February 29, 2012

Early Christian evidence or puffery?

The earliest-ever archaeological evidence for Christianity has allegedly been uncovered in Jerusalem. But, the "allegedly" is very, very important; the report comes from the same folks who are behind the claims of finding an alleged "Jesus Tomb."
The newly discovered ossuary carries a Greek inscription calling on God to "raise up" someone, which is being interpreted as an early reference to the biblical resurrection of Jesus.

A second limestone box appears to show the carved image of a fish, which may be a reference to the biblical prophet Jonah. This would be a historical first, as references to the resurrection had not previously been discovered before the 2nd century.

"If anyone had claimed to find either a statement about resurrection or a Jonah image in a Jewish tomb of this period I would have said impossible -- until now," University of North Carolina scholar James Tabor said in a statement....

As significant as this discovery is, it may itself be buried under renewed discussion over the potential discovery of a tomb inscribed with the names of the biblical Jesus and his family. The investigators, lead by University of North Carolina scholar Tabor, are the same team who five years ago claimed to have made "The Jesus Discovery." ... He (also) contributed to a controversial TV documentary called, "The Lost Tomb of Jesus," which received significant attention at the time of its release, since it was produced in partnership with Academy Award winning director James Cameron. ...

"This inscription has something to do with resurrection of the dead, either of the deceased in the ossuary, or perhaps, given the Jonah image nearby, an expression of faith in Jesus' resurrection," Tabor said in the statement, referring to the "raise up" inscription on the ossuary.

"We now have the new archaeological evidence, literally written in stone, that can guide us in properly understanding what Jesus' earliest followers meant by their faith in Jesus' resurrection from the dead — with his earthly remains, and those of his family, peacefully interred just yards away," Tabor and (a collaborator) wrote.
First, the fish iconography may or may not be linked to Jonah.

Second, the "raise up" could refer to someone else. The Mandeans are a "world religion" technically a few years older than Christianity; Mandeans view John the Baptizer  as a metaphysical, messianic-type savior in the way Christians view Jesus. Related to that, if the fish does refer to Jonah, who's to say that imagery is Christian? Or, the "raise up" may not refer to resurrection from the dead. So, who's to say this is Christian overall?

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