The above stone tablet, acquired in Nazareth in the latter part of the 19th century, is the earliest known written record that (many) scholars believe references the Gospel message. The tablet, made of marble and dated to about 41 A.D., contains an edict of Caesar written in common or Koine Greek.
The imperial edict on the Nazareth stone warns of punishment to anyone who disturbs grave sites. Part of the tablet says "It is my (Caesar's) decision (that) graves and tombs . . . remain undisturbed forever." The tablet also states that anyone who removes a dead body from its resting place or "has moved sepulcher-sealing stones" will receive the death penalty.
The references in the Nazareth stone to the events around Jesus' resurrection are undeniable. After Jesus' death those religious leaders who hated him went to Pilate requesting his tomb be guarded "lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, 'He is risen from the dead'" (Matthew 27:64). Ultimately, the chief priests and Pharisees had THEIR OWN guard secure the tomb. Then, just before Mary Magdalene and others visited Jesus' tomb early Sunday, an angel came and rolled away the massive tomb sealing stone in order to show that Christ had already risen the previous day (See our article on Was Jesus dead for three days AND three nights?).
Jewish leaders, when they were told by the tomb guards what happened, decided to BRIBE them to LIE about what took place and why Jesus was no longer entombed.
12. Then, after gathering together with the elders and taking counsel, they (Jewish religious leaders) gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, 13. Saying, "Tell everyone that His disciples came by night (how could anyone move, quietly, a HUGH stone at night?) and STOLE HIM while you were sleeping . . . And they took the money and did as they were instructed; (Matthew 28:12 - 13)
Caesar, who believed the Jewish religious leaders' explanation of what happened at the tomb and how Jesus' body came to be missing, wanting to make sure the same events did not happen again. This is why he had the Nazareth stone created. To date, no scholar has produced evidence disproving the authenticity of the ancient relic.
How SOON was the Gospel preached?
How early was the good news of God's Kingdom preached after Jesus ascended into heaven before the eyes of his disciples (Acts 1:9)?
Just ten days after Jesus' ascension, the birth of the New Testament church occurred. On the day of Pentecost in 30 A.D. God initially poured out his spirit on 120 disciples and performed miracles that caught the attention of those in Jerusalem. As the people wondered what was going on, the apostle Peter stood up and gave a powerful message concerning what God just did. He ended his speech by saying,
36. Therefore, let all the house of Israel know with full assurance that God has made this same Jesus, WHOM YOU CRUCIFIED, both Lord and Christ." (Acts 2:36, HBFV)
Cut to the heart and convicted of sin, the crowd asked what they should do. Peter did not hesitate to answer.
'Repent and be baptized . . . and you yourselves shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.' (verse 38)
The fruit from the very first preaching of the gospel by the disciples led to 3,000 people going under the waters of baptism, having hands laid upon them, and receiving God's spirit (verse 41). It was the beginning of what Jesus prophesied would happen after his resurrection.
12. Truly, truly I say to you, the one who believes in Me shall also do the works that I do; and GREATER WORKS THAN THESE SHALL HE DO . . . (John 14:12)
The Nazareth Stone is a witness to how early the good news of God's kingdom spread throughout the world.