Although the first mention of the name Israel in archaeology dates to the 13th century BCE, contemporary information on the Israelite nation prior to the 9th century BCE is extremely sparse. In the following centuries a small number of local Hebrew documents, mostly seals and bullae, mention biblical characters, but more extensive information is available in the royal inscriptions from neighbouring kingdoms, particularly Babylon, Assyria and Egypt.
Biblical figures that are identified in artifacts of questionable authenticity, for example the Jehoash Inscription and the bullae of Baruch ben Neriah, or who are mentioned in ancient but non-contemporary documents, such as David and Balaam,[n 1] are excluded from this list.
Mentioned in the contemporary Summary Inscription of Tiglath-Pileser III which records that he received tribute from Jehoahaz of Judah. Also identified in a contemporary clay bulla, reading of Ahaz [son of] Jotham king of Judah. Also mentioned on a bulla of his son Hezekiah reading Belonging to Hezekiah [son of] Ahaz king of Judah.
An account is preserved by Sennacherib of how he besieged "Hezekiah, the Jew", who "did not submit to my yoke", in his capital city of Jerusalem A bulla was also found bearing Hezekia's name and title, reading Belonging to Hezekiah [son of] Ahaz king of Judah.
He was taken captive to Babylon after Nebuchadrezzar first captured Jerusalem . Texts from Nebuchadrezzar's Southern Palace record the rations given to Jehoiachin king of the Judeans (Akkadian: Ya'ukin sar Yaudaya).
He besieged and conquered the city of Samaria and took many thousands captive, as recorded in the Bible and in an inscription in his royal palace. His name, however does not appear in the biblical account of this siege, but only in reference to his siege of Ashdod.
Most historically identifiable people mentioned in the Deuterocanon lived around the time of the Maccabean Revolt in the second century BCE, by which time Judea had become part of the Seleucid Empire. Coins featuring the names of rulers had become widespread and many of them were inscribed with the year number in the Seleucid era, allowing them to be dated precisely. First-hand information comes also from the Greek historian Polybius (c. 200 – c. 118 BCE), whose Histories covers much of the same period as the Books of Maccabees, and from Greek and Babylonian inscriptions.
Ruled over part of the kingdom, simultaneously with Antiochus VI and Tryphon. He was defeated by Antiochus VII, but regained the throne in 129 BCE. Mentioned in the Babylonian Astronomical Diaries.
By far the most important and most detailed sources for first-century Jewish history are the works of Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (37 – c. 100 CE). These books mention many of the same prominent political figures as the New Testament books and are crucial for understanding the historical background of the emergence of Christianity. Josephus also mentions Jesus and the execution of John the Baptist although he was not a contemporary of either. Apart from Josephus, information about some New Testament figures comes from Roman historians such as Tacitus and Suetonius and from ancient coins and inscriptions.
The central figure of the New Testament is Jesus of Nazareth. Despite ongoing debate concerning the authorship of many of its books, there is a consensus among modern scholars that at least some were written by a contemporary of Jesus, namely the so-called 'undisputed' epistles of Paul. However, outside the New Testament, no contemporary references to Jesus are known, unless a very early dating is assumed of some uncanonical gospel such as the Gospel of Thomas. Nevertheless, some authentic first century and many second century writings exist in which Jesus is mentioned,[n 6] leading scholars to conclude that the historicity of Jesus is well established by historical documents.
Appointed by Quirinius c. 6 CE as recorded by Josephus. Although he was officially removed from office by procurator Gratus, he continued to hold considerable influence, and was involved in the trial of Jesus. Annas was the father-in-law of Caiaphas.
Reigned between 27 BCE and 14 CE, during which time Jesus was born. He left behind a wealth of buildings, coins and monuments, including a funerary inscription in which he described his life and accomplishments.
Also known as Joseph, who was called Caiaphas. He was reigning high priest during the ministry and death of Jesus and presided over the Jesus' trial. Based on Josephus' Antiquities, it is estimated that he held the office between 18 and 36 CE. In 1990 Israeli archeologists discovered near Jerusalem what is believed to be the family tomb of Caiaphas. One of the ossuaries bears the inscription 'Yosef Bar Kayafa' and contained the bones of a 60-year-old man.
Mentioned extensively in the writings of Josephus and others. Among his numerous building projects was the restoration of the Temple in Jerusalem and his name is found on contemporary Jewish coins.
The wife of Herod Antipas. According to the synoptic gospels, she was formerly married to Antipas's brother Philip, apparently Philip the Tetrarch. However, Josephus writes that her first husband was Herod II. Many scholars view this as a contradiction, but some have suggested that Herod II was also called Philip.
A leading figure of the early Christian community in Jerusalem and traditionally considered the author of the Epistle of James. Josephus records that he was condemned by the Sanhedrin led by the high priest Ananus ben Ananus and then stoned to death c. 62 CE.
He ordered Jesus' execution. A stone inscription was found that mentions his name and title: "[Po]ntius Pilatus, [Praef]ectus Iuda[ea]e" (Pontius Pilate, prefect of Judaea), see Pilate Stone. He is mentioned by his contemporary Philo of Alexandria in his Embassy to Gaius (De Legatione ad Gaium, Περι αρετων και πρεσβειας προς Γαιον), as well as later by Josephus (Jewish Antiquities 18.55–59, The Jewish War 2.169–174).
A daughter of Herodias. Although she is not named in the Gospels, but referred to as 'the daughter of Herodias', she is commonly identified with Salome, Herodias' daughter, mentioned in Josephus' Antiquities.
A daughter of Herod Agrippa I. She appears to have had almost equal power to her brother Herod Agrippa II (with whom she was rumored to have an incestuous relationship, according to Josephus) and is indeed called Queen Berenice in Tacitus' Histories.
Full name Lucius Iunius Gallio Annaeanus. Seneca, his brother, mentions him in his epistles. In Delphi, an inscription, dated to 52 CE, was discovered that records a letter by emperor Claudius, in which Gallio is also named as proconsul
Although his name is given as Herod by Luke,[n 9] and as Agrippa by Josephus, the accounts both writers give about his death are so similar that they are commonly accepted to refer to the same person. Hence many modern scholars call him Herod Agrippa (I).
These are Biblical figures for which tentative but likely identifications have been found in contemporary sources based on matching names and credentials. The possibility of coincidental matching of names cannot be ruled out however.
Timeline showing the kings of Israel and Judah according to the chronology from Edwin R. Thiele. Kings that are known from contemporary extra-biblical sources are highlighted in yellow. Tentatively identified kings are highlighted in orange.
Asaiah, servant of king Josiah (2 Kings 22:12). A seal with the text Asayahu servant of the king probably belonged to him.
Azariah son of Hilkiah and grandfather of Ezra: Mentioned in 1 Chronicles 6:13,14; 9:11 and Ezra 7:1. A bulla reading Azariah son of Hilkiah is likely to be his, according to Tsvi Schneider.
Baalis king of Ammon is mentioned in Jeremiah 40:14. In 1984 an Ammonite seal, dated to c. 600 BCE, was excavated in Tell El-`Umeiri, Jordan that reads "belonging to Milkomor, the servant of Baalisha". Identification of 'Baalisha' with the biblical Baalis is likely, but it is not currently known if there was only one Ammonite king of that name.
Darius II of Persia, is mentioned by the contemporary historian Xenophon of Athens, in the Elephantine Papyri, and other sources. 'Darius the Persian', mentioned in Nehemiah 12:22, is probably Darius II, although some scholars identify him with Darius I or Darius III.
Gedaliah son of Ahikam, governor of Judah. A seal impression with the name 'Gedaliah who is over the house' is commonly identified with Gedaliah, son of Ahikam.
Gemariah, son of Shaphan the scribe. A bulla was found with the text "To Gemaryahu ben Shaphan". This may have been the same person as "Gemariah son of Shaphan the scribe" mentioned in Jeremiah 36:10,12.
Geshem (Gusham) the Arab, mentioned in Nehemia 6:1,6 is likely the same person as Gusham, king of Kedar, found in two inscriptions in Dedan and Tell el-Mashkutah (near the Suez Canal)
Jehucal son of Shelemiah, an opponent of Jeremiah. Archaeologists excavated a bulla with his name, but some scholars question the dating of the seal to the time of Jeremiah. According to Robert Deutsch the bulla is from the late 8th to early 7th century BCE, before the time of Jeremiah.
Jeroboam (II), king of Israel. A seal belonging to 'Shema, servant of Jeroboam', probably refers to king Jeroboam II, although some scholars think it was Jeroboam I.
Jezebel, wife of king Ahab of Israel. A seal was found that may bear her name, but the dating and identification with the biblical Jezebel is a subject of debate among scholars.
Josiah, king of Judah. Three seals were found that may have belonged to his son Eliashib.
Nergal-sharezer, king of Babylon is probably identical to an official of Nebuchadnezzar II mentioned in Jeremiah 39:2. A record of his war with Syria was found on a tablet from the 'Neo-Babylonian Chronicle texts'.
Seraiah son of Neriah. He was the brother of Baruch. Nahman Avigad identified him as the owner of a seal with the name " to Seriahu/Neriyahu".
The so-called Shebna Lintel
Shebna (or Shebaniah), royal steward of Hezekiah: only the last two letters of a name (hw) survive on the so-called Shebna lintel, but the title of his position ("over the house" of the king) and the date indicated by the script style, have inclined many scholars to identify the person it refers to with Shebna.
Sheshonq I, Pharaoh of Egypt, is normally identified with king Shishaq in the Hebrew Bible. The account of Shishaq's invasion in the 5th year of Rehoboam (1 Kings 14:25–28) is thought to correspond to an inscription found at Karnak of Shoshenq's campaign into Palestine. However, a minority of scholars reject this identification.
Uzziah, king of Judah. The writings of Tiglath-Pileser III may refer to him, but this identification is disputed. There is also an inscription that refers to his bones, but it dates from the 1st century CE.
Zedekiah, son of Hananiah (Jeremiah 36:12). A seal was found of "Zedekiah son of Hanani", identification is likely, but uncertain.
'The Egyptian', who was according to Acts 21:38 the instigator of a rebellion, also appears to be mentioned by Josephus, although this identification is uncertain.
Sergius Paulus was proconsul of Cyprus (Acts 13:4–7), when Paul visited the island around 46–48 CE. Although several individuals with this name have been identified, no certain identification can be made. One Quintus Sergius Paulus, who was proconsul of Cyprus probably during the reign of Claudius (41–54 CE) is however compatible with the time and context of Luke's account.
Lysanias, was tetrarch of Abila around 28 CE, according to Luke (3:1). Because Josephus only mentions a Lysanias of Abila who was executed in 36 BCE, some scholars have considered this an error by Luke. However, one inscription from Abila, which is tentatively dated 14–29 CE, appears to record the existence of a later tetrarch called Lysanias.
Theudas. The sole reference to Theudas presents a problem of chronology. In Acts of the Apostles, Gamaliel, a member of the sanhedrin, defends the apostles by referring to Theudas (Acts 5:36–8). The difficulty is that the rising of Theudas is here given as before that of Judas of Galilee, which is itself dated to the time of the taxation (c. 6–7 AD). Josephus, on the other hand, says that Theudas was 45 or 46, which is after Gamaliel is speaking, and long after Judas the Galilean.
^Birch, Samuel & Sayce, A. H., Records of the past : being English translations of the Ancient monuments of Egypt and western Asia , published under the sanction of the Society of Biblical Archaeology (1873), p. 13
^The Ishtar Gate, translation from The Ishtar Gate, The Processional Way, The New Year Festival of Babylon. by Joachim Marzahn, Mainz am Rhein, Germany: Philipp von Zaubern, 1995
^Boardman, John, The Cambridge ancient history, Vol. III Part 2, p. 408 
^Lipschitz, Oded, The Fall and Rise of Jerusalem: Judah Under Babylonian Rule, Eisenbrauns, 2005, p. 80
^Greenspoon, Leonard (November 2007). "Recording of Gold Delivery by the Chief Eunuch of Nebuchadnezzar II". Biblical Archaeology Review. 33 (6): 18.|access-date= requires |url= (help)
^Thomason, Allison Karmel From Sennacherib's Bronzes to Taharqa's Feet: Conceptions of the Material World at Nineveh , Iraq, Vol. 66, Nineveh. Papers of the 49th Rencontre Assriologique Internationale, Part One (2004), pp. 151–162
^Murphy-O'Connor, Jerome, Paul: a critical life, Oxford University Press, 1998, p. 4 
^Cate, Robert L., One untimely born: the life and ministry of the Apostle Paul Mercer University Press, 2006, p. 48 
^Levine, Amy-Jill ed., Allison, Dale C. Jr. ed., Crossan, John Dominic ed., The Historical Jesus in Context, Princeton University Press, 2008,  "Most scholars agree that Jesus was baptized by John, (...) engaged in healings and exorcisms, taught in parables, (...) and was crucified by Roman soldiers during the governorship of Pontius Pilate (26–36 CE)"
^Stanton, Graham, The Gospels and Jesus Oxford University Press, 2nd ed. 2002, p. 145. He writes: "Today nearly all historians, whether Christians or not, accept that Jesus existed and that the gospels contain plenty of valuable evidence which has to be weighed and assessed critically."
^Bockmuehl, Markus N. A., The Cambridge companion to Jesus, Cambridge University Press, 2001, p. 124  "The fact that Jesus existed, that he was crucified under Pontius Pilate (...) seems to be part of the bedrock of historical tradition. If nothing else, the non-Christian evidence can provide us with certainty on that score"