Artifacts & Biblical History

The room was pretty full. It was warm but a gentle breeze was blowing—that would change. There was fear in the room. The Roman army was a thing to be feared, they had just crucified Jesus and it was a dangerous thing to associates of an executed criminal.

They were also anxious about the promise. The only thing they knew about God descending in fire was the experience of their ancestors at Mount Sinai. When that happened they all ran and hid and said to Moses, Never let God speak to us again; you go talk with Him and come back and tell us what the said.

Pentecost was approaching. Pentecost means “the 50th day.” Fiftieth day from what? From the Passover. Almost fifty days ago the Passover lambs had been slain, and so had THE Passover Lamb. Then there was the forty mystery days when Jesus was gone but not gone—with them but not with them, at least not like before. And he kept just appearing and then disappearing.

He taught them a lot in those forty days, He had breathed on them, gave them power to forgive and retain sins, fed them loaves and fish, appointed Peter as his shepherd, commanded them to go out from Jerusalem to the world. He explained to them much about the Kingdom of God and their tasks as His emissaries.

The last meeting was the most unusual of all. He answered a few questions, gave a few instructions and without even a formal Good-bye He started going up—and continued going up until all they saw was the bottom of his sandals as he disappeared into a cloud. Daniel 7:13-14 says he went back to the glory of heaven.

They looked at each other with obvious concern on their faces—they were fearful. They locked themselves in the Upper Room to pray as He had commanded. They were praying for what they feared—fire upon a mountain, Mount Zion. They prayed for nine days, the first Novena, before the promise of the Holy Spirit fell.

We are specifically told that there were about 120 people in the room. Actually the word is “names” not people. How strange. Can you imagine me saying, “About 120 names came on our pilgrimage to the Holy Land”? This made me curious so I looked up 120 in early Jewish literature and law. Sure enough, my research paid off.

In Israel is a group of Jews desiring to leave the big city and start their own new community they needed a minimum of 120 names on a list. What was happening here in the Upper Room? A new community was being started. The word “church” in the New Testament is ecclesia which means “a group of people called out.” Even today the Knessett (lawmaking body in Israel) is made up of 120 representatives.

Mary is listed among the believers in that Upper Room. It was important that she is listed among the names with others. She is the mother of Jesus. She gave birth to him in Bethlehem as was, in a sense, giving birth to him again on Pentecost. What is our affectionate term for Pentecost? Can you sing “Happy Birthday, to you…”? Yes, it is the Birthday of the Church. What is being born? The Mystical Body of Christ. Who is there for the birth? The mother of course. Mothers have to be present when their child is born. Mary is the mother of Jesus the God-Man and Mary is the Mother of the Church, the Body of Christ. She was necessarily present at both births.

Mary was also there because the others were afraid of the descent of God in fire on this new mountain. I am convinced they trembled in fear not only of the Jews and Romans outside, but of the prophesied “baptism of fire” within—as they wondered and feared that might be. The gentle breeze was about to become a rushing wind.

But Mary was there to calm their anxieties. I bet she said something like, “Don’t be afraid my friends, the Holy Spirit has already overshadowed me and He was pure love. Just wait until you are bathed in His love!” The gentle breeze became a rushing wind but it was warm and

After nine days of praying the Holy Spirit fell in fire on the tenth day—which was the 50th day from the death of the Passover Lamb Jesus on the cross. The Jewish festival of Pentecost also celebrated the first fruits of the harvest.

Remember, Jesus said he was like a grain of wheat that would be buried in the ground. The grain must be buried and die to bear its fruit. Jesus died, was buried in the ground and rose from the dead as the first fruit. Now on the “Feast of First Fruits” the first of the harvest is brought to God. We learn that 3,000 people were added to the Church that day—all in keeping with the tremendous symbolism and deeper meaning to all these events.

And with these deep mysteries and truths we are just scratching the surface. Come to the Holy Land with us, get out your Bibles and study books (or Verbum Catholic Bible Study software) and dig deeper. “There is gold in them there hills” for those with eyes to see and ears to hear and hearts and minds to learn. Enter promo code STEVERAY for a 10% discount.

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One of our past pilgrims wrote with an apparent contradiction in the Bible and what I had said in Israel. The wording in the two verses below is what caused the confusion.

Acts 1:12  ”[After the Ascension] they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away.”

Luke 24:50–51  “Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them, and was carried up into heaven.”

So, did Jesus ascend into heaven from the Mount of Olives or from Bethany?

Church of Pater Noster

On pilgrimages I take my groups to the top of the Mount of Olives to the Church of Pater Noster (the “Our Father”) where Jesus taught his disciples to pray in “the Grotto of the Teaching” — a cave beneath the front of the church. It is here that the oldest traditions inform us that Jesus was raised into heaven. Here Constantine built a church in the early 300′s. Here we celebrate Jesus’ departure and pray the Rosary’s 2nd Glorious Mystery of the Ascension.

Muslim Chapel of Ascension

There is a Muslim mosque five minute’s walk away (called the Chapel of the Ascension) that most Protestants visit but I don’t patronize Muslim sites and don’t accept this as the authentic place of the Ascension. 

No one knows the exact square inches where his feet left the ground. But the Church of Pater Noster has the oldest tradition, is on the Mount of Olives and very near Bethany. 

If we had had the time, and there was not the big wall separating Jerusalem from Bethany like it does Jerusalem from Bethlehem, in a few minutes we could walked into Bethany from the the top of the Mount of Olives. We used to walk people there to go into the tomb of Lazarus. That is how close Bethany is to the top of the Mount of Olives. 

However, I can’t do that with groups anymore because there’s a big wall that keeps us from walking from the Mount of Olives into Bethany.

Bethany is on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives about 2 miles from Jerusalem across the Kidron Valley. At the time of Jesus there was nothing on the Mount of Olives but olive trees (even until the late 1800′s, see picture black and white picture from about 1900). If you left from Jerusalem, heading to the Mount of Olives, it was perceived you were headed to Bethany. 

 The picture shows that even until the turn of the 20th century there was nothing outside the old walls of Jerusalem. That meant there was just trees and open space between Jerusalem and Bethany. Bethany, though not seen on this map, was on the Eastern slope of the mount.

The other two maps show the proximity of Bethany, the the top of the Mount of Olives and the short distance from the walled city of Jerusalem. Luke wrote both the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles.  He obviously saw no contradiction in referring to both places as the general location of Christ’s ascension.

It is easily explained this way. First, some suggest that he went as far as Bethany to say good-bye to the family he loved – Lazarus, Mary and Martha, then came back to the top of the mount and departed to heaven. However, there is no need to stretch things that far. Being on the eastern slope of the mount, Bethany is virtually on the Mount of Olives, especially from the perspective of Jerusalem. 

If someone asks me where I’m from, I always say “Detroit.” But those who have been to my house know I really live 40 miles east of Detroit in Ypsilanti. But since no one knows where Ypsilanti is – I say “Detroit.”

If there is nothing but trees and bare land on the Mount of Olives and you’re heading east from Jerusalem, people would say you are going to Bethany. Jesus left Jerusalem and went over toward Bethany to ascend into heaven.

So if the geography is understood there is no conflict. Scripture can be trusted.

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COMMENTARY: One doesn’t have to look far to see that the term ‘war on women’ doesn’t apply. In fact, it’s quite the opposite!

by ARINA O. GROSSU 

Anyone who claims that the Catholic Church is anti-woman knows little about her rich history and Tradition in proclaiming the beauty and greatness of womanhood. There is no more pro-woman institution than the Catholic Church. And here are five reasons why.

First, the salvation of all humanity hinged on a singular woman’s “Yes,” her fiat, to becoming the mother of Jesus. God could have chosen to bring about the salvific act of Christ in so many ways, but he chose to do so in and through a woman. The Catholic Church honors and celebrates Mary’s wholly singular role (Catechism 968) with special devotion.

Catholics do not worship Mary, but they do honor her — and rightfully so. However, Mary’s unique role in the Church is “inseparable from her union with Christ and flows directly from it” (964). Since we are the body of Christ, and Mary is Christ’s mother, she is also our mother and the Mother of the Church (963). 

Christ declared her our Mother by entrusting her to St. John and entrusting St. John to her: “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother’ (John 19:26-27).”

Second, holy Scripture is brimming with the stories of at least 137 women, many of them brave matriarchs, heroines and saints. 

For example, in the Old Testament, we have the most attractive woman of the kingdom of Persia, Queen Esther, who saved her husband, King Ahasuerus, from being murdered, saved the Jewish people from a massacre at Haman’s hands and spared the life of her uncle Mordecai. 

Then there’s Rachel, the mother of Joseph and Benjamin, the sons who fathered the 12 tribes of Israel. Then there’s Judith, a daring and beautiful widow, who saved the Israelites from surrendering to the Assyrians by sneaking in the enemy camp and decapitating the general, Holofernes.

 Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/anti-woman-five-reasons-the-catholic-church-is-the-most-pro-woman-instituti/#ixzz43rjPnpng

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How We REALLY Got the Bible – the Facts Simply Presented (print this out, hand it out)

March 31, 2016

This is just one page of Bob Sullivan’s excellent little tri-fold handout to explain how we got the Bible. It is from the Catholic and historical perspective without all the Protestant biases and twisting of history. I think you enjoy the whole thing which you can see here. You can print this out, fold it [...]

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Is this the Oldest Image of the Virgin Mary?

March 28, 2016

New York Times By Michael Peppard JANUARY 30, 2016 THE Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus, is the most revered woman in the Christian tradition. In the history of art, she appears almost as frequently as Jesus himself. But for the past 80 years, one of the oldest paintings of her may have been hiding [...]

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Was Jesus Crucified Naked?

March 25, 2016

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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“Where Does the Bible Say We Should Pray to Dead Saints?” – Resources about Communion of the Saints

March 10, 2016

I compiled a list of Catechism, Scripture and quotes from the early Church Fathers and even archaeology to assist in understanding the Communion of Saints. You can download the source material here. Sample: Who should carry the most weight—Protestant pastors protesting Catholic theology today or pastors from the early Church who have the words of [...]

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The Pain of Stolen Honey – In Preparation for “John the Baptist & Our Lord Baptism”

March 5, 2016

A painful price is paid when one reaches his hand into a swarm of bees to swipe some of their honey. Stingers fly and welts flare. I raised hives of bees as a boy and once I was stung 35 times in one day. Wild honey is not collected from wild bees without burning pain [...]

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Traveling with Paul, John & Mary in Biblical Times was TOUGH!

February 25, 2016

Jostling through the crowds Paul and Luke pushed their way to the ramp. The wooden cargo ship was ready to leave Caesarea and they had gathered the last of their supplies. They pressed the silver denarii into the hands of the sailer at the dock. They were allowed onto the ship. They rushed to the [...]

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Feast of Chair of St. Peter: “Chair of Moses, Chair of Peter” Steve’s Article, YouTube Video and Resources

February 22, 2016

                                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 [...]

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Discovering the Place of Paul’s Shipwreck on Island of Malta

February 16, 2016

I am doing a show on EWTN’s Son Rise Morning Show on Tuesday about the shipwreck of St. Paul. So I am reposting this blog from our trip to Malta late last year. One of my favorite things is to discover the events and places of the Bible and to share them with others. The [...]

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UNESCO Adds the Baptismal Site of Jesus to the World Heritage Sites

February 9, 2016

This is an exciting development which helps establish the authentic baptismal site of Jesus. With the involvement of UNESCO the site will receive protection, funding and recognition. This is the place where the last three popes commemorated the Baptism of Our Lord. Here are some articles about UNESCO’s decision and about the site: Here, here [...]

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Temple Sizes Compared – bigger than a football field

January 7, 2016

The 1) Tabernacle in the wilderness, the 2) Temple of Solomon, 3) Herod’s Temple at the time of Christ and 4) Ezekiel’s Temple are compared. The football field looks insignificant compared to the temples (in more than one way :-) The Muslim Shrine that now sits atop Temple Mount is built over the rock where [...]

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The Stones Cry Out: What Does Archaeology Say about the Reliability of the Bible and the Catholic Faith?

December 28, 2015

How do we know the sites related to Jesus are authentic? Didn’t the truth of these places get lost in the mist of history? Is the Bible really historically reliable? Recently I did an interview with Tim Staples of Catholic Answers about the reliability of the Bible, the proof of archaeology and the authenticity of [...]

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Was Jesus Really Born at THAT Place in Bethlehem?

December 23, 2015

Today we are having Mass at Gethsemane on the western slope of the Mount of Olives. How do we know this is really Gethsemane? And yesterday we had Mass at Tomb of Christ in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Really? How do we know? Two days ago we venerated the place Jesus was born [...]

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Did the Wise Men Meet the Shepherds?

December 8, 2015

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 [...]

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