Time seemed to have no meaning. Hours passed and faded into days.
He walked half in this world, half in another.
A sharp stone poked him back into full reality and he picked it up.
A stone to make men stumble and a rock to make then fall.
Did anyone see this on the news yesterday?
(There are more pictures here.)
They could be the earliest Christian writing in existence, surviving almost 2,000 years in a Jordanian cave. They could, just possibly, change our understanding of how Jesus was crucified and resurrected, and how Christianity was born.
A group of 70 or so “books”, each with between five and 15 lead leaves bound by lead rings, was apparently discovered in a remote arid valley in northern Jordan somewhere between 2005 and 2007.
A flash flood had exposed two niches inside the cave, one of them marked with a menorah or candlestick, the ancient Jewish religious symbol.
A Jordanian Bedouin opened these plugs, and what he found inside might constitute extremely rare relics of early Christianity.
The director of the Jordan’s Department of Antiquities, Ziad al-Saad, says the books might have been made by followers of Jesus in the few decades immediately following his crucifixion.
“They will really match, and perhaps be more significant than, the Dead Sea Scrolls,” says Mr Saad.
“Maybe it will lead to further interpretation and authenticity checks of the material, but the initial information is very encouraging, and it seems that we are looking at a very important and significant discovery, maybe the most important discovery in the history of archaeology.”
One of the few people to see the collection is David Elkington, a student of ancient religious archaeology who is heading a British team trying to get the lead books safely into a Jordanian museum.
He says they could be “the major discovery of Christian history”, adding: “It’s a breathtaking thought that we have held these objects that might have been held by the early saints of the Church.”
It remains to be seen whether these books are indeed what they appear to be, and what their pages might reveal. But as Elkington said above, the thought of these books being handled, passed around and treasured by people who had known Jesus- perhaps even his disciples- this brings a tingle to the spine.
Will there be material here that will challenge, and puzzle? I suspect so.
There will almost certainly be a scramble to ‘make it all fit together’. To preserve the illusion (or delusion) of those of us whose faith rests on a particular view of the Bible- as an organic, seamless whole ‘without error or contradiction’.
I do not mean to be critical- but it is just that the more I look, the more I see questions, uncertainties, paradox, cultural and contextual bias. And to deny these is for me deny faith, and replace it with religion.
Faith remains- and the journey of engagement- with the Spirit of God encountered in all sorts of ancient text, but also in the sunrise, and the shared cup of tea.
I am just watching this film…
It is a powerful and harrowing animation telling the story of an Israeli trying to make sense of his half memories of fighting and killing in Beirut after 20 years.
I read this today- to which I add a rueful ‘Amen’-
Fundamentally, helping, fixing, and service are ways of seeing life. When you help you see life as weak, when you fix, you see life as broken. When you serve, you see life as whole. Helping incurs debt. When you help someone they owe you one. But serving, like healing is mutual. There is no debt. Fixing and helping are the basis of curing, but not of healing. In 40 years of chronic illness I have been helped by many people and fixed by a great many others who did not recognize my wholeness. All that fixing and helping left me wounded in some important and fundamental ways. Only service heals.
Excerpts from the article “In the service of life”
And from the depths of his learning– singing into his heart, come the word of the poet-prophet, Isaiah;
The poor and needy search for water but find none
Their tongues are parched and dry
But I am there to be found. I will not forget
I will burst forth rivers from barren hills
Spout fountains in the valleys
I’ll turn the sun baked desert crust into a cool pond
I’ll make the wastelands into verdant streams
Fix your eyes on my servant
In whom I am well pleased
Huge drops of rain pound at the dust. The air is as sweet and ripe as a red grape.
Dust turns to dirt, and dirt becomes soil.
And the water finds out the dry stream beds.
Pushing into cracks and parched ground. Seeking out the seeds long left behind.
Opening again those forgotten kernels of truth and life and letting them become again what they once came from.
Falling on his head. Running down his beard.
Bathing and soothing.