A Geological Study May Indicate Earthquake Described by Matthew

According to the Gospel of Matthew, an earthquake shook Jerusalem on the day of Jesus’ crucifixion. A new study of cores and seismic activity near the Dead Sea in the latest issue of International Geology Review* may provide scientific data relating to the event described in Matthew 27. Moreover, a recent report by Discovery News suggested** that the new research on sediment disturbances can be combined with Biblical, astronomical and calendrical information to give a precise date of the crucifixion: Friday, April 3rd, 33 C.E.

Matthew 27:50-54 reads:

“Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many. Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, ‘Truly this man was God’s Son!’”

Geologists Jefferson B. Williams, Markus J. Schwab and A. Brauer examined disturbances in sediment depositions to identify two earthquakes: one large earthquake in 31 B.C.E., and another, smaller quake between 26 and 36 C.E. In the abstract of their paper, the authors write, “Plausible candidates include the earthquake reported in the Gospel of Matthew, an earthquake that occurred sometime before or after the crucifixion and was in effect ‘borrowed’ by the author of the Gospel of Matthew, and a local earthquake between 26 and 36 AD that was sufficiently energetic to deform the sediments at Ein Gedi but not energetic enough to produce a still extant and extra-biblical historical record. If the last possibility is true, this would mean that the report of an earthquake in the Gospel of Matthew is a type of allegory.”