Christianity

Ancient forbidden Christian text of Jesus’ ‘secret teachings’ to his ‘brother’ found

Biblical scholars have discovered the first-known original Greek copy of an ancient forbidden Christian text that purportedly describes Jesus’ secret teachings to his “brother” James, an early leader of the Church. Geoffrey Smith and Brent Landau, religious studies scholars at The University of Texas at Austin, located the rare text in Oxford University archives earlier this year. The experts found several fifth- or sixth-century A.D. Greek fragments of the First Apocalypse of James, one of the books from an ancient collection known as the Nag Hammadi library. Previously, the text was thought to be preserved only via translations in the Egyptian Coptic language. Only a small number of texts from the Nag Hammadi library, a collection of 13 Coptic Gnostic books discovered in Egypt in 1945, have been found in Greek, their original language of composition. Also known as the “Gnostic Gospels,” the books are seen as key documents for understanding Gnosticism, an ancient belief system. The First Apocalypse of James, like the other books in the Nag Hammadi library, was deemed heretical or forbidden by the church because it fell outside of the fourth-century religious boundaries that defined the 27-book New Testament. Experts were thrilled by the discovery of the ancient fragments, which are owned by the Egypt Exploration Society. “To say that we were excited once we realized what we’d found is an understatement,” said Smith, an assistant professor of religious studies, in a statement. “We never suspected that Greek fragments of the First Apocalypse of James survived from antiquity. But there they were, right in front of us.” The document is said to describe Jesus’ secret teachings to his “brother” James. Details of the “heavenly realm” and future events, such as James’ inevitable death, are revealed, according to The University of Texas at Austin. “The text supplements the biblical account of Jesus’ life and ministry,” Smith added. There are a number of interpretations of references to Jesus’ siblings in biblical texts. The Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Mark, for example, refer to Jesus’ brothers, including James. James, also known as “James the Just” was a leader of the early church – one interpretation of “brother” may thus be a close spiritual relationship as opposed to a fraternal biological link. The First Apocalypse of James describes James as not Jesus’ brother “materially.” Other interpretations describe James as Jesus’ step-brother or cousin. The manuscript, which uses neat, uniform handwriting and words separated into syllables, was probably a teacher’s model used to help students read and write, according to the experts. “The scribe has divided most of the text into syllables by using mid-dots. Such divisions are very uncommon in ancient manuscripts, but they do show up frequently in manuscripts that were used in educational contexts,” said Landau, a lecturer in the UT Austin Department of Religious Studies, in the statement. Landau notes that the teacher who produced the manuscript likely “had a particular affinity for the text.” The document, he explains, appears to be a complete copy of the forbidden ancient text.

Fascinating!!    🙂

Biblical prophecy claims the world will end on Sept. 23, Christian numerologists claim

A Christian numerologist claims that the world will end next Saturday when a planet will, supposedly, collide with Earth. According to Christian numerologist David Meade, verses in Luke 21:25 to 26 are the sign that recent events, such as the recent solar eclipse and Hurricane Harvey, are signs of the apocalypse. The verses read: “25: There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’ “’26: Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.’ Sept. 23 is a date that was pinpointed using codes from the Bible, as well as a “date marker” in the pyramids of Giza in Egypt. Meade’s views are not endorsed by Roman Catholic, Protestant or eastern Orthodox branches of Christianity. Meade has built his theory on the so-called Planet X, which is also known as Nibiru, which he believes will pass Earth on Sept. 23, causing volcanic eruptions, tsunamis and earthquakes, according to British newspaper The Sun. NASA has repeatedly said Planet X is a hoax. For a certain branch of evangelical Christianity, Revelation 12:1–2, describes the beginning of what is known as the rapture and the second coming of Christ. The passage reads: “And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of 12 stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth.” In the passage, the woman is Virgo. On Sept. 23, both the sun and the moon will be in Virgo, as will the planet Jupiter. However, this occurrence happens naturally once every 12 years. There is also a rare alignment, known as “the Lion of the tribe of Judah,” which the conspiracy theorists are hanging their hats on. According to the Express, author Jonathan Sarfati wrote that the same planetary coincidence previously happened four times in the last millennium. “As usual with any astrology (or Christian adaptations of it), one cherry-picks the stars that fit the desired conclusion,” Sarfati wrote, according to the Express. “There is nothing to suggest that 23 September is a momentous date for biblical prophecy, and Christians need to be careful about being drawn into such sensationalist claims.”

Agreed..

 

Christian persecution: How many are being killed, where they are being killed

This past Palm Sunday was a dark day in Egypt. Suicide bombings at two Coptic Christian churches, one in Alexandria and the other in Tanta left 45 people dead and many more wounded. Although there has been an uptick in violence against Christians in the region, Egypt is hardly alone in a long list of countries — many in the Middle East — that are violently hostile towards Christians. A list generated by Open Doors USA, a nonprofit organization focused on serving persecuted Christians, shows the Middle East accounts for a majority of countries ranked in the top 10 for extreme persecution of Christians. In order, the countries are as follows: 1. North Korea 2. Somalia 3. Afghanistan 4. Pakistan 5. Sudan 6. Syria 7. Iraq 8. Iran 9. Yemen 10. Eritrea Egypt ranks No. 21. According to the Christian advocacy group, one in 12 Christians today experiences high, very high or extreme persecution for their faith. Nearly 215 million Christians face high persecution, with 100 million of those living in Asia. The Center for the Study of Global Christianity, an academic research center that monitors worldwide demographic trends in Christianity, estimates that between the years 2005 and 2015, 900,000 Christians were martyred — an average of 90,000 Christians each year. From Nov. 1, 2015, to Oct. 31, 2016, Open Doors documented as many as 1,207 Christians who were killed around the globe for faith-related reasons during the 2017 list’s reporting period. This is a conservative estimate since it only includes documented cases and does not include statistics from North Korea and large areas of Iraq and Syria.

Some sobering data on this Easter..  To read the rest, click on the text above.

Christianity in Iraq is finished, says Canon Andrew White, ‘vicar of Baghdad’

He is one of the world’s most prominent priests, but Canon Andrew White – known as the “Vicar of Baghdad” – has reached a painstaking conclusion: Christianity is all but over in the land where it all began. “The time has come where it is over, no Christians will be left. Some say Christians should stay to maintain the historical presence, but it has become very difficult. The future for the community is very limited,” White told Fox News this week. “The Christians coming out of Iraq and ISIS areas in the Middle East all say the same thing, there is no way they are ever going back. They have had enough.” Thirty years ago, there were approximately 1.4 million Christians in Iraq. The number dwindled to around 1 million after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, and a year ago it was estimated that there were less than 250,000 left. Numbers have continued to decline as families flee, and today even approximate figures are difficult to obtain.

And, as we all know..  It was Obama’s foolish decision (against the advice of virtually EVERY General officer on active duty at the time, and retired) in 2010 to just unilaterally pull all U.S. military forces out of Iraq, that caused a power vacuum, and the emergence of ISIS/ISIL, which then in turn led to a wholescale genocide of Christians in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere in the Middle East.  What an incredible moron he was..  And THIS is the consequence of that liberal agenda-driven idiocy.  To read the rest of this tragic story, click on the text above..

Christ’s burial slab uncovered for the first time in centuries

Researchers have uncovered the stone slab in Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre venerated as the resting place of Jesus Christ. The slab, which has been covered by marble cladding since at least 1555 A.D., has been exposed as part of a major restoration project at the church, National Geographic reports. “The marble covering of the tomb has been pulled back, and we were surprised by the amount of fill material beneath it,” Fredrik Hiebert, archaeologist-in-residence at the National Geographic Society and a partner in the restoration project, told National Geographic. “It will be a long scientific analysis, but we will finally be able to see the original rock surface on which, according to tradition, the body of Christ was laid.” The rock surface, or “burial bed” was hewn from the side of a limestone cave following Christ’s crucifixion, according to Christian tradition. Christ’s resurrection from the dead is a core tenet of Christian belief – the gospels say that the tomb was found to be empty by those who visited it a few days after the crucifixion. The “burial bed” is now part of a small structure called the Edicule in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, National Geographic reports. The Edicule, rebuilt between 1808 and 1810 following its destruction by fire, is being restored by scientists from the National Technical University of Athens. The restoration, which includes the Edicule’s interior tomb, is being overseen by the National Technical University’s Chief Scientific Supervisor Antonia Moropoulu. “We are at the critical moment for rehabilitating the Edicule,” Moropoulou told National Geographic. “The techniques we’re using to document this unique monument will enable the world to study our findings as if they themselves were in the tomb of Christ.” National Geographic reports that, after the marble slab was removed, a grey-beige stone surface was exposed. Scientists will use monitoring tools to study the surface.

Wow!!  Can’t wait to see this NatGeo special!   🙂

Religion: The Shroud of Turin, Authenticated Again

A new study released last week included new evidence that links and further authenticates two holy relics that millions of Christians believe offer physical proof of the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But before we explore the research and the relics, let us recall a New Testament passage concerning faith in Christ and the need for physical evidence. I mean the familiar story of “doubting Thomas” (John 20:24–29). The apostle Thomas was absent when the resurrected Christ appeared to some of the apostles. On hearing the astonishing news, Thomas declared, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hand and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” A week later, Jesus appeared, giving Thomas the physical proof he demanded. Then Jesus said, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” If in your faith walk you identify with Doubting Thomas, keep reading. Remarkably, two ancient pieces of cloth, the Shroud of Turin and the Sudarium of Oviedo, are extant today. Both are revered as relics, and each bears the name of the city where it currently resides. First and foremost is the Shroud of Turin. Secured in a vault in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Turin, Italy, the Shroud is believed by millions to be the burial cloth of Jesus. It is a fine linen cloth, measuring 14.5 feet by 3.5 feet, and mysteriously displays a finely detailed negative photographic image — front and back, head to toe, of an anatomically correct man who appears to have been tortured, beaten, and crucified. Note that, in their accounts of Christ’s suffering and death on the cross, all four Gospels mention a “fine linen cloth.” Perhaps it is a coincidence, but clearly seen on the body of the crucified man in the Shroud are gruesome markings consistent with the Gospel accounts of Christ’s Passion. You can count over 100 whip marks, possibly from scourging by Roman flagra, and identify on his wrists and feet obvious wounds that could have been from large spikes. Other markings are compatible with what could have been a crown of thorns. On closer examination, you can spot bruises (from beatings?) on his face, knees (from falling?), and the back of his shoulders (from carrying a heavy cross?), and a large bloody mark (from a spear?) in his side. Like the crucified Jesus in Gospel accounts, the man in the Shroud had no broken bones. The Shroud, the most studied, analyzed, and tested religious relic in the world, has spawned a vast, global field of scientific study, called “sindonology,” but still baffles scientists. Its mysteries are many and complex. For brevity’s sake, I will only scratch the surface (so to speak). First among the major mysteries is how the image was made. Second, what is the substance constituting the image, which can be scraped away with a razor blade? The substance is undetermined — all man-made materials have been ruled out — and only rests on top of the cloth; it does not penetrate the cloth’s linen fibers. The third mystery is related to the second: Blood from the crucified man penetrated the cloth, as one would expect, but also preceded the impression of the man’s image. “Blood first, image second” is a mantra of Shroud researchers. This order is logical if the “man in the Shroud” was in fact Christ, who would have been wrapped in the linen Shroud days before the electrical event (see below) that accompanied his resurrection and resulted in the human image. The only evidence that would conclusively authenticate the Shroud against naysayers and claims of forgery is Jesus’ DNA. It would be matched against the blood — type AB — found on the Shroud and considered rare. Enter the Sudarium of Oviedo. It resides in the Cathedral of Oviedo, in Spain. The Sudarium is a piece of linen cloth, 34 by 21 inches, thought to have been used to cover the head of Jesus immediately after the crucifixion (John 20:7). Unlike the Shroud, the Sudarium does not display an image. The Sudarium contains male blood of type AB, however, which matches the blood on the Shroud. Moreover, the patterns of blood flow on the Sudarium are consistent with those of a crucified man. Indeed, the Sudarium and the Shroud covered the same person, as Juan Manuel Miñarro, the author of a study sponsored by the Spanish Center of Sindonology, recently concluded. “We have come to a point where it seems absurd to suggest that ‘by happenstance’ all of the wounds, lesions and swelling coincides on both cloths,” said the center’s president, Jorge-Manuel Rodríguez. “Logic requires that we conclude that we are speaking of the same person.” The study’s conclusion was no surprise to Sudarium expert Janice Bennett, author of Sacred Blood, Sacred Image: The Sudarium of Oviedo, New Evidence for the Authenticity of the Shroud of Turin (2001). Bennett, who has been studying the Sudarium since 1997, tells me that, “Although Miñarro stops short of linking the two cloths to Jesus, ample research has yielded staggering evidence. For example, both linens show bloodstains on the head, in approximately the same position, that were formed by sharp objects, similar to what thorns would produce. Jesus was the only person in recorded history to have been crowned with thorns before crucifixion.” Bennett explains as well that the Shroud and the Sudarium are consistent with Jewish burial customs of Jesus’ day.

Fascinating!!  The Air Force did a study on the Shroud, and there is an exhibit in the chapel at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs dedicated to the Shroud.  It’s definitely a must see if you’re in the area.  Anyway, to read the rest of this compelling article by Myra Adams, click on the text above.    🙂

Historian discovers secret notes hidden in 500-year-old Bible

A historian in the U.K. has discovered secret notes hidden in the text of England’s first printed Bible. Recent analysis of the Latin Bible, which was published in 1535 by Henry VIII’s printer, has revealed fascinating English annotations made during the 16th-century Reformation. The Reformation was a period of immense upheaval in England, which saw the Church of England break away from the authority of the Catholic Church in Rome. Housed in the library of Lambeth Palace, which is the official London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bible is one of just seven surviving copies. “We know virtually nothing about this unique Bible – whose preface was written by Henry himself – outside of the surviving copies,” said Eyal Poleg, a historian at Queen Mary University of London, in a press release. Close inspection revealed that heavy paper had been pasted over blank parts of the Bible. “The challenge was how to uncover the annotations without damaging the book,” explained Poleg. The historian brought in Graham Davis, a specialist in 3D x-ray imaging at the university’s School of Dentistry. The experts took two images in long exposure. For one image, a light sheet slid beneath the pages was turned on, for another, it was turned off. The first image revealed all the annotations, scrambled with the printed text, while the second picture showed only the printed text. Davis wrote a piece of software to “subtract” the second image from the first, revealing a clear picture of the annotations, which are written in English. “The annotations are copied from the famous ‘Great Bible’ of Thomas Cromwell, seen as the epitome of the English Reformation,” explained the university, in its press release. “Written between 1539 and 1549, they were covered and disguised with thick paper in 1600.” Poleg said that the annotations support the idea that the Reformation was a gradual process. “Until recently, it was widely assumed that the Reformation caused a complete break, a Rubicon moment when people stopped being Catholics and accepted Protestantism, rejected saints, and replaced Latin with English,” he explained. “This Bible is a unique witness to a time when the conservative Latin and the reformist English were used together, showing that the Reformation was a slow, complex, and gradual process.” Poleg’s research also uncovered a handwritten transaction between two men on the back page of the book. The transaction states that James Elys Cutpurse of London promised to pay William Cheffyn of Calais 20 shillings, or would go to the notorious Marshalsea prison. Subsequent research conducted by Poleg revealed that Cutpurse was hanged in July 1152. In medieval English, Cutpurse means ‘pickpocket’. “Beyond Mr Cutpurse’s illustrious occupation, the fact that we know when he died is significant,” said Poleg. “It allows us to date and trace the journey of the book with remarkable accuracy – the transaction obviously couldn’t have taken place after his death.”

Fascinating!!   🙂