Excavating Jesus.(Opinion &Amp; Editorial)

Manila Bulletin, November 23, 2002 | Go to article overview

Excavating Jesus.(Opinion &Amp; Editorial)


MANY people are attracted by a special type of archaeology known as biblical archaeology which involves the excavations of the ruins in the biblical places like Palestine, Egypt, Babylonia and other countries with which the Hebrews and the early Christians came in contact with. Wonder of wonders, each spade dug in the ruins of biblical cities uncovered ancient artifacts (remains of the things the ancient men used in their daily lives) that coincided exactly with biblical narratives. Thus confirming the historical accuracy of the Holy Bible. Disputing too the claims of atheists and agnostics that the Bible has hundreds of historical mistakes.

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While many believe that the Bible can stand for itself, excavations in biblical places have immensely buoyed up their faith in a great living God and in the authenticity of the Holy Bible. Others have become more curious of what is written in the Holy Bible. Some however think these excavations are fake. Whether believed to be authentic or fake, these excavations have created a lot of talk here and there.

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The latest archaeological finding that was first announced in the November/December issue of a publication called Biblical Archaeology Review is now a very hot topic. It is a limestone burial box for bones, the color of sand (known as ossuary), rectangular in shape around 1 1/4 feet wide and 2 1/2 feet long with an inscription in Aramaic reading (Ya'akov bar Yosef akhul di Yeshua) translated into English as "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus." Jacob (Ya'akov) is the Aramaic equivalent of the Greek name James.

***

Many of us are familiar with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls at a place called Qumran I 1947. The story goes that an Arabian shepherd tending to his sheeps threw a stone intended to stop his sheeps from going beyond a ledge. A clicking sound was heard and the curious shepherd investigated until he saw a small opening of a cave; went inside the opening and saw a broken jar inside containing long sticks. The shepherd got one of the sticks and used it to whip the sheeps and left the place. The stick turned out to be a scroll containing biblical manuscripts of the Old Testament Books in the Hebrew Bible with the exception of the Book of Esther. Also uncovered near the caves were the ruins of a big monastery, the abode of Essenes, a Jewish group. The Essenes were believed to have hidden the Dead Sea Scrolls during the second century B.C.

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While the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls is considered the most significant archaeological breakthrough ever made regarding the Old Testament Manuscripts, the discovery of the 1st century small James Bone Box (Ossuary), nearly, 2,000 years old and once lay the earthly remains of James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus - is the first archaeological proof of the existence of Jesus of Nazareth. To those who believe that the ossuary is an authentic archaeological finding, the discovery confirms that Jesus is not just a mythical character; or an abstract icon. His historical existence is confirmed. In short, the ossuary is believed to be the closest we can come archaeologically to Jesus. The first archaeological discovery to support and corroborate the biblical references to Jesus.

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A study of the culture of the early Jews in Jerusalem hundreds of years before and after Jesus' birth will reveal that the Jews practiced secondary burial. Meaning that the bones of the deceased was transferred from a first grave into a container that was then deposited in the family burial cave or tomb. The bones were then allowed to decompose. After a year, the bones would be gathered and placed in an ossuary. This ritual was practiced to cut down on burial expenses. Normally, at that time, tombs were often carved into rock. …

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