Artifacts & Biblical History

Church of the Agony in Gethsemane

Today we are having Mass at Gethsemane on the western slope of the Mount of Olives. How do we know this is really Gethsemane?

And yesterday we had Mass at Tomb of Christ in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Really? How do we know?

Two days ago we venerated the place Jesus was born in Bethlehem and had Mass in the Cave of the Shepherds.

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

The spot marking the place where Jesus was bornthese spots and to pray.

 When Christianity became legalized, churches were built on these sites. Tradition, archaeology and the ancient witness confirms the authenticity of the sites. Below is a few examples relating to Bethlehem.

 In a very enlightening side note, Bethlehem was mentioned by St. John Chrysostom in his Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, written in ad 370: “. . . Since that birth [of Jesus], men come from the ends of the earth to see the manger, and the site of the shed.”

 The early Christians remembered and preserved the location and pilgrims like you visited even in the first centuries. Emperor Hadrian built pagan shrines over the holy places in 135 AD. He thought the memory of the sites and associated faith would be obliterated forever. But then Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity. His mother St. Queen Helena went to Israel, asked the locals where Jesus was born, where he was crucified…

Church of Nativity 100 years ago

They pointed to the shrines and showed her what they all still remembered well. Queen Helena knocked down the pagan shrines and what did she find? The remains of early Christian veneration. She built a huge church over the place of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, another over the place of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem and a large church over the cave on the Mount of Olives where Jesus ascended into heaven.

There is a saying, “The water is cooler and clearer the nearer you get to the source.” Many of the Fathers of the Church – very close to the events mentioned in the Bible – speak with great certainty about the sites in the Holy Land. 

 The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says, “The cave-stable is mentioned by Justin Martyr, Origen, and Jerome. After the Romans conquered Bethlehem anew (AD 135) the site of the Nativity was desecrated, probably under Hadrian (117–138; cf. Jerome Epistle 58.3). Jerome lived for thirty-three years in Bethlehem (AD 387–420). Here he helped found and direct pilgrim hospices, convents for women, and a monastery.”

 The Tyndale Bible Dictionary says, “The birth of Jesus possibly took place in a cave in the rocks outside the town. The early Christian writer Justin Martyr 9100–165) thought so, as did Origen (c. 185–254) some years later. Origen frequently resided in the Holy Land and wrote, ‘In Bethlehem you are shown the cave where he was born, and within the cave the manger where he was wrapped in swaddling clothes.’

Emperor Constantine and his mother Queen Helena

“Jerome later described the grotto over which the Emperor Constantine had built a basilica. In excavations in 1934–35, evidence indicated a second period of building in the reign of Justinian (ad 527–565), when Constantine’s basilica was extended beyond its original proportions. Steps lead down to the grotto, the rectangular shape of which suggests that Constantine’s builders reshaped the original. But there is no description of the grotto prior to the construction of Constantine’s basilica.”

 These places were remembered! We’ve known their locations for two thousand years. 

 Another Example: The Cave of Machpelah

The Cave of Machpelah was bought by Abraham about 1850 BC as a tomb in which to bury his wife Sarah. It now contains the remains of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Leah. It is now in Hebron, the city of Abraham. However, Abraham never owned any other land in Canaan before he died.

The Machpelah Cave over Sarah's tomb built 2,000 years ago

Abraham’s descendants were in bondage in Egypt for four hundred years. For an additional forty years they wandered in the wilderness. It was remembered in Genesis 49 – over 400 years later – when the Israelites returned from Egypt. The city of Hebron was built around Abraham’s tomb and King Herod build a huge monument over the graves of Abraham and his family which still stands today in the heart of Hebron. 

Abraham bought a plot of land called the Cave of Machpelah (Gen 35:16–20; 48:7; 1 Sam 10:2). Even today, the Cave of Machpelah is known and can be visited in Hebron. Visiting this site you see a place known for four thousand years!

Another Example: Rachel’s Tomb

 Notice a case in which we can see how important holy sites were and how they were carefully remembered. The Tomb of Rachel can be visited today in Bethlehem even though she was buried there about 3,800 years ago! 

Rachel's Tomb 100 years ago in Bethlehem

Jacob buried Rachel in Bethlehem and the location of the tomb was still known 800 years later when Israel returned from Egypt and after they lived in the land for over 350 years. Wouldn’t expect them to forgot its location over the subsequent eight hundred centuries? It is still there today and we filmed there for our David DVD. Notice the biblical verses below:

 “So Rachel died, and she was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem)” (Genesis 35:19) 

“And Jacob set up a pillar upon her grave; it is the pillar of Rachel’s tomb, which is there to this day” (Genesis 35:20) 

Eight Hundred years later, “[Samuel said to Saul]  When you depart from me today you will meet two men by Rachel’s tomb in the territory of Benjamin at Zelzah” (1 Samuel 10:2).

 These are just a few examples from the Old Testament to show how these holy sites were venerated and remembered. The same can be said from the New Testament. Holy people have always remembered the holy sites.

 How much more so for Jesus the Son of God who became flesh! We can be very confident that the holy sites we see today, were the holy sites of old—the very places where God and the saints walked and where we can walk today.

Join us on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and I will be your guide. Visit Footprints of God Pilgrimages.

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How Big was Noah’s Ark

by Steve Ray on May 11, 2015

It was a big boat at a time when big boats did not exist. It was a feat of genius ingenuity. You can read the instructions for building in Genesis 6:14-22.

We are also told that the ark is a picture of the Church and salvation. In the ark Noah passed through the waters which is a type of baptism. 

St. Peter writes, “God patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the ark, in which a few persons, eight in all, were saved through water. This prefigured baptism, which saves you now” (1 Pet 3:20–21).

Jesus says we are born again by water and Spirit which fulfills the prefiguration of Noah and saves us (John 3:3-5).

With all those animals in the ark I wonder who was in charge of cleaning up the mess. I grew up on a farm and it was my job to use the pitch fork to scoop up the nasty straw and spread it on the garden every day.

The sons of Noah must of had a monumental task every morning and the smell must have been outlandish.

But sometimes it is worth wading through nasty sh–, I mean piles of poop to get to heaven. We to live in a world full of sin, suffering and abuse, but we persevere and the reward is salvation (Matt 24:13).

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Her face shone as she related the stories—the words were vibrant, and though older now, her memory was excellent.

He sat enraptured as she brought the past into living color. He had traveled a long way to see her and he sat motionless, with furled brow, taking careful notes on his parchment. He spent hours asking questions and listening.

Mary’s stories seemed incredible; but Luke had been a Christian long enough to know the stories were true. He was compiling an orderly account for his Excellency Theophilus.

Luke’s Gospel stands third among the gospels and is the only one written by a non-Jew; in fact, Luke is the only Gentile author in the Bible.

He wrote a sequel to his gospel, the Acts of the Apostles which is the first history of the fledgling Church, also addressed to Theophilus who was probably a governmental dignitary.

Luke and Acts together span the initial sixty years of the first century. Luke was a physician by trade from Antioch in Syria and he often accompanied Paul on his apostolic journeys (Col 4:14; Philem 24) and was loyal to him until the end (2 Tim 4:11).

The gentle physician interviewed Mary and other eye-witnesses because he “he did not see the Lord in His flesh” himself and was therefore compiling an account, and some of the most unique stories could have come only from Mary.

Luke’s purpose was to collect the many stories and historical events from various sources and to compile them into a convincing and orderly account so that everyone would believe in Jesus the savior of the world.

Mark’s gospel was a primary source for Luke. Of Luke’s 1149 verses, about 320 are from Mark’s gospel. Luke’s Gospel is the longest book in the New Testament. The date of his writing was around AD 62, probably while caring for Paul under house arrest in Rome (Acts 28:16, 30). …

For the rest of the account, all you need to know about St. Luke, click HERE.

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History of Middle East in 90 Seconds

April 13, 2015

Fascinating moving map. Click the image below to see biblical and modern history of the volatile Middle East.

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Meet St. Paul as he Writes to the Romans; A Brief Study to Make it Easy

April 12, 2015

I love St. Paul and love to write about him and his epistles. I also enjoyed traveling through six countries filming his life story and theology. St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans is often seen as impossible to understand except by theologians — and most skip right over this masterpiece. With hopes that you will [...]

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Was Jesus Crucified Naked?

April 1, 2015

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

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Steve on Lots of Radio Shows this Week

March 30, 2015

Lots of Radio Shows this Week – Join Me!  All times are Eastern Time All of the “Virtual Tours” came out VERY different, since a few of them were pre-recorded. None of them were alike :-) Each interviewer asked, and will ask different questions which take us in many different directions. It is a topic [...]

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Chair of Moses, Chair of Peter

February 19, 2015

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

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Talk on Overview of Salvation History (with pictures) Tonight at St. Irenaeus in Michigan

January 25, 2015

In Rochester Hills I will be giving a talk I usually give overlooking Jerusalem from the south. I tell the story of salvation history from Adam and Eve until today, emphasizing the life of Christ. It is great to see the whole story right before your eyes! Tom Govern has joined up multiple times on [...]

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

January 8, 2015

A painful price is paid when one reaches his hand into a swarm of bees to swipe some of their honey. Stingers fly and welts flare. Wild honey is not collected from wild bees without burning pain and suffering. Today there is protective equipment and methods to harvest honey, but in times past it took [...]

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Biblical Measurements and Units

January 5, 2015

Cubits, a spam, and ephah and a bath. What do all of these mean in the Bible? Here is a helpful chart taken from Verbum.

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Ending 2014 with a Day in Bethlehem: Visiting the Nativity, Cave of the Shepherds, Dining and Dancing

December 31, 2014

The first video is our full day touring Bethlehem with Mass twice :-). Once at the cave of the shepherds and the second time in a Carmelite monastery to celebrate Mary the mother of God. We also did a whole lot of other things all day in Bethlehem. Video 2 is our wining, dining and [...]

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“You are Peter” in Jesus’ language of Aramaic

December 30, 2014

Since we recently visited Caesarea Philippi, the site where Jesus renamed Simon as “Peter” or Kepha (Matt 16:13-20), I thought you would find this interesting. So, what did it sound like at Caesarea Philippi when Jesus renamed Simon and made him the rock of the Church: “And I tell you, you are Peter [rock], and [...]

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New YouTube Video Link: Steve’s Talk in Corinth about Biblical Accuracy – with proof before our eyes

December 1, 2014

When I take my groups to Corinth in Greece, I love taking them off the beaten track to see the Erastus Stone. One of our pilgrims made a video of my talk I gave here this year. Hope you enjoy it.  Robin DySard was the videographer. The video is only 8 minutes. To see the [...]

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Did the Wise Men Meet the Shepherds?

December 1, 2014

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

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Have They Discovered a New “Lost Gospel” that Says Jesus was Married?

November 13, 2014

Jimmy Akin writes: It’s getting near Christmas, and you know what that means. That’s right! It’s time for another book to be released telling us the sensationalistic “truth” about Christianity. This time we have The Lost Gospel: Decoding the Ancient Text that Reveals Jesus’ Marriage to Mary the Magdalene by Simcha Jacobovici and Barrie Wilson. [...]

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