A recent find by archaeologists during a tomb exploration in Jerusalem uncovered what could be the earliest archaeological evidence for Christianity in Jerusalem. One ossuary, an object similar to a coffin or sarcophagus, contains a four line Greek Inscription that refers to God “raising up” someone. An ossuary next to it depicts an inscription of an individual in the mouth of a large fish – perhaps a reference to the Biblical figure Jonah, akin to other examples of early Christian art.
The ossuaries have been sent to the Israeli State Collection and are waiting authentication. If the ossuaries prove to be authentic (there are many fakes, most famous the Jesus Ossuary and the James Brother of Jesus Ossuary), then they would represent (by centuries) the earliest evidence for Christianity. The objects would predate the gospels by centuries.
This month, Smithsonian Magazine looks at the history of stigmata – when a faithful follower receives and suffers wounds or pain similar to those experienced by Christ on the cross (most commonly seen in the hands). The religious experience has been controversial amongst believers and non-believers alike, and science has been unable to pinpoint its cause or event agree on its existence.
In addition to claiming that the marks are divine gifts to the holy, skeptics have argued that cases of stigmata were hoaxes, symptoms of other diseases (including plague), or a form of hysteria. Even the Catholic Church is hesitant to discuss the issue (nearly all stigmatics are Catholic).
The Holy Sepulchre is one of the most revered location in all of early Christian History. It is recognized by many Christians as the site of the resurrection of Christ. A virtual 3D tour has been produced by 360tr (an organization in Turkey). It’s an excellent piece. You can view different areas of the church and surrounding area, pan, zoom, and examine from different angles. Check it out here.
The Hagia Sophia (in Greek Ἁγία Σοφία) is one of the most famous churches in all of Christendom. Prior to the building of Saint Peters in Rome, it was the Christian church. The current iteration built by the Emperor Justinian in the 7th century served as the center for Christendom until its fall to the Muslim Turks in the 15th century. For 500 years, it served as a mosque until Atatürk turned it into a state museum.
The Hagia Sophia is one of the greatest landmarks in history and merits an extensive visit. In fact, I spent 24 hours on a train from Romania to Istanbul just for the opportunity to walk through its halls and visit its famed dome. However, travel is a bit extensive. Here is an exceptional 3D, interactive tour of the Hagia Sophia. Don’t worry about the Greek on the website (unless you happen to know modern Greek). The information in the tour itself is actually english. You can pan, zoom, turn, examine close-ups, etc. It takes a minute to load, so be patient! If you really enjoy Byzantine history, I highly recommend that you follow @Byzantinephil on Twitter
An amazing look at the historical figure that was Jesus Christ. Leading New Testament Scholars and Biblical Historians present this Stanford Continuing Education course. You can download the lectures free on iTunes U at this link.
This is an interesting over-view of a potentially controversial topic – addressing the historical, rather than religious, view a man who has impacted civilizations, kings, and empires.