Dry Bones" in the 37th Chapter of The Old Testament Book of Ezekiel. This prophecy, although seemingly a prophecy about the coming return of the Jewish People to Zion after the Babylonian Captivity, also contains the first mention of Resurrection in the Old Testament. The author of Matthew and others may have seen the vision of "The Valley of the Dry Bones" as having a second prophetic meaning foretelling the resurrection of the dead. Credit to New Testament Scholar Dr. David Sloan for this exegesis.

As the Gospel Of Nicodemus shows evidence of having been cobbled together by more than one author and possesses a number of variants, assigning a single definitive date to it's composition is a difficult and messy exercise. A common estimate is that one version of the Gospel in its final form was completed sometime in the 4th century CE.

Excerpts

In CHAPTER VIII of the Gospel of Nicodemus, an earthquake is described as occurring before rather than after Jesus’ death.
CHAPTER VIII - English

AND it was about the sixth hour, 3 and darkness was upon the face of the whole earth until the ninth hour. 2 And while the sun was eclipsed, behold the vail of the temple was rent from the top to the bottom; and the rocks also were rent, and the graves opened, and many bodies of saints, which slept, arose. 3 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, Hely, Hely, lama zabacthani? which being interpreted, is, My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me? 4 And after these things, Jesus said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit; and having said this, he gave up the ghost.

Later in CHAPTER X, there is a description of a second earthquake associated with the discovery of the empty tomb.
CHAPTER X - English

WHEN all the assembly heard this, they admired and were astonished, because they found the same seal upon the lock of the chamber, and could not find Joseph. 2 Then Annas and Caiaphas went forth, and while they were all admiring at Joseph's being gone, behold one of the soldiers, who kept the sepulchre of Jesus, spake in the assembly. 3 That 2 while they were guarding the sepulchre of Jesus, there was an earthquake; and we saw an angel of God roll away the stone of the sepulchre and 3 sit upon it; 4 And his countenance was like lightning and his garment like snow; and we became through fear like persons dead. 5 And we heard an angel saying to the women at the sepulchre of Jesus, Do not fear; I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified; he is risen as he foretold.

Gospel of Nicodemus - Embedded

  • See Chapter VIII Verse 2
  • See Chapter X Verse 3


Seismic Effects

1st Earthquake 2nd Earthquake Locations

1st Earthquake 2nd Earthquake

Literary Motif - An earthquake after the death of a a famous person

An earthquake reported at the death of a famous or holy person, sometimes accompanied by an event in the sky such as a storm or darkness, appears to be a literary motif present in a variety of ancient literature reported at the deaths of Buddha, Julius Caesar, Jesus, and Muhammed.

Buddha

In a section titled The World's Echo in Maha-parinibbana Sutta: Last Days of the Buddha we can read:

And when the blessed on had passed away; simultaneously with his Parinibbana, there came a tremendous earthquake, dreadful and astounding, and the thunders rolled across the heavens.

- Maha-parinibbana Sutta: Last Days of the Buddha. translated from the Pali by Sister Vajira & Francis Story Part 6 - The Passing Away in subsection "The World's Echo" (p. 78)
Notes
Maha-parinibbana Sutta: Last Days of the Buddha - Embedded

  • See The World's Echo Verse 12 scrolled down about 80%


Julius Caesar

Virgil wrote the Georgics in ~29 BCE. At the end of Book One, he wrote about events after the assassination of Julius Caesar. In Book One Lines 461-497 we can read

The Portents At Julius Caesar’s Death

So, the sun will give you signs of what late evening brings,
and from where a fair-weather wind blows the clouds,
or what the rain-filled southerly intends. Who dares to say
the sun tricks us? He often warns us that hidden troubles
threaten, that treachery and secret wars are breeding.
He pitied Rome when Caesar was killed,
and hid his shining face in gloomy darkness,
and an impious age feared eternal night.
At that time earth, and the level sea,
troublesome dogs, and fateful birds, gave omens.
How often Etna inundated the Cyclopes’s fields,
streams of lava pouring from her shattered furnace,
hurling gouts of flame and molten rock!
In Germany they heard the clash of weapons,
across the sky, the Alps shook with strange quakes.
A great shout was heard, openly, in the silent groves,
and pale ghosts in strange forms were seen in the dark of night,
and, ah horror, creatures spoke like men.
Rivers stopped, earth split, and sad, the ivories wept
in the temples, and the bronze sweated.
Eridanus, king of the rivers, washed away forests
in the whirl of his maddened vortex, and swept
cattle and stables over the plains. Nor at that time
was there any lack of ominous marks in the dark entrails,
blood flowing in the wells, and mighty cities
echoing at night with the howls of wolves.
Never did greater lightning flash from a clear sky,
never did fatal comets shine more often.
So Philippi again saw Roman armies clash
amongst themselves, with equal weapons:
And the gods thought it not unfitting that Emathia and the broad plain
of Haemus, should twice be enriched with our blood.
And a time will come, when in those lands,
the farmer labouring at the earth with curved plough,
will come upon spears eaten by scabrous rust,
or strike an empty helmet with his heavy hoe,
and wonder at giant bones in the opened grave.
Online Versions and Further Reading Notes
Blog Post by Gary

quotes from a blog post by Gary

Virgil reported that the Alps quaked at the murder of Caesar. Indeed, when Lucian wants to burlesque the death of a famous man, he combines an earthquake with a talking vulture flying off to heaven as signs that greeted his departure. –NT scholar, Raymond Brown, The Death of the Messiah, p. 1122

Georgics - Embedded

  • See BkI:461-497 The Portents At Julius Caesar’s Death


Jesus

The Gospel of Matthew reports that there was an earthquake in the moment after Jesus died on the cross.

Muhammad

The History of the Caliphs by Jalal al-Din As-Suyuti

al-Suyuti was a prolific Arabic language writer who wrote in Cairo in the 15th century CE. His book The History of the Caliphs covers the Rashudin Caliphate. In that book, as-Suyuti reports seismic shaking in Mecca after Mohammed died on 7 June 632 CE and after Abu Bakr, the first Rashudin Caliph died on 23 August 634 CE. The first account of an earthquake after Mohammed (referred to as the Messenger of Allah) died is reproduced from page 58 of The History of the Caliphs below:

Al-Hakim narrated in his Mustadrak that Abu Hurayrah, may Allah be pleased with him, said:
When the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, died, Makkah was shaken with an earthquake and Abu Quhafah heard that and said, ‘What is this?’ They said, ‘The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, has died.’ He said, ‘A momentous thing. Who has undertaken the command after him?’ They said, ‘Your son.’ He said, ‘Are Banu 'Abd Manaf and Banu al-Mughirah contented with that?’ They said, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘No-one may put down what they raise up and no-one may raise up what they put down.’
Al-Waqidi narrated in a variety of ways that 'A’ishah, Ibn Umar, Sa'id ibn al-Musayyab and others relate that Abu Bakr was pledged allegiance on the day that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, died, on Monday the 12th night of Rabi al-Awwal in the eleventh year of the Hijrah [JW: 7 June 632 CE].
Later on page 75, as-Suyuti describes an earthquake after Abu Bakr died on 23 August 634 CE.
Ibn Sa'd narrated that Said ibn al-Musayyab said that Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, prayed over Abu Bakr between the grave (of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace) and the minbar, and said four takbirs over him.

He narrated that Urwah and al-Qasim ibn Muhammad said that Abu Bakr left as his last wish to A’ishah that he should be buried by the side of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace. When he died, they dug a grave for him and put his head at the shoulder of the Messenger, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and the niche (wherein the body was laid) touuched the grave of the Messenger, may Allah bless him and grant him peace.

He narrated that Ibn Umar said: Umar, Talhah, Uthman and Abd ar-Rahman ibn Abi Bakr got down into Abu Bakr’s grave (to place the body in the niche). He narrated by many different routes that he was buried at night.

He narrated that Ibn al-Musayyab said that when Abu Bakr died, Makkah was shaken by an earthquake, and so Abu Quhafah said, What is this?’ They said, ‘Your son has died.’ He said, ‘A great misfortune! Who has undertaken the command after him?’ They said, ‘Umar.’ He said, ‘His companion.’
If seismic shaking in Mecca after Abu Bakr's death is the same earthquake as the Sword in the Sky Earthquake, this would date the Sword in the Sky Earthquake to late August 634 CE differing slightly with other author's dates of September 634 CE.

Notes
The History Of The Caliphs by as-Suyuti - Embedded

  • See Page 58 2nd Paragraph


Archaeoseismic Evidence

Location (with hotlink) Status Intensity Notes
Jerusalem - Introduction n/a n/a n/a
Jerusalem - Western Wall Tunnel probable ≥ 7 Stratum 14 Earthquake - ~30 CE - Onn et. al. (2011) report earthquake damage to a pier under Wilson's Arch adjacent to the Western Wall Plaza by Temple Mount which they presumed to be due to an earthquake in 33 CE. The date was constrained by the endpoints of the approximate completion of the Herodian Temple rebuilding project and the destruction of the Second Temple by then Roman General Titus in 70 CE. Although the 70 CE endpoint is known with certainty, the end of the Herodian rebuilding project is not as certain but the bulk of the building was probably completed by ~27 CE.

Regev et al (2020) performed radiocarbon dating and microarcheology on northern and southern piers under Wilson's Arch and reported radiocarbon dates of 20 BC - 20 CE for the northern pier and drainage channel and 30 - 60 CE for the southern pier (Regev et al, 2020: 9, 13). This would associate the northern pier with the original Herodian rebuilding project and the southern pier with a southerly expansion of the Bridge associated with Wilson's Arch initiated sometime after ~20-30 CE. Given the earthquake damage present under this bridge, this bridge expansion suggests it was also a repair. Repairs can be indicators of a reaction to seismic damage. Thus it seems probable but not certain that the Jerusalem Quake (31 CE ± 5) caused this seismic bridge damage.
Jerusalem - Jason’s Tomb possible ≥ 8 Rahmani(1964:98-99) interpreted the collapse of “structured parts” of Jason’s Tomb in Jerusalem to be due to the 31 BCE earthquake. He noted the presence of Herodian remains (mainly oil lamps) on a plaster floor beneath earthquake debris. Since Herod conquered Jerusalem in 37 BCE and Rahmani (1964) dates sealing of the tomb to 30/31 CE, it was presumed that the responsible earthquake was the only one that Rahmani (1964) was aware of at that time – the Josephus Quake of 31 BCE. However, since then evidence for the Jerusalem Quake of 26-36 CE has come to light making the Jerusalem Quake another possible candidate for the collapse debris. If the Jerusalem Quake did cause archeoseismic damage to Jason’s Tomb, it may have added additional debris rather than being responsible for the original debris.
Jerusalem - The Cracks of Calvary indeterminate In his catalog entry for the 33 CE Earthquake (i.e., the Jerusalem Quake), Ambraseys (2009) presents a discussion of the so-called cracks of Calvary at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Although there are legends stating that these cracks were formed during the earthquake(s) of the Crucifixion, no-one to date has been able to either date the formation of the cracks or confirm or dis-affirm a seismic origin. So, while the discussion is interesting, it is not illuminating.
Heshbon possible ≥ 8
Stratum 14 Earthquake (Mitchel, 1980) - 1st century BCE - 2nd century CE

Mitchel (1980) identified a destruction layer in Stratum 14 which he attributed to an earthquake. Unfortunately, the destruction layer is not precisely dated. Using some assumptions, Mitchel (1980) dated the earthquake destruction to the 130 CE Eusebius Mystery Quake, apparently unaware at the time that this earthquake account may be either misdated as suggested by Russell (1985) or mislocated as suggested by Ambraseys (2009). Although Russell (1985) attributed the destruction layer in Stratum 14 to the early 2nd century CE Incense Road Quake, a number of earthquakes are possible candidates including the 31 BCE Josephus Quake.

Mitchel (1980:73) reports that a majority of caves used for dwelling collapsed at the top of Stratum 14 which could be noticed by:

bedrock surface channels, presumably for directing run-off water into storage facilities, which now are totally disrupted, and in many cases rest ten to twenty degrees from the horizontal; by caves with carefully cut steps leading down into them whose entrances are fully or largely collapsed and no longer usable; by passages from caves which can still be entered into formerly communicating caves which no longer exist, or are so low-ceilinged or clogged with debris as to make their use highly unlikely — at least as they stand now.
Mitchel (1980:73) also noticed that new buildings constructed in Stratum 13 were leveled over a jumble of broken-up bedrock. Mitchel (1980:95) reports that Areas B and D had the best evidence for the massive bedrock collapse - something he attributed to the "softer" strata in this area, more prone to karst features and thus easier to burrow into and develop underground dwelling structures. Mitchel (1980:96) reports discovery of a coin of Aretas IV (9 BC – 40 CE) in the fill of silo D.3:57 which he suggests was placed as part of reconstruction after the earthquake. Although Mitchel (1980:96) acknowledges that this suggests that the causitive earthquake was the 31 BCE Josephus Quake, Mitchel (1980:96) argued for a later earthquake based on the mistaken belief that the 31 BCE Josephus Quake had an epicenter in the Galilee. Paleoseismic evidence from the Dead Sea, however, indicates that the 31 BCE Josephus Quake had an epicenter in the vicinity of the Dead Sea relatively close to Tell Hesban. Mitchel (1980:96-98)'s argument follows:
The filling of the silos, caves, and other broken—up bedrock installations at the end of the Early Roman period was apparently carried out nearly immediately after the earthquake occurred. This conclusion is based on the absence of evidence for extended exposure before filling (silt, water—laid deposits, etc.), which in fact suggests that maybe not even one winter's rain can be accounted for between the earthquake and the Stratum 13 filling operation. If this conclusion is correct, then the Aretas IV coin had to have been introduced into silo D.3:57 fill soon after the earthquake. which consequently could not have been earlier than 9 B.C.

The nature of the pottery preserved on the soft, deep fills overlying collapsed bedrock is also of significant importance to my argument in favor of the A.D. 130 earthquake as responsible for the final demise of underground (bedrock) installations in Areas B and D. Table 7 provides a systematic presentation of what I consider to be the critical ceramic evidence from loci in three adjacent squares, D.3, D.4, and B.7. The dates of the latest pottery uniformly carry us well beyond the date of the earthquake which damaged Qumran, down, in fact, closer to the end of the 1st century A.D. or the beginning of the 2nd.

In addition to these three fill loci, soil layer D.4:118A (inside collapsed cave D.4:116 + D.4:118) yielded Early Roman I-III sherds, as well as two Late Roman I sherds (Square D.4 pottery pails 265, 266). Contamination of these latter samples is possible, but not likely. I dug the locus myself.

Obviously, this post-31 B.C. pottery could have been deposited much later than 31 B.C.. closer, say, to the early 2nd century A.D., but the evidence seems to be against such a view. I personally excavated much of locus D.4:101 (Stratum 13). It was a relatively homogeneous, unstratified fill of loose soil that gave all the appearances of rapid deposition in one operation. From field descriptions of the apparently parallel loci in Squares D.3 and B.7. I would judge them to be roughly equivalent and subject to the same interpretation and date. And I repeat, the evidence for extended exposure to the elements (and a concomitant slow, stratified deposition) was either missed in excavation, not properly recorded, or did not exist.

This case is surely not incontrovertible but seems to me to carry the weight of the evidence which was excavated at Tell Hesban.
Mitchel (1980:100)'s 130 CE date for the causitive earthquake rests on the assumption that the "fills" were deposited soon after bedrock collapse. If one discards this assumption, numismatic evidence and ceramic evidence suggests that the "fill" was deposited over a longer period of time - perhaps even 200+ years - and the causitive earthquake was earlier. Unfortunately, it appears that the terminus ante quem for the bedrock collapse event is not well constrained. The terminus post quem appears to depend on the date for lower levels of Stratum 14 which seems to have been difficult to date precisely and underlying Stratum 15 which Mitchel (1980:21) characterized as chronologically difficult.

Structures in the Araba n/a n/a Ben-Menahem (1979:259) and Ben-Menahem (1991:20198) report that three structures in the Araba were fortified to withstand earthquakes between the years 9 BCE and 50 CE. This could reflect indirect evidence of a recent earthquake; primarily due to a Nabatean pattern of quickly repairing structures after earthquakes during this prosperous period. He locates these structures in Petra, Tel el Haliefe, and Wadi Ramm. His references were Avi-Yonah (1975) Volumes III and IV and Gleuck (1943).
Petra - Introduction n/a n/a n/a
Petra - Temple of the High Places needs investigation Ben-Menahem (1979:259) and Ben-Menahem (1991:20198) report that three structures in the Araba were fortified to withstand earthquakes between the years 9 BCE and 50 CE. This could reflect indirect evidence of a recent earthquake; primarily due to a Nabatean pattern of quickly repairing structures after earthquakes during this prosperous period. He locates these structures in Petra, Tel el Haliefe, and Wadi Ramm. His references were Avi-Yonah (1975) Vol III and IV and Gleuck (1943).

Unfortunately, Ben-Menahem (1979:259) and Ben-Menahem (1991:20198) did not specify which structure at Petra was fortified. He may have been referring to the “Temple of the High Places” but absent specific information, it is not possible to assess this claim. Although there is potential archeoseismic evidence at the site (i.e. fractures in the steps and platform), the potential evidence is undated.
Aqaba - Introduction n/a n/a n/a
Aqaba - Tel el Haliefe no evidence Ben-Menahem (1979:259) and Ben-Menahem (1991:20198) report that three structures in the Araba were fortified to withstand earthquakes between the years 9 BCE and 50 CE. This could reflect indirect evidence of a recent earthquake; primarily due to a Nabatean pattern of quickly repairing structures after earthquakes during this prosperous period. He locates these structures in Petra, Tel el Haliefe, and Wadi Ramm. His references were Avi-Yonah (1975) Vol III and IV and Gleuck (1943).

Tel el Haliefe site does not appear to contain any evidence for fortification of structures between 9 BCE and 50 CE. Pratico and DiVito (1993), Avi-Yonah (1975), and Glueck (1940) all state that the site appears to have been abandoned by 4th or 3rd century BCE at the latest.
Wadi Ramm - Er-Ram possible They key seismic discovery at the Temple to Allat is a Thamudic inscription discovered at the ruins on the site. The inscription may have been placed after the site was rebuilt due to earthquake damage. This may reflect be a pattern during this time when the Nabateans rebuilt their temples (e.g., The High Places at Petra, Khirbet Tannur, and the Temple to Allat in Wadi Ramm) soon after earthquakes damaged them. The inscription contains a fragment of a date: and this is written on the day/ . . . of Ab in the year 40 and . . . ,. ' Two alternatives were proposed for dating this inscription (Avi-Yonah, 1975)
  1. The inscription refers to the 41st or 45th year in the reign of Aretas IV; the only Nabatean King who ruled for more than 40 years (he ruled for 49 years - from 9 BCE – 40 CE). This would place the date of the inscription in ~32 or ~36 CE. If all the years between his 41st and 49th regnal years are considered, the inscription would date from ~32 – ~40 CE. No explicit reason was given why only the 41st and 45th years were considered.

  2. The date specifies the era of the Provincia Arabia which would date the inscription as follows:
    Year of Province Arabia Date Range Comments
    41 22 March 146 to 21 March 147 CE Calculated using CHRONOS
    45 22 March 150 to 21 March 151 CE Calculated using CHRONOS
    Again, no explicit reason was given why only the 41st and 45th years were considered. The full date range for the 41st to 49th years of Provincia Arabia is from 22 March 146 to 21 March 155 CE.
Because the excavators found no mention of Aretas IV’s surname (Philopatris) in the inscription, they favored the second date (Avi-Yonah, 1975).
Location (with hotlink) Status Intensity Notes
Jerusalem - Introduction



Jerusalem - Western Wall Tunnel



Jerusalem - Jason’s Tomb



Jerusalem - The Cracks of Calvary



Heshbon



Petra - Introduction



Petra - Temple of the High Places



Aqaba/Eilat - Introduction



Aqaba - Tel el Haliefe



Wadi Ramm - Er-Ram



Paleoseismic Evidence

Location (with hotlink) Status Intensity Notes
Bet Zayda unlikely ≥ 7 Although Wechsler at al. (2014) list the Jerusalem Quake as a candidate for causing surface rupture seen in event CH4-E6 (Modeled Age 392 BCE - 91 CE) in Bet Zayda, the estimated size and epicenter worked out by Williams (2004) suggests that it is an unlikely candidate and that their more favored candidate (the 31 BCE Josephus Quake) or the Northern Dead Fish and Soldiers Quake are more likely.
Dead Sea - Seismite Types n/a n/a
Dead Sea - En Feshka possible to probable 7.9 - 8.8 Kagan et. al. (2011) identified a 1 cm. thick Type 4 microbreccia seismite at a depth of 338 cm. which they dated to 63 CE ± 38 (1σ) and 61 CE ± 81 (2σ). They listed the 33 CE earthquake (i.e., the Jerusalem Quake) as the most likely candidate.
Dead Sea - En Gedi possible 8 - 9 Migowski et. al. (2004) identified a 0.2 cm. thick Type 1 seismite at a depth of 274 cm. (2.74 m) in the DSEn core taken at En Gedi and assigned it a date of 33 CE based on varve counting in the core. Williams et. al. (2012) later worked on the same core that Migowski et. al. (2004) worked on and dated the same seismite to 26-36 CE using an identical varve counting technique but added an uncertainty estimate for the difficult to count varves.

Although Migowski et. al. (2004) and Williams et. al. (2012) observed a very thin seismite (0.2 cm.) associated with the Jerusalem Quake in the En Gedi Core, subsequent field work by Williams in a gully (aka the En Gedi Trench) located ~40 meters from the core site has shown the Jerusalem Quake seismite to be substantially thicker (3 – 9 cm. with an average of 3-4 cm.) and Type 2. Thickening and thinning of seismites are frequently observed in outcrop and the thickness may be controlled by site effects, lithological changes, and subtle changes in topography (terracing) that cause the seismite layers to flow during earthquakes of longer duration.

Migowski et. al. (2004) assigned a magnitude of 5.5 to the Jerusalem Quake seismite apparently based on the work of Ken-Tor et al. (2001a) which estimated a magnitude of 5.5 for the the seismite they assigned to the Jerusalem Quake (33 AD in their paper) in Nahal Ze'elim. This was based on an assumption by Ken-Tor et al. (2001a) that the Jerusalem Quake only produced a seismite locally at Nahal Ze 'elim (ZA1) and that an earthquake must be at least magnitude 5.5 to produce a seismite in the epicentral region. However, since seismites were observed at two locations (En Gedi and Nahal Ze 'elim), the magnitude had to be larger. Williams (2004) estimated the magnitude of the Jerusalem Quake to between 6.0 and 6.5 (~6.3) with an epicenter close the Jordanian town of Al Masraa. The methodology of Williams (2004) was to estimate local intensity based on seismite thickness, locate the causitive earthquake on known earthquake producing faults (in this case the Araba Fault), and use an attenuation relationship to estimate Magnitude.
Dead Sea - Nahal Ze 'elim probable 8.0 - 8.9 (All sites)
  • Annotated Photo of Events B (31 BCE) and C (26-36 CE) near site ZA-1 from Williams et al (2011)
  • Annotated Photo of Events B (31 BCE) and C (26-36 CE) near site ZA-1 from photo by Jefferson Williams
Site ZA-1 - Ken-Tor et al. (2001a) was the first to discover and publish about this seismite. She identified a 5.5 cm. thick Type 4 seismite which she labeled as Event C. This seismite was dated to 124 CE ± 188 (± 2σ) and its most probable age was estimated at 5-50 CE - apparently based on its stratigraphic position relative to what was presumed to be a 31 BCE Josephus Quake Seismite (Event B). Ken-Tor et al. (2001a) associated Event C with a 33 CE earthquake listed in the earthquake catalogs (i.e. the Jerusalem Quake). She assigned a magnitude of 5.5 which is thought to be the minimum magnitude necessary to create a seismite in the epicentral region. Williams (2004) examined the same seismite (Event C) as Ken-Tor et. al. (2001a) but revised the magnitude estimate up to ~6.3 by placing the earthquake on known faults and estimating the strength of shaking required to create a seismite of the observed thickness in Nahal Ze ‘elim (~ 4 - 5 cm.). The most likely fault break according to Williams (2004) was the northern part of the Araba Fault with an epicenter close to the Jordanian town of Al Masraa. Ken-Tor (nee Bookman) related that Event C was observed to thicken and thin throughout the outcrop occasionally pinching out and disappearing (personal communication, 2000).

Site ZA-2 - Site ZA-2 is more seaward than site ZA-1. At site ZA-2, Kagan et al (2011) dated a 4 cm. thick Type 4 seismite at a depth of 470 cm. to 52 CE ± 40 (1σ) and 56 CE ± 76 (2σ) and associated it with the 33 CE earthquake - i.e., the Jerusalem Quake.
Araba - Introduction n/a n/a n/a
Araba - Taybeh Trench possible ≥ 7 LeFevre et al. (2018) tentatively identified a poorly expressed seismic event (E5) in the Taybeh trench in the Araba which they modeled between 14 BCE and 205 CE. Although they identified the 31 BCE Josephus Quake as the most likely candidate, the ~31 CE Jerusalem Quake may be an even more likely candidate. LeFevre et al. (2018) noted that the poor expression of Event E5 (vertical cracks in the trench) meant that the cracks could have been caused by a later Event (E4) which they associated with the early second century CE Incense Road Earthquake.
Araba - Qatar Trench possible to unlikely ≥ 7 The Jerusalem Quake, within Event E6's time window (251 CE ± 251), is a less likely candidate than other earthquake events such as the early second century CE Incense Road Earthquake or the southern Cyril Quake of 363 CE.
Location (with hotlink) Status Intensity Notes
Bet Zayda (aka Beteiha)

Although Wechsler at al. (2014) list the Jerusalem Quake as a candidate for causing surface rupture seen in event CH4-E6 (Modeled Age 392 BCE - 91 CE) in Bet Zayda, the estimated size and epicenter worked out by Williams (2004) suggests that it is an unlikely candidate and that their more favored candidate (the 31 BCE Josephus Quake) or the Northern Dead Fish and Soldiers Quake (listed as mid 2nd century in their figure below) are more likely.



Dead Sea - Seismite Types



Dead Sea - En Feshka

Kagan et. al. (2011) identified a 1 cm. thick Type 4 microbreccia seismite at a depth of 338 cm. which they dated to 63 CE ±38 (1σ) and 61 CE ± 81 (2σ). They listed the 33 CE earthquake (ie the Jerusalem Quake) as the most likely candidate.



Dead Sea - En Gedi

Migowski et. al. (2004) identified a 0.2 cm. thick Type 1 seismite at a depth of 274 cm. (2.74 m) in the DSEn core taken at En Gedi and assigned it a date of 33 CE based on varve counting in the core. Williams et. al. (2012) later worked on the same core that Migowski et. al. (2004) worked on and dated the same seismite to 26-36 CE using an identical varve counting technique but added an uncertainty estimate for the difficult to count varves.

Although Migowski et. al. (2004) and Williams et. al. (2012) observed a very thin seismite (0.2 cm.) associated with the Jerusalem Quake in the En Gedi Core, subsequent field work by Williams in a gully (aka the En Gedi Trench) located ~40 meters from the core site has shown the Jerusalem Quake seismite to be substantially thicker (3 – 9 cm. with an average of 3-4 cm.) and Type 2. Thickening and thinning of seismites are frequently observed in outcrop and the thickness may be controlled by site effects, lithological changes, and subtle changes in topography (terracing) that cause the seismite layers to flow during earthquakes of longer duration.

Migowski et. al. (2004) assigned a magnitude of 5.5 to the Jerusalem Quake seismite apparently based on the work of Ken-Tor et al. (2001a) which estimated a magnitude of 5.5 for the the seismite they assigned to the Jerusalem Quake (33 AD in their paper) in Nahal Ze'elim. This was based on an assumption by Ken-Tor et al. (2001a) that the Jerusalem Quake only produced a seismite locally at Nahal Ze 'elim (ZA1) and that an earthquake must be at least magnitude 5.5 to produce a seismite in the epicentral region. However, since seismites were observed at two locations (En Gedi and Nahal Ze 'elim), the magnitude had to be larger. Williams (2004) estimated the magnitude of the Jerusalem Quake to between 6.0 and 6.5 (~6.3) with an epicenter close the Jordanian town of Al Masraa. The methodology of Williams (2004) was to estimate local intensity based on seismite thickness, locate the causitive earthquake on known earthquake producing faults (in this case the Araba Fault), and use an attenuation relationship to estimate Magnitude.

The seismite at a depth of 274 cm.(2.74 m) can be observed in the table below: (source: Table 2)



Dead Sea - Nahal Ze 'elim

ZA-1
Ken-Tor et al. (2001a) was the first to discover and publish about this seismite. She identified a 5.5 cm. thick Type 4 seismite which she labeled as Event C. This seismite was dated to 124 CE ± 188 (± 2σ) and its most probable age was estimated at 5-50 CE - apparently based on its stratigraphic position relative to what was presumed to be a 31 BCE Josephus Quake Seismite (Event B). Ken-Tor et al. (2001a) associated Event C with a 33 CE earthquake listed in the earthquake catalogs (i.e. the Jerusalem Quake). She assigned a magnitude of 5.5 which is thought to be the minimum magnitude necessary to create a seismite in the epicentral region. Williams (2004) examined the same seismite (Event C) as Ken-Tor et. al. (2001a) but revised the magnitude estimate up to ~6.3 by placing the earthquake on known faults and estimating the strength of shaking required to create a seismite of the observed thickness in Nahal Ze ‘elim (~ 4 - 5 cm.). The most likely fault break according to Williams (2004) was the northern part of the Araba Fault with an epicenter close to the Jordanian town of Al Masraa. Ken-Tor (nee Bookman) related that Event C was observed to thicken and thin throughout the outcrop occasionally pinching out and disappearing (personal communication, 2000).
ZA-2
Site ZA-2 is more seaward than site ZA-1. At site ZA-2, Kagan et al (2011) dated a 4 cm. thick Type 4 seismite at a depth of 470 cm. to 52 CE ± 40 (1σ) and 56 CE ± 76 (2σ) and associated it with the 33 CE earthquake - i.e., the Jerusalem Quake.



Araba - Introduction



Araba - Taybeh Trench

LeFevre et al. (2018) tentatively identified a poorly expressed seismic event (E5) in the Taybeh trench in the Araba which they modeled between 14 BCE and 205 CE. Although they identified the 31 BCE Josephus Quake as the most likely candidate, the ~31 CE Jerusalem Quake may be an even more likely candidate. LeFevre et al. (2018) noted that the poor expression of Event E5 (vertical cracks in the trench) meant that the cracks could have been caused by a later Event (E4) which they associated with the early second century CE Incense Road Earthquake.



Araba - Qatar Trench

The Jerusalem Quake, within Event E6's time window (251 CE ± 251), is a less likely candidate than other earthquake events such as the early second century CE Incense Road Earthquake or the southern Cyril Quake of 363 CE.



Seismic Amplification

Topic (with hotlink) Notes
Seismic Amplification on Temple Mount Temple Mount has a probable site effect due to fill.
Site Effect due to Fill Site Effect due to fill is probable.
Topographic Effect A topographic effect is possible at the Dome of the Rock.
Wave guide Effect essentially the same as a topographic Effect
Slope Effect near the walls of Temple Mount Structures on the edge of Temple Mount may be subject to a slope effect - particularly Al Aqsa Mosque.
Seismic threat to structures Salamon et. al. (2010) report that the frequency range of seismic threat to structures lies in the 0.5 – 10 Hz. range.
Description of the Temple Josephus described the Second Temple.
Caveat A seismic model is required to take these speculations to the next level.
Topic (with hotlink) Notes
Seismic Amplification on Temple Mount

Structures on the Temple Mount appear to undergo frequent damage during earthquakes (Salamon et al, 2010). Although Salamon (personal communication 2013) cautions that It is not known if this frequent damage is due to an over reporting of damage or a local site effect, a site effect due to fill is probable for those parts of Temple Mount where the fill is thick. Other site effects (e.g. topographic, wave guide, and slope) may also be present on some parts of the Temple Mount. Since the location of the Second Temple on Temple Mount is a mystery, all possible site effects are discussed below.

Site Effect due to Fill

Uncompacted fill was laid down in the Tyropean Valley during Herodian times in order to create the Temple Mount Platform. The fill was thick in many sections; perhaps as thick as 19 meters Frydman (1997). Uncompacted fill has a low shear wave velocity and seismic amplification is known to occur when a low shear wave velocity layer lies on top of a higher velocity shear wave velocity layer(e.g. Dobry et al. 2000 and Kawase, 2003); in this case Judea Group limestone. Below is a hypothetical cross-section of Temple Mount showing the thickness of the fill.

Conjectural elevations of the Temple Platform (a) Herodian (b) Solomonic - Frydman (1997) after Kenyon, 1974


While Salamon et. al. (2010) exercise caution in declaring that there is a definitive site effect at Temple Mount, the thick low velocity fill, the seismic history of structures on Temple Mount, the higher than expected intensities experienced during the 1927 Jericho Quake (Salamon et. al., 2010), and the Roof Collapse of Al Aqsa Mosque on Temple Mount during the 1927 Jericho Quake all suggest that a site effect is likely present on at least some parts of Temple Mount (many photos here)

Topographic Effect

If the Second Temple was located in approximately the same location as the modern Dome of the Rock, there would be less of an amplification effect due to uncompacted fill but there might be a ridge1 or topographic effect as the Dome of the Rock exposes the underlying bedrock and therefore lies on more rock and less fill. Because Temple Mount is centered on a ridge , certain frequencies of seismic energy can be trapped and amplified if they engage in constructive interference as they propagate upwards towards the ridge. This is a frequency dependent phenomenon where maximum resonance occurs when the seismic wavelength matches the length of a ridge. Polarization or orientation of the shear waves is also a factor.

Footnotes

1 The Hill or Ridge Temple Mount straddles is alternatively referred to as Mount Moriah or Mount Zion based on traditional beliefs about the Ridge’s association with early biblical stories.

Wave guide Effect

The Temple Mount structure might itself act as a wave guide. If the wavelength of a seismic wave is approximately equal to the width or length of a structure such as the Temple Mount, constructive interference during propagation can lead to a resonance condition where the wave is effectively amplified. Given that the Temple Mount Platform measures 480 m x 280 m (Salamon et al, 2010), the question to be asked is under what conditions will one encounter a seismic wave with a wavelength of 480 m. Salamon et al (2010) report that the Judea Mountain Group (limestone) at the base of most hills in Jerusalem and has a shear wave velocity (VS) ranging from 1100-2300 m/s. Some simple calculations follow :

f = VS

where
f = frequency (Hz.)
VS = Shear Wave Velocity (m/s)
λ = Wavelength (m)
Sample calculations for a wavelength (λ) of ~480 m follow :

VS (m/s) λ (m) f (Hz)
1100 480 2.3
1450 480 3.0
2300 480 4.8


If most decayed seismic energy in Israel is below 3 Hz. (Avi Shapira, personal communication 2004), the shear wave velocity would need to be less than 1450 m/s to resonate with seismic energy of 3 Hz.. This is on the low end of the shear wave velocity range for the Judea Mountain Group (VS = 1100 - 2300 m/s - Salamon et al, 2010: Table 2)). A wave guide effect is possible through the Temple Mount Platform for seismic frequencies in a range of 2.3 – 3.0 Hz. provided that the underlying limestone has a shear wave velocity below 1450 m/s. A topographic effect would be similar to a wave-guide effect.
Calculator and Plot

Calculator

for Wavelength of 480 m
Variable Input Units Notes
m/s Shear Wave Velocity
Variable Output Units Notes
Hz. Frequency
  

Plot

  


Slope Effect near the walls of Temple Mount

Salamon et. al. (2010) noted that seismic amplification could occur on slopes greater than 60 degrees where the slope height is roughly equal to one fifth of a seismic wavelength. Turning this relationship around, the frequency at which this effect will occur is defined as follows :

f = VS/(5*H)

where
f = frequency (Hz.)
VS = Shear Wave Velocity (m/s)
H = slope height in meters
Sample calculations for a 100 m slope height follow :

VS (m/s) H (m) f (Hz)
1100 100 2.2
1500 100 3.0
2300 100 4.6


Practically speaking, under the conditions of the Judean Group formations (VS = 1100 - 2300 m/s - Salamon et al, 2010: Table 2) and decayed seismic energy below 3 Hz., the slope height must be greater than 100 meters. Frequencies go even higher for smaller slope heights. 100 meter high slope heights are only found on the east and southeast side of Temple Mount so this is the only part of the structure where we might find an added frequency dependent slope amplification effect provided the limestone shear wave velocity is less than 1500 m/s.
Calculator and Plot

Calculator

Slope Effect Calculator
Variable Input Units Notes
m/s Shear Wave Velocity
m Slope Height
Variable Output Units Notes
Hz. Frequency
  

Plot



  


Seismic threat to structures

Salamon et. al. (2010) report that the frequency range of seismic threat to structures lies in the 0.5 – 10 Hz. range. For the relatively short structures thought to have been placed on the Temple Mount, the greater seismic threat is at the lower end of that frequency range.

Description of the Temple

Josephus, a contemporary eyewitness to the second Temple, describes it in The Jewish War Book 5 Chapter 5.

The Jewish War Book 5 Chapter 5

CHAPTER 5.

A DESCRIPTION OF THE TEMPLE.

1. NOW this temple, as I have already said, was built upon a strong hill. At first the plain at the top was hardly sufficient for the holy house and the altar, for the ground about it was very uneven, and like a precipice; but when king Solomon, who was the person that built the temple, had built a wall to it on its east side, there was then added one cloister founded on a bank cast up for it, and on the other parts the holy house stood naked. But in future ages the people added new banks,12 and the hill became a larger plain. They then broke down the wall on the north side, and took in as much as sufficed afterward for the compass of the entire temple. And when they had built walls on three sides of the temple round about, from the bottom of the hill, and had performed a work that was greater than could be hoped for, (in which work long ages were spent by them, as well as all their sacred treasures were exhausted, which were still replenished by those tributes which were sent to God from the whole habitable earth,) they then encompassed their upper courts with cloisters, as well as they [afterward] did the lowest [court of the] temple. The lowest part of this was erected to the height of three hundred cubits, and in some places more; yet did not the entire depth of the foundations appear, for they brought earth, and filled up the valleys, as being desirous to make them on a level with the narrow streets of the city; wherein they made use of stones of forty cubits in magnitude; for the great plenty of money they then had, and the liberality of the people, made this attempt of theirs to succeed to an incredible degree; and what could not be so much as hoped for as ever to be accomplished, was, by perseverance and length of time, brought to perfection.

2. Now for the works that were above these foundations, these were not unworthy of such foundations; for all the cloisters were double, and the pillars to them belonging were twenty-five cubits in height, and supported the cloisters. These pillars were of one entire stone each of them, and that stone was white marble; and the roofs were adorned with cedar, curiously graven. The natural magnificence, and excellent polish, and the harmony of the joints in these cloisters, afforded a prospect that was very remarkable; nor was it on the outside adorned with any work of the painter or engraver. The cloisters [of the outmost court] were in breadth thirty cubits, while the entire compass of it was by measure six furlongs, including the tower of Antonia; those entire courts that were exposed to the air were laid with stones of all sorts. When you go through these [first] cloisters, unto the second [court of the] temple, there was a partition made of stone all round, whose height was three cubits: its construction was very elegant; upon it stood pillars, at equal distances from one another, declaring the law of purity, some in Greek, and some in Roman letters, that "no foreigner should go within that sanctuary" for that second [court of the] temple was called "the Sanctuary," and was ascended to by fourteen steps from the first court. This court was four-square, and had a wall about it peculiar to itself; the height of its buildings, although it were on the outside forty cubits,13 was hidden by the steps, and on the inside that height was but twenty-five cubits; for it being built over against a higher part of the hill with steps, it was no further to be entirely discerned within, being covered by the hill itself. Beyond these thirteen steps there was the distance of ten cubits; this was all plain; whence there were other steps, each of five cubits a-piece, that led to the gates, which gates on the north and south sides were eight, on each of those sides four, and of necessity two on the east. For since there was a partition built for the women on that side, as the proper place wherein they were to worship, there was a necessity for a second gate for them: this gate was cut out of its wall, over against the first gate. There was also on the other sides one southern and one northern gate, through which was a passage into the court of the women; for as to the other gates, the women were not allowed to pass through them; nor when they went through their own gate could they go beyond their own wall. This place was allotted to the women of our own country, and of other countries, provided they were of the same nation, and that equally. The western part of this court had no gate at all, but the wall was built entire on that side. But then the cloisters which were betwixt the gates extended from the wall inward, before the chambers; for they were supported by very fine and large pillars. These cloisters were single, and, excepting their magnitude, were no way inferior to those of the lower court.

3. Now nine of these gates were on every side covered over with gold and silver, as were the jambs of their doors and their lintels; but there was one gate that was without the [inward court of the] holy house, which was of Corinthian brass, and greatly excelled those that were only covered over with silver and gold. Each gate had two doors, whose height was severally thirty cubits, and their breadth fifteen. However, they had large spaces within of thirty cubits, and had on each side rooms, and those, both in breadth and in length, built like towers, and their height was above forty cubits. Two pillars did also support these rooms, and were in circumference twelve cubits. Now the magnitudes of the other gates were equal one to another; but that over the Corinthian gate, which opened on the east over against the gate of the holy house itself, was much larger; for its height was fifty cubits; and its doors were forty cubits; and it was adorned after a most costly manner, as having much richer and thicker plates of silver and gold upon them than the other. These nine gates had that silver and gold poured upon them by Alexander, the father of Tiberius. Now there were fifteen steps, which led away from the wall of the court of the women to this greater gate; whereas those that led thither from the other gates were five steps shorter.

4. As to the holy house itself, which was placed in the midst [of the inmost court], that most sacred part of the temple, it was ascended to by twelve steps; and in front its height and its breadth were equal, and each a hundred cubits, though it was behind forty cubits narrower; for on its front it had what may be styled shoulders on each side, that passed twenty cubits further. Its first gate was seventy cubits high, and twenty-five cubits broad; but this gate had no doors; for it represented the universal visibility of heaven, and that it cannot be excluded from any place. Its front was covered with gold all over, and through it the first part of the house, that was more inward, did all of it appear; which, as it was very large, so did all the parts about the more inward gate appear to shine to those that saw them; but then, as the entire house was divided into two parts within, it was only the first part of it that was open to our view. Its height extended all along to ninety cubits in height, and its length was fifty cubits, and its breadth twenty. But that gate which was at this end of the first part of the house was, as we have already observed, all over covered with gold, as was its whole wall about it; it had also golden vines above it, from which clusters of grapes hung as tall as a man's height. But then this house, as it was divided into two parts, the inner part was lower than the appearance of the outer, and had golden doors of fifty-five cubits altitude, and sixteen in breadth; but before these doors there was a veil of equal largeness with the doors. It was a Babylonian curtain, embroidered with blue, and fine linen, and scarlet, and purple, and of a contexture that was truly wonderful. Nor was this mixture of colors without its mystical interpretation, but was a kind of image of the universe; for by the scarlet there seemed to be enigmatically signified fire, by the fine flax the earth, by the blue the air, and by the purple the sea; two of them having their colors the foundation of this resemblance; but the fine flax and the purple have their own origin for that foundation, the earth producing the one, and the sea the other. This curtain had also embroidered upon it all that was mystical in the heavens, excepting that of the [twelve] signs, representing living creatures.

5. When any persons entered into the temple, its floor received them. This part of the temple therefore was in height sixty cubits, and its length the same; whereas its breadth was but twenty cubits: but still that sixty cubits in length was divided again, and the first part of it was cut off at forty cubits, and had in it three things that were very wonderful and famous among all mankind, the candlestick, the table [of shew-bread], and the altar of incense. Now the seven lamps signified the seven planets; for so many there were springing out of the candlestick. Now the twelve loaves that were upon the table signified the circle of the zodiac and the year; but the altar of incense, by its thirteen kinds of sweet-smelling spices with which the sea replenished it, signified that God is the possessor of all things that are both in the uninhabitable and habitable parts of the earth, and that they are all to be dedicated to his use. But the inmost part of the temple of all was of twenty cubits. This was also separated from the outer part by a veil. In this there was nothing at all. It was inaccessible and inviolable, and not to be seen by any; and was called the Holy of Holies. Now, about the sides of the lower part of the temple, there were little houses, with passages out of one into another; there were a great many of them, and they were of three stories high; there were also entrances on each side into them from the gate of the temple. But the superior part of the temple had no such little houses any further, because the temple was there narrower, and forty cubits higher, and of a smaller body than the lower parts of it. Thus we collect that the whole height, including the sixty cubits from the floor, amounted to a hundred cubits.

6. Now the outward face of the temple in its front wanted nothing that was likely to surprise either men's minds or their eyes; for it was covered all over with plates of gold of great weight, and, at the first rising of the sun, reflected back a very fiery splendor, and made those who forced themselves to look upon it to turn their eyes away, just as they would have done at the sun's own rays. But this temple appeared to strangers, when they were coming to it at a distance, like a mountain covered with snow; for as to those parts of it that were not gilt, they were exceeding white. On its top it had spikes with sharp points, to prevent any pollution of it by birds sitting upon it. Of its stones, some of them were forty-five cubits in length, five in height, and six in breadth. Before this temple stood the altar, fifteen cubits high, and equal both in length and breadth; each of which dimensions was fifty cubits. The figure it was built in was a square, and it had corners like horns; and the passage up to it was by an insensible acclivity. It was formed without any iron tool, nor did any such iron tool so much as touch it at any time. There was also a wall of partition, about a cubit in height, made of fine stones, and so as to be grateful to the sight; this encompassed the holy house and the altar, and kept the people that were on the outside off from the priests. Moreover, those that had the gonorrhea and the leprosy were excluded out of the city entirely; women also, when their courses were upon them, were shut out of the temple; nor when they were free from that impurity, were they allowed to go beyond the limit before-mentioned; men also, that were not thoroughly pure, were prohibited to come into the inner [court of the] temple; nay, the priests themselves that were not pure were prohibited to come into it also.

7. Now all those of the stock of the priests that could not minister by reason of some defect in their bodies, came within the partition, together with those that had no such imperfection, and had their share with them by reason of their stock, but still made use of none except their own private garments; for nobody but he that officiated had on his sacred garments; but then those priests that were without any blemish upon them went up to the altar clothed in fine linen. They abstained chiefly from wine, out of this fear, lest otherwise they should transgress some rules of their ministration. The high priest did also go up with them; not always indeed, but on the seventh days and new moons, and if any festivals belonging to our nation, which we celebrate every year, happened. When he officiated, he had on a pair of breeches that reached beneath his privy parts to his thighs, and had on an inner garment of linen, together with a blue garment, round, without seam, with fringe work, and reaching to the feet. There were also golden bells that hung upon the fringes, and pomegranates intermixed among them. The bells signified thunder, and the pomegranates lightning. But that girdle that tied the garment to the breast was embroidered with five rows of various colors, of gold, and purple, and scarlet, as also of fine linen and blue, with which colors we told you before the veils of the temple were embroidered also. The like embroidery was upon the ephod; but the quantity of gold therein was greater. Its figure was that of a stomacher for the breast. There were upon it two golden buttons like small shields, which buttoned the ephod to the garment; in these buttons were enclosed two very large and very excellent sardonyxes, having the names of the tribes of that nation engraved upon them: on the other part there hung twelve stones, three in a row one way, and four in the other; a sardius, a topaz, and an emerald; a carbuncle, a jasper, and a sapphire; an agate, an amethyst, and a ligure; an onyx, a beryl, and a chrysolite; upon every one of which was again engraved one of the forementioned names of the tribes. A mitre also of fine linen encompassed his head, which was tied by a blue ribbon, about which there was another golden crown, in which was engraven the sacred name [of God]: it consists of four vowels. However, the high priest did not wear these garments at other times, but a more plain habit; he only did it when he went into the most sacred part of the temple, which he did but once in a year, on that day when our custom is for all of us to keep a fast to God. And thus much concerning the city and the temple; but for the customs and laws hereto relating, we shall speak more accurately another time; for there remain a great many things thereto relating which have not been here touched upon.

8. Now as to the tower of Antonia, it was situated at the corner of two cloisters of the court of the temple; of that on the west, and that on the north; it was erected upon a rock of fifty cubits in height, and was on a great precipice; it was the work of king Herod, wherein he demonstrated his natural magnanimity. In the first place, the rock itself was covered over with smooth pieces of stone, from its foundation, both for ornament, and that any one who would either try to get up or to go down it might not be able to hold his feet upon it. Next to this, and before you come to the edifice of the tower itself, there was a wall three cubits high; but within that wall all the space of the tower of Antonia itself was built upon, to the height of forty cubits. The inward parts had the largeness and form of a palace, it being parted into all kinds of rooms and other conveniences, such as courts, and places for bathing, and broad spaces for camps; insomuch that, by having all conveniences that cities wanted, it might seem to be composed of several cities, but by its magnificence it seemed a palace. And as the entire structure resembled that of a tower, it contained also four other distinct towers at its four corners; whereof the others were but fifty cubits high; whereas that which lay upon the southeast corner was seventy cubits high, that from thence the whole temple might be viewed; but on the corner where it joined to the two cloisters of the temple, it had passages down to them both, through which the guard (for there always lay in this tower a Roman legion) went several ways among the cloisters, with their arms, on the Jewish festivals, in order to watch the people, that they might not there attempt to make any innovations; for the temple was a fortress that guarded the city, as was the tower of Antonia a guard to the temple; and in that tower were the guards of those three14. There was also a peculiar fortress belonging to the upper city, which was Herod's palace; but for the hill Bezetha, it was divided from the tower Antonia, as we have already told you; and as that hill on which the tower of Antonia stood was the highest of these three, so did it adjoin to the new city, and was the only place that hindered the sight of the temple on the north. And this shall suffice at present to have spoken about the city and the walls about it, because I have proposed to myself to make a more accurate description of it elsewhere.

Footnotes

12 See the description of the temples hereto belonging, ch. 15. But note, that what Josephus here says of the original scantiness of this Mount Moriah, that it was quite too little for the temple, and that at first it held only one cloister or court of Solomon's building, and that the foundations were forced to be added long afterwards by degrees, to render it capable of the cloisters for the other courts, etc., is without all foundation in the Scriptures, and not at all confirmed by his exacter account in the Antiquities. All that is or can be true here is this, that when the court of the Gentiles was long afterward to be encompassed with cloisters, the southern foundation for these cloisters was found not to be large or firm enough, and was raised, and that additional foundation supported by great pillars and arches under ground, which Josephus speaks of elsewhere, Antiq. B. XV. ch. 11. sect. 3, and which Mr. Maundrel saw, and describes, p. 100, as extant under ground at this day.

13 What Josephus seems here to mean is this: that these pillars, supporting the cloisters in the second court, had their foundations or lowest parts as deep as the floor of the first or lowest court; but that so far of those lowest parts as were equal to the elevation of the upper floor above the lowest were, and must be, hidden on the inside by the ground or rock itself, on which that upper court was built; so that forty cubits visible below were reduced to twenty-five visible above, and implies the difference of their heights to be fifteen cubits. The main difficulty lies here, how fourteen or fifteen steps should give an ascent of fifteen cubits, half a cubit seeming sufficient for a single step. Possibly there were fourteen or fifteen steps at the partition wall, and fourteen or fifteen more thence into the court itself, which would bring the whole near to the just proportion. See sect. 3, infra. But I determine nothing.

14 These three guards that lay in the tower of Antonia must be those that guarded the city, the temple, and the tower of Antonia.

Caveat

To get a firm understanding of the site effects on the Temple Mount Platform, one would need to create a seismic model with measured shear wave velocities of the various components of the Temple Mount/Fill/Bedrock structure. What is discussed above is an elaborate version of a back of an envelope calculation.

Rolling Stone

Rolling Stone Calculation

Rolling Stone
Rolling Stone from Second Temple Period
When the author of Matthew reports a second earthquake in Chapter 28, he mentions that a Blocking or Rolling Stone was jarred open; revealing an empty tomb . The relevant passage is repeated below.
1 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. 2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it.
A force balance calculation can be made to determine the minimum peak horizontal ground acceleration required to move the stone. At equilibrium conditions the disturbing force FH is balanced by the resisting force FR. When FH exceeds FR, the Rolling Stone will begin to move. A diagram and the calculation is shown below.
Force Balance for Rolling Stone
Therefore, the force required to roll the Rolling Stone can be expressed in units of gravitation force (g) and is equal to the coefficient of friction (μ) operating at the area of contact between the rolling stone and the floor. One can approximate this coefficient by taking the value of the coefficient of rolling friction of limestone on limestone which is approximately equal to 0.25. Thus, a minimum of ~0.25 g of force was required to initiate rolling of the Rolling Stone. This calculation does not consider a site effect and possible seismic amplification at Golgotha (Church of the Holy Sepulchre). Peak horizontal ground acceleration of 0.25 g is somewhat higher than what would be predicted for intensity of shaking in Jerusalem based on Williams (2004) estimate of the magnitude and epicenter of the Jerusalem Quake.

Fiaschi, A., et al. (2012) did not observe a site effect inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre when they did a microtremor analysis there in 2007 and 2008. Amos Salamon (personal correspondence with N. Ambraseys, 2005) relates that one should "not expect to have a site effect in this place due to lithology or topography, or any other type of seismogenic effect (e.g. slope failure, liquefaction etc.)" and that the "the continuous seismic damage [observed in the] history in this place [Church of the Holy Sepulchre] is due to poor construction and lack of anti-seismic engineering consideration, and not because of natural seismic hazards (except the ‘regular’ seismic waves)." In 2004, Salamon observed that a crack in one of the outer walls of the Church which was enlarged by the NE Dead Sea Quake of 2004 (ML = 5.2). Photos of this crack can be observed in a long shot, medium shot, and a closeup (Courtesy A. Salamon).

According to a Geological Map of Jerusalem and Vicinity (GSI 1976), the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is located on the Bina formation - a Turonian Limestone and sometimes Dolomite. Although an anthropogenic alluvium composed of accumulated archaeologic rubble is present under the foundations of a number of structures in the Old City, the history of the construction of the church (Helena having workers excavate down to bedrock to find the tombs) and the bedrock that can be observed in various parts of the interior of the church suggests significant amounts of artificial alluvium are not present underneath the structure itself and, more importantly for this discussion, would not have been present underneath any rock cut tomb. Thus, although there are signs that the Church itself is seismically weak as are buildings in the vicinity1, there is no indication that a site effect would have been present at this site when the Passion Account is alleged to have occurred.

Footnotes

1 Zohar et al (2014) used historical photographs to identify a number of metal anchors which they suggest had been used to shore up buildings near the Jaffa Gate that were weakened after the 1927 Jericho Quake. These buildings are in close proximity to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Notes

Paleoclimate - Droughts

Date (with hotlink) Notes
40/41 CE
44-48 CE
Date (with hotlink) Notes
40/41 CE

A one year drought is recorded by Josephus in 40 and/or 41 CE

When Petronius had said this, and had dismissed rite assembly of the Jews, he desired the principal of them to take care of their husbandry, and to speak kindly to the people, and encourage them to have good hope of their affairs. Thus did he readily bring the multitude to be cheerful again. And now did God show his presence to Petronius, and signify to him that he would afford him his assistance in his whole design; for he had no sooner finished the speech that he made to the Jews, but God sent down great showers of rain, contrary to human expectation; (33) for that day was a clear day, and gave no sign, by the appearance of the sky, of any rain; nay, the whole year had been subject to a great drought, and made men despair of any water from above, even when at any time they saw the heavens overcast with clouds; insomuch that when such a great quantity of rain came, and that in an unusual manner, and without any other expectation of it, the Jews hoped that Petronius would by no means fail in his petition for them.
The backdrop for this drought is that it occurred when Roman emperor Caligula (aka Gaius) attempted to have a statue of himself installed inside the second Temple of Jerusalem in 40 CE prompting a crisis in Judea. Caligula ordered Petronius, the Governor of Syria to install the statue but Petronius delayed implementation rightfully fearing it would lead to an insurrection. The crisis ended when Caligula was assassinated in 41 CE. This dates this drought to 40/41 CE.

44-48 CE

In his book Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus relates that a famine occurred Judea in the mid 40’s CE – perhaps 44 CE – 48 CE. In two separate passages in Book XX ,he describes this famine. In Chapter 2 Paragraph 5, he states :

5. But as to Helena, the king's mother, when she saw that the affairs of Izates's kingdom were in peace, and that her son was a happy man, and admired among all men, and even among foreigners, by the means of God's providence over him, she had a mind to go to the city of Jerusalem, in order to worship at that temple of God which was so very famous among all men, and to offer her thank-offerings there. So she desired her son to give her leave to go thither; upon which he gave his consent to what she desired very willingly, and made great preparations for her dismission, and gave her a great deal of money, and she went down to the city Jerusalem, her son conducting her on her journey a great way. Now her coming was of very great advantage to the people of Jerusalem; for whereas a famine did oppress them at that time, and many people died for want of what was necessary to procure food withal, queen Helena sent some of her servants to Alexandria with money to buy a great quantity of corn, and others of them to Cyprus, to bring a cargo of dried figs.
In Chapter 5 Paragraph 2 he reiterates :
2. Then came Tiberius Alexander as successor to Fadus; he was the son of Alexander the alabarch of Alexandria, which Alexander was a principal person among all his contemporaries, both for his family and wealth: he was also more eminent for his piety than this his son Alexander, for he did not continue in the religion of his country. Under these procurators that great famine happened in Judea, in which queen Helena bought corn in Egypt at a great expense, and distributed it to those that were in want, as I have related already.
The date of the famine can determined by the rule of Cuspius Fadus and his successor Tiberius Alexander as Procurators of Judea. Cuspius Fadus was sent to Judea upon the death of King Herod Agrippa in 44 CE. He was succeeded by Tiberius Alexander who was in turn replaced by Cumanus in 48 CE. This indicates a famine of up to 4 years between 44 and 48 CE. This is likely the same famine referred to in Chapter 11 of the Acts of the Apostles which is referred to below as a dearth and includes the possible hyperbole that it affected the whole world.
28 And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar.
Historical sources for this famine are discussed in detail in Graham (2021)

References