2015-66-Main Body-Revelations of the Ancient World
|Archeology/Jerusalem: J. King – Recent Discoveries on the Temple Hill at Jerusalem (1884 PDF)
The study of archeology, papyrology, epigrahpy, and numerous other scientific disciplines will be the main focus of this archive. One purpose is to display the early roots of the “Christian Preterist” view of bible prophecy — which sees the “Apocalypse of the Book of Revelation” as being applied to first century events. There are a number of exciting recent discoveries that have lent a great deal of support to this increasingly popular view of the Bible.
1. Looking at the Dead Sea Scrolls, and other early papyrus finds, it is clear that the Pret view of the “Roman-Judean” apocalypse held currency in Palestine since at least 63 B.C., when the Romans first came upon the scene in Jerusalem. (The historical Christian flight from Jerusalem also plays a part in this area of study.)
2. At Oxyrhynchus in Egypt, a papyrus scrap pile has yielded the earliest known fragment of the book of Revelation. The text is Revelation 13:18, which holds the infamous “Mark of the Beast” passage. Instead of the traditionally held number of “666”, this fragment makes the number “616”. This is significant for the reason that it seems to confirm the identification of the Beast as Nero.
3. Heraculaneaum’s “Villa of the Papyri” is an ancient Roman library that was preserved intact by the Volcanic blow of Mt. Vesuvius in A.D. 79. Among other important new discoveries there, it is possible that an early copy of Josephus’ “Wars of the Jews” is contained in this cache. The book was very fashionable to own when it came out, being personally endorsed by Emperor Titus himself. If found, it would be the earliest known version of the work to exist, and would serve to answer many questions about redactions and additions to the text which portrays the fall of Jerusalem in A.D.70 as the end of the age. There were also numerous other works on this war which have not as of yet been discovered and may be found there.
These are just three examples of exciting discoveries which shed light on early Jewish and Christian views of Bible eschatology. Information will be added as time allows, and as breaking news develops. Thanks for reading!
Todd Dennis, Curator of PreteristArchive.com
Ancient Syrian Manuscripts Found In Egyptian Monastery
Although the library was probably established soon after the monastery’s foundation in the 6th century, it was enlarged after a visit by abbot Moses of Nisibis to Baghdad in 927, when he returned with hundreds of early Syriac manuscripts. ”
Ancient Manuscripts Found In Egyptian Monastery
A cache of manuscripts up to 1,500 years old has been discovered in a Coptic monastery in the Western Desert of Egypt. The find was made at Deir al-Surian, the Monastery of the Syrians, which already has one of the richest ancient libraries in Christendom. Set in the desert sands and virtually cut off from the outside world until recently, Deir al-Surian traces its roots back to the earliest period of Christian monasticism. Established in the 6th century, it was soon occupied by monks from Syria and Mesopotamia and is currently home to 200 Egyptian Copts.
Deir al-Surian is in what was once called the Holy Desert of Scetis, in Wadi al-Natrun, a valley 60 miles south of Alexandria. Approaching it across the sands, the 40-foot-high walled complex, with its buildings and tower, appears like a ship–and hence the tradition that its architecture is based on the design of Noah’s Ark. Inside, the monastery is centered on the Church of the Holy Virgin, built in the 7th century.
A fragment of a manuscript
A single completed manuscript and hundreds of fragments were found when reconstruction work was undertaken on the ancient tower, which is probably well over a millennium old. The library had originally been established there, since it was the most protected part of the monastery, but the first floor collapsed around five centuries ago, and a new wooden floor was simply inserted above. Recently the rubble of the earlier floor was removed during renovations, and curator Father Bigoul found a complete manuscript, embedded in a section of disused water pipe. (It is unclear if it was hidden there for safekeeping or got there by accident.) The parchment text has now been identified by Professor Lucas van Rompay of Duke University as a 9th-century Book of the Holy Hierothos.
A painstaking sifting of the rubble removed from the ancient tower also led to the discovery of around 600 fragments of early manuscripts. The earliest one identified, from around 500 A.D., is a single page from a hagiographical text, and this has now been linked with a manuscript in Russia. The main part of the Deir al-Surian manuscript had been acquired in 1851 by Auguste Pacho, an agent working for the British Museum, but he sold it to the Imperial Library in St. Petersburg.
The fragments found in the rubble of the tower are in very poor condition and will now require considerable conservation. For instance, the remains of a 9th-century ascetical text were found in the form of a half-inch-thick block of stuck papyri. When this was recently separated, it ended up as 83 fragments. These have not yet been “reassembled,” and the task has been likened to completing a double-sided jigsaw puzzle with hundreds of missing pieces. br>
The monastery under its scaffolding
Deir al-Surian’s manuscripts have never been properly catalogued or studied by Western scholars, and until a conservation project was initiated three years ago, its literary treasures had been inaccessible to outsiders. Although the library was probably established soon after the monastery’s foundation in the 6th century, it was enlarged after a visit by abbot Moses of Nisibis to Baghdad in 927, when he returned with hundreds of early Syriac manuscripts.
From the 11th century, Coptic, Christian-Arabic and Ethiopic texts were added. As early as the 17th century, Deir al-Surian attracted the attention of European bibliophiles, and from then onwards there were numerous attempts to purchase manuscripts from the monks, sometimes above board and often by subterfuge. By the early 20th century, around 1,000 manuscripts had been removed, most of which ended up in the British Library, as well as in the Vatican Library, the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris and the St. Petersburg Library. The monks then closed the door to scholars, locking away the remaining texts. Until two years ago, the 40 most important ancient Syriac texts were stored in a box in the personal cell of the bishop. Despite the losses, what remains at Deir al-Surian is an astonishing collection, comprising 1,000 manuscripts and a further 2,000 or so fragments.
Deir al-Surian’s library was moved from the ancient tower to a new building in 1970. Conditions in the library fluctuate wildly, with temperatures inside the third-floor room ranging from 5 to 35 degrees Celcius and relative humidity from 30% to 80%. There is a kitchen on the ground floor, which obviously poses an additional fire risk, and smoke alarms were only fitted two years ago.
London paper conservator Elizabeth Sobczynski has visited Deir al-Surian to advise, and she is the first outsider to have examined the entire library. She is very disturbed at what she found: “Paper has become brittle and is suffering from discoloration and mechanical damage. Parchment has been damaged from mishandling and bad environmental conditions. Iron and copper based inks have degraded, and there are many instances of ink suffering from flaking and lifting. Exposure to moisture has resulted in corrosion and caused very serious perforations to parchment and paper. Silverfish, mice and other pests have caused further damage.”
Bishop Mattaos, the abbot, has now decided that urgent action must be taken to introduce modern conservation techniques and improve environmental conditions. The first manuscript to be treated was a 10th-century Syriac text of the Homilies of Jacob of Sarug, which consists of 155 loose folios on very brittle paper. Five other manuscripts, from the 6th to 8th centuries have also been selected for urgent conservation treatment.
Sobczynski, together with Professor van Rompay, has now set up the Deir al-Surian Conservation Project, with support from the U.K.’s Institute of Paper Conservation and three universities (Leiden, Louvain and Duke). She is now establishing a charitable foundation to raise funds. Plans are being made to send teams of conservators to work with Father Bigoul on a regular basis. The first priorities are to improve storage conditions and undertake conservation work on the most vulnerable manuscripts. Installing air-conditioning is also vital, but building a dedicated library is the long-term goal.
Earlier this year Father Bigoul visited the U.K. for two months, to gain experience by working at the Royal Library at Windsor, the Wellcome Institute and the British Library. While at the British Library, he had the opportunity to examine many of the manuscripts that his monastery had lost in the 19th century. Father Bigoul is reconciled to the losses, believing that the most important thing is for them to be well cared for. As he told The Art Newspaper: “When I saw the Deir al-Surian manuscripts at the British Library, I was so happy to touch books which had been written by our saintly fathers. I felt that I was meeting the people who wrote them, and it was like being reunited with my family.”
Megiddo Christian Church
Find could be one of the earliest churches in the region.
By Scott Wilson
THE WASHINGTON POST
Monday, November 7, 2005
MEGIDDO, Israel — Israeli state archaeologists have discovered mosaics, pottery and other remains of a Roman-era Christian building on the grounds of a high-security prison and say the site could be the oldest public place of Christian worship ever uncovered in Israel and perhaps one of the earliest such sites in the world.
The mosaic floor of the structure was discovered last week by an Israeli prisoner working on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
The agency has been excavating the Megiddo compound for more than a year to ensure that nothing of historic value is lost during an ongoing renovation.
At a news conference Sunday, Yardena Alexandre, a spokeswoman for the authority, called the discovery “one of the most important finds for the history of early Christianity.”
State archaeologists said that judging by the age of broken pottery discovered on the floor, the distinctive mosaic style, inscriptions citing Jesus and the apparent pre-Byzantine design of the building, the structure was most likely a public place of Christian worship that dates to the mid-third or early fourth century.
If that’s true, the find would join the early third-century Christian gathering place at Dura Europus in Syria as one of the oldest of its kind.
At that time, near the end of the Roman Empire, Christianity was an outlawed religion practiced in the Holy Land in the clandestine chapels of private homes.
Archaeologists involved in the excavation were reluctant to describe the remains as a church because the term was not used during that period. But they said its inscribed dedications to community figures, mosaics of fish and specific mention of “the God Jesus Christ” were proof that it was a public building used in Christian worship, the sort of structure archaeologists had read about in historical texts but had never uncovered.
“The most important thing about this is that it is the oldest Christian building we have found in archaeological form,” said Yotam Tepper, the archaeologist in charge of the excavation. “The problem is that we didn’t have churches at that time.”
Some archaeologists not involved in the project said the conclusions, though tantalizing, might be premature given that only 10 percent of the site has been excavated. Workers have yet to turn up a dated inscription or other evidence that firmly establishes the year the structure was built.
Zeev Weiss, an archaeology professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem who runs the largest excavation project in the Galilee region, said: “There is no question that what they have found is connected to Christianity. The only questions concern the design of the structure, the use of the structure and the date. To my mind, they don’t really know what they have.”
The Israeli army built the Megiddo prison in 1982, and the compound now holds 1,200 high-security Palestinian inmates. Earlier this year, the army turned over the collection of tent encampments to the national prison authority, which has been replacing the tents with hardened cellblocks.
Archaeologists were well aware of the rich history of Megiddo, also known as Armageddon, the place where the Bible says the ultimate battle of good and evil will be waged. Because of that history, archaeological excavation has preceded each phase of the prison’s expansion.
Israeli prisoners, the only inmates allowed to work inside the grounds, began about six weeks ago surveying the area where the mosaic floor was found. It was scheduled to be cleared for construction two days after the discovery was made.
Covered by scaffolding and a black tarp, the site is roughly the size of a tennis court, with fragile mosaics covering approximately half of it.
Tepper said the building does not follow the basilica plan, characterized by colonnades along a central nave leading to a rounded apse. He said the simple design suggests that it predates Christianity’s legalization.
The oldest definitively dated church in Israel is in Ramle, where, inscriptions say, the structure was built in 376.
Some archaeologists believe that the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, which tradition says marks the spot where Jesus was crucified and entombed, was built in 330 by Constantine’s mother. This site would predate those by decades.
The base of a column is visible along the low ruins of one wall. Archaeologists say it arched over the floor to support a stone roof, indicating that the building was probably among the grandest in the area.
The intricacy of the mosaic floors also suggests that it was more than a private home, archaeologists say, although some of the region’s wealthy residents might have had such design flourishes in their houses.
In the coming weeks, Israeli officials will determine what to do with the site. The options include digging up the area and moving it or separating it from the rest of the prison and making it the centerpiece of a small museum.
Date: 07 Sep 2007
Mt. Vesuvius in post 70 A.D? What would the Vesuvious eruption look like from Patmos Greece? Could the darkened skies, the earthquakes and the the rumblings refer to Vesuvious?
Date: 27 Oct 2007
On the Jerusalem escape tunnel, see historian Norman Golb’s article in the Forward, at http://www.forward.com/articles/11873/.