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­Prophecy and the Shroud of Turin

If as it is purported to be, the burial linen in which the body of Yeshua, Jesus, was wrapped, the Shroud of Turin is not only an enigma today but was so in the Gospels as well. The Gospels record that Miryam mother of Jacob (aka Mary, James), Joanna, Salome and Mary Magdalene among others, were upset when they discovered the body of Jesus missing from the tomb. Symeon (St. Peter) was confused as he gazed at the empty linens. The Apostle Yohanan (St. John) saw the linens and came away convinced that Jesus had risen from the dead. The enigma is why John reached that conclusion so quickly while the others did not, and the Gospels provide no explanation. Perhaps he saw that the stripes of linen that bound the shroud around the body were still wrapped yet without the body within it. But we don’t know. What we do know is of the thousands of Roman crucifixions in 1st Century Judea; all but one was soon forgotten.

Save for some cryptic comments in the Epistles of Saul (aka St. Paul), the burial shroud (Sindon) and the head covering (Sudarium) are obscured in the historical record for centuries thereafter, likely hidden for safe keeping during those early centuries of the persecuted church. But while the Shroud and Sudarium remained sequestered it appears they were not forgotten. According to Cardinal Amalarius (775-850 AD) a liturgical expert from Carolingian times, imitating those Tomb artifacts was central to early Christian worship.

The stone altar in a church sanctuary represented the limestone bench in Joseph of Arimathea’s Tomb. The white linen cloth that runs the length of the altar, called the ‘Corporal’ (literally that which covers a dead body) represented the Shroud according to Sylvester I, Bishop of Rome in 314 AD. Resting on the corporal are the plate of bread and cup of wine representing the body and blood of Jesus, covered by the ‘Aër’ or Veil just as the Sudarium covered the head of Christ as he was carried from the Cross to the tomb. Almost certainly the Sudarium matching the Shroud’s blood type and stains, still held today in a Spanish Cathedral, retrieved from the Monastery of St. Mark in the Holy Land right before a 7th Century Iranian incursion.

As we look forward in time from the Gospels, those sanctuary imitations of the Tomb, Shroud and Sudarium reminded congregants of the evidence for the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus. It is the altar with the covering linens, the bread and wine, along with a Cross, that connects modern liturgical service back 2000 years to Golgotha; the site of Christ’s crucifixion and tomb. This Golgotha (or Calvary) is claimed to be within the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, built in 326 AD atop what was first flattened by Roman Emperor Hadrian 200 years before. Christian graffiti dated before 300 AD marks this site as well.

In 1951 an artillery shell exploded inside a building by the Cenacle on Mt. Zion, and archeologist Jacob Pinkerfeld was brought in to excavate the remains. When he cleared away the shattered Arab floor he found a Crusader floor covering a Byzantine floor covering a Roman period floor of a late 1st Century synagogue. This synagogue appeared built from damaged blocks salvaged from Jerusalem’s rubble shortly after the destruction of 70 AD, but well before a 2nd Roman-Jewish war in 135 AD, after which Hadrian exiled all remaining Hebrews and turned it into a Roman colony – clearly a problem for new synagogue construction of any kind. Blocks in this synagogue were also marked with Christian graffiti.

The original Hebrew Christians likely built this synagogue as they returned to Jerusalem’s ruins from Pella shortly after the first Roman army moved on. That a Judeo-Christian synagogue was built so soon after the crucifixion lends credence to the power of the Resurrection. That the Torah Apse appears to face the Church of the Holy Sepulcher rather than the Temple Mount reinforces its claim as the true site of Calvary. Hadrian unintentionally confirmed Calvary’s significance by covering it up with a pagan temple, an otherwise ignominious location for his pagan gods, save for a desire to put his boot on the foundation site of the Christians, just as he did to Judaism with another pagan edifice on the Temple Mount.

As with other evidences (1), these early constructions show we need not look very far forward in time from the Crucifixion to see signs of Christ’s rapid and profound impact on the Roman world.

But if instead we look backward in time from the Crucifixion, Alton Gansky reveals a startling discovery in his book, 40 Days. When you read the separate Gospel Tomb accounts in their original order; Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, they form an imitation of Jerusalem’s Holy Temple.

The various angelic beings in the Gospel tomb accounts appear in the same order as the positions of angelic figures and Priests in Jerusalem’s Temple. And the Tomb’s bench where Jesus’ crucified body lay is in the same place as the Ark of the Covenant’s location within the Temple’s Holy of Holies.

As Gansky points out there is one subtle difference between Jesus’ tomb and Jerusalem’s magnificent Temple. In the Temple’s Holy of Holies, the angels and priests are all standing. But in the tomb accounts of the Gospels the angels are seated where the body of Jesus had been; as if to affirm the sacrificial work of atonement had now been completed for all time.

It is surprising to me that something of such theological significance implicit in the order of the Gospels does not appear to have been recognized before Gansky; at least it was not a factor in the New Testament Canon. Quite the opposite – the major debates, beginning with Marcion, was whether to pick one Gospel or consolidate all four into an approved version like Tatian’s Diatessaron, partly to expunge the apparent contradictions such as in the Tomb accounts. Ultimately they deferred to the earliest documents, warts and all, despite the numerous issues that would arise. It speaks to the integrity of these early church leaders and it speaks to the regard with which they held the pedigree of the four Gospel accounts.

But as Gansky discovered not all the apparent inconsistencies look like warts, they look like provenance. And the various tomb accounts become quite plausible when taken as descriptions of four different encounters, rather than four different stories about the same encounter. The irony of course is that the dissimilar tomb accounts have been heralded as evidence for the unreliability of the Gospels by most modern scholars, just as Marcion anticipated. Instead Gansky found in them an unforced, unheralded consistency, and a far deeper significance.

What is that significance?

The centerpiece of the Temple’s Holy of Holies was the Ark of the Covenant, wherein the symbolism multiples as a foreshadowing of who Jesus Christ literally came to be for much of the world over the next 2000 years, as it contained the Law, the Scepter and the Manna, with the Blood of the Sacrifice shed from above down on the so-called Mercy Seat, where in Exodus 25 Moses was told they were to meet with God.

The Ark of the Covenant is a metaphor for God, co-locating the symbols of Sacrifice (love), Law (truth and justice), Authority (integrity, knowledge) and Provision, as divine-like attributes.  As such the Ark of the Covenant is a symbol of divine leadership, a kind of social contract between God and humanity. Worldly leadership that is worthy of the name imitates all four; Provision, Authority, Law and Sacrifice.

False leaders always have mixed motives, hidden agendas that violate this social contract one way or another. The opposite of sacrifice is self-indulgence and profiteering, like politicians who somehow become wealthy during their time of ‘service’, or take advantage of subordinates in various ways.

Jesus Christ was not an impostor. He exhibited traits of a true leader. He railed against deceit and hypocrisy and was all about truth – getting at the truth of a problem is the preoccupation of any real leader, and Jesus had a dogged determination to expose the truth, making him despised by the false leaders he encountered. He honored those in whom there is no guile, setting a character standard for those who would be his followers. A willingness to deceive or dissemble appeared to be the one disqualifying trait.

He honored the law by distinguishing between divine law and the oppressive statutes that had accumulated over centuries. He clarified the heart behind true law and made it easy to understand. He lived sacrificially for others in all respects. No one was jealous of Jesus. No one harbored any resentment except those threatened by his presence. So it seems fitting that Jesus Christ was prefigured by the Ark of the Covenant; the blood sprinkled container that held the Manna as the Bread of life, the Rod of Aaron as a sign of trustworthiness and authority, and the simple laws of respect we call the Ten Commandments.

On Nisan 10, Palm Sunday, Jesus rode into Jerusalem among the thousands of lambs gathering in the homes of the observant as elaborate preparations for their Paschal Sacrifices began.

40 years later that same Jerusalem Temple, that Holy of Holies with its Old Testament sacrificial system that began 1500 years before, was laid waste in 70 AD by Rome’s legions, oblivious to Jesus or his crucifixion. It was an event that echoed Jonah’s 40 day warning to Nineveh; to reform their culture or it would be destroyed. Nineveh repented, Jerusalem did not.

But is it not peculiar that both his Crucifixion and the Temple’s destruction were connected in the prophecy of Daniel Chapter 9, when the angel Gabriel told Daniel that Jerusalem and its Temple would be destroyed following the appearance of the Messiah (2).

The 1st Century Hebrew historian Josephus understood the destruction of 70 AD as the one in Daniel’s Prophecy (2,3), and as a student of history and as a Pharisee, he looked around for who the Messiah might be, because it was just prior to this ruin that Messiah should have been revealed. He assumed it was his new best friend the Roman general Vespasian (4), who along with Josephus tried unsuccessfully to negotiate a truce with the rebellious Hebrews in order to spare the Temple and the City of needless destruction. As a Hebrew commander in Jerusalem who railed against further resistance and as a practical man, Josephus saw Vespasian, the next Emperor and a true savior of Rome, as the obvious Messiah of Daniel’s prophecy (4) – so too Tacitus (4), so too Suetonius (4). The scribe who authored the 11Q13 fragment in the Dead Sea Scrolls (4, 7) likewise expected a divine Messiah based on this same prophecy in Daniel 9, a prophecy that also explains the stubbornness of Jerusalem’s rebels, so convinced that a powerful messiah was to come in their time to lead them in worldwide glory (4) but never did. Rome’s legions showed up instead.

For the Romans, for the Hebrew zealots, for the historians of today, the 70 AD destruction of the Temple and the crucifixion of Christ some 40 years earlier were unrelated events. But as recorded in the Gospel of Mark, they were the same dam breaking as the Temple Curtain tore (5), a rugged curtain that had heretofore concealed the Holy of Holies from public view. By the 1st Century AD the Ark itself had long since been removed; nothing of note was left to see but Jesus’ crucified body propped up outside the Temple Gate. The Lamb of God, while so many lambs were slaughtered within.

With that picture in mind it’s understandable why Christians focus more on the Cross of Calvary than its Tomb; the cross is the place we offer forgiveness to those who have harmed or offended us in some way, and where we seek forgiveness from those we have abused, knowingly or unknowingly. It is only Jesus Christ; the one who was without sin, whose passion has the standing to forgive me for the abuse I’ve laid on others, without their permission – and to forgive those who have harmed me, without my consent. Jesus’ willing sacrifice in our stead makes all this impossible forgiveness possible, or should we say required.

For classical historian Tom Holland the crucifixion created a social liberation as well; God’s Viceroy suffering the punishment reserved for the most reviled in the Empire confers on us all a bodily sacrality, a personal dignity or sacredness. Holland notes that while all the Greek gods were rapists, for the Christians a slave was no longer the property of a master to do with as he pleased – same for a woman, a child, a newborn, a foreigner, a cripple. St. Paul codified as much in Galatians 3; there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

For philosopher Rene Girard, Christ’s crucifixion was “a founding murder in reverse”; a reversal of the legacy of Cain. An overturning of our deepest dispositions … with repentance overcoming pride, forgiveness overcoming revenge, dignity overcoming abuse, love and respect overcoming envy.

Of the three symbols of sacrifice, the Ark had disappeared and the Temple was destroyed.

But the Cross went around the world.

~

It is only in our time that attention returns to Calvary’s ancient Tomb, and it’s because of the Shroud of Turin, simply because the Shroud has become a modern scientific enigma. But it is an enigma coincident with other peculiar occurrences in our same generation, such as the rebirth of Israel and its Hebrew language after 2000 years of exile, along with the freak discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. After 2000 years of Arab shepherd boys throwing stones in dark caves to pass the time, one stone finally clinked against a clay jar, delivering up the first trove of scrolls in that same November 1947 when the UN authorized a state of Israel to form. Coincidentally, this is the same generation witnessing the collapse of Western Christianity after two back to back worldwide wars of self-annihilation.

 

Before discussing the Shroud these concurrent threads deserve some comment, especially as they conform to explicit prophecies, making them more expected than peculiar, more providential than coincidental.

 

2000 years ago Jesus said they (his people the Hebrews) shall be led away captive into all nations, and Jerusalem would be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles until the time of the Gentiles was fulfilled. One could speculate the time of the Gentiles is over when they begin to abandon the Gospel, and that would occur at the same time Judea returns to Jewish governance. Only in our time have both conditions been met after Jerusalem had been a stomping ground for various Gentile powers over the past 2000 years.

 

The Gentile nations literally blew themselves up from 1914 to 1945 while this new state of Israel was beginning to form, growing in stature ever since, in international affairs and in arts and sciences, despite its tiny size, its tiny worldwide population with a long history of oppression. As if this fulfillment wasn’t striking enough, Jesus had thrown in a kicker; that it would be this same generation when it would become possible for humanity to destroy itself, and if those days not cut short no flesh would survive. Such circumstances were impossible to conceive until the advent of thermo-nuclear war and biological weapons.

 

St. Paul filled in a little more. But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith once delivered … and holding to a form of religion but denying the power thereof and preaching a different Gospel. The Post-Christian west has all but abandoned the faith in our generation and of those who remain, many of us hold on to the form of religion with our crosses creeds and liturgies, while our beliefs are rooted in Naturalism. Anglican physicist Freeman Dyson spoke for many like-minded, “I am a practicing Christian but not a believing Christian”, while many clergy interpret Gospel miracles as parables, doubting the physical resurrection of Christ, if not the existence of a divine author altogether. Quite literally we maintain the tradition, or the form of religion, while denying the reality, or the power behind it. Whatever its merits, it is clearly a different Gospel from the one St. Paul was proclaiming.

Pope Benedict made a similar observation about our modern clergy; ‘when they lost their faith in the Gospel they still believed they had a Jesus who could be put to good use’. And that good use turned out to be shoehorning Jesus’ words into whatever the world deemed a more useful kind of salvation, while denying in subtle ways, or by their silence, the historicity of the Gospels and a literal resurrection. Clearly Benedict saw this as a kind of Orwellian doublespeak, or talking out of both sides of our mouths. It’s the primary reason mainline denominations hemorrhaged members over the past 100 years. When the Gospel is a stumbling block even for its clergy, surely the times of the Gentiles has come to some sort of completion.

 

What might be the role of the Shroud of Turin in such a milieu? Perhaps it is a fake reinforcing our skepticism – but a very peculiar fake to be so forensically authentic. More peculiar still that someone would create a fake … of an image that never existed? Perhaps it is real and the hour is late, a last call for the faith once given.

~

The Dead Sea Scrolls provide another dimension to this modern confluence of signs. Israeli antiquities scholar Rachael Elior describes how the Scrolls reveal an extinct Judaism in the community of the Zadokite Priests of Qumran, a sectarian group at odds with the mainstream Judaism of Jerusalem. Elior explains the Zadokites had a priestly lineage back to the Temple of King David’s Aaronic Priesthood, who self-exiled or were otherwise deposed from Jerusalem around the time of the Maccabean revolt and the rise of the Hasmonean Dynasty. As such their scrolls preserved for history a more archaic Judaism, one preoccupied with Messianic expectations, with clay jars preserving the oldest commentaries and copies of the Tanakh.

While these Zadokites were exiled in Qumran, Jerusalem was becoming increasingly Hellenized. The Temple Sacrificial System grew into a great enterprise spawning a vast array of businesses, importing a broad range of animals for sacrifice on an industrial scale, while providing transportation, security, bazaars, inns and currency exchanges. Thriving markets of all kinds served travelers and traders from abroad; and like all other places on earth and throughout history, creating a culture imbued with stark class divisions.

Historian Henry Abramson provides the background. Ever since the exposure to Greek culture from Alexander the Great, a rift had emerged between the rural populations of Israel and Judea, and the urban Jerusalem communities who favored Greek culture with its arts, sciences, commerce, and magnificent buildings. He explains how the rural Hebrew communities perceived these trends as destructive to traditional values, a sacrilegious and irreversible movement toward a more profane and pagan culture. By the time of Antiochus Epiphanes some Hellenized Hebrews even offered portions of Temple wealth as an enticement for his help in flipping or freeing Judea from an unpopular religious stranglehold. We see similar rifts today in conflicts between Orthodox Jews and the dominant secular culture of Israel, between blue state and red state stereotypes in America.

Abramson explains how the Maccabean revolt was originally this same internecine dispute, almost a civil war during which the much maligned Antiochus Epiphanes intervened to quell the unrest, in part to support the more Hellenized Hebrews, in part to capitalize on an offer too good to pass by.

The reign of Antiochus accelerated Hellenization beyond what was naturally occurring within Judea, demanding the use of the Babylonian/Greek lunar calendar as the standard for all lands under his dominion, and apparently to ensure his birthday was honored consistently every month throughout his territories.

For Antiochus the ancient solar calendar of Israel, the calendar of the Zadokite Priests which had provided a consistent observance of Jewish Feast Days was an unnecessary complication in the wheels of state, and had to go along with the Zadokites. According to Elior this lunar calendar came to symbolize the profound cultural changes and prosperity that came with Greek culture, including more democratic arrangements such as opening Torah study to all Jewish men, not just a selected few from the lineage of Zadokite priests.

In all this turmoil the Maccabees eventually made their peace with subsequent Hellenistic overlords. They became a new dynasty themselves, installing one of their own as High priest, permanently relegating the hereditary Zadokite line to the wilderness. The subplot in all of this was the issue of legitimacy for Jerusalem’s new religious class, and the books of Maccabees are said to be in part a justification for this new Hasmonean dynasty; while their priests and scribes replaced the Zadokites as predecessors to the Pharisees and Sadducees who appear so unpopular in New Testament accounts.

So by the 1st Century AD we see the legitimacy of the priestly class was challenged not only by Jesus; it was foundational for the Zadokites of the Dead Sea Scrolls as well, whose idioms are profuse in the New Testament. So much so that the conflicts Jesus had with the Pharisees and Sadducees and the severity of Paul’s persecution of the Christians from his earlier days as a mainstream Pharisee, can be partly understood as a continuation of the pre-existing rift between Jerusalem’s hierarchy and the Zadokite scribes of Qumran, some of whom may have resided in a Jerusalem neighborhood as well as other towns, possibly some even serving in the Temple (6). We know that John the Baptist preached at a major crossroads just a few miles from Qumran, and it is not hard to imagine early Christian evangelists and missionaries springing from that same community as the Romans clear-cut across Judea in the 1st Roman-Jewish War.

But there were also clear distinctions between the Gospels and the Zadokite community. John the Baptist baptized the unclean where the Qumran baptism was a restricted ritual for a select group of acolytes. Jesus’ famous quote that ‘you’ve heard it said, love your neighbor and hate your enemies, but I tell you to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you’ directly contradicts the Dead Sea Scrolls admonition to love your neighbor but hate your enemies. The Damascus Scroll commands that if your sheep falls into a pit on the Sabbath it should be left, while in Matthew 12:11 Jesus appears to have that Qumran community rule in mind when he said the opposite. One suspects only if Jesus had already proven himself as the Messiah would he have the eminence, or the gall, not only to correct the Pharisees and Sadducees, but the more devout Zadokites as well.

In the end the only surviving Zadokite traditions were the ones reflected in the New Testament; the fate of the Qumran community proper is clear from the many Roman arrowheads found within its walls. Thus by 70 AD only two threads of Judaism prevailed; the rabbinic tradition with its leadership rooted in Jerusalem’s Sanhedrin, and the Hebrew disciples of Jesus. Some of his followers left Palestine as witnesses among the fertile ground of the Diaspora, where those who lived abroad could corroborate such testimonies with independent accounts from their own Passover pilgrimages. If this Gospel or ‘Good News’ from Judaea was really true, it’s conveyance to the Gentile world was already in place.

In this same period the rabbis of the Sanhedrin began, in Elior’s words, “a reinvention of Judaism – closing an old world based on prophecy and angelic revelation, and opening the sacred canon to human reinterpretation.”  Prophecy and Revelation were life blood for the Zadokites and the Hebrew Christians, while the rabbis gave more authority to the discourse of sages, documenting their commentaries as the Mishnah, and standardizing various Tanakh(s) into what eventually became the Masoretic text. Elior demonstrates how the Judaism of today evolved from this branch that had long since erased any trace of the Zadokites, prompting Israeli antiquities scholar Joseph Dan to quip, rather dryly … “We are the sect”.

Elior’s recovery of this deep division explains why messianic texts popular in the Dead Sea Scrolls, such as the prophetic Books of Jubilees and Enoch, were excluded from the Masoretic canon, and why constraints were placed on messianic prophecies in the Book of Daniel (2,3,4,7). It explains why a Pharisee and historian like Josephus included Daniel among the Prophets, while the later Masoretic canon moved the Book of Daniel to the lesser status of Writings. Her research clarified why the Solar Calendar of the Zadokites, of King David’s Temple, of ancient prophecy, became forbidden in the Talmud in favor of the more Hellenized Lunar Calendar (8) of Jerusalem’s elite.

More 2nd Century AD revisions may be explained by this rift as well. The popular Septuagint (9) was replaced with three newer Greek translations of the Tanakh. The rabbinic year was shifted 164 years (10), moving Daniel’s messianic fulfillment out of the 1st Century AD. Jesus’ name became forbidden among the observant around the same time Jewish Christians were self-exiled in some synagogues in 90 AD by their refusal to say the new Birkat HaMinim. The Two Powers teaching (11) was proclaimed heretical and no longer consistent with Monotheism. For Judaism the ‘Oneness’ of God was becoming more narrowly understood, just as the uniqueness of Messiah became increasingly diluted and more broadly applied.

In his paper ‘Easter and Passover as Early Christian Jewish Dialogue’, 1995, Hebrew University’s Professor Israel J. Yuval elaborates on these rabbinic frustrations with the followers of Jesus, and how, as leading rabbis witnessed the burgeoning belief in Jesus within Jewish populations, the Passover Seder Haggadah was rewritten by Rabban Gamaliel II such that “the reading of the Haggadah becomes a pledge of allegiance … implicitly rejecting Christianity’s historical, eschatological, and theological interpretations”, with wording that was exclusively on the Exodus, thereby breaking any linkage between the Passover paschal sacrifice and the crucifixion of Jesus. For Yuval the Passover of the Christians was equally unambiguous; the Eucharist is all about the Paschal sacrifice, the Exodus is nowhere to be found.

For Israeli historian Adiel Schremer this divide in Judaism was shaped more by the cultural devastation during the wars with Rome, engendering a feeling of abandonment by God, creating a vacuum for a more secularized Judaism to emerge. For Schremer “Rather (than the challenge from Christian Judaism) it was understood as an existential response of despair, to what appeared to be God’s refraining from revealing His power… Necessarily, then, doubting God’s power and existence entailed the affirmation of the divinity of the Emperor. It is not a mere coincidence, therefore, that the issue of the exaltation of the Roman Emperors occupies an important role in early rabbinic texts.”

Putting Elior’s, Schremer’s and Yuval’s findings together we see that after the Temple Sacrificial System was destroyed in 70 AD, the Passover Seders inevitably downplayed the sacrificial rite, while the failure of Bar Kokhba’s revolt in 135 AD crushed any lingering prophetic or Messianic relief. Emphasis shifted from divine redemption to a more worldly liberation from oppression, of which Egypt was the archetype and the Exodus was the salvation. Messianic hopes supposedly fulfilled by a crucified Messiah were too hurtful to contemplate; respite was found in the sages, documented in the Talmud’s Mishnah and given the authoritative status as the Oral Torah. Professor Yuval goes further, if not too far; “in its deepest meaning, the Oral Torah should be seen as the Jewish response to the Christian New Testament”.

Note that the Oral Torah included a tradition of rules derived from the Torah, called the Halakah. To follow Torah became synonymous with following the Halakah, so that compliance with Halakah kept one a safe distance from violating the Torah itself, thru an elaborate array of salvific formulations, fashioning a kind of protective hedge for the observant Hebrew to follow, as defined by their religious leaders.

The problem that arises in all such cases is who it is that’s shaping the hedge, and to what extent it may be biased. That was an accusation so angrily made by Jesus, and echoed by a Talmudic critic in France many centuries later in 1240 AD, who was himself censured from synagogues for promoting critical opinions of the Oral Torah. For Catholic Europe this was an internal rabbinic dispute easy to ignore, until he appealed directly to the Pope. And after some deliberations at the Ecclesiastical level, all copies of the Talmud across the entire country of France were loaded up in wagons and parked outside the Cathedral of Notre Dame.

By 1242 AD, after two years of debate and legal wrangling, after all the other countries in Europe refused to participate in such a roundup, after the last French Catholic cleric most opposed to the purge had passed away, all these meticulously hand crafted Talmuds lit up the outer walls of Notre Dame in the night sky; a bonfire fraught with meaning for all of Paris to see.

Of course this lone iconoclast was dwarfed by the many Christian reformers protesting similar practices by the Catholic hierarchy 300 years later, after the Church derived its own hedge for the benefit of its laity, such as the purchase of Indulgences as a kind of salvation insurance. Or even today as protestant clergy in their turn, produce sermons with little connection to the scriptural readings, replacing it with their own salvific formulations, or even what salvation means. Such bait and switch is finessed in a more paternalistic way than their Catholic and Rabbinic predecessors ever needed in an age when there were no other options. But while these new obligations may be more artfully conveyed, it’s safe to say the more elocuted the Gospel reading for the day, the less connection one should expect in the sermon that follows.

Using these Rabbinic, Catholic and Protestant contrivances as context, when Jesus said ‘as it was written’ he was understood as referring to the Tanakh, the Scriptures. And when he would preface his remarks with ‘you have heard it said, but I say’ he was challenging the Oral Torah, the Halakah, or similar derivative obligations and traditions. The Pharisees and Sadducees returned in kind as he was threatening their authority, framing their ‘rules’ as insults and burdens imposed on their laity. He was challenging the provision they offered, the gaping divide between their contrivances and the Ark of the Covenant.

The debate on the Sabbath is an example. Jesus said the Sabbath (a day of rest from labor) was made for people, not people made for the Sabbath. When Jesus’ disciples were hungry they plucked some corn on the Sabbath; a capital offense not because they plucked a few ears of corn, but did so on the Sabbath. John Lightfoot, a 17th Century British cleric whose personal library was donated and lost in an 18th Century Harvard fire, made numerous comparisons between the Gospel of Matthew and Halakah. He explains how difficult following the Oral Torah could get; “The derivative works (Halakah), or the particulars of those generals (in the Torah), are such as are of the same rank and likeness with them (as if equivalent). For example, digging is of the same kind with ploughing; chopping of herbs is of the same rank with grinding; and plucking the ears of corn is of the same nature with reaping.” In other words preparing a meal in your home was considered forbidden work akin to a day’s labor working in a mill or plowing an entire field.

Much more contentious were Jesus’ comments on marriage and divorce. The Pharisees ask Jesus legalistic questions, while Jesus used their questions to change the subject to the mistreatment of the women they no longer wanted as wives. Lightfoot discusses this and quotes the Rabbis of Jesus’ day.

Our Saviour does not abrogate (or repeal) Moses’ permission of divorces, but tolerates it, yet keeping it within the Mosaic bounds, that is, in the case of adultery, condemning that liberty in the Jewish canons (Oral Torah), which allowed it for any cause (By limiting it to Adultery Jesus spoke against the abuse of divorce for frivolous reasons). II. Divorce was not commanded in the case of adultery, but permitted. Israelites were compelled, sometimes even by whipping, to put away their wives, as appears in Maimonides (Gerushin). But our Saviour, even in the case of adultery, does not impose a compulsion to divorce, but indulgeth a license to do it.”  

Lightfoot continues; “The school of Hillel saith, If the wife cook her husband’s food illy, by over-salting or over-roasting it, she is to be put away.” IV. Yea, “If, by any stroke from the hand of God, she become dumb or sottish,” &c. V. But not to relate all the things for which they pronounce a wife to be divorced (among which they produce some things that modesty allows not to be repeated), let it be enough to mention that of R. Akibah instead of all: “R. Akibah said, If any man sees a woman handsomer than his own wife, he may put her away; because it is said, ‘If she find not favour in his eyes.”

According to historian Phillip Sigal, other divisions within the Pharisaic communities were at odds with these practices as well. Some of the most influential Pharisees even had a favorable view of Jesus, such as those mentioned in the Gospels; Jairus, Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, or Gamaliel I ‘the Elder’ in Acts, and many of Jerusalem’s authorities referred to in John 12:42.

Israeli researcher Joseph Shulam surmised the same by correlating accounts in the Babylonian Talmud, New Testament, Josephus, and other historical texts. He concluded the same Menahem of the Sanhedrin who was equal to Hillel, who was disparaged in the Talmud for taking 160 rabbinical disciples away to a type of cult (most likely followers of Jesus), was the same Menahem mentioned in Acts as a leader of the Antioch Church, and the same Menahem mentioned in Josephus and Acts as a childhood friend of Herod.

For Sigal, two Judaisms formed in the first century; “Rabbinic Judaism and Christian Judaism”, and their co-habitation became intolerable, not because of Halakah differences, many Pharisees were “brothers under the skin to Jesus”. Rather the contentious separation was due to “national and political complications…” the lack of support from Christian Judaism for Israel in its revolts against Rome. In other words this separation was more the bitter consequence of back to back Roman wars and the perceived failure of prophecy, leaving Judaism profoundly fractured at the highest levels with frictions going back 150 years. 1st Century Christianity was Judaism to the core, albeit not that of Jerusalem’s elite, itself a power structure ripe for change according to Josephus – or in the words of St. Paul; in the fullness of time.

At the risk of oversimplification, recent Israeli scholarship increasingly calls into question the shelf life of European or Western form criticism, built as it is around the premise that Christians monkeyed with the Old Testament under the influence of gentile or pagan thought. The idioms in Paul and in the Gospel of John were clearly Greek and pagan ideas beyond the ken of Galilean fisherman, until they matched word for word with the idioms of the Dead Sea Scrolls of Zadokite scribes. The Gospel frictions with Jerusalem’s religious leaders were clearly gentile anti-Semitism back dated to the Gospels, until Israeli scholars revealed the deep antagonisms between the Zadokites and Jerusalem’s ruling class. And the Hebrew Christian community clearly forced disingenuous interpretations on the Tanakh, until the Dead Sea Scrolls, predating the Masoretic sources by centuries, suggest it was perhaps the other way around (7- 11).

~

The most obvious marker for the fullness of time in our generation is the resurgence of Israel together with the collapse of institutional Christianity. And through this fulfillment we can see our generation as a replay of the 1st Century AD, but with Gentiles and Hebrews in a reversal of roles.

How is this so?

It is puzzling how Jesus came to be so widely revered throughout the world yet rejected by most of his tribe when traditionally the holy figure is barely recognized beyond their culture – more puzzling still that St. Paul, likewise Jewish, prophesied this outcome so early, even clarifying why it was necessary. In Romans 11:25, he writes; I want you to know my brethren, this mystery, lest you would be wise in your own opinion, that blindness of heart has for a little time come to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles will come in.

In the 4th Century AD, St. Jerome clarified that this reversal would occur in some future time after a gentile falling away of belief in Christ; “Their sins (the Hebrew’s rejection of their Messiah) occasioned (was necessary for) the salvation of the Gentiles – and again the incredulity of the Gentiles (the great falling away of Christianity such as occurring in our time) will occasion the conversion of Israel (aka modern Messianic Judaism). You will find both in the Apostle (the Epistles of Paul).”

This falling away is obvious today as magnificent Christian cathedrals collapse into nightclubs, office space, boutiques and mosques while Messianic Jewish communities spring up throughout the post-Christian west, and gentile evangelistic broadcasts blanket the Middle East. It is a reversal of the 1st Century, when it was Temple Judaism that collapsed as enclaves of Hebrew disciples of Jesus spread out across the Roman roads and sea lanes of the Diaspora, evangelizing gentile communities.

Rampant corruption in the modern church from clergy sexual abuse to mercenary televangelists mimics Josephus’ criticisms of Jerusalem’s corrupt hierarchy. And the secularization of mainline Christianity today recalls the reinvention of Judaism as a humanization and politicization of Judaism described by Professors Elior, Schremer and Yuval after the Jerusalem apocalypse of 70 and 135 AD.

Ex-Anglican priest Rev. Philip de-Grey Warters describes how this modern fracturing of Christianity began;“let’s wind the clock back to the 19th Century, and out of the German Universities came a skeptical criticism that started taking the Bible apart … and that has infected the Church of England and through the theological colleges and thru the universities right thru the 20th Century … These guys were saying (about the Gospels) what we’ve got are some human reflections on some events that may or may not have happened… and we need to discover the essence of what those reflections are and reinvent them so they are relevant to the society we find around us today.  So on the one hand we’ve got revelation, and that’s one Gospel, and on the other re-invention, and that is another, different, and totally incompatible gospel… In a church where orthodoxy has become optional, it is not long before orthodoxy will be outlawed.”

It is uncanny how this Christian schism between revelation and re-invention in the 21st Century exactly mirrors Elior’s account of rabbinic Judaism’s 1st Century division. The liberation theologies, social Gospels and countless sermons of today are Christian versions of the same; a re-invented or secularized Christianity with barely a hat tip to Christ; a substitute for, rather than a compliment to original Christian belief. It’s no surprise that our modern clergy overwhelmingly support political parties favoring a strong centralized state; it echoes Schremer’s finding of early rabbinic texts idolizing the Roman emperors who held all the cards that mattered. History repeats; some clergy even credit it to their success if they converted you to their political party; and failure if you converted to belief in the divinity of Christ. We have it all figured out.

Or do we? 70 years after the birth of Christ Jerusalem’s magnificent Temple was consumed in a Roman conflagration. 70 years after the rebirth of Israel, Christianity’s great cathedral was gutted in a raging fire for all to see, 777 years after all those painstakingly hand crafted Talmuds burned outside its gothic walls.

Lest we remain aloof to such mysticism, no less a secular organization than Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs introduces the State of Israel as literal fulfillments of a variety of Old Testament prophecies about the end of the Diaspora and the Aliyah from the four corners of the earth, the reunion of the ancient split of Israel back into one nation (Isaiah 11 11-16, Ezekiel 36, 37 11-22), and the subsequent blossoming of Judean deserts. This is not to discount the hardships of Palestinians displaced into refugee camps during the Israeli-Arab conflicts, but as history the contrast is dramatically apparent when Israel today is compared to Samuel Clemens’s account in 1869, and the many early photographs of Palestine. Other Old Testament prophecies point to Israel as an intractable international issue in the last days, which it has clearly become.

Today’s Orthodox rabbis (12) recall more prophecies about the return of Jewish control of Jerusalem, such as Daniel 8; interpreting a period of 2300 Passovers from when Alexander the Great defeated the Persians in 333/4 BC to the recovery of Jerusalem in 1967 AD. In 1825 Biblical Scholar Adam Clarke predicted gentile control of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount would end in 1966, based on that same prophecy. In his Commentary on the Holy Bible, Daniel 8, Clarke explains;

V13.“One saint speaking, and another saint said” – One angel asked another how long the sanctuary was to be trodden down? V14. “Unto two thousand and three hundred days” – Though literally it be two thousand three hundred evenings and mornings. Yet I think the prophetic day should be understood here, as in other parts of this prophet (Daniel), and must signify so many years. If we date these years from the vision of the he- goat, (Alexander‘s invading Asia) this was A.M. 3670, B.C. 334; and two thousand three hundred years from that time will reach to A.D. 1966, or one hundred and forty-one years from the present A.D.

That world events unfold in such unpredictable and indifferent ways even since Adam Clarke yet ended up fulfilling this prophecy is really quite remarkable. Since the 1967 recapture of Jerusalem the Temple Mount’s Western Wall has become an international pilgrimage site of prayer and consecration at a level not seen since the 1st Century AD. Yet another challenge for western Biblical Criticism, which holds that Biblical prophecy only appears fulfilled because it was either written after the fact, or its interpretation warped to match a known outcome. Clarke’s interpretation was not based on an existing outcome but on a highly unlikely one, and his prediction was made 141 years before the fact, based on this same prophecy.

Rabbi Isser Weisberg believes the Dome of the Rock was the abomination mentioned in Daniel 12:11 ‘set up’ in 692 AD as a marker to Daniel’s end of days. The 1335 day (year) prophecy of Dan. 12:12 bring us to 2027, when the rabbi suggests the Messiah may be revealed. Daniel 12:11 predicted when this marker would be ‘set up’; 1290 day (years) after the daily sacrifices are taken away; the same decade when Nebuchadnezzar II conquered Jerusalem, destroyed the Temple, and exiled many Hebrews to Babylon.

“Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end …when knowledge shall be increased” so says Daniel 12:9. Newton’s interpretation is a strikingly accurate prediction of today’s resurgence of literal Christianity in conflict with Biblical liberalism; “About the time of the end… a body of men …will turn their attention to prophecies, and insist upon their literal interpretation ( like fundamentalists) in the midst of much clamor and opposition (like academia and liberal theologians) … For as the few and obscure Prophecies concerning Christ’s first coming were for setting up the Christian religion, many and clear prophecies concerning the things to be done at Christ’s second coming are not only for predicting, but also for effecting a recovery and re-establishment of the long lost truth.”

This division within Christianity is most clearly seen in the opposing views on the dating and meaning of Daniel 9, a conflict that Newton also anticipated in his\ warning; “He who denies Daniel’s prophecies undermines Christianity, which is founded on Daniel’s prophecies concerning Christ.”

Coincidentally rabbi Weisberg’s 2027AD is 2000 years from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, and using the day is as a thousand years, it could signify the dawn of the 3rd Day, which could be construed as the imminence of the 2nd Coming. Today’s rabbis say they’ve been expecting Messiah to come for 2000 years; in other words they first expected Messiah when Jesus actually came (2, 3, 4, and 13).

That the Temple’s Day of Atonement sacrifices ceased shortly after Jesus Christ was crucified, that human and animal sacrifices ended throughout the world wherever Christianity took hold, could signify Christ’s first coming as Messiah ben Joseph; changing the heart of humanity. Or in the words of Alfred Edersheim, a 19th Century Biblical scholar,’ this man from Nazareth (Yeshua, Jesus) has, by universal consent, been the mightiest factor in our world’s history: alike politically, socially, intellectually and morally. If he be not the Messiah, He has at least thus far done the Messiah’s work’. That’s the Good News.

Christian eschatology believes his second coming will be as Messiah ben David, changing the government of humanity. For Edersheim; ‘If he be not the Messiah, there has at least been none other, before or after him. If he be not the Messiah, the world has not, and never can have, a Messiah. That’s the Bad News, haven’t we all learned to get along so well together by ourselves.

Increasingly Orthodox Rabbis see signs of reconciliation among Abraham’s descendents as a portent of the coming of a messiah and the End of Days. The Arabs (Ishmael) are beginning to establish relations with Israel, fulfilling the dream of Abraham. The two sons of Isaac, Jacob (the Jewish line) and Esau (the pagan line to Christianity), are also drawing together as Esau (the Christian West), has changed from persecution of the younger Jacob (Israel) throughout the 2000 year Diaspora, to a defender of Jacob (14), for the time being at least.

The Ezekiel 4 prophecy is often portrayed as predicting a loss of 430 years of autonomy for the Hebrews, or 360 years after the 70 years of time already served in Babylonian captivity. But when multiplied by 7 per Leviticus 26 for continued transgressions, it yields a remaining 2520 year (15) consequence before the divided ancient northern and southern Israel could return and reunite into the State of Israel today. This return of Jerusalem to the Hebrews is seen as fulfilling a pre-condition for the prophecy of Matthew 23:39.

All this dovetails with the overarching prophecy of the Oral Torah; that as there were 6 days of creation and as a day is like a thousand years, there will be 6000 years of human endeavor (120 Jubilees); 2000 years of Desolation, 2000 years of Torah or Law, and a 2000 year Messianic age followed by a millennial ‘day of rest’. The Jewish calendar date for 2021 is 5781, and if corrected for a missing 164 years (10), the 6000th year is sometime in the 21st Century.

~

So in our generation we have seen the concurrent fulfillment of highly improbable prophesied events from both the Old and the New Testaments, along with the discovery of a more ancient Jewish tradition aligning the New Testament as the natural outcome of the Old Testament (16). And we saw how the faith in traditionally Christian countries continues to dissipate as Messianic Jewish congregations continue to grow.

We also saw how this is a mirror image of the 1st Century AD, and more examples are easy to find.  Just as the Zadokites and the Essenes were purification communities anticipating the Messiah in the 1st Century AD, so too many in our generation formed non-denominational and fundamentalist churches awash in repentance, conversion, evangelism – and like the Zadokites and early Christians, ridiculed by the dominant culture. Orthodox Rabbis anticipate an imminent messiah as well, barely distinguishable from their Christian counterparts save for who he will be, while science continues to warn of an apocalyptic future for a host of reasons, broadcasting a literal End of Days depicted in movies as close upon us, promoted by politicians shaping public policy with an ever increasing urgency. Like the 1st century AD, it’s in the air.

And just as the 1st Century Jewish missionaries mixed with their Gentile converts, today’s fundamentalist Christians share services with Messianic Jews. While mainline Christians share their elaborate sanctuaries with anyone but them, much like elite Sadducees of the 1st Century preferred the company of pagan Greeks and Romans. A peculiar state of affairs because it is the Messianic Jews and fundamentalist Christians who actually believe the creeds mainline churches are bold to say but not quite bold enough to believe. Yet bold enough to call ourselves followers of Jesus, because that can mean whatever we want it to mean.

With such a broad definition of Christianity, the Shroud of Turin drops like a brick in the middle of this theological swamp as if to say; here is the evidence you say you need, why do you still not believe in me? As if to ask us one last time, “But who do you say that I am?”

Why did Jesus, or if you prefer, the Gospel writers, make that such an important question? Recall Peter’s answer that you are the Messiah, the Son of the living God. Jesus responds that only God could have revealed that to him, and goes on to say that this revelation is the sole foundation on which he will build his church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. The implication seems to be churches that depart from that sole foundation will not fare as well, and in fact, they haven’t.

John 6 asks what we must do to be doing the work of God. Jesus answers that you believe in whom he has sent. The work Christians are called to perform is simply belief in Jesus. It is startling how the author of John puts all the chips in one ethereal basket. Is that all he wants from us?  St. Paul says much the same; to confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead. That’s it? It requires no particular act and no apparent offense, as innocuous as saying I admire my father-in-law and take his advice religiously. This would be too edgy for Milton, who said; “They also serve who only stand and wait.” Such a regimen serves no objective, it makes no sense unless they knew Jesus is the Lord and their message was for our eternal benefit. Yet it also changed this world, presumably because the believers receive the presence of the Holy Spirit, who changes the hearts that change the world.

There are more peculiar phrases in the Gospels. When the disciples asked, ‘Lord when did we see you in need?  Jesus answered ‘Whatever you do for the least of these you do for me’.  Who talks like that? Politicians say the opposite; by helping me you will be helping others. Only parents talk like that and only about their children. Only if Jesus really is the Lord of Life, could he have the same affection for anyone as we have for our own children.

Similarly Jesus claims to have the authority to forgive. If someone harms you, no one has a right to forgive the offender on your behalf; it would be deeply insulting if anyone tried or presumed to – unless the forgiver was the Lord who sacrificed himself on our behalf. This too falls apart if Jesus isn’t divine, isn’t without sin and didn’t personally pay the price for anyone’s sins. It clarifies one of his more obscure answers to a paradoxical question; with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.

Jesus says I never knew you even to followers who do many good works in his name. He doesn’t recognize them because they do not recognize him for who he really is, and as such they don’t teach others who he really is, in other words they spread their gospel, but not his Gospel. We may be performing works of compassion, and even throwing in a few rituals in front of his cross for good measure. But we are ignoring the one work of sublime compassion that, according to the Gospels, we were told to do.

So why would that be so important? … Is it for Jesus’ glorification or for our benefit?

Only if Jesus is literally divine can I trust him with my life. It’s impossible to trust him if he was just a deceased prophet or a great teacher, an idea, a consciousness, or a big step in human progress that we are called to improve upon. And only if I see him as divine can I trust his judgments to be always right. And only if I trust him completely can I be trusted to do his will in this life and in a life to come. If the coming kingdom is one of absolute freedom, it can only be based on absolute trust.

Just as in human relations there is complete trust or no trust at all, so too with Jesus, if we were in fact created in the image of God. We are called first to recognize him for whom he is, to believe in our heart that he is Lord, not that he might be Lord. That makes a difference in how we see ourselves and others.

On the other hand if we don’t believe Jesus is divine or we don’t believe there is any life after death, only then can we say that what one believes about Jesus is not so important. Because then it wouldn’t be. The upside of that religion is that we tend to appropriate Jesus’ righteousness to ourselves, which inevitably distorts our relationships with others and often leads to some form of condescension or abuse. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us 1st John, 1:8.

This also helps us understand why we are called to ‘seek him’ rather than Jesus making his presence more easily known. Do we seek information that affirms his divinity or prefer that which diminishes it? Such a quest may never reveal a conclusive answer about who Jesus is, but it does reveal our disposition of toward Jesus, or in the words of the New Testament, our disposition toward ‘truth’.

This clarifies other passages in the New Testament that seem so uncompromising; that only through Jesus can you receive the salvation of the life to come, because that is the one necessary relationship on which all trust is based within his kingdom. It follows that the primary mission of his church spreading his Gospel; a daunting task but with a promise of his assistance, but only if we believe in his authority. God is made familiar to us through Jesus, if we don’t like what we see we won’t much care for his kingdom to come.

Increasingly orthodox rabbis warn their congregants to do Teshuva and Kaphar – to repent and atone of all their misdeeds as much as they can before Messiah comes, because after that it is implicitly a relationship based on submission rather than trust, and submission is not an attribute of the kingdom to come.  For Christians that is analogous to acknowledging Jesus for who he is before he comes, as the one who did our kaphar for us, which as we saw he could only do if he was divine.

This brings us back to the Shroud of Turin; an image of what that Kaphar looked like, a physical witness of Jesus’ sacrifice provided for us in this time of widespread apostasy and indifference to his Crucifixion. I suppose the Shroud may not be real, in a way I don’t mind if it’s not, I don’t particularly like it.

But I think it is real, that it is historical evidence of what Jesus suffered for us, and evidence of who he really is. It can be here 1000 years from now as physical evidence in case it is ever wondered whether the Lord had ever really suffered in our history and on our behalf, whether he truly is the sacrificial king.

~

As a matter of history the most popular claim today is that the Shroud of Turin appeared suddenly in the 14th Century, in Lirey France. And as a matter of science that it was Radio Carbon dated to the 14th Century as well. In their 1989 Report, the lead physicists; Tite, Hall and Hedges went so far as to say “These results therefore provide conclusive evidence that the linen of the Shroud of Turin is mediaeval”.

A surprisingly unequivocal statement considering that even at the time of the report there was a variety of evidence to the contrary. Whether the Shroud is real is not the point, continued research since those 1989 press conferences reveal that neither of their claims were true; neither the history nor the science.

British art historian Thomas De Wessselow, no fan of the resurrection of Christ, was unambiguous; “The carbon dating of the Shroud will probably go down in history as one of the greatest fiascos in the history of science.”

Let’s look at the history first.

About the year 1200 Pope Innocent III commissioned the 4th Crusade to take back the Holy Lands from the Arabs. How it came to pass that the Crusaders got side tracked into pillaging their sister Christian city of Constantinople is a much longer story. But they did, and needless to say the Pope was pissed off beyond what words can describe, and he ex-communicated the entire French and Italian armies of the 4th Crusade.

Correspondence related to that military campaign provides more than enough evidence that the Shroud was in Constantinople prior to this campaign and prior its appearance in France. Numerous accounts, such as Theodore Komnenos Doukas, Gervase of Tilbury and Robert de Clari, among others, record that a Shroud with a full body image was a well known guarded relic in Constantinople;

“There was … [a church] called My lady Saint Mary of Blachernae where was kept the syndoine in which Our Lord had been wrapped, which stood up straight every Friday so that the features of Our Lord could be plainly seen there. And no-one, either Greek or French, ever knew what became of this syndoine after the city was taken …”                    The Conquest of Constantinople, Robert De Clari, 4th Crusade, 1204 AD.

Nicolas Mesarites, Custodian of the Palaces Relics in Constantinople, witnessed that the ‘Burial Cloth Relics were still in the Constantinople in 1207’“In this chapel Christ rises again, and the sindon with the burial linens is the clear proof the burial shrouds [sindones] of Christ … are of linen … still smelling of myrrh and defying decay since they wrapped the outlineless [aperilepton], naked … body after the Passion”

 

In the 7th century a liturgical statement was added to an Iberian Rite after St. Leander of Seville returned from a visit to Constantinople in the year 599, a clear reference to the image on the Shroud;“Peter ran with John to the tomb and saw the recent imprints of the dead and risen man on the linens”

Excerpt from a Mozarabic Liturgical Rite, 6th Century Spain

The Ampleforth Journal, page 329, also Guscin, The Oviedo Cloth, (Cambridge 1998)

 

 

The Hungarian Pray Manuscript, dated no later than 1192-1195, contains a colored diagram of the Shroud and of the crucified body of Christ, both with obscure details that could only have come from the Shroud, such as the hands with no visible thumbs, and the usual 4 holes in an L pattern, damage marks in the linen.

 

 

And from one of the leading Byzantine rulers of that period, born about 20 years before the 4th Crusade;

 

The Venetians (Crusaders) partitioned the treasure of gold, silver and ivory, while the French (Crusaders) did the same with the relics of saints and the most sacred of all, the linen in which our Lord Jesus Christ was wrapped after His death and before the resurrection                                                           Theodore Ducas Anglelos; letter to Pope Innocent III Re; 1204 sack of Constantinople by the Crusaders

 

Paul Vignon studied icons and coins back to the 5th century, documenting common features that appear modeled after the shroud face. In addition to major motifs such as a beard, long hair and facial geometry, Vignon found fifteen more subtle Shroud markings captured in Byzantine icons and mosaics.

 

Traces of metals used in 7th century Byzantine coins were found on the Shroud where pilgrims had rubbed their coins, coins with the image of a Shroud like face…

 

~

So how did all of this and much more enter the dust bin of history with the advent of Tite, Hall and Hedges and their Radio Carbon Dating Report in 1989?

Not long after the smoke and ashes had settled from the debacle of the 4th Crusade, a nobleman named Baldwin, also known as Baldwin ‘The Broke’, became Emperor of Constantinople, who just happened to be a cousin to Louis IX of France (later St. Louis) who just happened to be in the process of building a new cathedral in Paris, La Saint-Chapelle, specifically as a future home in France for the safe keeping of relics increasingly threatened by Islamic incursions in the East, such as the when the city of Edessa fell in 1144, just southeast of Constantinople.

Baldwin was habitually in debt, even allowing his son to be used as collateral, probably something more like protective custody inside his lender’s residence in Venice.  And while his cousin the King of France was wealthy, any outright exchange of relics for money was the crime of Simony, named after the character in the Book of Acts who tried to buy spiritual gifts from the Disciples.

So here was the situation. The Shroud was in the possession of the King Louis’ cousin Baldwin, or possibly with French knights of the 4th Crusade, or possibly through some broker in Venice, the city that launched the 4th Crusade by building a fleet of ships for which they were never fully compensated.

Overt purchase of the Shroud was a violation of Canon Law, but more problematic were the Patriarchs of the Eastern Church, imploring the Pope to return the relics confiscated by his Crusaders, especially the Shroud. Clearly after the brutal sack of their capitol by his crusaders the Pope owed them more than an apology.

Yet somehow over the next hundred years none of the key players west of Constantinople can figure out whatever happened to the Shroud … until it finally appeared, not in Paris’ grand new Saint-Chapelle Cathedral, but in a non-descript rural chapel on the edge of the Ardennes amidst all the fanfare the tiny village of Lirey could muster… while at the same time a high ranking prelate in the Western Church insinuates it is just a work of art…  and quick to add that he had even met the artist … but just couldn’t remember his name …

Does anyone not see what’s going on here? Does anyone really expect to find a papal bull broadcasting its authenticity, shipping records in French on the route it took from Constantinople to Lirey, or a Bill of Sale?

But what you should expect to find is what you will find; that the Shroud was safely ensconced in France while the Saracen invaders overran Constantinople in 1453, destroying or converting the most prominent features of the city’s Christian heritage into Muslim edifices.

And what you should expect to find is what you will find; that in 1506 Pope Julius II declared the Shroud worthy of veneration as having touched the actual body and blood of Christ; a declaration that had been held in abeyance until there was no possible venue in which it would be returned to Constanti … Istanbul.

It seems to me a fascinating story of intrigue as the most important relic of the faith that once drove Western Civilization is caught up in a complex web of kingdoms and the violence of the times, one would think historians would be scouring medieval archives for every detail – yet they are strangely indifferent.

One suspects it is our collective preference to downplay Christianity’s contributions to Western Civilization in deference to Greek philosophers – someday maybe Mongol horsemen from China or North African Imams, depending on how winds blow in the future. In the meantime Christian evidences exist as surely as knight’s armor and Roman roads, but they are ‘things of which we must not speak’, to borrow a phrase from M. Night Shyamalan’s screenplay The Village, a community that buried inconvenient relics from its past.

It also speaks to our modern cultural drift that a decidedly un-historic work like The Da Vinci Code has become a proxy for Christian history in the popular mind; another misconception that historians and the church are uninterested in correcting, in an era preoccupied with correcting history. Again Shyamalan’s The Village comes to mind, a community not only burying its history but substituting it with a fiction.

The Bible tells us our world is like Shyamalan’s Village, a cloistered enclave within a much larger dominion that we are unable to see, apart from revelation. Universities teach the opposite, that what we see with our eyes and our instruments is all that exists. They resemble the professor in Shyamalan’s Village who pointed across to the tree line; warning the next generation to stay within the clearing he had provided, that venturing beyond would be to their peril. But it wasn’t true.

 

The science is worse.

The image on the shroud is similar to the pixels in a black and white television, in that some number of the hundreds of fibrils in each thread either changed color, or did not. Like an old television, the shading or intensity is caused by the number of fibrils that were changed and how close they are together. The fibrils themselves changed, but only to several hundred nanometers depth, indicating a molecular reaction only within their outer cell walls. Something caused some fibrils to change in the same linen threads in which other fibrils did not change, forming an image of a crucified man with the resolution of an X-Ray, similar to the medical X-Rays and photographic negatives we see today.

Physics tells us this is descriptive of a radiation event with a wavelength much less than the diameter of a fibril and comparable to the depth of the outer cell wall, somewhere between ultra violet and X Ray band, known as Vacuum Ultra-Violet (VUV band), a frequency that is absorbed in air particles, hence the term Vacuum UV, because only in a vacuum can it propagate very far. And it emanated from the crucified body; the discolored fibrils are only on the inside surfaces of the shroud.

Having studied irradiated fabrics for industrial applications for 20 years, scientists from ENEA, Italy’s national laboratory, recognized the correlations with the images of the Shroud, , and began extensive trials with VUV radiation on linen fibrils until they were able to approximate the molecular change that closely resembled the discolored Shroud fibrils. Dr. Di Lazzaro’s team discovered a very narrow setting of operating parameters (frequency, pulse width, etc.) to achieve this result. To do the entire shroud image would require a massive amount of power, almost beyond comprehension.

The success of their experiments explained more phenomena peculiar to the Shroud. As VUV, it explained the inability of the radiation to penetrate beyond the first fibril or two in a Shroud thread, and the superficial penetration that only affected the outer cell walls. It explained why in areas of thin flesh, such as the hand, the Shroud image was like an X-Ray negative, exposing the carpal bones, but where the muscle mass and flesh was substantial it resembled an image of the body’s surface in a photographic negative.

The ability of VUV to produce a ‘cold scorch’ in the linen (17) due to its rapid dissipation, explains the similar coloration that a fibril would get if scorched by heat, but yet did not fluoresce under black light as a heat scorch would. Also the discrete pixel like resolution of the image fibrils is not feasible even under light heat scorching, and heat scorching cannot produce a uniformly shallow effect and a uniform discoloration of the fibrils.. The VUV’s attenuation in air also explains the image negative, in that the greatest density of darkened fibrils are body points close to the Shroud; the eyebrows, nose, chest, knees, hands.

On the shroud are over a dozen pollens unique to Jerusalem and a few unique to Constantinople. Limestone with the unique mix of contaminants found in Jerusalem’s tombs are all over portions of the shroud, and dirt that matched Jerusalem’s was found on the Shroud image’s nose, knees and heels. Italian scientists with Professor Fanti at Padua University compared soil signatures of particulate off the shroud and found they closely matched with soil samples from Jerusalem’s Mt. Zion; a rare composition anywhere else.

Matching pollen and dirt were found on the Sudarium as well. Professor Fanti also found new ways to date the age of the Shroud with molecular spectroscopy and tensile tests, by comparing them with control samples having a well documented age. Three sets of different tests resulted in dating the Shroud fibrils to the 1st century AD, plus or minus a few hundred years. In 2002 the Shroud’s backing was removed and textile historian Flury-Lemberg discovered a selvage stitching using the same method as cloths found at Masada, a fortress the Romans destroyed shortly after they destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD.

The legs and back are covered with pre-mortem blood marks from Roman strikes, as is the hair and face from a crown of thorns. A large blood stain recalls the spear thrust into Christ’s side, called blood and water in the Gospel accounts, but on the shroud under UV light shows clear blood plasma separated from the red blood, confirming a wound into someone already deceased. Additional tests have shown the blood was on the shroud before the image appeared. The redness of the blood stains on the shroud has been a popular reason to suspect its authenticity. But a Dr. Carlo Goldoni prepared clotted blood with the chemical properties of the Shroud stains, and exposed it to a burst of neutron radiation, followed by various types of exposure to UV radiation.  The clotted blood turned bright red like the blood stains on the shroud, for a period of time at least, another indication that the blood stains were on the shroud before the radiation or image was formed. The sustained bright redness of the blood might also be due to a high bilirubin content infused in the blood stream from the liver during extreme blood loss during physical trauma.

So why are all these results inconsistent with the 1988 Report from Drs Tite, Hall and Hedges?

Shortly after the 1988 results were published in the magazine Nature, Tom Phillips, a physicist at Harvard’s High Energy Lab, speculated that if the body of Jesus radiated neutrons, it would have doped the shroud with additional Carbon 14, making it measure much younger than it was (Nature 337, 594; 1989). Quotes from the Oxford team indicated they entertained no such nonsense as a super-natural event; the matter was considered conclusive and closed. Dr. Phillips recently retired from Duke University’s Physics Department, and continues to see the Shroud as evidence for the Resurrection, apparently still unimpressed by the quality of the workmanship of Drs Tite, Hall and Hedges.

Robert Rucker had similar speculations as Phillips, but had taken things a bit further. A review of the 1989 Report indicates the measurements of the 3 Shroud samples had significantly more variance than the control samples used to establish the degree of variability between the three labs testing the three shroud samples. In other words, something other than the randomness of measurement error, something greater than the known variance established in the control samples, was causing greater differences in the three Shroud samples. In statistical terms this is called a bias or heterogeneity, differences between the samples that are not understood. You do not have a valid statistical analysis if you do not have a homogeneous set of samples. Due diligence requires it to be reported as such, to put the credibility of the results in proper context. But Drs Tite, Hall and Hedges did no such thing. They did the opposite.

Other researchers noticed the same issue with Heterogeneity, made more suspicious when the British Museum (the legal owner of the Tite, Hall and Hedges Report) had to be sued in order to release copies of the raw data to a research team in France, resulting in a new study published by the Oxford University Journal Archaeometry; see 2019, Radio Carbon Dating of the Turin Shroud; New Evidence from Raw Data, Dr. Tristan Casabianco et al, finally concluding the Shroud samples were not homogeneous.

Like Dr. Phillips, these earlier concerns led Rucker to speculate whether the unexplained differences that Tite, Hall and Hedges had apparently overlooked might be explained by radiated neutrons from the body interacting with ambient or trace amounts of nitrogen within the Shroud. As a nuclear engineering consultant he had extensive experience with the computational tools used to model the physics of radiated particles into different materials.

Using the Los Alamos National Lab’s MCNP code he modeled a tomb’s limestone bench, walls and ceiling, the distributed body mass from head to feet, the Shroud encompassing the body, and even the Sudarium laying by itself on the bench. Normalizing the level of Neutron Radiation to match the average C14 date of the 1988 tests, Rucker’s results shrunk the variance of the shroud samples to the measurement variance of the control samples, while also accurately accounting for the unexplained deviations between the 3 adjacent samples cut from the Shroud.

In other words Rucker demonstrated how the measured results of the 1988 tests could be explained as the combination of a shroud dated at the time of Christ, plus the additional effect due to an instantaneous nuclear reaction that was a function of the distributed mass across the deceased body. What’s more, his MCNP model produced a date of around 700 AD for the Sudarium laying by the side of the body; a date almost exactly what the C14 test on the real Sudarium had measured in an independent test in 2007.

Rucker’s analysis explained the C14 dates such that it is no longer necessary to artificially widen the tolerances of the 1988 results to cover up unexplained heterogeneities in the raw data in order to produce a “conclusive” report … but only if you are willing to grant the possibility of a super-natural event.

So did Drs Tite, Hall and Hedges deliberately misrepresent or otherwise bungle the science?  This may never be formally clarified by the British Museum, despite these issues and other problems with their 1988 C14 Tests. One such problem proposed by Sue Benford turned out to be correct; that samples were taken from a corner that was patched or repaired in the middle ages by the Poor Clare nuns using medieval cotton fibers and gum dye to blend in with the Shroud. Clearly the worst possible choice for chemical tests of any kind; albeit the best location for minimizing the damage to the cloth and its image.

 

~

In the providence of God, the Bible says ‘pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall’, and don’t these three gentlemen look like poster boys for that ancient Proverb.

 

 

 

 

And in the irony of God the science that was used to claim that the Shroud could only have been made as a fake is evidence it could only have been made by the Resurrection.

 

 

 

  • The Gospels are very time, place, and culturally specific, with an ambiance far too casual to have followed the 70 AD devastation of Jerusalem. Numerous inconsequential geographic, cultural and historical details and unintentional correlations exist across the New Testament books that are insignificant to the narrative, demonstrating the Gospels convey actual recollections, rather than latter constructions from authors more removed in time, place and association with the original participants.

 

Within a few decades of Jesus’ crucifixion Christians were so numerous and well-known in far away Rome they were tortured and martyred by Nero, while Paul’s letters attest to the presence of numerous Christian communities already formed across the empire. These early signs of authenticity are consistent with the characterization of the Gospels by early martyrs, such as Justin who described the Gospels as memoires of the Apostles, and Papias (60-130 AD) Bishop of Hierapolis, who ascribed one Gospel to Luke, as Paul’s companion while Paul was still alive, and Mark on behalf of Peter while he was still alive. This alone calls into question 20th Century Form Critics, who assume the Gospels must be made up stories evolved and embellished over long periods, rather than accounts originating from the companions of Jesus.

 

The uncontested historicity of most of Paul’s letters from 50 to 64 AD lends credence to the historicity of the Gospels simply because they say or proclaim pretty much the same thing. Paul’s letters to Christians are evidence of his own early belief in Jesus’ divinity and Resurrection, as well as the thriving Christian communities to which he wrote, almost spontaneously arising in Judea, Greece, Rome, Turkey and Egypt, permeating diverse classes and cultures of the ancient world well before Paul’s execution in 64 AD, and before any mythologizing was supposed to have occurred. Classical historian Tom Holland, an agnostic, makes a similar point; ‘Paul’s letters are filled with arguments and polemics, but he never argues the most astounding claim; that Jesus had been resurrected from the dead, though Paul clearly believed it; and it appears it was never in dispute at least to the audiences to which he was writing.

 

A miraculous Resurrection would explain the boldness of these early Christians, revealed in Pliny’s letter to Emperor Trajan in his role as a magistrate (~ 110 AD) seeking policy guidance on the trial and execution of Christians … “For the matter seemed to me to warrant consulting you, especially because of the number involved. For many persons of every age, every rank, and also of both sexes are and will be endangered. For the contagion of this superstition has spread not only to the cities but also to the villages and farms.”

 

Such faith across a diverse spectrum of people is hard to understand apart from testimonies like Quadratus, a contemporary of Pliny; “But the works of our Saviour were always present, for they were genuine: those that were healed, and those that were raised from the dead, who were seen not only when they were healed and when they were raised, but were also always present; and not merely while the Saviour was on earth, but also after his death, they were alive for quite a while, so that some of them lived even to our day.”

 

Likewise the 1st Epistle of Clement speaks to the early historicity of these accounts. Clement, born 35 AD, was Bishop of Rome 88 AD to 99 AD, by then already on their fourth bishop. Msgr. Thomas Herron’s analysis outlines evidences for it being composed before 70 AD. Herron notes how Clement mentions Jerusalem as the only place sacrifices are offered (1 Clement 40), with language that is clearly present tense. Phrases in 1 Clement are almost verbatim from Luke, Acts and Matthew, so they too were likely written or at least faithfully guarded anecdotes passed on as Papias ascribed.

 

Similarly for the Book of Acts; too many time and place specifics would have changed in Acts if it were concocted from whole cloth after 70 AD, especially in such a rapidly changing world of 1st Century Judea. Acts makes no mention of the martyrdom of Paul or Peter, or James the brother of Jesus, while the martyrdom of lesser figures such as Stephen and James the brother of John are discussed in some detail. Nor is there any mention in Acts of the complete destruction of Jerusalem or the Jewish Christians returning to the rubble from Pella. Craig Keene, PhD Duke, notes that Acts 18 got the Galio right who tried Paul, though he was Governor of Corinth for only 1 year in 56 AD, normally a 3 year commitment. Acts also got the wife of Antonius Felix correct though he was married 3 times, and two were named Drusilla.

 

The premise that the Gospel of John is a late theological treatise rather than history is no longer compelling, not just by its commonality with the Scrolls, but by internal evidence. New Testament scholar Paul N. Anderson includes examples in a draft A Dozen Critically Flawed Biblical Scholarship Views, 2021. Quote;

 

“First, John … reflects grounded, first-hand knowledge of Palestine, including Galilee, Samaria, Judea, and Jerusalem. Such spatial features include:

  • John’s ministry is beyond the Jordan (1:28; 3:26; 10:40)
  • going “down” to Capernaum (2:12)
  • going “up” to Jerusalem (2:13; 5:1; 11:55)
  • the waters of Aenon near Salim are known (3:23)
  • having to go through Samaria between Galilee and Jerusalem (4:4)
  • the disciples having rowed 25 or 30 stadia—halfway across the lake(6:19)
  • the feeding is on the other side of the sea (6:1)
  • boats come from Tiberias to the other side of the lake and then to Capernaum (6:22-24)
  • Bethany being 15 stadia from Jerusalem (11:18)
  • Jesus visits Ephraim near the wilderness (11:54)
  • the Kidron gulch was crossed by on the way to the garden (18:1)
  • an unused tomb is offered to Jesus (19:41)
  • the boat is 200 stadia from shore (21:8)

 

Second, like Mark, but unlike Matthew and Luke, John translates Hebrew and Aramaic terms and explains Jewish customs for Hellenistic audiences:

 

  • Rabbi is translated as “teacher” (1:37)
  • Messias is translated as Anointed One, or “Christ” (1:41)
  • Kēphas is translated as rock, or “Peter” (1:42)
  • Siloam is translated as “sent” (9:7)
  • Golgotha is translated as “place of the skull” (19:17)
  • Rabbouni is translated as “master” (20:17)
  • the Jewish Passover was near (2:13; 6:4; 11:55)
  • the wedding featured stone water jars used for Jewish purification (2:6)
  • drinking vessels were not shared between Jews and Samaritans (4:9)
  • Sabbath expectations and regulations are referenced (5:1-18; 7:22-23; 9:16; 19:31)
  • Jewish festivals of Tabernacles and Dedication and the “day of preparation” are mentioned (7:2; 10:22; 19:14, 42)
  • the season of the Dedication Festival is stipulated as winter (10:22)
  • Jewish burial customs are noted (11:17-38; 19:38-42)

 

Personal knowledge of people and whence they hail is referenced in John:

 

  • Bethsaida is the home of Philip, Andrew, and Peter (1:44; 12:20-21)
  • Cana is the home of Nathanael (21:2)
  • Kerioth is whence Judas (son of Simon) hails, in Judea (6:71; 12:4; 13:2)
  • Bethany is the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus(11:1, 18; 12:1)
  • Magdala is the home of Mary (19:25-26; 20:1, 18)
  • Arimathea is whence Joseph hails (19:38)
  • Roman names for places are also used alongside Galilean ones (Galilee is called “Tiberias,” 6:1; 21:1)

A number of archaeological discoveries over the last several decades have corroborated John’s grounded account of Jesus and his ministry:

 

  • the Transjordan baptismal site of John (1:28; 3:26; 11:40) has been found at Wadi al-Kharrar
  • stone jars used for purification are found only in Palestine (2:6), and several large houses (where a wedding may have been held) are found in Cana
  • the five porticoes at the Pool of Bethzatha are accounted for by there being two pools, with a divider in between (5:2)
  • a second Pool of Siloam (9:7) was discovered in 2004, as a purification pool, explaining Jesus commanding the formerly blind man to wash in it
  • the courtyard of the high priest (18:15) is referenced, cohering with Jerusalem excavations
  • the stone pavement and Pilate’s Praetorium (19:13) are referenced knowingly in John, including Gabbatha as the Aramaic name for the site
  • Pilate’s stone, discovered at Herod’s palace at Caesarea Maritima, shows a grounded record his connection to the region
  • the crucifixion of Jesus near the city (19:20; cf. Heb 13:12) coheres with research on the site
  • the spike through the heelbone of Jehohanan, a Jerusalem victim of Roman crucifixion ca. 70 CE, bolsters John’s presentation of nails being used on Jesus (20:25) as well as the breaking of bones of some crucifixion victims (19:31)
  • rolled away stones cohere with typical burial customs in Palestine (11:39; 20:1)

 

“The significance of these… features in John is that most of them serve little or no theological or symbolizing function (although “Siloam” is translated as “sent” in 9:7). Further, they are not referenced in the Synoptics or other known contemporary sources, so accounting for their presence on the basis of literary borrowing falls flat factually. Thus, allowing no form of Johannine first-hand familiarity is implausible. Even more telling is the striking contrast between John’s account and second-century apocryphal gospel narratives. None of them conveys anything close to the level of John’s grounded verisimilitude. Likewise, neither do the Synoptics, although Mark is closest to John in referencing Aramaic and Hebrew terms and some other grounded features. Therefore, Johannine verisimilitude echoing known topographical, anthropological, sociological, and archaeological reality commands a renewed consideration of John’s contribution as a historical resource …”

 

Also note Eusebius quote of Polycrates (b. 130 AD), a Bishop of Ephesus: “There is also John, who leaned on the Lord’s breast who was a priest wearing the petalon (high-priestly miter or crown), a witness and a teacher, and he sleeps at Ephesus”. Like the commonality in idioms between the Gospel of John and the Dead Sea Scrolls, here is another piece of evidence that St. John, son of Zebedee, was not just an uneducated fisherman but perhaps a Zadokite priest, which would also explain his Gospel’s focus on Jerusalem, the Feasts, and the Temple. Rather than a later mythologized story, John’s Gospel might instead be the most informed and direct insight into the character and nature of Jesus; yet another divine irony.

 

Major pagan historians and governors of the 1st century such as Tacitus, Suetonius, Pliny, Mara bar Serapion, Josephus, and the earliest writings in the Mishnah all discuss various aspects of the life of Christ and/or the early church. Characters in the New Testament are confirmed in these external accounts; James the brother of Jesus, the Roman Governor Festus, Felix, Gamaliel, John the Baptist’s beheading, even the account of Salome who provided the entertainment at Herod’s dinner party. Corroborating archeological evidence is continually unearthed; Pool of Siloam and of Bethesda, Pilate’s inscription and Caiaphas’ tomb, the Apostle Peter’s house in Capernaum.

 

Sator Squares’ are acrostics recognized as early coded Christian symbols and found across the old Empire particularly in Roman Army encampments, covertly signaling people or places who shared the faith. Two acrostics were even found beneath the ashes of Pompeii; one within a home or small business and the other entering the Pompeii’s Amphitheatre, just like modern graffiti is used to billboard a message in a very public place. Derogatory graffiti was even added by someone intending sarcasm. This suggests a significant community level awareness and debate about these followers of Jesus, well before Mount Vesuvius covered Pompeii in ash in 79 AD – an indication there were many cities with a Christian presence, too numerous to mention in Acts. For reference, see a later version of a Sator Square from Oppede, France.

 

 

Such rapid dispersion of the Gospel is not hard to understand. Travelers from the Empire and beyond converged in Jerusalem every Passover, and would have carried stories of anything unusual back home. So when Paul began his journeys a few decades later he did not walk into a vacuum, but a grid of Passover pilgrims throughout the Empire who had already told neighbors and friends what they witnessed, perhaps reinforced by a mid-day darkness extending far beyond Jerusalem*.

Jesus’ prophetic voice contributed to his renown as well. Scholars often doubt the warnings attributed to Jesus; telling his followers to leave Jerusalem when they see it surrounded by armies, or a seemingly off the cuff remark that the massively impregnable Temple would soon be leveled. But they need not be fabricated comments because they are part and parcel of his broader message. Recall the Parable of the Tenants and the vineyard, how Jesus warned the Pharisees who spoke their own fate when they admitted the corrupt tenants should be rapidly destroyed, and the responsibilities and benefits of the harvest given to someone else. More a prophecy than a parable that became brutally true 40 years later as the Romans surrounded Jerusalem, razed it, and soon after converted it to a foreign colony, while the Hebrew and gentile Christians carried the Torah of these Pharisees to the rest of the world; fulfilling a prophetic mission even Orthodox rabbis admit mainstream Judaism had failed to perform. The same prophecy is in Luke 21:24, and thinly disguised in the Parable of a fig tree in an olive orchard in Luke 13.

Jesus’ quoting Isaiah 5 on the ‘vineyard house of Israel’ is an explicit prophecy direct from the Tanakh with the same result.  Also for Jesus to say that the time will come when worship of God will not be in the Temple but in spirit and truth, can only imply to his audience that the Temple would soon be gone. St. Paul repeats the same prophetic message in Romans 11, yet Paul also wrote this and was executed well before the Temple’s destruction. Where did Paul get such a radical notion? Jesus’ explicit pronouncements to his disciples and his ‘not so subtle’ parables to the Sadducees and Pharisees provide the thread leading up to Paul’s comments that were fulfilled in 70 AD and 135 AD and in the centuries and millennia that followed. All this serves to support Jesus’ prophetic knowledge. It was also ‘in the air’ from the prophecy about the Sanctuary and the City in Daniel 9, a widely accepted prophecy during the 1st Century AD (2, 3, 4, and 13).

A sizable contingent in Jerusalem also believed in the physical resurrection and the divinity of Jesus as well. Such as accounts of the conversions of Pharisees in the Book of Acts and from the church fathers, corroborated by the actions of the Sanhedrin and Gamaliel II to segregate the Hebrew followers of Jesus from what became Rabbinic Judaism. See Shulam on Menahem’s departure along with his 160 disciples.

 

Josephus, as one of the premier historians of that time and a Pharisee, goes in great detail on the popularity of John the Baptist and James the Just the ‘brother of Jesus’, whose executions were resented by the populations of the time. Is it not likely that Jesus might have been just a little more popular than his disciples, neither of whom transformed 1st Century history, neither of whom were considered a problem for Rome? The surprise is not that Josephus mentions Jesus in complementary terms, but that he doesn’t provide a much larger account. Perhaps Josephus deliberately strikes a muted tone about Jesus in deference to his own beliefs, or those of his Roman patrons.

 

Jesus overturned the money changers in Jerusalem’s Sanctuary – and the Temple Guards do nothing? That bespeaks of someone too controversial for guards to act on their own against someone popular enough that Roman and Jewish leadership needed first to confer, each preferring to defer to the other. If Jesus really had performed the miracles, that would explain the extremes of his treatment, and why he was so wildly popular. Only if Jesus’ divinity was credible to a wide population, could it trigger a mockery of traditional cultural icons like the Greco-Roman gods, inspiring a backlash to protect a pantheon as ingrained in Rome’s governance and commerce as the Temple was for Jerusalem. Nothing challenges authority like laughter, and nothing repays mockery like revenge.

 

While it’s popular today to explain Christianity’s rapid rise in sociological terms, the same academic disciplines could be employed with much more plausibility if Christianity had failed to flourish. Something miraculous was driving this movement especially as it was Jesus’ Disciples and early leaders, those most in the know, who were the ones most willing and likely to be martyred for their testimony. As early as 64 AD just a few decades after the crucifixion, Tacitus records Christians were so prominent in far-way Rome that Nero was burning them as torches; quite a sacrifice for a mythology still in the making. Theoretical chemist Henry Schaefer adds sarcasm to his comments on the physical resurrection; the historical evidence is very strong, and the alternative is to conclude that Jesus’ closet friends were engaged in a vast conspiracy to feed themselves to the lions. Dionysius, a 1st Century judge on the Athenian high Court, appointed Bishop of Athens by St. Paul, succeeding Hierotheus in 52 AD, chose to burn as a martyr rather than recant. It’s true Paul and the other evangelists shared a message that resonated and was socially revolutionary, but it’s hard to believe the message alone from a small handful of disciples created a widespread movement so quickly. Our temptation to cast St. Paul as a 1st century Timothy Leary is more a reflection of our own sociological context than those of Paul and the audiences to whom he spoke.

 

  • Excerpt from Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews – Book X He (King Darius) had also Daniel in very great esteem, and made him the principal of his friends. Now when Daniel was become so illustrious and famous, on account of the opinion men had that he was beloved of God, he built a tower at Ecbatana, in Media: it was a most elegant building, and wonderfully made, and it is still remaining, and preserved to this day; and too such as see it, it appears to have been lately built, and to have been no older than that very day when any one looks upon it, it is so fresh flourishing, and beautiful, and no way grown old in so long time; for buildings suffer the same as men do, they grow old as well as they, and by numbers of years their strength is dissolved, and their beauty withered. Now they bury the kings of Media, of Persia, and Parthia in this tower to this day, and he who was entrusted with the care of it was a Jewish priest; which thing is also observed to this day. … for the several books that he wrote and left behind him are still read by us till this time; and from them we believe that Daniel conversed with God; for he did not only prophesy of future events, as did the other prophets, but he also determined the time of their accomplishment. … and by the accomplishment of them, he procured the belief of their truth, and the opinion of [a sort of] divinity for himself, among the multitude. He also wrote and left behind him what made manifest the accuracy and undeniable veracity of his predictions; … In the very same manner Daniel also wrote concerning the Roman government, and that our country should be made desolate by them. All these things did this man leave in writing, as God had showed them to him, insomuch that such as read his prophecies, and see how they have been fulfilled, would wonder at the honor wherewith God honored Daniel; and may thence discover how the Epicureans are in an error, who cast Providence out of human life, and do not believe that God takes care of the affairs of the world, nor that the universe is governed and continued in being by that blessed and immortal nature, but say that the world is carried along of its own accord, without a ruler and a curator;…. So that, by the fore mentioned predictions of Daniel, those men seem to me very much to err from the truth, who determine that God exercises no providence over human affairs; for if that were the case that the world went on by mechanical necessity, we should not see that all things would come to pass according to his prophecy.

 

The Prophecy to which Josephus refers is in the Book of Daniel Chapter 9. The antiquity of Daniel’s prophecy is clearly marked for Josephus and his contemporaries by the record of the Tower of Ecbatana. Also as a Pharisee and learned historian Josephus knew the difference on what was written in Persia’s 6th Century BC versus the Maccabean mid 2nd Century BC conflict. Josephus certainly believed the Book of Daniel was a credible Book of Prophecy in 333 BC as he recalled its impact on Alexander the Great. To claim otherwise would be like a modern historian who couldn’t disambiguate between Columbus’ voyage to America and the opening of the Transcontinental Railroad after the Civil War; way too much happened and changed in between.

The Aramaic, Hebrew, Persian, Greek so-called language anachronisms that were the basis for late dating Daniel have all been countered with evidence of 6th Century dating, based in part on more recent Dead Sea Scroll scholarship. The confidence with which Josephus affirms Daniel’s prophecies is a further indication that it was a widespread consensus “among the multitude”. If, as many liberal scholars maintain, Daniel 9 was written much later during Antiochus IV, then what are the prophecies of the Temple’s Destruction and the rise of a Messianic figure that Josephus, Tacitus and Suetonius, among others, are referring to? And what is the basis left for discrediting this prophecy in academia and mainline divinity schools?

  • Excerpt from Josephus, Jewish Wars Book 6, Chapter 2, Section 1; And who is there that does not know what the writings of the ancient prophets contain in them, – and particularly that oracle which is just now going to be fulfilled upon this miserable city? For they foretold that this city should be then taken when somebody shall begin the slaughter of his own countrymen. And are not both the city and the entire temple now full of the dead bodies of your countrymen?

 

  • Excerpt from Josephus, Jewish War (6.312-313) what did the most to induce the Jews to start this war, was an ambiguous oracle that was also found in their sacred writings, how, about that time, one from their country should become governor of the habitable earth. The Jews took this prediction to belong to themselves in particular, and many of the wise men were thereby deceived in their determination. Now this oracle certainly denoted the government of Vespasian, who was appointed emperor in Judea.

 

From Tacitus, Histories V.13.1-2 The majority [of the Jews] were convinced that the ancient scriptures of their priests alluded to the present as the very time when the Orient would triumph and from Judaea would go forth men destined to rule the world. This mysterious prophecy really referred to Vespasian and Titus, but the common people, true to the selfish ambitions of mankind, thought that this exalted destiny was reserved for them, and not even their calamities opened their eyes to the truth.

 

From Suetonius, Life of Vespasian IV.5 There had spread over all the Orient an old and established belief, that it was fated for men coming from Judaea to rule the world. This prediction, referring to the emperor of Rome -as afterwards appeared from the event- the people of Judaea took to themselves.

From the Dead Sea Scrolls 11Q13 – indicates the Qumran community also interpreted Daniel 9:25 as the coming of a divine Messiah. See the portions of reference (7) that discuss 11Q13.

Rabbi Nachmonides This Holy of Holies is the Messiah who is sanctified more than the sons of David

From Jonathan ben Uzziel, referring to the passage in Daniel 9. That the ‘vision and prophecy’ may be fulfilled even unto Messiah, the Holy of the Holies;

Supporting reference;there is strong evidence to show that the Essenes, the Pharisees, and the Zealots all thought that they could date, at least approximately, the time when the Son of David would come, and that in each case their calculations were based upon Daniel’s prophecy of the 70 weeks (Dan. 9, 24-27), understood as 70 weeks of years.” See Roger T. Beckwith, Daniel 9 and the Date of Messiah’s Coming in Essene, Hellenistic, Pharisaic, Zealot and Early Christian Computation RevQ 10, no. 4 (1981): 521. “Where Essene (Zadokite) chronology gives a reason why Messianic expectation was strong at the time of Jesus’ birth” See Roger T. Beckwith, The Significance of the Calendar for Interpreting Essene Chronology and Eschatology RevQ 10, no. 2 (1980): 180.

  • The miraculous tearing of the Temple Curtin is not an isolated incidence in the Temple. According to Josephus and the Talmud there were other Temple signs of foreboding during the subsequent 40 years between the Crucifixion and the Temple’s destruction.

Our Rabbis taught that throughout the forty years that Shim’on the Tzaddik served … the scarlet cloth would become white. From then on it would sometimes become white and sometimes not … Throughout the last forty years, before the Temple was destroyed … the scarlet cloth never turned white.” (Yoma 39a-39b)

And from Alfred Edersheim’s; The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah; “That some great catastrophe, betokening the impending destruction of the Temple, had occurred in the Sanctuary about this very time, is confirmed by not less than four mutually independent testimonies: those of Tacitus [Hist. v. 13.], of Josephus [Jew. War vi. 5, 3.], of the Talmud [Jer. Yoma 43c; Yoma 39b], and of earliest Christian tradition [the uninspired non-canonical “Gospel according to the Hebrews]. The most important of these are, of course, the Talmud and Josephus. The latter speaks of the mysterious extinction of the middle and chief light in the Golden Candlestick, forty years before the destruction of the Temple; and both he and the Talmud refer to a supernatural opening by themselves of the great Temple-gates that had been previously closed, which was regarded as a portent of the coming destruction of the Temple.

  • Archeology gives hints where Jesus resided in Jerusalem, and locations like the Upper Room are in what were thought to be an Essene or Zadokite enclave in Jerusalem.

 

  • The following notes support the premise that the Messiah of Christianity; as one who was prophesied, as one who was divine, and as a liberator from sin rather than political oppression, is in keeping with the oldest traditions of Judaism and not a later Christological interpretation by the early church.

 

The Book of Enoch is Christological in numerous ways as pointed out in The Messiah in the Parables of Enoch and the Letters of Paul: A Comparative Analysis; by James Waddell, 2010, Univ. of Michigan. This may explain the popularity of Enoch in the Dead Sea Scrolls, in the Book of Jude, in patristic texts, as well as its expulsion from what became included in the Masoretic version of the Tanakh.

 

Israeli Dead Sea Scrolls archeologist Dr. Hanan Eshel makes similar points in a 2006 lecture; that based on prophecy, the Qumran community anticipated a divine Messiah who offers a spiritual rather than political redemption, and one who will ‘cleanse the temple’ from a corrupt priesthood.

 

  • Scroll Fragment 4Q246, a Scroll commentary on the coming Messiah, states “The son of God, he will be proclaimed (or proclaim himself). And the Son of the Most High they will call him”, is virtually identical to Luke 1:32 with Gabriel’s message to Mary “and will be called the son of the Most High”.

 

  • Scroll Fragment 4Q521; the heavens and earth will listen to his Messiah … He who liberates the captives, restores sight to the blind, and straightens the bent… For He will heal the wounded, and revive the dead and bring good news to the poor which Eshel describes as God handing over power to His Messiah as a kind of Viceroy, and that in this fragment the Qumran scribe is intentionally conflating two verses; Isaiah 61:1 which presents Messiah as human, but that those same acts Messiah performs in Isaiah 61 are attributes of God in Psalm 146:7-8. Isaiah 61:1 says the Lord has anointed me (a human), whereas in Psalm 146 says it is The Lord … does these same things. Eshel also notes St. Paul’s claims on the divinity of Jesus in 1 Corinthians 21-22 follows this same thread, where Paul has this Messiah participating in the raising of the dead. (See also ‘Two Powers Teaching’)

 

  • Eshel points to a connection between a Genesis 14 Melchizedek type Messiah anticipated by Qumran’s Zadokite scribes in Scroll 11Q13, with Psalm 110 ‘The Lordsays to my lord “Sit at my right hand … The Lord will extend your mighty scepter from Zion … a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek’, and also with the New Testament Book of Hebrews Chapter 7, where Paul (or the writer of Hebrews) more or less identifies Jesus as that Melchizedek type messiah.

 

  • As a Messiah after the order of Melchizedek, Eshel notes the author of 11Q13 is describing a Heavenly Prince, rather than an earthly prince, who brings about a spiritual Jubilee, a spiritual redemption offering them forgiveness for their sins, rather than as Jubilee is traditionally presented – as a material redemption where land and properties lost are returned or compensated. These excerpts from 11Q13 illustrate his point. And your ELOHIM is Melchizedek, who will save them from the hand of Belial (Satan)… And Melchizedek will avenge the vengeance of the judgments of God…..Melchizedek, who will return them there and will proclaim to them liberty, forgiving them of all their iniquities. …When all the Sons of Light and the men of the lot of Melchizedek will be atoned for… And a statute concerns them [to provide them with their rewards And he will, by his strength, judge the holy ones of God, executing judgment as it is written concerning him in the Songs of David, who said, ELOHIM has taken his place in the divine council;

 

  • Also note the author of 11Q13 clearly identifies the ‘Anointed One’ in Daniel 9:25 as one and the same as this particular divine Messiah; Belial and the spirits of his lot who rebelled by turning away from the precepts of God to … And Melchizedek will avenge the vengeance of the judgments of God… and he will drag them from the hand of Belial and from the hand of all the spirits of his lot. And all the ‘gods of Justice’ will come to his aid to attend to the destruction of Belial. And the height is … all the sons of God… this … This is the day of [Peace/Salvation] concerning which [God] spoke [through Isaiah the prophet, who said, [How] beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who proclaims peace, who brings good news, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion: Your ELOHIM reigns (Isa. lii, 7). …. Its interpretation; the mountains are the prophets… and the messenger is the Anointed one of the spirit, concerning whom Daniel said, until an anointed one, a prince (Dan. ix, 25)] … And he who brings good news, who proclaims salvation: it is concerning him that it is written… To comfort all who mourn, to grant to those who mourn in Zion. To make them understand all the ages of time. Also note that this last sentence appears to signal that the author of this Scroll fragment understands the prophet Daniel as the key to history, a key to the Melchizedek Messiah’s first coming, and to the end times.

So when Jesus reads Isaiah 61 in a Synagogue in Luke 4, he was announcing himself as that divine Messiah, because the miracles he listed referred to the Signs of the Messiah as in Isaiah 61;1-2, including the phrase ‘the dead are raised”. Again this did not survive to the Masoretic Text, but did occur in Scroll fragment 4Q521 For He will heal the wounded, and revive the dead and bring good news to the poor, (the Messianic Apocalypse fragment), which predates the Masoretic version by hundreds of years. The Gospels also include ‘Giving sight to the blind’ which is also in the Septuagint but not in the Masoretic version.

This is contrary to most western New Testament criticism which holds that the Christians modified the Old Testament in a way more compatible with the Gospels. One example is that the KJV version of Psalm 22 includes the phrase “They have pierced my hands and feet”, whereas Psalm 22 in the Masoretic Text is; “Like a lion are my hands and feet”. But the oldest version of Psalm 22 is in the Nahal Hever Scroll dated around 150 BC, fragment 4Q169; indicate “They have pierced my hands and feet”, as the more accurate translation. This is also closer to the wording in the Septuagint.

 

Israeli Messianic publication ‘The Unexpected Significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls’ provides a summary; “We can also see how minor changes made to letters in the Biblical text by medieval rabbis covered up some Messianic prophecy pointing to Yeshua (Jesus). Today, Jewish people can examine the ancient texts and decide for themselves what – or who – the Biblical prophets were referring to. More than that, the scrolls show us that there was significant Messianic expectation among the Jewish community in the century right before Yeshua was born. They were expecting a Messiah whom heaven and earth would obey – one who would be the very Son of God.”                                     One for Israel Ministry (Dr. Eitan Bar)

The Beatitudes and the Christology of John’s Gospel are almost identical to Qumran’s 4Q525, such that this Disciple who walked with Jesus could easily be the author of that Gospel. Words not written down for decades were likely already on his lips (1). For many like the Apostle John, all Jesus had to do were a few miracles among them to validate himself as the Messiah they were expecting; in particular the specific miracles required in their scrolls. Perform them and he was The Messiah. Fail to perform them and he would have been rejected as a pretender. It may have been as simple as that. Also note how the persistent call for Repentance and Messianic Preparation found in the Scrolls resembles John the Baptist.

Per Dr. Robert Deutsch, Epigrapher, and Dr. Emil Peuch, Editor in Chief, Dead Sea Scrolls, the Scrolls identify someone called the Dove, a likely reference to someone of the Holy Spirit, and one who was not to be mourned; despite the Cross, and the Nails, a unique collocation of telling words. An indication some of the Zadokite priests may have identified Jesus of Nazareth specifically as the Messiah they were expecting. And near a Scroll jar labeled with the Hebrew word for Rome were Greek scroll fragments that several ancient textural scholars found consistent with the New Testament, potential evidence for an earlier dating of the Gospels, also hinting that the Zadokites may have considered Jesus as the expected Messiah.

 

  • Because calendars are solar and/or lunar these distinctions require more space than provided here. The Zadokite solar calendar was different from the Roman/Gregorian Solar Calendar, both of which differ from the ancient Greek and Babylonian lunar calendar that was imposed on the Hebrew culture and inherited in the Hebrew Calendar of today. The Scrolls use a particular solar calendar exclusively, which for the Zadokites was divinely given for proper recording of events and observances such as the Religious Feasts. This calendar contains 4 seasons of 90 days or three 30 day months each, with a day separating each season, starting in the Spring Equinox (when the length of day and night are equal). The issue over calendars is far more profound than one would think as it relates not just to feasts but also to prophecy. Also the two calendars; the lunar calendar used by the Sanhedrin, and the Solar of the Zadokites, explain why the Gospels appear to have different days in the Passover week, depending on the intended audience.

 

  • Like the Dead Sea Scrolls, there is a similar Christological inference in the Septuagint (LXX) that is missing in the Masoretic Text, but in this case the dispute is historically documented. As Greek became the common language in the Middle East a translation of the Tanakh was commissioned in the 2nd and 3rd Centuries BC, this LXX became widely used and accepted, Rabbinic Judaism abandoned the LXX around 100 AD replacing it with 3 new translations in the 2nd Century AD, translations that were the forerunners of the Masoretic version. Irenaeus, a contemporary of these translators, notes that the Septuagint was what the Disciples and Apostles used, and also points out that “the LXX was created by Jewish scholars and they used the term ‘virgin’ in Isaiah 7:14, but that these new translations (he names 2 of the 3) translate into Greek used the term ‘young woman’.” Justin Martyr says the same thing; that these newer Greek translations have intentionally departed from the Septuagint, particularly on the Virgin Birth. The Eastern churches used the Septuagint and numerous small fragments of the Septuagint were found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. All this is not to say which translations are in general better, but simply that the Christological phrases in both the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Septuagint predate the Gospels and predated the rabbinic translations that preceded the Masoretic version.

 

  • The rabbinic or current Jewish year is based on the assumption that the destruction of the 1st Temple occurred in 422 BC, based on a rabbinic work of the 2nd Century AD, Seder Olam Rabbah. But the archeological dating is 587 BC, a shift of 164 years, which would move the current Jewish year of 5781 to the year 5945. This change also moved the expected coming of the Messiah outside the 1st Century AD, though not necessarily the reason for the shift. See comments by Saul Kullok for other reasons.

 

  • This was a teaching that Yahweh included a divine agent or viceroy who represented God or who acted on God’s behalf, a teaching about a human form of God that became formally heretical in Rabbinic Judaism but was apparently a common understanding in Judaism prior to Christ. Alan Segal’s Two Powers in Heaven is a primary work suggesting the 2 Powers teaching was widespread in the first century and its 2nd Century AD declaration of Heresy was likely a response to the rise of Christianity (see Journal of Biblical Studies1 (2004) 43-71, Two Powers and Early Jewish and Christian Monotheism).

 

Dr. Eshel’s lecture on the Dead Sea Scrolls and the New Testament (7) also traces this thread through the Tanakh to the Dead Sea Scrolls to the New Testament. Some scholars suggest this is why St. Paul felt no need to explain why the divinity he ascribed to Jesus needed no apology with regard to monotheism, and perhaps why the Pharisee Josephus so easily accepted Vespasian as Daniel’s Messiah without violating his Judaism.

 

Thus we see the rudiments for the doctrine of the Trinity were less invented by early Christianity and more likely expunged from Judaism. Daniel 7:13, which Jesus’ quotes, is an affirmation of the two powers teaching in the Old Testament. According to Heiser that is why the Pharisees hearing Jesus quote this verse, torn their robes, because they understood Daniel 7:13 as scripture supporting the ‘two powers’ in the Godhead and were outraged that Jesus was claiming to be that second power.

 

An alternative view in Midrash, Theology and History: Two Powers in Heaven Revisited, Adiel Schremer, suggests the declaration of heresy was more due to the devastation of Jewish life from the Roman Wars, and of their disappointment in the God of their faith for abandoning them. Josephus’ admiration of Vespasian as ‘Messiah’ can be understood in this light as well. To quote Schremer; “… Rather (than the challenge from Christianity) it was understood as an existential response of despair, to what appeared to be God’s refraining from revealing His power… Necessarily, then, doubting God’s power and existence entailed the affirmation of the divinity of the Emperor. It is not a mere coincidence, therefore, that the issue of the exaltation of the Roman Emperors occupies an important role in early rabbinic texts.”

 

In other words as their God abandoned them, they shifted to the only ‘god’ that seemed to matter. This shift may also explain how Judaism’s notion of God moved from a personal deity to a more amorphous entity, a shift away from specific beliefs to religious practice, from the divine power and prophecy of the Zadokites to the practical power of the state. All this arose from their feeling of abandonment, in Schremer’s words, “An existential stance of disloyalty to God, and an existential qualm concerning His divinity”. This is in direct contrast to Christian Judaism, for whom the prophecies of Daniel were affirmed and fulfilled.

 

  • The rabbinic tradition did not entirely abandon a mystical component, it continued in the Heikhalot and Merkavah literatures, eventually merging into the more general category of Kabbalah. This growth in mysticism may be in part due to the loss of the Temple and the isolation of the Diaspora, what Elior calls, ‘something to do”, but may also be in part due to competition with Christianity as Yuval describes, for the hearts and minds of the Jewish people. Kabbalah’s Tree of Life contrasts to the tree or Cross of Christ, in that it provides an alternative paradigm on how God is manifested to humanity. Rather than all of God’s attributes expressed in Jesus Christ, the ten spheres in the Tree of Life distribute God’s character, as epitomized in different individuals, such as Abraham, or Isaac.

 

Conversely one wonders if the rise of western science was the Christian response to Kabbalah. The Jewish mystical search for the hidden spiritual laws that govern our behavior and our history sounds so similar to the search for the hidden physical laws that govern the behavior of nature and nature’s history. After all Newton and many other European scientists were avid students of Judaism. In that sense modern science seems more rooted in the truly abstract Kabbalah than the more practical tools of Greek geometry and Egyptian algebra.

 

Orthodox Israeli Ariel Cohen Alloro comes full circle as his Kabbalistic study of Gematria in the Torah led him to identify Jesus in his first coming as Messiah ben Joseph, and Messiah ben David at his second coming. When one listens to Orthodox Rabbis describe the role of Messiah ben Joseph it’s hard not to see Jesus in it, yet that is a connection they do not make as if they never heard of Jesus, which of course is required as his name is forbidden to be known among them from the 1st century AD to today. Alloro’s mission addresses just that; to force a new trial that he believes will exonerate Jesus so he is readmitted into Jewish life and History, such that his name will no longer forbidden among his people.

 

  • This interpretation of Daniel 9 is also consistent with numerous passages from the Talmud shown below.

 

Rabbi Moses Abraham Levi. I have examined the Holy Scriptures, and have not found the time for the coming of the Messiah, clearly fixed, except in the words of Gabriel to the prophet Daniel, which are written in the ninth chapter of the prophecy of Daniel  (corroborates with Josephus’ interpretation)

 

Rabbi Azariah referring to the passage in Daniel 9; to seal the vision and prophecy, and to bring in Messiah our righteousness…

 

Rabbi Nachmonides This Holy of Holies is the Messiah who is sanctified more than the sons of David…

 

Jonathan ben Uzziel, referring to the passage in Daniel 9. That the ‘vision and prophecy’ may be fulfilled even unto Messiah, the Holy of the Holies…

 

Targum Jonathan “Kings shall not cease, nor rulers, from the house of Judah … until the King, Meshiha comes … and on account of him shall the peoples flow together. How beauteous is the King Meshiha (Messiah) who will arise from the house of Judah!” Commentary on Genesis 49:10, (Note: But the original Hebrew Christians believed Messiah did come, and ever since then people for all nations have flowed to him as their Lord, literally fulfilling this prophecy)

 

Babylonian Talmud “When the members of the Sanhedrin found themselves deprived of their right over life and death, a general consternation took possession of them; they covered their heads with ashes, and their bodies with sackcloth, exclaiming: Woe unto us, for the scepter has departed from Judah, and the Messiah has not come!’”, (San. Chapter 4, Fol. 37 in their interpretation of Genesis 49:10). Note that Israel was laid waste due to the Roman-Jewish War, and the prophecy of Genesis 49:10 was understood to mean they would never lose autonomous rule so completely before Messiah came; they did lose their autonomy, but the only ‘Messiah’ that came right before was Jesus, the Messiah for the whole world.

 

  • The prophetic character of the Old Testament or Torah has been discovered in more forms than are included in this commentary. Some modern rabbis claim the entire Jewish history is foretold in the lives of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, with a prophetic ‘biblical verse to year’ correlation using the Jewish calendar. For example Jacob struggles with an unnamed opponent in his dream, awakens with a limp and is given a ‘blessing’ a new name of Israel by his attacker, and a new willingness to defend himself after a lifetime of running from trouble. We see how this has played out after the long struggle of the Diaspora, the expulsion from Spain, the pogroms of Russia, the Holocaust of Germany when finally the Jewish people receive a blessing from the UN (the same countries of the abusive Diaspora) authorizing a new State Israel born in a day, which its citizens immediately begin to fiercely defend. That all of this history is benchmarked with a ‘Tanakh Verse to Jewish Year’ correspondence is evidence these rabbis use to claim the Tanakh is divinely inspired.

 

  • The Hebrews virtually abdicated their sovereignty by 605 BC in that they allowed the Babylonian army to move freely through their territory, while prominent citizens were taken as hostages and various extortions were levied until Jerusalem was destroyed by Babylon 19 years later in 586 BC. 2520 Biblical years later Jewish sovereignty was restored in 1948 by the UN, and 19 years later Israel recaptured Jerusalem during a second Arab-Israeli war, in accord with Ezekiel’s prophetic exile of 360 yrs times Lev 7 = 2520 years.

 

The mystical handwriting on the wall in Daniel 5 forecasts the fall of Babylon Mene, Mene, Tekel, Uparsin; was interpreted as “God has numbered your kingdom and finished it, you are weighed in the balances and found wanting.” But these words are also Babylonian weight measurements totaling 2520 gerahs (50 Tekel +50 Tekel +1 Tekel + Mene/2 = 126 Tekel; where 1 Tekel = 20 gerahs and 1 Mene = 50 Tekels). Like Gematria this number represents what its phrase means, typically a completion and a divine consequence.

 

7 is a Biblical number of completions, as is 360 degrees in a circle, and 360 days in a year for most archaic calendars. 7*360 = 2520. Likewise 3, 7, 10, 12 are Biblical numbers of completion or perfection, multiplied together equal 2520. The mean diameter of the Earth is about 7917.5 statute miles ~7917 miles which equals 2520*p,  or 7*360*p. The mean diameter of the Moon is about 2159 statute miles ~2160 miles which equals  6*360. Coincidentally when verse numbers were added in 1448, the instructions on how to build the Ark of the Covenant, the archaic symbol of the divinity, are described in Exodus 25:20.

 

This number has other echoes in the prophecies of Daniel and in Revelation, regarding a time, 2 times, and a ½ time. Using 360 as the half time, seven 360s equals 2520. Note that for Jewish mysticism, like the modern theory of fractals, the scaling of a number, such as the number of zeros before or after, is not meaningful in gematria and Biblical signs; 7 weeks can be 7 days or 7 weeks of years. For example according to Flynn’s research the sacred cubit is likely 25.20 English in., for Kabalistic purposes, it’s the same number as 2520.

 

Israeli professor of Statistical Engineering, Dr. Haim Shore, discovered similar correlations between Hebrew gematria and the material world. On a whim he plotted the numerical value of the Hebrew word for each primary color against their wavelength and discovered a linear relationship. He found the same for sounds, diameters of the plants, sun, earth and moon – plotting on a logarithmic scale against the numerical value of their Hebrew names. Same with Hebrew names for a dozen Elements and Compounds plotted against their atomic weights. The numerical value of the Hebrew words for Human, Camel and Rat was equal to the number of chromosomes in the DNA of each. The Hebrew word for ‘ear’ has as its root the word for ‘balance’, yet balance control inside the ear was unknown until late 19th century biology.

 

Correlations as Flynn’s distances in Temple at the Center of Time, or Dr. Shore’s Coincidences in the Bible and in Biblical Hebrew should not exist in a truly naturalistic world, or from a language muddled together by a primitive tribe. That they are being uncovered in different venues should indicate to us the sacredness of our existence. That they are discovered in our time marked prophetically as an ‘End Time’ recalls Daniel 12:4 “O Daniel …Seal the book until the time of the end … when knowledge shall be increased”.

 

  • While the Zadokites with the Dead Sea Scrolls reinforce the continuity between Christianity and archaic Judaism some scholars had reached that conclusion independent of the Scrolls. Phillip Sigal in The Halakhah of Jesus of Nazareth according to the Gospel of Mathew makes the point that there are a number of traditions even within the Pharisees that more aligned with the New Testament. Sigal saw a continued cooperation between Christian and Jewish communities throughout much of the first millennium, with clerics complaining when their flock drifted toward synagogues and the Rabbis complaining the converse, and it was not uncommon for many people to attend both throughout the 1st For Sigal this symbiotic relationship enriched both traditions, suggesting the borrowing went both ways, such as the synergism between Kabbalists of Spain and Spanish mystics like St. John of the Cross.

 

Although we’ve seen abundant evidence on New Testament continuity in thought, practice and language with the Dead Sea Scrolls, claims of a Greek or pagan influence on the New Testament shouldn’t surprise us either. By his own admission, Paul tried to appeal to pagan sensibilities, and given that the aspirations of a perfected Rome resembled Christianity, Christ’s Advent and the necessity of his coming would be more easily grasped and owned by the populations of the Empire if presented in their terms and images.

 

We see a similar convenient set of coincidences today; where Christ’s coming is also a good fit with popular culture; steeped as it is in apocalyptic forebodings of an exponential rise in environmental risks, threats of pandemics and nuclear war, ever increasing resource depletion. All of this focuses people’s attention on our transitory, fragile reality, the real possibility of it all coming to a close, so graphically portrayed in a host of Hollywood disaster movies. Add to this the frustration that we seem incapable of governing ourselves in a cooperative manner, creating a longing for a divine Messiah to handle that on our behalf.

 

So too for Paul as he used the culture of his day to leverage the Gospel message. Paul entered a world that loved the writings of Vergil, whose sayings were as popular as hit songs today – so much so that Virgil’s words are often found etched in the graffiti of Rome’s ruins and the excavated walls of Pompeii, much like modern Christian music imitates popular music as an evangelistic strategy. Analogies drawn between Luke’s Gospel and Acts resembling Vergil’s ‘The Aeneid’, an Epic for a new Rome growing out of the ashes of Rome’s Civil War that ultimately breeds a diverse but unified kingdom. A tale that at its heart recalled Augustus Caesar, the model of enlightened worldly leadership suggested as a template for Luke.

 

But we should remember the converse is also true; that Vergil was well acquainted with Hebrew Scriptures, (see, ‘Was Vergil reading the Bible’; by Julia Dyson Hejduk), so the borrowing may have gone the other way. Perhaps the famous Eclogue 4 reflected Vergil’s awareness of the Hebrew Messianic expectation of his day, to which Vergil most likely ascribed the Messiah to Caesar, just as Josephus, Titus and Suetonius ascribed Daniel’s Messiah to Vespasian, rather than to some unknown crucified Hebrew, an image most repugnant to the prevailing values of the day.

 

  • This cold scorch effect has similarities with the Holy Fire phenomenon occurring yearly on Orthodox Holy Saturday in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher from the earliest centuries. It also recalls the first Pentecost and even the Burning Bush that was not consumed according to Abraham, not to mention Daniel’s three faithful friends. Dr. Fanti and his team from Padua University documented this phenomenon, where pilgrims wash their face, hands and arms in the Holy Fire without being burned for 15 to 33 minutes before it gradually becomes as hot as a normal flame. See Global Journal of Archaeology and Anthropology, Giulio Fanti. Is the “Holy Fire” Related to the Turin Shroud? Fanti (upper left) demonstrated this on himself and he was not harmed or scorched, not even singeing his beard.

 

Measuring the Holy Fire’s spectrum appeared the same as the spectrum of a common flame from a lighter measured at the same time. Linen samples were tested and the lighter burned holes as expected but the candle lit from the Holy Fire produced a cold scorch effect, similar to the linen discoloration that forms the image on the Shroud of Turin.

 

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

*The Mid-Day Darkness may be hard to believe, but if it was a real event coincident with the crucifixion it helps explain the rapid conversion throughout the Empire. Modern descendents of the first Christians in Egypt credit the rapid rise of Alexandria’s Coptic Church with their memory of the mid-day darkness reaching to Egypt and aligning with the crucifixion accounts they learned of later.

An extravagant claim, but it is also difficult to explain how St. Paul could write such extravagant letters about a contemporary, let alone one who was crucified, even claiming him to be the Lord of Life, unless he was convinced Jesus was the divine Messiah. That Paul’s language, like St. John’s, can be found in the Dead Sea Scrolls, is all the more reason they would not apply it to someone who fell short of those expectations. More likely their expectations were exceeded. That would explain Paul’s refusal to deny his claims about Jesus some twenty years later in the face of his own Death Row experience preceding his beheading. The puzzle for us is that Paul was not unique in this regard; and of those who joined him, more than a few were highly educated and from diverse Hebrew and Pagan backgrounds.

Critical scholars offer explanations for such dramatic fealty, although they rarely agree with each other. For Prof. Ron Miller, St. Paul’s refrain ‘Jesus is Lord’ is not so much a statement of belief or knowledge, as it is more like saying ‘In your face Caesar, Jesus is Lord – not you’, displaying sentiments similar to modern fans who call an athlete ‘God’, an entertainer ‘The Boss’; implicitly rejecting the status quo, the prevailing authorities. For Miller, Paul was expressing contempt for Caesar disguised as an adoration of Christ.

Prof. Robert Eisenman makes a contradictory claim; that Paul was a highly Hellenized Herodian, proudly identifying as a Roman citizen, similar in spirit to modern labels like Anglophile, or Francophile. For Eisenman, Paul was all about marginalizing Judaism, for which Jesus served that purpose very well.

Some scholars see the Gospels as a kind of chronicling in retrospect, as if their world was carried away in a tsunami and they are looking backward, creating a Midrash that tries to make sense of it all. That there was a tsunami in the 1st Century AD called Christianity is an historical fact. That the earthquake at its root was merely a confluence of social and political stresses in an otherwise ordered Empire is harder to imagine.

We should recognize that Naturalism or Secularism is a kind of chronicling in retrospect as well. We find ourselves at the mature end of a mystifying creation and so have stitched together a story to make sense of it all. We are the inevitable outcome of the laws of physics, time and coincidence fill in the gaps, and nothing inexplicable happened 2000 years ago. That we live on a highly dynamic earth teetering on the edge of many instabilities for billions of years doesn’t seem to puzzle us at all. That planet earth got legions of miracles while nowhere else got any is not considered noteworthy enough for public education. That we can stand in the middle of Times Square at night within the vast blackness of outer space, and not wonder if maybe there is a little more going on than can be written on a blackboard … is taken as a sign of our modernity, our sophistication, rather than our intoxication. Challenges to Naturalism are ridiculed as soon as they arise. But the truth is Naturalism is just more Midrash.

If Jesus was indeed the Son of God, the divine Messiah, his passion on the cross was certainly worthy of a strong message for the world. According to the Gospels, Calvary was a busy place the morning of the crucifixion, lots of spectators passing below the Titulus declaring Jesus as King of the Jews in four languages. Clearly the authorities wanted to make sure no one missed the joke. Visitors shared choice words for the Savior who hadn’t saved them from anything. Calvary was a boisterous affair until the earth turned suddenly dark and scared the bejesus out of everybody for the next three hours. It became a deserted place, an arena to avoid and a memory to forget. And yet the world still remembers it 2,000 years later.

St. Peter’s speech in Acts 2 helps explain why the world would remember it. He tells the crowd that all of the strange goings-on should not surprise them, this is simple the fulfillment of the prophet Joel which included some specifics; the sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood. If the sun had actually darkened at the crucifixion, he was wise to remind them of that. If the darkness had not fallen in a spectacular way this selection from the prophet Joel was a rather poor choice for Peter – he could easily have left that out. Just a few decades ago there were still descendents of the original witnesses to Pentecost who had passed their accounts down through the generations, quite apart from any Bible or Creed.

The question before us is simple; how does Peter say what he said on Pentecost, how does Paul and dozens of other evangelists wander into towns across the Empire, forming new Christian communities within a few decades of Jesus’ crucifixion, armed only with outlandish claims, or worse yet, an idea, a story, or even something they were themselves unconvinced about? Who would listen to them?

According to the Greek Orthodox Church, the pagan Dionysius, who had become a judge on the Athenian civil court, had “received a classical Greek education. He then went to Egypt, where he studied astronomy at the city of Heliopolis. It was in Heliopolis, along with his friend Apollophonos where he witnessed the solar eclipse… Upon his return to Athens from Egypt, he was chosen to be a member of the Areopagus Council (aristocratic court of magistrates). When the holy Apostle Paul preached at the place on the Hill of Ares (Acts 17:16-34), Dionysius became a Christian. For three years Saint Dionysius remained a companion of the holy Apostle Paul, Later on … the Apostle Paul selected him as bishop of the city of Athens. In other words he correlated the extended eclipse he experienced as a student in Egypt, with the crucifixion date, and this contributed to his conversion.

Julius Africanus was a prominent historian who authored a 5 volume history around 220 AD. He was also commissioned by Emperor Alexander Severus to build the library at the Pantheon in Rome. Julius was a Christian and discussed the mid-Day Darkness account of the well-known 1st Century historian Thallus, who wrote around 52 AD, from Thallus’ 3 volume history of the Eastern Mediterranean.

“On the whole world there pressed a most fearful darkness; and the rocks were rent by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down. This darkness Thallus, in the third book of his History, calls, as appears to me without reason, an eclipse of the sun. For the Hebrews celebrate the Passover on the 14th day according to the moon, and the passion of our Savior falls on the day before the Passover; but an eclipse of the sun takes place only when the moon comes under the sun. And it cannot happen at any other time but in the interval between the first day of the new moon and the last of the old, that is, at their junction: how then should an eclipse be supposed to happen when the moon is almost diametrically opposite the sun?

Let opinion pass however; let it carry the majority with it; and let this portent of the world be deemed an eclipse of the sun, like others a portent only to the eye. Phlegon records that, in the time of Tiberius Caesar, at full moon, there was a full eclipse of the sun from the sixth hour to the ninth—manifestly that one of which we speak. But what has an eclipse in common with an earthquake, the rending rocks, and the resurrection of the dead, and so great a perturbation throughout the universe? Surely no such event (an eclipse of the sun) as this is recorded for (such) a long period (3 hours).”

Origen of Alexandria, a 3rd century Christian philosopher, also refers to the description by the early 2nd Century historian Phlegon of Tralles, who wrote about the reign of Tiberius:In the fourth year of the 202nd Olympiad (~33 AD) the greatest eclipse of the sun” and that “it became night in the sixth hour of the day (noon) so that stars even appeared in the heavens. There was a great earthquake in Bithynia, and many things were overturned in Nicaea.”

Irenaeus; in Against Heresies, 2nd Century, writes; “In that day, saith the Lord, the sun shall go down at noon, and there shall be darkness over the earth in the clear day; and I will turn your feast days into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation,” plainly announced that obscuration of the sun which at the time of His crucifixion took place from the sixth hour onwards, and that after this event, those days which were their festivals according to the law, and their songs, should be changed into grief and lamentation when they were handed over to the Gentiles. Jeremiah, too, makes this point still clearer, when he thus speaks concerning Jerusalem”…“For all the prophets prophesied these same things, but they never came to pass in the case of any one of the ancients… For neither did it happen at the death of any man among the ancients that the sun set at mid-day, nor was the veil of the temple rent, nor did the earth quake, nor were the rocks rent, nor did the dead rise up … Therefore the prophets spake not of anyone else but of the Lord, in whom all these aforesaid tokens concurred.”

Tertullian in his Apologeticus, 197 AD, notes that the Mid-Day darkness was recorded in the Public Archives in pagan Rome, which are no longer extant; “And yet, nailed upon the cross, He exhibited many notable signs, by which His death was distinguished from all others… In the same hour, too, the light of day was withdrawn, when the sun at the very time was in his meridian blaze. Those who were not aware that this had been predicted about Christ, no doubt thought it an eclipse. You yourselves have the account of the worldportent still in your archives.

Other historians followed after these ante-Nicene centuries of persecution, but still appear to have had direct knowledge of original source material. Rufinus, a 4th Century Monk/Historian writes; Search your writings and you shall find that in Pilate’s time, when Christ suffered, the sun was suddenly withdrawn and darkness followed”.

Apollinaris of Laodicea (c. 315-c. 390), commenting on Matthew in a work preserved only in fragments; Now a certain Phlegon, a philosopher among the Greeks, recollects this darkness as an incredible occurrence in the fourteenth [night] of the moon, when an eclipse should not have appeared . . . for eclipses occur at the time when the two stars [the sun and the moon] draw near to one another.   An eclipse of the sun happens at the conjunction of the sun and the moon as it runs into its way.  This is not the time of the full moon, when the sun is diametrically opposite to the moon.

Eusebius (380 AD); Jesus Christ, according to the prophecies which had been foretold about him beforehand, came to his passion in the eighteenth year of Tiberius, at which time also we find these things written verbatim in other commentaries of the gentiles, that an eclipse of the sun happened, Bithynia was shaken by earthquake, and in the city of Nicaea many buildings collapsed, all of which agree with what occurred in the passion of the savior. Indeed Phlegon, who is an excellent calculator of Olympiads, also writes about these things, writing thus in his thirteenth book: In the fourth year, however, of Olympiad 202 [32-33 AD] an eclipse of the sun happened, greater and more excellent than any that had happened before it; at the sixth hour, day turned into dark night, so that the stars were seen in the sky, and an earthquake in Bithynia toppled many buildings of the city of Nicaea.

Malalas (c. 491 – 578) states; “The most learned Phlegon of Athens has written about this darkness as follows: “In the 18th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, there was a very great eclipse of the sun, greater than any that had been known before.  Night prevailed at the sixth hour of the day so that even the stars appeared.”

Philoponus (490 – 570), “And of this darkness… Phlegon also made mention in the [book of] Olympiads.  For he says that in the fourth year of Olympiad 202 an eclipse of the sun happened, of a greatness never formerly known, and at the sixth hour of the day it was night, so that even the stars in heaven appeared.  And it is clear that it was the eclipse of the sun that happened while Christ the master was on the cross that Phlegon mentioned, and not another, first from his saying that such an eclipse was not known in former times, …and also [because] it is shown from the history itself concerning Tiberius Caesar.  For Phlegon says that he became king in the second year of Olympiad 19{8}, but the eclipse happened in the fourth year of Olympiad 202.”

What we see here is continuity in the record of this Mid-Day darkness from the crucifixion through the 6th century, by a diverse group of educated men, some of whom faced martyrdom for what they wrote.

Martyrdom was the likely consequence for Christian writings, impacting not only themselves but their families, just as traumatizing as those who have a brother, son or daughter lingering on Death Row today. Origen’s father Leonides was a well regarded professor of literature in Alexandria who openly practiced his Christian beliefs, for which he was arrested when Origen was 17, and soon after beheaded in 202 AD.

We may not know for sure what supernatural events happened 2,000 years ago, but we do know that people back then behaved as people do today. It is arrogant of us today to believe that these men were so reckless to write untrue or poorly substantiated stories when it could mean a traumatic outcome for them and for their families. And what was especially unique about early Christianity was that it was the leaders, those most knowledgeable and educated, who were the most likely and most willing to be martyred, another way in which Christianity is contrary to the way the world normally works.

In the same way it is overly generous to assume that those historians who did not include those accounts were any more objective than the chroniclers or journalists of today with regard to reporting news that did not conform to their ideologies. Considering the hostility in the Empire toward Christianity in those first centuries, and assuming the mid-day darkness was very well-known and associated with Christian evangelism, then most chroniclers, especially those writing under a retainer from pagan aristocrats, would likely refrain from giving it any further legitimacy. To borrow the phrase from M. Night Shyamalan again, it may have been one of those ‘things of which we must not speak’.

All of this has been a roundabout way of saying that St. Paul and the other missionaries would not have walked into a vacuum as they entered those far flung towns throughout the Roman Empire They would have entered into a grid of people across Egypt, Greece and Turkey, India, Gaul, Syria, Spain and Rome, who already knew something of the happenings surrounding the Passover Crucifixion of Jesus – simply because they had heard it from family, friends, travelers and acquaintances, who were actually there.

So when Paul or other apostles show up in Turkey, or Greece, or Alexandria, a few decades later, some thought they were crazy, and some saw them as a threat to their traditions. Some thought he brought a brilliant message for a new way to live. But there were many others eager to hear what he could add to what they already knew.

Paul came as an authority; not to tell them all that had happened in Jerusalem during that fateful Passover, but to tell them what it meant.

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