There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.
What the hell happened here? What was this all about? Were humans being sacrificed on the altar? Were apostates being killed? Was there a surprise altercation between worshippers and the military during worship service?
Galilee was outside of Pilate's jurisdiction. Had these Galileans come into town of their own accord, or were they abducted and brought in to be killed?
The Galileans whose blood Pilate mixed with their sacrifices are nowhere else mentioned in scripture or surrounding literature. The eighteen who were killed when the Tower of Siloam fell are mentioned nowhere else. Both events occurred around Jerusalem, just a few metres apart, during Jesus’ ministry, when Pilate was governor (26–36 IA). These reports were written down when people knew all about the events and did not have to be told ‘which Galileans’ or ‘which eighteen’. How far away from Jerusalem could that have been? Or how much later than the events could that have been written down without any explanation?
The ruins of this tower have now been discovered inside the City of David, near the old wall and near the spring of Siloam, several metres south of Herod’s fortress, 29 confirming the validity of Luke 13:1–5.
Now the ruins of the Tower of Siloam have been found, and the location of the temple is known. These two structures were constructed very close to one another. At most they were only a few blocks apart. The blood Pilate shed in the temple is readily understood as a military confrontation. The eighteen who were killed when the Tower of Siloam fell might have been killed in a construction accident, but the fact that both chreias are mentioned together, and that the areas involved are geographically very close to each other, suggests that both events probably occurred at the same time and for the same reason, but this is only a deduction. The original readers of these chreias knew precisely what happened. The chreias only reminded them of something they already knew. That is why they were called ‘shortcuts in memory’.
The event in which Pilate killed the Galileans while they were offering sacrifices is nowhere else recorded, but if some redactor had invented these sayings fifty years later in Rome, Egypt, or Asia Minor and wanted to attribute them to Jesus for the local needs of the local church, he or she would have had to describe the Galileans and the eighteen more completely. Anyone who would believe that these were the inventions of the later church would have to be able to believe eight or ten incredible things before breakfast. The most logical conclusion of an objective historian is that these were actual reports of the sayings of Jesus. They happened in history at the very time Jesus and Pilate both lived and within the walls of the very city of David in which the temple stood.
The only reason NT scholars have not noticed this before is not that they did not have the ruins of the Tower of Siloam to look at. It is because they have been imprisoned by the hypothesis that Mark was the earliest gospel and that most of Matthew and Luke are additions of the later church. This hypothesis was invented by Ewald in the early nineteenth century — not as an analytical, historically based conclusion, but for defensive purposes, only. It has been used rhetorically ever since for the same reason. Archaeological discoveries and the Dead Sea Scrolls, however, continue to intrude upon the security of antiquated hypotheses.
At the meeting of the Society of New Testament Studies meeting in Durham, England, August 2002, Professor James Dunn astutely suggested, in his presidential address, that NT scholars were inhibited by their doctrinal ‘default settings’ that excluded important data. Archaeological data, such as this, may sooner or later force NT scholars to change their academic ‘default settings’ and open their minds to historical data.