Artifacts & Biblical History

History of Middle East in 90 Seconds

by Steve Ray on 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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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 Dictating his Epistle to the Romans to Tertius

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 take the time to give Romans a second look, I have written a brief summary of the circumstances and a synopsis of his brilliant letter.

It is fun and easy to read and it is given to all with the hope you enjoy it — and St. Paul.

Sweat was beading up on his bald head and thick eyebrows. His pointed beard wagged as he paced the stone floor speaking rapidly. His dark eyes flashed, his hands gesticulated in rhythm with his rapid utterance. His quick mind was obviously way ahead of the words that rushed from his mouth.

Tertius struggled to keep up, his quill scratching rapidly across the parchment. After hours of dictation and careful refinement this letter was rolled up and given into the hands of Phoebe who boarded a wooden merchant vessel heading for the hub of the Empire. The words were Greek, written from the Greek city of Corinth, dictated by a Jew of the Hebrew religion and sent to Latin Rome.

For the rest of the story, click here.

To see our DVD “Paul, Contending for the Faith

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Was Jesus Crucified Naked?

by Steve Ray on 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. You have said that Christ was crucified naked on the cross because it was the Roman way of executing condemned prisoners.

Realize that in Christ’s case the Romans were following instructions of the Jews—Pilate did not want to crucify Jesus, thus he finally gave orders that the soldiers do as the Jews requested. Thus the gospel explicitly describes how the Jews requested the legs of the condemned be broken so that their dead bodies would be removed before the Passover, and this was done per their request.

Nudity in 1st century Jewish culture brought shame to the beholder, and it was the Jews that had Jesus crucified—thus Jesus would have had a cloth to cever his loins, which is consistent with the visions of various mystics of the Church. Otherwise, the gospels would have mentioned the Jewish displeasure, much like it does with their demand to remove the sign above Christ’s head, had Pilate ordered Jesus to be stripped completely naked against the wishes of the Temple leaders.

God bless, A Friend

Dear Friend:

Thanks for writing– and for your thoughtful comments. I always appreciate feedback especially from studious listeners. Please take my comments below in the same irenic tone in which you kindly wrote to me.

However, I disagree with your assessment. There is no reason to believe that Jesus was crucified according to Jewish “specifications.” The Romans had little regard for the Jews, their laws and their sensibilities (e.g., Acts 18:12-17).

The Jews were very scandalized by the sign put on the Cross “Jesus, King of the Jews.” Yet when the Jews specifically went back to Pilate with the demand it be reworded, the Romans refused to change it or take it down even though that was probably more offensive to the Jews than the nakedness of a convicted criminal. Jews were also limited in the number of lashes one could receive, but they certainly paid no heed to that Jewish concern either. They were there to uphold Roman law, not cater to Jewish religious sentiments.

You say the Romans were instructed to do what the Jews requested, but that had only to do with Pilate’s willingness to grant the Jews request to have Jesus crucified instead of just flogged. It did not mean that the Romans wrote down a list of the Jewish sensibilities to insure that none of them were upset. The Romans were to do what the Jews requested only, presumably, in terms of their willingness to allow Jesus to be crucified even though Pilate found his innocent.

Even among the Jewish rabbis there was allowance for nakedness during execution. The Mishnah (Jewish tradition from earlier centuries compiled around 200 AD) records three opinions held among the Jews, saying,

A [When] he was four cubits from the place of stoning, they remove his clothes.
B “In the case of a man, they cover him up in front, and in the case of a woman, they cover her up in front and behind,” the words of R. Judah.
C And sages say, “A man is stoned naked, but a woman is not stoned naked.”

Here we have the recording of three Jewish traditions. Two out of three claim that a man was executed naked even among his own Jewish countrymen. If even the Jews stripped their own naked according to two out of three of their traditions, why would we think the Romans would practice more scruples than the Jews?

I would agree he was robed on the Via Cruses, but even Scripture says they divided his garments but for the outer garments they cast lots. There is NO indication that he retained covering, rather the soldiers divided them – outer and under clothes.

One good historical commentary says, “The replacement of Jesus’ own clothes for the walk to Golgotha was probably a concession to Jewish scruples about public nakedness (Jub. 3:30–31; cf. Gen 9:20–27). Crucifixion was normally naked, and in v. 35 Jesus’ clothes will again have been removed; m. Sanh. 6:3 specifies that the clothes should be removed only at the place of execution, not on the way there.”

An excellent commentary on the details of the life of Christ relays, “Even though Jesus has been flogged, Mark/Matt have Jesus dressed again before he sets out to the place of crucifixion. Normally the criminal, carrying the lateral beam of the cross behind his neck with his arms fastened to it, would go naked to the place of crucifixion, being scourged as he went. We know this from passing references in Dionysius of Halicarnassus (Roman Antiquities 7.69.2) and Valerius Maximus (Facta 1.7.4). Indeed, Josephus (Ant. 19.4.5; #270) reports that even Roman nobles involved in the assassination of Gaius Caligula had their clothes removed before being taken to the place of execution.

“In having the final disrobing of Jesus only at the place of execution (Mark 15:24 and par.), the evangelist may reflect a local concession that the Romans made to the Jewish abhorrence of public nudity. Josephus reports that the Roman tribune Celer, who was executed in Jerusalem by imperial order, was dragged across the whole city as a public spectacle before being beheaded; but there is no mention of his being disrobed (War 2.12.7; #246; Ant. 20.6.3; #136).”

Another commentator says, “To distribute the garments of Christ among the soldiers, the clothes had to be removed from Christ. Thus, Christ was crucified naked. The suffering was great at the crucifixion but so was the shame. No artist dares to picture Christ as naked—they put a loin cloth around Him for modesty. But Scripture indicates He was naked.”

Another says, “[T]he normal undergarment was either a tunic or a loincloth, and Jesus’ tunic was taken from him (v. 23; Brown 1970:902), it is perhaps more likely he was naked. Early Christian tradition is divided on the subject (cf. Brown 1994:2:953).”

Catholic Monk and prolific writer Thomas A Kempis wrote a meditative prayer on the death of Christ including the words, “Of the Crucifixion, naked, of the Lord Jesus; and of His hanging for many long hours aloft upon the Cross.”

Typical Crucifixion scene

In my opinion and others, there is NO reason to believe that the Romans covered Jesus’ privates with a loin cloth. In fact, it would be unreasonable to think they would do this since crucifixion was to be the final humiliation and degradation. They had very little respect for Jewish sensibilities in general. Even if they made a concession to the Jews by covering him as he processed through the streets, they would have removed his clothes at the site of the execution, even as the Jews did with their own executions. Roman custom gave the soldiers the right to appropriate for themselves all the clothes of the convict – kind of as a bonus.

And if you suggest they crucified Jesus with his loins covered, do you suggest that ALL executions were done with private parts covered? Were the thieves on his right and left also covered? I don’t think they treated Jesus differently than any other criminals crucified.

You mention various Mystics who have “revealed” that Jesus was covered on the cross. I suspect this has to do with pious puritanism more than historical reality. I often enjoy the writings of mystics and are benefited from them, but I don’t have a lot of confidence in their often contradicting visions, especially when it contradicts historical realities and Scripture.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church refers to these revelations of Mystics in a category called “private revelation.” Commenting on private revelation the Church teaches, “Throughout the ages, there have been so-called “private” revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ’s definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history. Guided by the magisterium of the Church, the sensus fidelium knows how to discern and welcome in these revelations whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church. (no. 67)

Rembrandt's self-portrait in Dutch painters beret. HE raised Christ on the cross and we did too!

Just an interesting parallel to ponder: The first Adam was naked and due to sin had to be clothed; the last Adam was clothed but to redeem was stripped naked. The first brought death at the tree of life, the last brought life at the tree of death.

In this regard The Fathers of the Church loved to play with the concept of the naked Christ. In that regard I suggest, Jesus born naked in a cave provided by a man named Joseph and he was then wrapped in swaddling clothes. In his death he was stripped of his clothes and later covered by a shroud and placed in a cave provided by another man named Joseph.

Lastly, I agree that this goes contrary to all our Catholic sentiments of decency and modesty which is why artists always portray, and properly so, Jesus in a loin covering. But real life is not controlled by polite conventions especially in pagan Rome.

My friend, may you and those you love have a wonderful Easter and may the joy of our risen Lord Jesus shine in your heart for all of eternity. Thanks for your thoughtful e-mail.

Steve Ray

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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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Bishop Conley’s Comments on our Cruise: “In the Footprints of St. Paul”

November 12, 2014

The ancient Christian writer and theologian Tertullian once asked the Church, “What does Athens have to do with Jerusalem?” He asked the question as Christianity spread from Israel into the Greek world; and as Greek intellectuals looked for deeper insight into the Christian mystery. Tertullian was asking whether pagan Greek culture—philosophy, poetry, the arts, history [...]

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Corinth, Erastus’ Name; Bishop Conley Explains Our Gift

November 8, 2014

Thunderstorms were forecast but the rain stopped when we arrived in Ancient Corinth. Blue sky broke thru and we had a moving Mass on a rock outdoors in front of the Judgment Seat where Paul was brought. After a tour of the ancient city where St. Paul lived for 18 months we went to a [...]

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Was Jesus Really Born at THAT Place in Bethlehem?

October 13, 2014

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 [...]

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