Artifacts & Biblical History

How do we know the sites related to Jesus are authentic? Didn’t the truth of these places get lost in the mist of history? Is the Bible really historically reliable?

Recently I did an interview with Tim Staples of Catholic Answers about the reliability of the Bible, the proof of archaeology and the authenticity of the sites. The article is entitled The Stones Cry Out: How Archaeology Proves the Truth of the Bible.

Click here or on the image to the right to read the article and see all the pictures and illustrations.

Join us in the Holy Land!!

To see our upcoming pilgrimages to the Holy Land, visit www.FootprintsOfGod.com.

We have trips going to the Holy Land, Rome, Poland, Lourdes & Fatima, Guadalupe and a Cruise following St. Paul through the Mediterranean and more.

We have only two seats open for our January 28 departure to the Holy Land. We also have trips on February 28, April 21, May 1, and more. 

One of our groups on the steps up to Calvary at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (it is perfectly safe to visit the Holy Land). Contact Suzanne at 800-727-1999, ext 121 or sparran@ctscentral.net for more information.

 

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SIGN OF THE CROSS
By Steve Ray

The Sign of the Cross is a ritual gesture by which we confess two important mysteries: the Trinity and the centrality of the Cross. It is the most common and visible means by which we confess our faith. The Sign of the Cross is made by touching the forehead with the fingers of the right hand, then the breast and then the left and right shoulders.

The sign was originally placed upon the forehead with the thumb and later extended to the whole upper body. This is not only a personal gesture, as a form of prayer but also a public witness and a sign of participation in the life of Christ and the Church. It is used as an integral part of many actions (e.g., at Baptism, Confirmation, prayer, to begin and end Mass, etc.).

 The Church has given us wonderful customs and traditions to mark ourselves and to acknowledge our participation in the whole continuity of the Church and the work of Christ. Miracles have been performed with this simple gesture and parliaments and councils have opened under its sign. Though Protestantism jettisoned this practice, along with the crucifix during the Reformation, the Catholic and Orthodox traditions faithfully continue this age old practice handed down from the age of the Apostles.

The Catholic Church has always seen outward gestures as means of expressing and actuating internal spiritual realities. Sacramentals, such as the Sign of the Cross, are not superstitious practices but are sacred signs by which various things in life are rendered holy through the effectual and sacramental grace of God. By the Sign of the Cross we pledge allegiance to Christ and invite the Holy Spirit to apply the cross to our lives—to take up our cross and follow Christ.

Though the NT does not specifically mention the “Sign of the Cross”, there is scriptural warrant for such a gesture. St. Paul writes, “I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” (1 Cor 2:2), and “may it never be that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal 6:14).

Ezekiel provides precedence for a sign upon the forehead of believers (Ezek 9:4; 17:9–14) as does Revelation (Rev 7:3; 9:4; 14:1). Ezekiel provided a support for the early Christians to use it as a “sacramental” (CCC 1235, 1668) to display their devotion to Christ and His Cross. There is reason to believe that the Jewish Christians used the Sign of the Cross prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in ad 70.

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church we learn: “The Christian begins his day, his prayers and his activities with the Sign of the Cross: ‘in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.’ The baptized person dedicates the day to the glory of God and calls on the Savior’s grace which lets him act in the Spirit as a child of the Father. The Sign of the Cross strengthens us in temptations and difficulties” (CCC, no. 2157; see also CCC, no. 786).

The writings of the Fathers, as authentic witnesses to the apostolic teaching in the early Church, are replete with references to the Sign of the Cross. The practice is already well established in the 2nd century as attested to by Tertullian (ad c. 160-c. 225). He writes of the wife who “signs” her bed and body (To His Wife 5).

He also writes, “At every forward step and movement, at every going in and out, when we put on our clothes and shoes, when we bathe, when we sit at table, when we light the lamps, on couch, on seat, in all the ordinary actions of daily life, we trace upon the forehead the sign. If, for these and other such rules, you insist upon having positive Scripture injunction, you will find none. Tradition will be held forth to you as the originator of them, custom as their strengthener, and faith as their observer” (The Chaplet 3, 4).

Origen (ad c. 185-c. 284) wrote, “This [letter Tau] bears a resemblance to the figure of the cross; and this prophecy [Ezek 9:4] is said to regard the sign made by Christians on the forehead, which all believers make whatsoever work they begin upon, and especially at the beginning of prayers, or of holy readings” (Selections in Ezekiel. c. ix).

St. Augustine (354–430 AD) wrote: “What else is the sign of Christ but the cross of Christ? For unless that sign be applied, whether it be to the foreheads of believers, or to the very water out of which they are regenerated, or to the oil with which they receive the anointing chrism, or to the sacrifice that nourishes them, none of them is properly administered” (Tractates on John 118).

There has never been a time in the flow of historic Christianity that the Sign of the Cross has not been devoutly practiced. Only recently, since the Reformation, has the Sign of the Cross (along with the Crucifix, holy water and other visible signs) been rejected as idolatrous by many Protestant traditions. However, even Martin Luther in his Taufbuechlein retained the Sign of the Cross in the baptismal service and used the Sign of the Cross as one of his last gestures before death (H. Grizar, Luther, 3:435).

 Quotations:

Tertullian: Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Philip Schaff, ed., Eerdmans, 1980, vol. 3, p. 94–95.

Origen: The Faith of Catholics, Rev. Chapel, ed., Fr. Pustet & Co., 1885, vol. 3, p. 424.

St. Augustine: Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 1st series, Philip Schaff, ed., Eerdmans, 1983, vol. 7, p. 432.

Grizar citation: Luther, Hartmann Grizar, B. Herder Book Co., 1919, vol. 3, p. 435.

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joseph10Today is the Feast day of St. Joseph the Worker!

There are some pictures of Joseph I don’t appreciate so much. They present him almost as soft, effeminate like he just came out of a beauty parlor. It appears he never worked in the real world and has not a wrinkle on his clothes or a speck of dirt on his hands and feet.

I understand why artists paint Joseph this way and why churches have statues and images of the flowery, dainty, “European” Joseph with his fair hair. It is because art tries to reveal the inner qualities. This soft art tries to show the righteousness, holiness, kindness and love of a man who cared so deeply for God and his family.

308f4d06baa56b279ed41a7a1b86e31eBut Joseph was anything but a fair-haired, effeminate man with soft skin. Joseph was a manly man. His hands were calloused, his face was brown and creased from the sun, his arms and legs were like iron from walking, lifting and working. Quite the opposite of how he is often portrayed.

We are told that Joseph was a carpenter. The word for carpenter in the Greek of the New Testament is tekton which means one who works with hard materials like wood, stone or metal. 

In short Joseph was a laborer, a redneck, a rock mason. Someone had to quarry the rocks near Nazareth; someone had to chisel them with hammers to shape them for walls, houses, etc. Most historians believe Joseph and Jesus were construction workers helping build the city of Sepphoris.

You see here a few of my favorite pictures of St. Joseph, probably better representing the way he and Jesus really looked. Rough hands, brown face, tussled hair, coarse clothing and dusty feet. Imagine a construction worker, a farmer in the field, a lumberjack or a ditch digger.

tissot-the-anxiety-of-saint-joseph-737x587x72When I first showed this picture of Jesus standing in the wood shavings and dust to a friend with a devotion to St. Joseph he was scandalized. He shouted, “That is NOT St. Joseph!” He had been meditating on the soft, effeminate Joseph, not the rugged working Joseph of the rustic town of Nazareth.

Nazareth was a backwater village with a network of about 25 caves. Very rustic living – no plumbing, no showers, to toilets, no refrigerators, microwaves, washing machines or air conditioners. How would such a life affect you? (In the picture to the right you can see Mary arriving from the well with a jug of water on her head.)

St. Joseph was a manly man and so was Jesus. They give us a good example of masculine men, working hard for their family. They demonstrated the dignity of hard work and the dignity of family life (CCC 533).

St. Joseph the Worker, pray for us!

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There are Two Seas in Palestine – Which One are You Like?

April 30, 2017

Since we are on a boat sailing the Sea of Galilee today, I thought I would share this parable that we will be reading to the pilgrims. Two Seas in Palestine, by Bruce Barton “There are two seas in Palestine. One is fresh, and fish are in it. Splashes of green adorn its banks. Trees […]

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How Much Can a Camel Drink? – as he bites me!

April 28, 2017

Since we will soon be in Jordan and Israel again riding camels, I thought I would post some fun and interesting facts – and a movie of the camel trying to bite me. I recently wrote the Bible Study on Genesis for www.CatholicScriptureStudy.com. In chapter 24 Abraham sends his unnamed servant to find a bride […]

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Newly Renovated Tomb of Christ in the Holy Sepulchre

April 27, 2017

Before our group arrived today Janet and I visited the Tomb of Christ in the Holy Sepulchre a few days after its unveiling without the ugly iron girders that used to surround it for support. Here are a few pictures of the new exterior and one of the interior. Nothing is really changed (except removal […]

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History of Middle East in 90 Seconds

April 26, 2017

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

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How Big was Noah’s Ark

April 21, 2017

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 […]

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When Was Jesus Crucified? How Long on the Cross? Do the Gospels Contradict Each Other?

April 14, 2017

Do the Gospels Conflict? How Long was Jesus on the Cross? (See also Was Jesus Crucified Naked? and How Long Was Jesus in the Tomb?) The question intrigued me sufficiently enough that I spent the best part of a day working on it. On the surface there seems to be a contradiction in the Gospels, mentioning different […]

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Was Jesus Crucified Naked? (Updated 4/13/17)

April 12, 2017

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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When Is the Word “Love” First Used in the Bible?

April 6, 2017

When is the first time the word love is used in the Bible? It is great fun to ask a million questions when you open the Bible. Good questions serve to unlock the treasure chest revealing untold riches. Since the Bible is a book and books are made of words, it is great fun to […]

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Forty Frozen Martyrs – we honor them today March 10

March 9, 2017

In my talk Swimming Upstream I usually tell the story of 40 Roman soldiers who chose to freeze naked on a frozen lake in 320 AD rather than deny Jesus Christ. St. Basil, Doctor of the Church, told of the heroic martyrdom of 40 soldiers in a homily. They had been executed fifty years before […]

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Power of the Olive Wood, Holy Land Rosaries

March 3, 2017

On each of our trips we offer olive wood Rosaries to our groups. These are made by Sisters in Bethlehem. We touch them to all the holy sites, especially all the Rosary sites. They are all blessed in Jerusalem before the pilgrims head back home. A Mother Superior wrote to me about her experience in […]

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Discovering Egypt’s St Macarius Monastery and Bones of John the Baptist and Elisha

February 27, 2017

Today we went into the deserts of Egypt to find the monastery of St. Macarius which was built in 365 A.D. It still has 160 monks. We celebrated the Divine Liturgy with the monks and we accomplished what we intended to do with the bones/tombs of John the Baptist and Elijah’s the Prophet. During our […]

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Discovering Egypt’s St. Macarius Monastery and Bones of Elisha and John the Baptist

February 27, 2017

Today we went into the deserts of Egypt to find the monastery of St. Macarius which was built in 365 A.D. It still has 160 monks. We celebrated the Divine Liturgy with the monks and we accomplished what we intended to do with the bones/tombs of John the Baptist and Elijah’s the Prophet. During our […]

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Live from the Deserts of Egypt 3 Radio Shows Today

February 27, 2017

Today I will be giving a live update from the deserts of Egypt as we discover the tomb of Saint John the Baptist and Elisha the Prophet. Sun Rise Morning Show 6:35 AM Eastern Relevant Radio 9:15 AM Teresa Tomeo 9:40 AM

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