Finding the Holy Grail?

Some historians, on the basis of manuscript and carbon-dating evidence, claim to have identified a particular chalice as the Holy Grail, the cup used by Christ at the Last Supper.  The gold and jewel-encrusted vessel is built around a more humble cup that has been traced to the Middle East in the years between 200 B.C. and 100 A.D.

If the Grail has been recovered, according to legend, the spiritual wasteland of our age will come back to life.  But I say that if you want a cup that holds Christ’s blood and that will bring life in the spiritual wasteland, all you have to do is go to a church that offers the Sacrament of the Altar and you will find it.

See a picture of the alleged Grail and sample two news stories about it after the jump. [Read more...]

Top Biblical archaeology finds of 2013

Archaeologists keep digging up interesting discoveries.  Christianity Today lists the top 10 finds in Biblical archaeology of the past year. [Read more...]

Pagan temple found just outside Jerusalem

An ancient pagan temple was found just three miles from Jerusalem.  It dates from the time that the Biblical Temple to the true God was in operation.  The discovery shows what the Prophets were railing against, God’s people turning to idols.  Solomon built the Temple in accord with God’s commands, but he then built temples to other deities to please his pagan wives.  I wonder if this is one of them.  From the Jerusalem Post:

Archeologists uncovered rare remains of ritual objects and a 3,000-year-old temple while conducting excavations ahead of the renovation of the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway, the Antiquities Authority announced on Wednesday.

A major expansion of the highway, in the section from Sha’ar Hagai to Jerusalem, has revealed many important archeological finds at Tel Motza, west of the capital, including Neolithic Era ruins and an enormous underground water reservoir from the Crusader Period at the Motza Stream.

A First Temple-period discovery announced on Wednesday was a large structure with massive walls and an east-facing entrance, believed to be a temple.

The entrance is aligned with the sun’s rays to illuminate the ritual object placed within the temple, “symbolizing the divine presence within,” according to archeologist Anna Eirikh. Eirikh, Dr. Hamoudi Khalaily and Shua Kisilevitz are directing the excavation for the Antiquities Authority.

Inside the building, archeologists discovered a square structure, most likely an altar, and a cache of sacred vessels nearby. The ritual objects include decorated pedestals, pottery vessels, fragments of chalices, and clay figures of humans and domesticated animals, all of which they believe were used for religious or spiritual ceremonies.

“The finds recently discovered at Tel Motza provide rare archeological evidence for the existence of temples and ritual enclosures in the Kingdom of Judah in general… prior to the religious reforms throughout the kingdom,” Eirikh said.

via Archeologists dig up 3,000-year-old temp… JPost – National News.

Here are some of the graven images found at the site.  This may be a rendition of what ancient Israelites looked like:

Figurines

One of the horses Solomon traded in that got him into trouble (Deuteronomy 17:16-17; 2 Chronicles 1:16)?

It should perhaps reassure Christians battling false religions, bad theology, and syncretism even within the church that this is nothing new, but that it was a constant problem even in the Biblical era.

Archaeology and the Bible’s big picture

Eric Metaxas summarizes some recent findings in Middle Eastern archaeology, ones that confirm not just isolated facts in the Bible but the “big picture” of the Biblical narrative:

Israeli archaeologists recently discovered a coin, dating from the 11th century before Christ. It depicted “a man with long hair fighting a large animal with a feline tail.” Ring any Old Testament bells?

The coin was found near the Sorek River, which was the border between the ancient Israelite and Philistine territories 3,100 years ago. Sound vaguely familiar?

The archaeologists thought so, too. While Shlomo Bunimovitz and Zvi Lederman of Tel Aviv University don’t claim that the figure depicted on the coin is proof that Samson actually existed, they do see the coin as proof that stories about a Samson-like man existed independently of the Bible.

Stated differently, the story of Samson was not the literary invention of a sixth-century B.C. scribe living in Babylon, as has commonly been assumed by mainstream biblical scholarship.

Bunimovitz and Lederman made another interesting discovery: the Philistine side of the river was littered with pig bones, while there were none on the Israelite side. . . .

The findings at Sorek are only the latest in a series of archaeological discoveries that are changing the way modern historians look at biblical narratives. It’s becoming more difficult for them to maintain that the narratives are pious fictions invented long after the era being depicted.

The most famous of these discoveries is the 1994 discovery of a stele in Tel Dan bearing an inscription that contained the words “House of David.” It was the first extra-biblical evidence of the Davidic dynasty. Prior to the discovery, many scholars doubted that David ever existed, much less founded a dynasty. The discovery was so out-of-line with expectations that more than a few insisted it must be a forgery.

Today, it is clear to even the most skeptical scholar that-surprise!-there really was a David who founded a ruling dynasty. That dynasty included his son, Solomon, and evidence of Solomon’s building projects described in Second Samuel have been found by archaeologists as well.

Some of the discoveries go beyond history and tell us about Israel’s sense of what it meant to be God’s chosen people. Sites dating to before the Exile are littered with Canaanite idols, evidence of the apostasy the prophets denounced and warned would lead to disaster.

Yet there has never been a single idol found in sites dating after the Exile. Clearly, the Jews who returned from the Exile had finally, truly learned that “the Lord our God is one.”

via Archaeology and the Bible.

The tomb of one of the Disciples?

Archeologists may have discovered the tomb of one of Christ’s Twelve Disciples.   Tradition says that St. Philip was martyred in the Hierapolis in present day Turkey and that’s where they found what appears to be his tomb in the ruins of an ancient church. From a Turkish newspaper:

An Italian professor has announced the apparent discovery of the tomb of St. Philip, one of Jesus Christ’s apostles, at the ancient city of Hierapolis in the Aegean province of Denizli.

The discovery of the grave of the biblical saint, who was killed by the Romans 2,000 years ago, will attract immense attention around the world, said Francesco D’Andria. St. Philip, one of the 12 apostles, came to Hierapolis 2,000 years ago to spread the Christianity before being killed by the Romans, the professor said.

D’Andria has been leading archeological excavations at the ancient city for 32 years.

“Until recently, we thought the grave of St. Philip was on Martyrs’ Hill, but we discovered no traces of him in the geophysical research conducted in that area. A month ago, we discovered the remnants of an unknown church, 40 meters away from the St. Philip Church on Martyrs’ Hill. And in that church we discovered the grave of St. Philip,” said D’Andria.

D’Andria and his team have not opened the grave but are planning to do so soon.

via Tomb of St. Philip the Apostle Discovered in Turkey – FoxNews.com.

What will they find?  The remains of a man who actually walked with Jesus?  That would be mind-blowing.  Of course, it’s too early to say, and it could just be more Biblical archeology sensationalism.  But still, the mind reels.

 

St. Philip's Tomb

 

HT:  James Kushiner

The Christian equivalent of the Dead Sea Scrolls?

 

the most ancient Christian texts

 

Archaeologists have discovered some 70 little books with lead pages that may be the earliest Christian texts, dating from shortly after the time of Christ.  Interestingly, they seem to have been made by Jewish Christians–being written in ancient Hebrew, depicting both a Menorah and a Cross, and including a stylized map of Jerusalem, outside of which is drawn a T shaped cross and an empty tomb.

Most of the writing is in code, though, so it isn’t  decipherable, at least not yet.  From the BBC:

They could be the earliest Christian writing in existence, surviving almost 2,000 years in a Jordanian cave. They could, just possibly, change our understanding of how Jesus was crucified and resurrected, and how Christianity was born.

A group of 70 or so “books”, each with between five and 15 lead leaves bound by lead rings, was apparently discovered in a remote arid valley in northern Jordan somewhere between 2005 and 2007. . . .

The director of the Jordan’s Department of Antiquities, Ziad al-Saad, says the books might have been made by followers of Jesus in the few decades immediately following his crucifixion.

“They will really match, and perhaps be more significant than, the Dead Sea Scrolls,” says Mr Saad.

“Maybe it will lead to further interpretation and authenticity checks of the material, but the initial information is very encouraging, and it seems that we are looking at a very important and significant discovery, maybe the most important discovery in the history of archaeology.”

The texts might have been written in the decades following the crucifixion

They seem almost incredible claims – so what is the evidence?

The books, or “codices”, were apparently cast in lead, before being bound by lead rings.

Their leaves – which are mostly about the size of a credit card – contain text in Ancient Hebrew, most of which is in code.

If the relics are of early Christian origin rather than Jewish, then they are of huge significance.

One of the few people to see the collection is David Elkington, a scholar of ancient religious archaeology who is heading a British team trying to get the lead books safely into a Jordanian museum.

He says they could be “the major discovery of Christian history”, adding: “It’s a breathtaking thought that we have held these objects that might have been held by the early saints of the Church.”

He believes the most telling evidence for an early Christian origin lies in the images decorating the covers of the books and some of the pages of those which have so far been opened.

Mr Elkington says the relics feature signs that early Christians would have interpreted as indicating Jesus, shown side-by-side with others they would have regarded as representing the presence of God.

“It’s talking about the coming of the messiah,” he says.

“In the upper square [of one of the book covers] we have the seven-branch menorah, which Jews were utterly forbidden to represent because it resided in the holiest place in the Temple in the presence of God.

“So we have the coming of the messiah to approach the holy of holies, in other words to get legitimacy from God.”

Philip Davies, Emeritus Professor of Old Testament Studies at Sheffield University, says the most powerful evidence for a Christian origin lies in plates cast into a picture map of the holy city of Jerusalem.

“As soon as I saw that, I was dumbstruck. That struck me as so obviously a Christian image,” he says.

“There is a cross in the foreground, and behind it is what has to be the tomb [of Jesus], a small building with an opening, and behind that the walls of the city. There are walls depicted on other pages of these books too and they almost certainly refer to Jerusalem.”

It is the cross that is the most telling feature, in the shape of a capital T, as the crosses used by Romans for crucifixion were.

“It is a Christian crucifixion taking place outside the city walls,” says Mr Davies.

Margaret Barker, an authority on New Testament history, points to the location of the reported discovery as evidence of Christian, rather than purely Jewish, origin.

“We do know that on two occasions groups of refugees from the troubles in Jerusalem fled east, they crossed the Jordan near Jericho and then they fled east to very approximately where these books were said to have been found,” she says.

“[Another] one of the things that is most likely pointing towards a Christian provenance, is that these are not scrolls but books. The Christians were particularly associated with writing in a book form rather than scroll form, and sealed books in particular as part of the secret tradition of early Christianity.”

The Book of Revelation refers to such sealed texts.

Another potential link with the Bible is contained in one of the few fragments of text from the collection to have been translated.

It appears with the image of the menorah and reads “I shall walk uprightly”, a sentence that also appears in the Book of Revelation.

While it could be simply a sentiment common in Judaism, it could here be designed to refer to the resurrection.

via BBC News – Jordan battles to regain ‘priceless’ Christian relics.

HT: Joe Carter


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