Bible Archaeology

Samson Mosaic Excavated in Galilee Synagogue

Monumental synagogue building discovered in excavations in Galilee:

A monumental synagogue building dating to the Late Roman period (ca. 4th-5th centuries C.E.) has been discovered in archaeological excavations at Huqoq in Israel’s Galilee.

The excavations are being conducted by Jodi Magness of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and David Amit and Shua Kisilevitz of the Israel Antiquities Authority, under the sponsorship of UNC, Brigham Young University in Utah, Trinity University in Texas, the University of Oklahoma and the University of Toronto in Canada. Students and staff from UNC and the consortium schools are participating in the dig.

Huqoq is an ancient Jewish village located approximately two to three miles west of Capernaum and Migdal (Magdala). Thissecond season of excavations has revealed portions of a stunning mosaic floor decorating the interior of the synagogue building. The mosaic, which is made of tiny colored stone cubes of the highest quality, includes a scene depicting Samson placing torches between the tails of foxes (as related in the book of Judges 15). In another part of the mosaic, two human (apparently female) faces flank a circular medallion with a Hebrew inscription that refersto rewards for those who performgood deeds.

“This discovery is significant because only a small number of ancient (Late Roman) synagogue buildings are decorated with mosaics showing biblical scenes, and only two others have scenes with Samson (one is at another site just a couple of miles from Huqoq),” said Magness, the Kenan Distinguished Professor in the department of religious studies in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences. “Our mosaics are also important because of their high artistic quality and the tiny size of the mosaic cubes. This, together with the monumental size of the stones used to construct the synagogue’s walls, suggest a high level of prosperity in this village, as the building clearly was very costly.”

Excavations are scheduled to continue in summer 2013.



Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller Named Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

At the “Holy Office,” It’s Müller Time –– Pope Taps Der Regensburger as “Grand Inquisitor”

Anticipated for months, it’s finally official — at Roman Noon this Monday, the Pope named Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller of Regensburg as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, accepting the retirement of Cardinal William Levada a year after the highest-ranking American in Vatican history reached the canonical age of 75.

With the appointment of the 64 year-old theologian — the editor of the still-in-production “Complete Works” of Joseph Ratzinger — Germans now occupy two of the Vatican’s top three posts: a level of dominance that, until now, has been enjoyed only by Italians.

Made an archbishop on the move, by seniority Müller will be the first cardinal created by Benedict at his next consistory, which could come in Spring 2013, barring one exception: namely, should the pontiff appoint a new Secretary of State before then who hasn’t already received the red hat.

Early last month, the most definitive sign of the impending appointment came when the Pope appointed Müller as a member of the Congregation for Catholic Education and the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity — a combination that, among the Curia’s senior members, has been held only by Levada. As early as January, however, German reports noted that the bishop had been taking refresher courses in Italian.

Once the “supreme” dicastery of the Roman Curia, the roots of the modern-day CDF date to 1542, when Pope Paul III established it as the Sacred Congregation of the Universal Inquisition. In the post-Vatican II reforms of Paul VI, the “Holy Office” was given its current name, with a rebooted mandate to encourage and promote theological study beyond its traditional function as the global church’s lead guardian of orthodoxy…

Read on here. And,

Among CDF’s relatively new areas of jurisdiction are several matters of sizable import to the church in the English-speaking world, above all deciding final outcomes to the worldwide church’s clergy sex-abuse cases (a task entrusted to Ratzinger in 2001 after a Curial turf-fight), and the implementation of Anglicanorum coetibus, the Pope’s 2009 initiative allowing for Anglican groups to enter the Catholic church as collective units, with their own liturgy and governing structures. In the space of just over a year, the latter development has arguably made for the Western church’s largest boon of married priests in the millennium since mandatory celibacy became universal policy…

With his ascent, the new prefect now likewise becomes president of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, making him — at least officially — the prime overseer of the Vatican’s doctrine-centric reconciliation effort with the Society of St Pius X…

Note these Tweets out from the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham:



Jesus of Nazareth, but Egypt First

Crisis Magazine:

Out of Egypt I called My son – Hosea 11:1

In the Gospel of Matthew, the advent of the Messiah is followed by an abrupt departure.

Almost immediately after the Magi visit them, the Holy Family takes off for Egypt, Joseph having been warned in a dream that King Herod would kill his Son. The narrative then fast forwards through three and a half years of exile, terminated by yet another angel in a dream.

But what Scripture leaves blank, Coptic Christian tradition fills in.

Alongside the familiar stories of the annunciation, the shepherds in the field, and the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, the Copts have other stories—of the infant Jesus who held up his hand to stop a stone from falling on Mary, of idols that fell down before the Incarnate God, and of miraculous trees and spontaneous springs that sheltered and nurtured the Holy Family.

“It is something to be proud of—that they visited our places,” said Maryhan Nagy, a first-year university student whom I interviewed last summer at the Hanging Church in the Coptic quarter of Cairo. “It is a very great blessing to visit a place in which the Christ visited.”

In fact, several of them were within a short walk of the church.

The nearby Church of St. Sergius, for example, was built over a cave which, according to tradition, was a hiding place for the Holy Family. A chapel in the adjoining Greek Cemetery still has the well from which they drank two millennia ago. And one woman I met at the Hanging Church—so called because it is built over a Roman water gate—even claimed that the Holy Family had eaten the fruit from two palm trees in the outside courtyard.

No doubt, while some stories are more credible than others, the idea that Egypt has a special role to play in salvation history is affirmed throughout Scripture—not only in Matthew but also throughout the Old Testament, most notably Isaiah 19

Behold the Lord will ascend upon a swift cloud, and will enter into Egypt, and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at His presence, and the heart of Egypt shall melt in the midst thereof. … In that day there shall be an altar of the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a monument of the Lord at the borders thereof.

The heritage the Coptic Church has bequeathed to us lives up to this special calling. It is, after all, the church that gave us St. Athanasius—the first church father to develop a list of New Testament books and a reputed author of the Nicene Creed. It is also the home of Christian monasticism which St. Anthony and the other ‘Desert Fathers’ pioneered in the 3rd century.

It is this deeply felt connection to Scriptural prophecy and the Holy Family that perhaps explains the survival of the Coptic Church through nineteen centuries of history—most of it under Muslim rule. Today, the Coptic Church remains a small but vibrant minority in a country that is 90 percent Muslim.

The Coptic Church—along with the Ethiopian Orthodox—are part of the Oriental Orthodox communion that separated from the rest of Christendom after the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD. The council had held that Christ had two natures, such that he was fully man and fully God. The dissenters also insisted he was both man and God, but they believed those two natures were fused into one in the person of Christ.

When I sat in on the Divine Liturgy at the Hanging Church, I found a congregation willing to embrace other Christians with a degree of hospitality and openness that initially bordered on the scandalous. After the end of an elaborate, hours-long service, I withdrew inconspicuously to the back of the church to watch everyone else file out.

It didn’t work. Before long, a father and son approached me. Neither of them spoke any English, as far as I can remember. Instead, the son extended his arm to me. In his hand, he was holding a piece of bread. When I didn’t take it, he pulled back, then thrust it out again.

As a Catholic, I was quite taken aback by the encounter. Given that the Divine Liturgy had just ended, I concluded that this had to be Eucharistic bread. The idea of a child—anyone—sauntering out of church with the Eucharist in hand was, to understate it, quite a surprise.

Later during my trip, I found out that there are, in fact, two kinds of bread dispensed at the Coptic liturgy. The first kind does indeed become the Body of Jesus. But there is a second bread, called the loma baraka in Arabic, or, ‘The Bread of the Blessing,’ which was not Eucharistic, according to Marian Magdy, another college-age woman I met at the Hanging Church. This second bread, she said, was meant to be shared with the ‘people’—presumably including guests and strangers such as myself.

In retrospect, the boy’s offer of bread was a touching act of Christian charity—an extension of fellowship that left a lasting impression.

Perhaps, after all these centuries, the Coptic Church still has something to teach us.

By Stephen Beale




Former National Secretary of Forward in Faith Received into the Catholic Church

On Sunday 1stJuly 2012 Monsignor John Broadhurst received The Reverend Geoffrey Kirk into the full communion of the Catholic Church through the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham at the Church of the Most Precious Blood, London.

Fr Kirk was an Anglican Priest for 40 years and Vicar of St Stephen’s, Lewisham for 30 years.  As Secretary of Forward in Faith, Fr Kirk worked closely with its Chairman, Fr Broadhurst, over the past 20 years in developing Forward in Faith’s vision for unity and truth together with its statement on communion.  He also wrote extensively for “New Directions”, the monthly journal of Forward in Faith.  Fr Kirk’s sponsors were Deacon Robbie Low and his wife Sara who were also both closely involved in work of FiF, Robbie was editor of “New Directions”, before becoming Catholics several years ago.

The reception took place during the regular 11am Mass at the Church where the London (South) Ordinariate Group worships.  Fr Christopher Pearson, the Pastor of the group, prepared Fr Kirk for his reception and said:

Many people have been inspired by Fr Geoffrey’s teaching, preaching and pastoral care over the years.  His  intellect, writing and wit encouraged a generation in the Catholic movement within the Church of England.  I hope that they will now be similarly inspired to follow Fr Kirk’s actions in seeking visible unity.