Artifacts & Biblical History

COMMENTARY: One doesn’t have to look far to see that the term ‘war on women’ doesn’t apply. In fact, it’s quite the opposite!

by ARINA O. GROSSU 

Anyone who claims that the Catholic Church is anti-woman knows little about her rich history and Tradition in proclaiming the beauty and greatness of womanhood. There is no more pro-woman institution than the Catholic Church. And here are five reasons why.

First, the salvation of all humanity hinged on a singular woman’s “Yes,” her fiat, to becoming the mother of Jesus. God could have chosen to bring about the salvific act of Christ in so many ways, but he chose to do so in and through a woman. The Catholic Church honors and celebrates Mary’s wholly singular role (Catechism 968) with special devotion.

Catholics do not worship Mary, but they do honor her — and rightfully so. However, Mary’s unique role in the Church is “inseparable from her union with Christ and flows directly from it” (964). Since we are the body of Christ, and Mary is Christ’s mother, she is also our mother and the Mother of the Church (963). 

Christ declared her our Mother by entrusting her to St. John and entrusting St. John to her: “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother’ (John 19:26-27).”

Second, holy Scripture is brimming with the stories of at least 137 women, many of them brave matriarchs, heroines and saints. 

For example, in the Old Testament, we have the most attractive woman of the kingdom of Persia, Queen Esther, who saved her husband, King Ahasuerus, from being murdered, saved the Jewish people from a massacre at Haman’s hands and spared the life of her uncle Mordecai. 

Then there’s Rachel, the mother of Joseph and Benjamin, the sons who fathered the 12 tribes of Israel. Then there’s Judith, a daring and beautiful widow, who saved the Israelites from surrendering to the Assyrians by sneaking in the enemy camp and decapitating the general, Holofernes.

 Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/anti-woman-five-reasons-the-catholic-church-is-the-most-pro-woman-instituti/#ixzz43rjPnpng

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This is just one page of Bob Sullivan’s excellent little tri-fold handout to explain how we got the Bible. It is from the Catholic and historical perspective without all the Protestant biases and twisting of history. I think you enjoy the whole thing which you can see here.

You can print this out, fold it twice and hand it to someone who needs to know or keep one in your pocket.

Click here to open the full printable document

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Is this the Oldest Image of the Virgin Mary?

by Steve Ray on March 28, 2016

New York Times By Michael Peppard
JANUARY 30, 2016

THE Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus, is the most revered woman in the Christian tradition. In the history of art, she appears almost as frequently as Jesus himself. But for the past 80 years, one of the oldest paintings of her may have been hiding in plain sight.

A detail of the baptistery painting from Deir ez-Zor, Syria, that may portray the Virgin Mary. TONY DE CAMILLO / YALE UNIVERSITY ART GALLERY

At the Yale University Art Gallery hang wall paintings from one of the world’s oldest churches. Buried by the middle of the third century, this house-church from eastern Syria had images of Jesus, Peter and David. The gallery showcases a well-preserved procession of veiled women that once surrounded its baptistery, a room for Christian initiation.

Off to the side, seldom noticed among the likes of Jesus and Peter, stands a different wall fragment, faded but still discernible: a woman bent over a well. Holding the rope of her vessel, she looks out at the viewer or perhaps over her shoulder, seemingly startled in the act of drawing water.

Who is she? The museum’s identification is certainly plausible: “The painting most likely depicts a scene from the encounter between Christ (not shown) and a woman from Samaria,” as recorded in the Gospel of John. But historians also know that the Samaritan Woman, a repentant sinner who conversed at length with Jesus, was usually depicted in dialogue with him. This woman appears to be alone.

Is it possible that a painting from a building excavated in 1932 and publicized around the world has not been correctly identified? These murals come from the eastern frontier of the Roman Empire, a military outpost variously called “Dura” or “Europos” in antiquity.

Perched high above the Euphrates in the region that is now called Deir ez-Zor, the ruins of Dura-Europos have yielded more distinct artifacts than almost any other ancient archaeological site: an intact Roman shield, a lavishly painted synagogue, a temple to the gods of nearby Palmyra. It is the “Pompeii of the Syrian desert,” declared Michael Rostovtzeff, director of Yale’s excavations at the site.

An annunciation scene from a Byzantine 12th-century illuminated manuscript. BIBLIOTHÈQUE NATIONALE DE FRANCE

But no Vesuvius buried this Pompeii. Portions of Dura-Europos were buried intentionally, to bolster a rampart against a Sasanian army invading from the east in the 250s. The misfortune of the Roman garrison, which lost the battle, would become good fortune for historians. The earthen rampart sealed cross-sections of many buildings, including the house-church, so that both contents and date were secure. 

The church’s painted baptistery remains a unique discovery. Outside of funerary contexts, such as the catacombs in Rome, there are precious few Christian paintings from before Emperor Constantine’s conversion to Christianity in the fourth century. These also offer a glimpse into the beliefs and rituals of Syrian Christians, a community currently in peril.

While the Samaritan Woman at the Well was a respected biblical figure for early Christians, there was actually a more prominent “woman at the well” in Syria: the Virgin Mary during the Annunciation, when an angelic visitor informed her of her miraculous pregnancy. Where does this episode take place? The setting of the canonical account, in the Gospel of Luke, is not specified. But the second-century biography of Mary’s early life, usually called the Protevangelium of James, describes how one day, during a break from her work, “she took the pitcher and went forth to draw water, and behold, a voice said: ‘Hail, you are highly favored, the Lord is with you, blessed are you among women.’ And she looked around on the right and on the left to see from where this voice could have come.” During this first encounter, at a well or spring, the angel was heard but not seen. Mary appeared to be alone.

Most people, when they imagine the Annunciation, have in mind some western Renaissance masterpiece: a studious, cloistered Mary welcoming the angel from the comfort of home. But Byzantine images of the scene, though coming centuries later than the figure from Dura-Europos, bear an arresting formal resemblance to it. The brilliant illumination in James of Kokkinobaphos’s “Homilies on the Virgin” and the grand mosaic from the Byzantine monastery at Chora in Istanbul both demonstrate the importance in eastern Christianity of placing Mary at the well. Some manuscripts even depict this type among illuminations of the Gospel of Luke itself, showing that artists preferred the evocative iconographic traditions of the noncanonical text over the unspecified setting of the canonical one. At Chora, Mary’s figure can also be contrasted with the portrayal of the Samaritan Woman in the same church, who looks across a well at a pictured Jesus.

The woman at Dura-Europos has yet more secrets to reveal. Archival photographs and drawings made by the archaeologists on site show that the supposed absence behind the female figure is not totally silent — it speaks a couple of lines. That is to say, a field sketch of the wall done “to show additional details” depicts two painted lines touching the woman’s back, along with a kind of starburst on the front of her torso, features described as “unexplained” in the archaeological report. But with the new interpretation of the figure, in connection with the Eastern iconography that came later, the lines invite a rather evident meaning. They appear to represent a motion toward the woman’s body and a spark of activity within it, as if something invisible were approaching and entering her — an incarnation.

If correct, this woman at a well is the oldest securely datable image of the Virgin Mary. Devotees of the Roman catacombs may demur, since a few female figures there are often presented as Mary. But these are challenging to date with certainty, and many scholars argue that the proposed examples have insufficiently specific iconographic signifiers.

Identifying the oldest image of Mary isn’t an end in itself. Reidentifying this woman helps us to ponder anew the distinctive emphases of early Christians in Syria, who in this baptistery celebrated salvation through images of marriage, pregnancy and birth — as much or more than through participation in a ritualized death. This is not to undermine the power of Jesus’ passion and resurrection accounts, but rather to rebalance the perspective of modern Western viewers, looking back after centuries of art focused on the cross. In the extant art from Dura-Europos, we see the hope of new spiritual birth, but the death of Christ is not pictured once. 

Today the paintings from this church are safe. But further opportunities to understand early Syrian Christianity are slipping away, as the archaeological sites of Deir ez-Zor are being systematically plundered under the auspices of the Islamic State. According to satellite images and reports from the ground, the looting pits at Dura-Europos are innumerable. Even while the human tragedy of the refugee crisis justifiably occupies our attention, the destruction of cultural heritage tells a parallel narrative.

Images from this ancient Syrian church are thus much more than museum pieces. They illuminate a people and heritage that need salvation — and not the kind of salvation found in a baptistery.

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Was Jesus Crucified Naked?

March 25, 2016

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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“Where Does the Bible Say We Should Pray to Dead Saints?” – Resources about Communion of the Saints

March 10, 2016

I compiled a list of Catechism, Scripture and quotes from the early Church Fathers and even archaeology to assist in understanding the Communion of Saints. You can download the source material here. Sample: Who should carry the most weight—Protestant pastors protesting Catholic theology today or pastors from the early Church who have the words of [...]

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

March 5, 2016

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. I raised hives of bees as a boy and once I was stung 35 times in one day. Wild honey is not collected from wild bees without burning pain [...]

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Traveling with Paul, John & Mary in Biblical Times was TOUGH!

February 25, 2016

Jostling through the crowds Paul and Luke pushed their way to the ramp. The wooden cargo ship was ready to leave Caesarea and they had gathered the last of their supplies. They pressed the silver denarii into the hands of the sailer at the dock. They were allowed onto the ship. They rushed to the [...]

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Feast of Chair of St. Peter: “Chair of Moses, Chair of Peter” Steve’s Article, YouTube Video and Resources

February 22, 2016

                                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 [...]

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Discovering the Place of Paul’s Shipwreck on Island of Malta

February 16, 2016

I am doing a show on EWTN’s Son Rise Morning Show on Tuesday about the shipwreck of St. Paul. So I am reposting this blog from our trip to Malta late last year. One of my favorite things is to discover the events and places of the Bible and to share them with others. The [...]

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UNESCO Adds the Baptismal Site of Jesus to the World Heritage Sites

February 9, 2016

This is an exciting development which helps establish the authentic baptismal site of Jesus. With the involvement of UNESCO the site will receive protection, funding and recognition. This is the place where the last three popes commemorated the Baptism of Our Lord. Here are some articles about UNESCO’s decision and about the site: Here, here [...]

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Temple Sizes Compared – bigger than a football field

January 7, 2016

The 1) Tabernacle in the wilderness, the 2) Temple of Solomon, 3) Herod’s Temple at the time of Christ and 4) Ezekiel’s Temple are compared. The football field looks insignificant compared to the temples (in more than one way :-) The Muslim Shrine that now sits atop Temple Mount is built over the rock where [...]

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The Stones Cry Out: What Does Archaeology Say about the Reliability of the Bible and the Catholic Faith?

December 28, 2015

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 [...]

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Was Jesus Really Born at THAT Place in Bethlehem?

December 23, 2015

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 [...]

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Did the Wise Men Meet the Shepherds?

December 8, 2015

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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Mary and the Other Body of Christ; How Many People were in the Upper Room and Why?

November 21, 2015

The room was pretty full. It was warm but a gentle breeze was blowing—that would change. There was fear in the room. The Roman army was a thing to be feared, they had just crucified Jesus and it was a dangerous thing to associates of an executed criminal. They were also anxious about the promise. [...]

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Pictures from Nazareth over 100 Years Ago (see the Virgin Mary :-)

November 16, 2015

Today we are in Nazareth looking for Mary! We are visiting her home cave where the Angel Gabriel brought the announcement from heaven. We will also visit her cave where she lived 30 years with Joseph and Jesus. These pictures are over a hundred years old from Nazareth. Not much changed between then and the [...]

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