This is a story about the Bible and truth. More precisely, it's about biblical antiquities and how they can be seen to prove that the stories told in the Bible really happened.Five-and-a-half years ago the world of biblical archaeology was rocked to its foundations, and all because of a box. It was a stone box - called an "ossuary" - that had been discovered in Israel. Ossuaries were used to hold the bones of the dead some 2,000 years ago, in the time of Jesus. And this ossuary was said hold the bones of Jesus' brother, James.As correspondent Bob Simon reports, the discovery created more excitement amongChristian scholars than anything since the Shroud of Turin.
And like the shroud, no sooner was it unveiled that charges of forgery surfaced. In fact, a trial has been underway in Jerusalem for almost three years. The box is made of limestone. It's not terribly large, but it attracted a very large crowd, over a 100,000, when it was first exhibited. It made the New York Times and the cover of Biblical Archaeology Review.
Testament scholar Ben Witherington, who wrote a book about the box, was
at that first exhibit. "There was a lot of excitement. There was, you
know, the atmosphere was kind of palpable really. And there were
various of us just sort of buzzing around this exhibit," he remembers.
Actually, ossuaries are
quite common. The Israel Antiquities Authority keeps hundreds in its
basement. Whatwas so special about this one was the mysterious
engraving on its side, sort of a Da Vinci Code in stone. It's written
in ancient Aramaic and it reads "James, Son of Joseph, Brother of
The first question: could this box have contained the bones of the man the Gospels mention as Jesus' brother?
"If it can be proven it's
probably one of the most important archaeological discoveries of the
century," says Steve Pfann, who like his wife Claire, is a scholar of
early Christianity, and based in the Holy Land.
The Pfanns believe the
ossuary is the first firm archaeological evidence that Jesus once lived
there. "That is really a great thing just to be able to confirm, from
an extra-biblical source, that a man named Jesus existed," Claire Pfann
The idea that Jesus hada
To decide merely the facts without deciding whether
or not they may be explained by supernatural causes, history tells us that many
ecstatics bear on hands, feet, side, or brow the marks of the Passion of Christ
with corresponding and intense sufferings. These are called visible stigmata.
Others only have the sufferings, without any outward marks, and these phenomena
are called invisible stigmata.
St. Catherine of Siena at first had visible stigmata but
through humility she asked that they might be made invisible, and her prayer was
heard. This was also the case with St. Catherine de' Ricci, a Florentine
Dominican of the sixteenth century, and with several other stigmatics. The
sufferings may be considered the essential part of visible stigmata; the
substance of this grace consists of pity for Christ, participation in His
sufferings, sorrows, and for the same end--the expiation of the sins unceasingly
committed in the world. If the sufferings were absent, the wounds would be but
an empty symbol, theatrical representation, conducing to pride.
If the stigmata
really come from God, it would be unworthy of His wisdom to participate in such
futility, and to do so by a miracle. With many stigmatics these apparitions were periodical, e.g., St. Catherine
de' Ricci, whose ecstasies of the Passion began when she was twenty (1542), and
the Bull of her canonization states that for twelve years they recurred with
minute regularity. The ecstasy lasted exactly twenty-eight hours, from Thursday
noon till Friday afternoon at four o'clock, the only interruption being for the
saint to receive Holy Communion. Catherine conversed aloud, as if enacting a
drama. This drama was divided into about seventeen scenes. On coming out of the
ecstasy the saint's limbs were covered with wounds produced by whips, cords etc...
St. Januarius is still making headlines. Even though his blood has been liquefying with baffling regularity—and even more baffling irregularity—for centuries, it’s still making a fuss.On September 19, 2005, as the citizens of Naples gathered to honor their favorite saint by watching his blood bubble, the skeptical group CICAP held a press conference. A spokeswoman, Margherita Hack, declared that the miracle was a hoax: the famous relic was nothing but hydrated iron oxide. The response was uproarious. Neapolitan celebrities protested; and the mayor, Rosa Russo Jervolino, insisted that the traditional miracle was “a sign that San Gennaro stillprotects our city.”The excitement was somewhat puzzling, since CICAP’s claim was nothing new.
But then, Naples is an excitable place. After all, its legendary founder was Parthenope, a siren jilted by Odysseus.
What can you expect from a town started by a lovelorn mermaid?
The miracle has a long
history. San Gennaro (it seems more fitting to use his Neapolitan name)
was a bishop tortured and executed in 305, as part of a Christian purge
by the Emperor Diocletian. According to tradition, a woman—often
identified as his nurse, Eusebia—caught his blood in two small vials.
He was buried near the site of his martyrdom, a sulfur spring just west
of Naples. About a century later, the body was disinterred and taken to
Naples. His blood then supposedly rejoined his bones—and, for the first
The remains were carried
off to Benevento in the ninth century, and Montevergine in the 12th,
but returned to Naples in 1497, where they’re now the prize of the
cathedral. In 1389, we find the first record of the liquefaction: “On
the following day, August 17 (1389) a very great procession was made
for the miracle that Our Lord Jesus Christ showed in the blood of
blessed Januarius, which was in an ampoule, and which was seen
liquefied as if it had that day left the body of blessed Januarius.”
(This anonymous chronicle, the Chronicon Siculum, is now in the
Vatican; it was published in 1887. The translation is mine.)
After that, the records are fairly continuous; San Gennaro’s blood would not settle down.
The vials are now glued
into a reliquary, probably from the 14th century; an outer caseand
The birth of Jesus must be understood in all three worlds: as an historical phenomenon, as a psychic, mystical phenomenon, and as a Cosmic phenomenon. Today I am concerned with the mystical phenomenon.St Luke was the most scholarly of the Evangelists. In his telling of the birth of Jesus, he revealed the events that take place in the soul of every human being in the form of images. It is these symbolic images that I want to show you now.For the Christ Child to be born, there must be parents, a father and mother: the father, Joseph, is the mind, the spirit; the mother, Mary, is the heart, the soul. When the heart and soul are pure, then the Child is born, not ofthe mind and spirit, but of the Universal Soul, the Holy Spirit in the form of Fire, or Divine Love...
a pure flame that invades and fertilizes the human heart and soul.
The soul and
heart represent the feminine receptive principle, whereas the mind and
spirit represent the masculine principle, and together they prepare the
conditions for the Holy Spirit, Universal Soul, or Fire, to take
possession of the soul of Mary. That is when the Christ Child is born.
But as this birth must take place in all three worlds, the child must
also be born on the physical plane. You see, it is much more complex
than you imagined.
No room at the inn
When Mary and Joseph sought
refuge at the inn, there was no room for them, that is, human beings
who are too busy eating and drinking and amusingthemselves, have no
room for the Initiate who has received the Child. This Divine Child
which is conceived in him as a Light may be an ideal he has long
cherished and nourished, but where can he go with It? No one will open
the door to him, that is, no one understands him. But wait, yonder is a
stable. The stable and its manger are symbolic, first of all, of
poverty, of difficulty with material conditions. Yes, for one who is
inhabited by the Spirit it will always be thus: humans will never
appreciate him, they will always refuse to receive him, but thanks to
the Light projected by him around the manger, he will be seen from afar
by others who will come and visit him.
The five-pointed star
This Light represented by a
star with five points is an absolute reality: it shines above the head
of every Initiatewho......