Sunday, August 10, 2014

Bible Fact or Fiction part 2

Matthew 7:7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”

I want to conclude on the topic of facts vs fiction in the bible and how accurate the bible really is regarding certain places and people.  Many critics have been skeptical on biblical figures and events and if they really existed and whether there is evidence to support this.  Such figures include Noah’s Ark, the Garden of Eden, Jesus Christ himself etc.  

Many have wondered about the famous Noah’s Ark, whether it existed or not and what happened to the large ark that carried Noah’s family and a large menagerie of animals during the flood that wiped out millions of people.  That questioned may have been answered when in Turkey a Kurdish farmer discovered what appeared to be a large boat-shaped formation after an earthquake in 1948 fifteen miles from Mount Ararat.  In 1959, a Turkish air force pilot also discovered the site and took a photo of this formation and it was published on July 9, 1960 in the Australian Pix Magazine, then later in the Life Magazine on September 5, 1960.  That same year, an archaeological research team investigated the site, but didn’t find any evidence it was the famous ark.  Then in 1977, archeologist Ron Wyatt traveled to the site with his two sons to study the formation himself. He would travel to the site for over few years, but on his first visit he did discover several artifacts that he linked with Noah.  These included stone sea anchors, he believes Noah used to steer the vessel.  Also, a house that Noah allegedly built and some stones containing inscriptions of the details of the flood.  He also found a pictograph showing eight people leaving a large wave of water with a boat. Also the alleged burial ground of Noah.  In 1979, Wyatt returned to the site, a year after a great earthquake occurred splitting the formation from bow to stern.  This time Wyatt took some soil samples from outside and inside the formation and after some testing discovered they were petrified timbers.  

The Turkish government has since supported Wyatt’s theory and acknowledged the site to be location of Noah’s Ark.  However, some skeptics have rebuked these claims.  In fact, others have also claimed to have found the true location of Noah’s Ark.  One such person is the late Edward Crawford, a former draftsman illustrator for the U.S. military who also taught theology at the Evergreen Bible Presbyterian Church in Seattle.  Crawford made numerous trips to Mount Ararat and in 1990, he discovered a rectangular structure buried under snow and ice elevated about 14,765 feet which he determined to be the Noah’s Ark.  In June 2006, a 14-crew of explorers went on an expedition in Iran led by bible historian and explorer Bob Cornuke.  They found an unusual shape on a slope approximately 13,000 feet above sea level in the Ararat Mountain range which they believed to the location of the famous Ark.  The crew took video footage of a 400 feet black formation which was about the size of the biblical ark.  They also took samples of some of the wood-like rocks which they tested and was  proved to be petrified wood.  However, the latest alleged discovery of Noah’s Ark occurred in October 2008, when a 15-crew of Turkish and Chinese biblical explorers from Noah’s Ark Ministries International from Hong Kong, traveled to Mount Ararat Turkey.  They found a structure 13,000 ft above sea level and over 4,800 years old. They also discovered on the site, several compartments with some wooden beams that they believe was used to house animals. The explorers also videotaped doors, staircases and nails.  The team are not 100 percent sure if the structure is Noah’s Ark but are 99.9 percent convinced it is. 

Another popular biblical site allegedly discovered is the famous Garden of Eden, where Adam and Eve were kicked out of after eating the forbidden fruit.  Although, there isn’t any 100 percent definite sources as to the exact location, there are several theories as to where the Garden of Eden existed.  Genesis 2:10-14 mentions four rivers flowing in the Garden of Eden, Pishon, Gihon, Hiddekel and Euphrates.   Although there is no mention of a Pishon and Gihon rivers that exist today, the Euphrates river in the Turkish mountains area and merges with the Tigris River near the Iraq/Kuwait border.  Some speculate the Tigris river is the Hiddekel river in the bible leaving many theorize that the Garden of Eden is located in Turkey or possibly Kuwait.  However, according to Latvian-German born archaeologist and professor Juris Zarins, the Garden is located in the Persian Gulf where they Euphrates and Tigris rivers runs into the sea.  He also believes that the Pishon river is actually Wadi-Batin River a dry riverbed in Kuwait that runs through Saudi Arabia and the Gihon river was the Karun river in Iran.  British Egyptologist David M. Rohl, also claimed the legendary Garden is actually located in the Iranian Azarbaijan area in the city of Tabriz.  According to Rohl, the location is in the long valley north of the Sahand volcano.  Also, Rohl claimed to have located the two other headwater rivers Gihon and Pishon, known as Araxes(Gihon) and Uizhun(Pishon).  He also claimed to have located Land of Nod, where Adam and Eve’s son Cain was exiled after killing Abel.  The land is now known as Noqdi.  

Another factor regarding the tale of Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden is the famous forbidden fruit that Eve ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  The most popular story is the fruit was an apple, however, there is debate if this was true.  Apparently apples didn’t exist in the Middle East, during the Ancient times and it was never described as an apple in the bible.  Many scholars speculate that the forbidden fruit was really a promenade.  The confusion may have become because the latin word malum(mal-um) means apple where as the latin word malum(ma-lum) means evil. Other known discoveries are the some of the tombs of the twelve apostles and Jesus Christ himself.  In fact, in 1942 Vatican archeologists discovered some bones under Saint Peter Basilica’s near a monument in Jerusalem.  After some testing done in the 1940s and 1950s, Catholic pope Paul V1 declared them to be remains of the Apostle Simon Peter in 1968.  However, in 1953 Franciscan priests found an underground cave on the Franciscan church Dominus Flevit on the Mount Olives in Jerusalem. There they discovered hundreds of first century ossuaries, one which read in Aramaic “Shimon Bar Yonah” which translates to “Simon son of Jonah believing this was true remains of the Simon Peter.  Between 1953 and 1955, 43 inscriptions of the other ossuaries where photographed and later published in 1958.  Some of the names read were, Jesus, Joseph, Judas, Matthew Mary, Martha, Lazarus and Mariame.  To these scholars this was proof of a Christian community in Jerusalem.  

Some scholars are skeptic about this discovery and doubted the claims that they were the remains of the apostle.  Also, many in the past had believed Apostle Simon Peter died in Rome where he was legendary crucified. His brother, Apostle Andrew’s tomb was buried in Patras Greece.  In March of the year 357, the Emperor Constantine, who was the son of Constantine, The Great ordered the remains to be moved to the Holy of Apostles in Constantinople.  Later, some part of his remains was taking to Scotland, since he was chosen as the protector of the Scottish people.  In 1460, the ruler Thomas Paleologos had the skull removed from Patras to Rome.  Then in 1967, Pope Paul had the skull returned once again to Patras.  Another Apostle’s tomb that was recently discovered is that of Apostle Phillip.  The event happened in the summer of 2011, in Hierapolis Turkey, where Italian professor Francesco D’Andria helped in finding a first century Tomb 40 yards from the monument Martyrium in honor of Saint Phillip buried under a small church.  He claimed to have evidence that supports the theory that the tomb was of Apostle Phillip even though his remains were no longer in the tomb.  Professor D’Andria believes that the remains was taken to Constantinople at the end of the sixth century then later to Rome to the Church of the Holy Apostles.  Of course, there are some contradictions to these claims as some reports that Phillip’s remains were still in Constantinople as late as the twelfth century. Then there was the discovery of the tomb and bones of Saint Paul in Rome of 2009, when researchers found a marble sarcophagus in an underground chamber of the Basilica of Saint Paul, where bones were found inside.  After scientific tests, the Pope Benedict XVI confirmed that the remains were that of the famous Saint.  However, the most intriguing discovery is that of Jesus Christ himself. 

 In Jerusalem, the famous rock-cut tomb known as the Garden Tomb is considered to be the burial and resurrection of Jesus found in 1867.  It has become a popular tourist site for many visitors.  One contradiction to this theory is the belief from some that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is considered to be the death and resurrection of Jesus.  Other theories have been made about Jesus burial including the 1980 discovery by construction workers of a rock-cut tomb in East Talpiot Jerusalem.  Inside the tomb, ten ossuaries were found some of them translated the names Jesus son of Joseph, Joseph, James, Maria, Matthew, Judas etc.  In March 2007, a documentary aired on the Discovery Channel titled “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” produced by popular filmmaker James Cameron(Titanic) and directed by Canadian filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici.  Later, in 2010, Biblical scholar and college professor of religious studies at North Carolina in Charlotte, James Tabor and Jacobovici discovered another underground tomb 200 feet away which was originally found in 1981.  Using a robotic camera, they found many more ossuaries in this tomb with inscriptions engraved on them one with a drawing of a fish and a human stick figure in its mouth which they believe to be the refereeing to the story of Jonah and the whale.  One the same ossuary is also a drawing of a cross which they believe represents Jesus.  Another box had a message in Greek which was translated to read “Divine Jehovah, raise up, raise up”.  It was believed that these messages were referring to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  It was also believed that this was the actual burial place of Jesus Christ.  Tabor and Jacobovici had since published a book called “The Jesus Discovery” and a documentary of the same title was made in 2012.  

 Biblical scholars reject these theories since finding Jesus’s remains would contradict the famous biblical story of his resurrection.  Also, some claim Jesus would have likely been buried in the place of his birth as was the custom not in Jerusalem.  Another argument is that Jesus ossuary would like state “Jesus of Nazareth” or “Jesus the Messiah”   As for the inscription “Jesus the son of Joseph”, it was been argued that both the names Jesus and Joseph were common names in Ancient Israel.  Speaking of his birth, there is now a debate among scholars were he was actually born.  The long held belief was that Jesus was born in the Palestinian city of Bethlehem in a manger.  Recently, some Israeli archaeologists now believe that his birthplace was a Galilean small village also called Bethlehem.  This is supported by the knowledge that both Joseph and Mary were from Galilee in a town Nazareth.  The most important and controversial discovery about Jesus was the famous Shroud of Turin which led to the possibly revelation of the true face of Jesus Christ.  For decades there has been theories of what Jesus looked liked, with many drawings of him mainly famously viewed as a fair-skinned man with long light brown hair and blue eyes.  Of course, many doubt that that is what Jesus looked liked being from Israel where he would have likely been bronze-complexioned man with dark hair.  However, the most recent discovery of his possible physical appearance came from a Shroud of Turin, a 14-foot cloth that contains stains of blood, dirt and water and an image of a man’s body with what appears to be a crown of thorns on his head. Scholars believe this was used to cover Jesus body and has been the most studied artifact in history. 

 It was first discovered in 14th century and has been at the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Turin, Italy since the 16th century.  The first photograph of the cloth was taken in the very late 19th century in which the facial features were first confirmed.  Over decades, more studies were done on the shroud and in the 1970s, a team of scientists found that the image of the cloth was likely that of a crucified body and the stains were real human blood.  In the late 1980s, more scientists speculated that the shroud dated back between 13th or 13th century, however it has now believed the cloth dates back to Jesus time.  Then in 2009, the latest discovery came about with 3D computer graphic artist and TV producer Ray Downing of Studio Macbeth.  Mr. Downing used the body image from the shroud and recreated Jesus face through 3D computer-generated image.  A two-hour documentary “The Face of Jesus” aired on the History Channel in 2010 regarding these findings and many viewers got to see a possibly realistic image of what Jesus really looked liked.  This latest discovery received mixed views as some doubted the discovery and others did not.  For centuries, there have been many theories and allege discoveries regarding the biblical figures, places and artifacts and debate on whether these discoveries are 100% definite. 

 I guess we may never completely prove for sure if all in the bible is true regarding Adam and Eve, the Garden of Eden, Noah’s Ark, Moses, King David, Esther, Jesus Christ himself etc.  However, at this point I think all that matters is not 100% proof but faith.  Faith in the belief of God our Creator, Jesus Christ who died for our sins, in Moses who led the Jewish people out of Egypt, in Adam and Eve the first man and woman on earth and faith in the bible itself.  No matter if I get conflicted or not and start questioning historical accuracy of the bible I just remember my faith in God our Lord and realize as long as I have that proof is not really important.