Artifacts & Biblical History

When I take my groups to Corinth in Greece, I love taking them off the beaten track to see the Erastus Stone.

One of our pilgrims made a video of my talk I gave here this year. Hope you enjoy it.

 Robin DySard was the videographer. The video is only 8 minutes. To see the mention of Erastus, read Romans 16:23.

My same talk there last year, though a bit different, can be seen here.

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Did the Wise Men Meet the Shepherds?

by Steve Ray on December 1, 2014

With upon us, I thought I would post my article this Christmas season with bits of interesting information and details about Christmas, the Gospels and Epiphany. Join us in Bethlehem for Christmas this year from December 26-January 4 or any of six times in 2015. Visit www.SteveGoes.com.

Did the Wise Men Meet the Shepherds?

 A king was born. He was born unlike most kings. There was no pomp and circumstance; there were no midwives or court attendants. There was only the bleating of sheep and the buzzing of flies. Giving birth in a cave-turned-stable was not like giving birth in a royal palace. 

 When a king is born proclamations ring out across the land. But no one knew about this exceptional birth. So angels felt the need to sing out. They burst from the heavens in glorious harmony declaring the royal birth to a group of shepherds sleeping on the ground protecting their sheep. The darkness of night was rent with brilliant light encompassing the terrified shepherds. The lead angel announced “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

 The king’s arrival had been foretold from of old. He was the long awaited savior of the world. But why were shepherds the first to discover his birth? Possibly because this king was also the anticipated Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world. So, let me ask: who are the first to learn of a lamb’s birth in the middle of the night? Shepherds of course! 

 But the story recounted by Luke the physician is not the only account of the miraculous birth. Another account was written by an ex-tax collector named Matthew who informs us that the Jewish shepherds were not the only ones to discover this royal birth. Gentile magi—astronomers from the East—were also informed, but not by angelic choirs. They anticipated this historical event through astronomical observations and consultation with the Jewish scriptures.

It was an unusual star that led them to the infant Jewish king. They traveled at great risk for many for months, arriving from lands historically hostile to Israel. How amazing! The magi brought gifts and fell on their faces before a helpless child in an enemy land. It is often assumed there were only three magi because three gifts were presented (frankincense, gold and myrrh), but the number of distant travelers or the size of their entourage is unknown.

 King Herod was in Jerusalem enjoying his palatial pleasures when the wise men arrived looking for the new king. Herod was worried. No one could help the magi. The star led them the last four miles to Bethlehem where they found the Child and fell prostrate. They presented gifts appropriate to royalty.

 Luke and Matthew were not alone in writing accounts of the Christ. An old man named John, chosen by Jesus while still a young fisherman, wrote a personal account of his three years with the king. And Mark, who was Peter’s “secretary” recorded Peter’s recollections of his years with Jesus. Four witnesses wrote four accounts called the Gospels. They recount the one historical event from four different perspectives, just as in a courtroom four witnesses might testify about one case with four differing yet truthful accounts. Each Gospel writer had his own material, audience, emphasis and style.

 For example, each author deals with the genealogy and birth of Jesus in very different and fascinating ways. Each account is true, non-contradictory, and essential to understand the whole story. Matthew was a Jew writing to Jews. He adeptly demonstrated that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah and King with royal pedigree through the lineage of King David to Abraham the patriarch of Israel and the father of the Jewish nation. 

 Mark, on the other hand, penned Peter’s gospel from Rome and presents Jesus to the Romans as a servant with no genealogy. A key verse in Mark summarizes the whole Gospel, “For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk 10:45). A servant’s genealogy is irrelevant. Mark’s gospel begins with Jesus working. King and servant: no polar opposites could be more extreme.

 Luke, probably a Greek and the only non-Jewish author in the Bible, writes in part to fellow gentiles portraying Jesus as the ideal of humanity with a genealogy going back to the first man Adam. Jesus Christ is revealed as the perfect Man to a Hellenistic audience steeped in Greek philosophy and struggling for human perfection and meaning in the aftermath of their failed “glory days”. 

 Lastly, John reveals a very different beginning or “genealogy.” He fleshes out the full mystery of the eternal king starting with the words, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:1, 14). Jesus has no beginning—he is the beginning. John doesn’t write to an exclusive ethnic group; rather, he writes for the whole world and proclaims that Jesus is divine—by his very nature, God. And as God he is eternal and therefore has no genealogy. No science fiction has ever reached such heights. Truth is stranger than fiction?God has become Man. As St. Augustine said, “[Jesus was] the Revealer of His Father, Creator of His mother; Son of God from His Father without a mother, the Son of Man through his mother without a father.”

 So the four gospels present Jesus Christ as both king and servant, as both God and man. Matthew and Luke tell the story of his birth, Mark and John do not. The four gospels differ in other aspects as well. But such differing stories with such carefully selected details do not imply contradiction. Rather, it gives them diversity, beauty, and depth. Like a diamond, the many facets must be viewed and appreciated to glimpse the elegance of the whole. 

 It seems that Matthew may be telling the nativity story from Joseph’s perspective whereas Luke tells Mary’s story. Matthew alone records the angel’s appearance to Joseph four times, whereas in Luke only Mary is visited by an angel. In Matthew Mary’s virginity and honor are defended, something done by a loyal and loving husband. Though no words of Joseph are recorded in Matthew it does tell us his thoughts and his quick submission and obedience to the will of God. Mary’s submission and obedience to God is not mentioned in Matthew, but is clearly recorded in Luke where it is her words and thoughts that are expressed.

 One could easily conclude that Luke spent a considerable time with Mary, interviewing her about the miraculous birth and surrounding events. He relays many details that Mary had “treasured and pondered in her heart”, things only Mary would have known. It is Luke who records the words of the angel, Mary’s response, and the glorious Magnificat. He even begins the story with an account of Elizabeth, Mary’s relative. And whereas the genealogy provided by Matthew relates to Joseph’s ancestry, some have considered the genealogy recorded in Luke to be Mary’s family tree.

 But despite the variety of information provided, these texts inspired by the Holy Spirit of God himself clearly proclaim the birth of Christ as a miraculous watershed event in human history. He is the Son of Man and Son of God miraculously born of a virgin by the power of the Holy Spirit in a cave-stable in Bethlehem and cared for by his legal, adoptive father Joseph. 

 But we still haven’t answered the question: did the wise men meet the shepherds? The tyrant King Herod died in 4 b.c. and he was alive at both the birth of Jesus and the arrival of the magi, so the magi’s visit had to take place after the birth of Jesus and before the flight to Egypt since Herod died before the return of the Holy Family. 

 Since “the East” probably meant modern day Iraq or Iran, the journey up the fertile crescent and down through modern day Syria and Israel would have taken a long time. They must have calculated the time of birth pretty accurately, arriving shortly after the birth but before the Holy Family fled to Egypt. So, the time frame certainly allowed for them to meet the shepherds. If I had been one of the wise men, I hope I’d have been wise enough to cross one more field to find the shepherds and get the full story—which is exactly what the Gospels have provided for us.

 The truth of the Gospel account is not compromised because the Evangelists report the Lord’s words and deeds in different order. Nor is it hurt because they report His words, not literally but in a variety of ways, while retaining the same meaning. As St. Augustine says: “It is quite probable that each Evangelist felt duty-bound to narrate his particular account in the order which God suggested to his memory. At least this would seem to hold true for those items in which order of treatment would not affect the authority or truth of the Gospel. After all, the Holy Spirit distributes His gifts to each as He chooses (The Historicity of the Gospels [Sancta Mater Ecclesia], April 21, 1964, Instruction of the Pontifical Biblical Commission)

Come with us to see all this for yourself in the Holy Land. We have six pilgrimages to Israel planned in 2014.

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Jimmy Akin writes:

It’s getting near Christmas, and you know what that means. That’s right! It’s time for another book to be released telling us the sensationalistic “truth” about Christianity.

This time we have The Lost Gospel: Decoding the Ancient Text that Reveals Jesus’ Marriage to Mary the Magdalene by Simcha Jacobovici and Barrie Wilson.

You may remember Jacobovici from his involvement in previous biblical-archeological shenanigans like the discredited “Jesus family tomb” claims of a few years ago—in which Jacobovici similarly claimed that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene.

So what do he and sensationalist co-author Barrie Wilson have in store for us this time?

Zecharias Who?

The key text used in their new book is preserved in a set of writings attributed to Zecharias Rhetor (i.e., Zecharias the Rhetoritician), also known as Zecharias Scholasticus (i.e., Zecharistias the Scholar), also known as Zecharias of Mytilene.

He was a native of Gaza who lived in the late A.D. 400s and early 500s and who became the bishop of Mytilene.

He wrote a number of works in Greek, including a work on Church history that was later translated into Syriac (a dialect of Aramaic), with various editorial changes.

It is this Syriac text, brought to the British Museum in 1847, that Jacobovici and Wilson are using in their new book.

Simcha Jacobovici

What They’re Claiming

Among other things, Jacobovici and Wilson claim that they have discovered a lost gospel that is written in code and, when properly decoded, states that Jesus was married, likely to Mary Magdalene, and that they had two sons.

None of this is true.

 Not Lost.

First, the text in question is not “lost.” It is not some newly discovered work that scholars were previously unaware of.

The particular manuscript that Jacobovici and Wilson rely on was brought to the British Museum for more than a century and a half ago, and the same text has been known through other sources for centuries.

The scholarly community has been well aware of it, and translations of it in English and other languages are common.

To give you an idea of how not-lost this work is, it’s been in print for centuries,I have it in my own library, and here’s a version you can read online from a book printed in 1918.

Not a Gospel.

The work is also not a Gospel. Although some scholars use the term “Gospel” in surprising and misleading ways, a Gospel (in the literary sense) is a book about the life and/or teachings of Jesus.

That is not what this text is. This text is not about Jesus. The story it tells is not even set in the first century, when Jesus lived.

It’s set more than a thousand years before the time of Christ.

To read the whole article, click HERE.

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Bishop Conley’s Comments on our Cruise: “In the Footprints of St. Paul”

November 12, 2014

The ancient Christian writer and theologian Tertullian once asked the Church, “What does Athens have to do with Jerusalem?” He asked the question as Christianity spread from Israel into the Greek world; and as Greek intellectuals looked for deeper insight into the Christian mystery. Tertullian was asking whether pagan Greek culture—philosophy, poetry, the arts, history [...]

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Corinth, Erastus’ Name; Bishop Conley Explains Our Gift

November 8, 2014

Thunderstorms were forecast but the rain stopped when we arrived in Ancient Corinth. Blue sky broke thru and we had a moving Mass on a rock outdoors in front of the Judgment Seat where Paul was brought. After a tour of the ancient city where St. Paul lived for 18 months we went to a [...]

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Chair of Moses, Chair of Peter

October 14, 2014

              St. Cyprian of Carthage (beheaded 257 AD) one hundred and fifty years before the New Testament writings were collected into one book called “The Bible”: “The Lord says to Peter: ‘I say to you,’ He says, ‘that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my [...]

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Was Jesus Really Born at THAT Place in Bethlehem?

October 13, 2014

It is often asked: how do we know these are the real sites where Jesus and Mary lived and walked. The earliest Christians realized the importance of these sites and immediately viewed them as sites to be remembered and venerated. Small chapels were built and pilgrims came from around the world to visit these spots [...]

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Flint Knives and the Gospel

October 5, 2014

Ah, excuse me? What do flint knives have to do with the Gospel? A whole lot! Abraham believed God against all odds and as a reward he was given the special sign of the Covenant with God. And what was that wonderful sign between them? In Genesis 17:10-11 God announces this sign to Abraham: “This [...]

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How the Ancient Hebrews Viewed the Universe

September 28, 2014

This is part of Logos Bible Software. I encourage every Catholic to get this Catholic and Bible Study software. Visit http://www.logos.com/steveray

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Finalizing My Book on Genesis…Here are a Few Favorite Paragraphs about Creation

July 5, 2014

Here are a few paragraphs from my new book on Genesis which is nearly done. Genesis 2:7 is foundational and crucial to the whole story of the cosmos, Man and salvation. God takes dust or clay from the ground and like a potter he fashions a human being. The scientific formulas used by God still [...]

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Questions I Answered on Catholic Answers Live – Link Now Available

June 25, 2014

It was one of the funnest and fastest shows ever! Great questions and lively discussion. Here are the questions I answered. The topic was “Abraham: Father of Faith and Works.” Here is the link for listening on-line and here for downloading as a podcast. 1) Did Abraham know that God wouldn’t have him actually go [...]

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One Thing I Know About Abraham: He was Sweaty all the Time!

June 15, 2014

We flew from Israel to Istanbul and then from Istanbul Urfa. We then boarded the van for the one hour drive to Haran. It was 100° and the van didn’t have air-conditioning or windows that opened. It was a stifling trip but paid off with what we found.  Haran is mentioned 19 times in the [...]

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Planting a flag in the Holy Land

June 6, 2014

Today we stood where Abraham first arrived in Canaan 4000 years ago. I built an altar and talked about Abraham and how that altar he built was like marking his claim in this land, putting his flag in the ground. In our DVD I’m going to show the astronauts planting the flag and the moon [...]

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Why Protestants Reject 7 Books of the Bible – the Short Answer

April 30, 2014

Gary Michuta is an expert on the canon of Scripture, especially in regards to the Deutero-canonical books, what the Protestants call the Apocrypha. You can read his book Why Catholic Bibles Are Bigger to see what I mean. Recently a friend asked Gary for the short answer as to why the Protestants removed seven books from [...]

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Was Jesus Crucified Naked?

April 17, 2014

A gentleman heard me on Relevant Radio earlier. I had mentioned on the air that one of the great humiliations of a crucifixion was that a man was crucified naked. This thoughtful gentleman wrote to challenge my comments. Below is his e-mail and my response. Dear Mr. Ray, Please correct your description of the Passion. [...]

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Interesting Insights While Working on Abraham Script: Tent vs. Altar, Jews Sent Back to Square One

March 31, 2014

Two things struck me today as I am feverishly writing the script for our upcoming Abraham DVD (Footprints of God series). First, when God punished the Jews by sending them into exile in Babylon it was the ultimate punishment and insult. Babylon was the site of Bable and the confusion of languages. It was also [...]

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