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Archive for January, 2009

 

This blog is the last in a series of articles about the influence of modern science on society. The emphasis is primarily about how science has contradicted religion, specifically Christianity.

 In the last blog, I reported that the following would be discussed in Part III: (1) scientific findings in the field of geology versus the God(s) of Polytheism, Paganism, and Christianity, and (2) the Bombshell that hit Christianity known as the Talpiot Tomb.

 

Geology versus the God(s) of Polytheism, Paganism, and Christianity

 

The scientific field of geology has, over the years, contradicted various aspects of polytheism, paganism, and Christianity. In polytheism and paganism there was the Helike Fault. In Christianity, these aspects included Constantine’s Vision and the Lisbon Earthquake of 1755.

 

Introduction

 

The predecessor and contemporary to early Judaism and Christianity was polytheism, the belief in many gods. Although polytheism lived side-by-side with Christianity for more than four centuries, polytheism lost favor. This was particularly true of the Greek and Roman empires. Also related to polytheism is paganism, a term whose meaning was used to initially separate and identify those who did not follow Christianity. People so identified were also called heathen, irreligious, or idolatrous. Since most pagans were polytheists, it is incorrect to have said that pagans were irreligious. It would have been better if pagans and polytheists were simply referred to as Non-Monotheists rather than the pejorative way they were characterized by Christians,  Jews, and those who follow Mohammedan and the Nation of Islam. 

 

The Greeks and the Romans had many gods as did Egyptian society. One of the sciences that has played a major role in deconstructing religions like monotheistic Christianity, polytheism gods, and paganism, is Geology.

 One of the important geologists of our time is the English geologist Iain Stewart. In a documentary for the BBC and the Science Channel, Iain described the geology of the Mediterranean and the world at large as a driving force in our understanding of everything from the extinction of dinosaurs to the existence of God. “The rocks beneath our feet force us to rethink our beliefs in how the world around us works.”[1]

During the course of the documentary, Dr. Stewart succinctly laid out several topics that showed how significant findings in geology have altered the belief system of peoples around the world. These geological findings included:  The Helike Fault, Constantine’s Vision, and the impact of the Lisbon Earthquake of 1755, which produced a crisis of confidence in Christian beliefs

These examples will be discussed as they relate to how natural processes can provide real answers as opposed to explanations and beliefs like supernatural religions such as  polytheism and monotheism.

 

Helike Fault

 

Throughout the ancient world citizens of Rome and Greece believed in a large range of Gods that were believed to be supernatural beings that ruled everybody and were responsible for everything from love and hate to harvest and death.[2]   The Greeks Gods were considered very powerful as they lived on high from Mt. Olympus. One god they feared and didn’t want to upset was the earth-shaker and ruler of the sea–Poseidon.[3]             

 

According to Ian Stewart,

 

Poseidon was notorious for his bad temper. Displeased, he could cause volcanoes to erupt, the earth to shake, and the sea to surge. The ancients bestowed lavish gifts on Poseidon in the hope he wouldn’t visit them with the wrath. Helike was an ancient and thriving city that was built as a sacred place to worship Poseidon.[4]

 

However, it appears that all the efforts to appease Poseidon were for nothing.

The Greeks were devastated when, on a winter’s night in 373 B.C. the classical Greek city of Helike was destroyed by a massive earthquake and tidal wave. The entire city and all its inhabitants were lost beneath the sea. What has amazed archaeologists about Helike is that it was engulfed just when ancient Greece was reaching its height; when the philosophy and art that inspired the western world for thousands of years were invented, Helike is considered to be behind the myth of Atlantis.

What was really behind the disaster? It turns out the real cause of the disaster was the Helike Fault. Scientists now believe that the real cause of the catastrophe wasn’t Poseidon’s fury but rather the Helike Fault itself. Religious beliefs had nothing at all to do with the disaster. In fact the whole region had been very susceptible to earthquakes.[5]  

 

Constantine’s Vision

 

Like the Greeks, the Romans worshipped a barrage of Gods but religion for the Romans was becoming complicated. In the decades following the death of Christ Christianity started to spread through the empire. But it remained a small and struggling religion practiced in secret in order to avoid persecution. But all this was about to change.[6]

 

In the early 4th Century A.D. the Roman gods and their assorted pagan gods were about to be dramatically overturned. It was a geological event that made this come about. “1700 years ago the Western Roman Empire was on the verge of civil war.”[7] A conflict ensued between Flavius Valerus Constantine and Marcus Aurelius Maxentius.

Before his battle in 312 A.D. Constantine had a vision described as a blazing light in the heavens that formed the shape of the cross in the sky. This vision of Constantine changed the views of western beliefs forever. Constantine took the vision as a sign from the Christian God–to go into battle, but more than that to gain salvation by fighting under the sign of the cross.[8]

What exactly did Constantine really see? Constantine had a vision described by Eusebius as a blazing light in the heavens which formed the shape of a cross in the sky. Constantine took the vision as a sign from the Christian God to go into battle which he won.

 Scientists have since discovered that what Constantine saw was the aftermath and mushroom cloud of a small meteorite hitting an area not that far away from where he stood. Evidence of the meteor’s crater has been found and, in addition, when a mushroom cloud rises into the sky it does in fact look very much like a cross. Again, one of the pivotal moments in the history of Christianity was better explained by natural causes than supernatural ones.      

 

The Lisbon Earthquake of 1755

    

     From the time of the Romans, Christianity grew and spread. People still thought catastrophes were driven by divine forces but these events were now believed to be dispatched by just one and only one Christian God. Christianity provided a framework within which the world could be explained. As far as the Bible was concerned, our planet had been created for mankind by God. Western scholars were rather unwilling to examine any natural origins of geological phenomena, as the Bible’s story of creation was beyond question.[9]

 

Dr. Stewart points out,

 

By the 15th century, long after the fall of the Romans, Europe was experiencing the Renaissance. It was during this time of artistic and intellectual enlightenment that people began to struggle to reconcile what the Bible said from that which they noticed around them. The idea was born that perhaps our planet wasn’t shaped by a series of God-driven catastrophes. But it was heresy to question God’s holy design. Exploration of the mechanisms of natural processes still very much remained uncharted territory. Once again, however, the geology of the Mediterranean would spring a surprise which caused a seismic shift in thinking. And it all kicked off right in Portugal’s capital, Lisbon.[10]

 

In 1755, a catastrophe sent shock waves throughout Christian Europe. It was Sunday, November 1st, All Saints’ Day, and the city’s churches were packed with worshippers.”[11] Then at 9:30 right in the middle of morning mass, a huge earthquake struck measuring today what would be 9.0 on the Richter Scale. Three massive tremors hit the city in quick succession. The impact of the quake was devastating. The earthquake was so powerful it was felt throughout Europe and the Atlantic.[12] In many of the churches the roof came crashing down on the heads of those worshipping inside.[13]

 Of those who did make it out onto the streets, many were killed by falling debris. Devastation swept the city. If that wasn’t enough a great fire ravaged the city taking 6 days to put out.

 

The terrible disaster in Lisbon caused a crisis of confidence in Christian beliefs.  Why would God destroy his own churches, and on All Saints’ Day, of all days. Some people started to look for more earthly explanations for the cause of the disaster. Even from within the church, there was mention of a theory that the quake was caused by some sort of contraction of the earth’s crust. This wasn’t too far from the truth.[14]

 

The earthquake was due to movement within the earth rather than a contraction. The Lisbon earthquake was big, and so massive, that in the end some 40,000 people lost their lives. It was the most disastrous quake to strike Europe in recorded history.[15]

The spread of the event in Lisbon sent shockwaves throughout Europe and caused thinkers to further challenge the ideas of Christianity.[16]  

 

After the catastrophe struck, the idea gained momentum that the earthquake was indeed a natural phenomenon and not caused by the wrath of God. The Lisbon earthquake caused a direct assault on the way we believed the world around us worked. It certainly wasn’t an end to a belief in an all-perfect Christian God, but a belief in science was gaining momentum. New ways of thinking were emerging based on careful observation of the world and testable theories as to how it worked.[17]      

 

The Talpiot Tomb in Jerusalem

 

Biblical Archeology has made great finds in support of historical facts found in the Bible. And, archaeological excavations in the Middle East have been going on for more than a hundred and twenty years. Biblical archeologists are like other scientists in that they seek physical or other types of evidence to support their findings. Data is the cornerstone of all science, including archaeology.

On February 25, 2007 the world of theology and Christianity was rocked to its core when it was revealed that there exists a possible Jesus Family Tomb. It was found in the Talpiot Tomb in Jerusalem, the city where Christ had been crucified. The interesting thing about the interpretation of a Jesus Family Tomb was that it is based, not on one, but on three different types of data. The new scientific evidence consists of Ossuary inscriptions, DNA analysis, and statistical analysis. The three types of data together are providing an explanatory convergence of the evidence. The implications of these findings are far-reaching and potentially will finally set to rest the idea that Christ made a supernatural physical ascension into heaven.

This points out again that the “received view” of Christianity is not consistent with the historical or actual view of Christianity. This finding will have a profound impact on every aspect of revealed Christianity. The true believer buys into the received or revealed view of Christianity. I don’t think they had in mind that one day, what was going to be actually revealed, was that the Talpiot Tomb would throw into doubt the veracity of biblical scriptures. The Bible is now seen as pure fiction.

The immediate implications of the scientific research findings suggested that a 2,000- year-old Jerusalem tomb could have once held the remains of Jesus of Nazareth and his family. In fact, the findings also suggest that Jesus and Mary Magdalene might have been husband and wife and produced a son named Judah.[18]

 

Details

 

         On March 28, 1980, a construction crew developing an apartment complex in Talpiot, Jerusalem, uncovered a tomb, which archaeologists from the Israeli Antiquities Authority excavated shortly thereafter. Archaeologist Shimon Gibson surveyed the site and drew a layout plan. Scholar L.Y. Rahmani later published ‘A Catalogue of Jewish Ossuaries’ that described 10 ossuaries, or limestone bone boxes, found in the tomb.[19]

 

During the period 30 B.C. to 70 A.D. it was not uncommon for people to wrap bodies in shrouds after death and place them in carved rock tombs where they decomposed. Later their bones would be placed in an ossuary.[20]  Of the ten ossuaries found five were found to have inscriptions. These inscriptions were names believed to be associated with key figures from the New Testament. These names include: Jesus, Mary, Matthew, Joseph and Mary Magdalene.

A sixth inscription, written in Aramaic, translates to “Judah Son of Jesus.” Given the number of people who lived in and around Jerusalem 2000 years ago the probability that these names (key figures in the New Testament) would be found together in a family tomb has been estimated to be 1 chance in 30,000.[21]  According to Aaron Brody, associate professor of Bible and Archaeology at the Pacific School of Religion, “such tombs are very typical for that region.” [22]

In order to let the public in on these momentous scientific findings, a documentary presenting the evidence, “The Lost Tomb of Jesus,” premiered on the Discovery Channel on March 4, 2007. The executive producer of the documentary was James Cameron and the director was Simcha Jacobovici.

 

At least four leading epigraphers have corroborated the ossuary inscriptions for the documentary…Frank Cross, a professor emeritus in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University, told Discovery News, ‘The inscriptions are from the Herodian Period (which occurred from around 1 B.C. to 1 A.D.). The use of limestone ossuaries and the varied script styles are characteristic of the time.’[23]

 

 The Herodian Period was  between 30 B.C.E. to 70 C.E. This encompassed the time scholars believe Jesus died on the cross (around 33 C.E.) and was buried in the tomb.

 

Are the Inscriptions Important?

 

First and foremost, these inscriptions were important because, despite the fact many of the names were common in the ancient middle-east, statistical analysis revealed that the probability that these gospel figures would appear in the very same tomb together as part of Jesus’ family was 1 chance out of 600. The inscriptions included Jesus Son of Joseph, written in Aramaic. There also was Judah Son of Jesus in the tomb. This inscription was written on one of the ossuaries in Aramaic. Another limestone burial box bears a Hebrew inscription, “Maria,” a Latin version of “Miriam.”

 In English this meant the name “Mary.” Also, in Hebrew, was the inscription, “Matia,” the original Hebrew word for “Matthew.” Only one of the inscriptions was in Greek. It read, “Mariamene e Mara,” which cam be translated as, “Mary known as the master.” According to Francois Bovon, professor of history of religion at Harvard University, told Discovery News, “Mariamene, or Mariamne, probably was the actual name given to Mary Magdalene.”[24]

Professor “Bovan explained that he and a colleague discovered a fourteenth century copy in Greek of a fourth century text that contained the most complete version of the ‘Acts of Philip’ ever found. Although not included in the Bible, the ‘Acts of Phillip’ mentioned the apostles and Mariamne, sister of the apostle Philip. Bovon also said, “When Philip was weak, she is strong.”[25] She went on to point out that Mariamne was a great teacher who even inspired her own set of followers called Mariamnists. These followers existed from around the 2nd to the 3rd Century C.E.[26]

 

DNA Analysis

 

Both DNA and chemical analysis were performed on some of the ossuaries. There were two sets of samples. The first set consisted of bits of matter taken from the “Jesus Son of Joseph” and “Mariamene e Mara” ossuaries. The second set consisted of patina, which is a chemical encrustation on one of the limestone boxes.

Normally tombs contained either blood relatives or spouses. Based on the work of Carney Matheson, a scientist at the Paleo-DNA Laboratory at Lakehead University in Ontario, Canada, the “Mitochondrial DNA examination determined that the individual in the Jesus ossuary and the person in the ossuary linked to Mary Magdalene were not related.”[27]

 Jacobovici and his team suggested that it was possible Jesus and Mary Magdalene were a couple. In the Gospel of John the lad described as sleeping in Jesus’ lap at the Last Supper may have been “Judah,” the son of Jesus and Mary Magdalene.[28]

It will be remembered that also in 1980 the “James” ossuary was found. It subsequently disappeared and resurfaced in the antiquities market. When the filmmakers examined the tomb, they determined a space existed that would have fit the “James” ossuary. Robert Genna, director of the Suffolk County Crime Laboratory in New York, analyzed both the patina taken from the Talpiot Tomb and chemical residue obtained from the “James” ossuary. Discovery News was told by Genna that the two samples were consistent with each other.[29] “Given the patina match and the space in the tomb Jacobvici theorized the lost burial box could be, in fact, that of the “James” ossuary. James it will be remembered from the Bible was Jesus’ brother.

When statistical analysis was performed on the probability of including the lost ossuary of “James,” the result showed that the odds of having all these biblical figures in the same family tomb together, by chance alone, raised the odds from 1 in 600 to 1 in 30,000.

 

     Given the convergence of all the evidence (DNA and chemical analysis, inscription data, and statistical analysis of the data) the scientific findings indicate collectively, and point to the very real possibility, that the Talpiot Tomb contained Jesus of Nazareth and his family. The theological and secular implications of these findings will profoundly alter the interpretation of the Bible, and Christianity itself, in ways that haven’t even begun to be realized.

     On the positive for Christianity the research findings put to rest the notion that Jesus never existed; the data suggest otherwise. But the data also strongly suggest that there was no physical ascension of Jesus into heaven following his death on the cross. Once again, the “revealed” Christianity is invalid with the scientific findings from the Talpiot Tomb in Jerusalem.          

 

 

[1] Ian Steward, Hot Rocks: Geology of Civilization , BBC, Dish Network, viewed 11/26/2005.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News, “Jesus Family Tomb Believed Found,” [online] ; accessed 2/27/2007; available on http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2007/02/25/tomb_arc.html?category=archaeology&guid=2007

 

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Ibid.


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