Perhaps the only good result of the dissolution of Scienceblogs is that I’m no longer even distantly associated with National Geographic. I say this because, as usual, the magazine is indulging in religious pandering to the old people who still subscribe to it.
They are reporting on the age of “Jesus’ tomb”. That is, they found some mortar in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre that dates back to Roman times…which is not news. Jerusalem was a Roman city in Roman times, it contains many ancient buildings, and finding Roman structures is not evidence that this particular hole in the ground is the specific tomb of a specific executed criminal in 33AD, nor that a slab of rock is specifically where Jesus was laid out after death. The mortar was dated to 345AD, which compounds the confusion — how is the erection of a temple 300 years after the purported execution evidence that this is Jesus’ hole in the ground?
Also, the identity of this particular spot was generated by a Christian zealot, Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine, who went swanning about Jerusalem around 325AD, pointing at rocks and sticks and random plots of ground and declaring them to be sacred Christian treasures. She claimed to have found the True Cross™, the True Ropes™ that bound Jesus to the cross, the True Nails™ that staked him to the cross, the True Tunic™ that Jesus wore, and the True Tomb™ where he was buried, purportedly briefly. It’s all nonsense and not credible, but NatGeo makes it a big feature in their magazine, and it’s also going to be the subject of a documentary on the National Geographic Channel on Sunday.
It’s part of the tradition. Helena and Constantine contrived a set of fake holy sites to fleece the ancient and medieval rubes, and NatGeo regularly contrives phony stories about Jesus to fleece the more modern, but still equally gullible, rubes.
Didn’t she also discover the True Foreskin™?
Ogvorbis: Swimming without a parachute. says
Well, she did discover the Holy Underpants. As well as the Holy Grenade of Antioch!
New rule: Everyone who claims to have found Jesus’ tomb, or a fragment of the true cross, or any other item that has been in contact with Jesus must go through a “trial by ordeal”.
The monk that claimed to have found the tip of the spear that killed Jesus had to walk through a fire, and died after a couple of days from his horrible burns.
“Luxury! *We* were evicted from our hole in the ground:”
So the alien Engineer that was killed AD 32* was placed here briefly? Will this be in the next Alien prequel?
” 345AD” …the exposure to radiation messed up the isotope record, that’s all.
(* this was the suggested plot for a prequel that fortunately never saw the light of day)
Yeah, but they cut that part out.
I presume you know that National Geographic is now owned by Fox News. Here’s the ghastly story.
My personal favorite is Ron Wyatt, who, he says, discovered not only the resting place of the Ark of the Covenant, he also found there the actual blood of Jesus — which had trickled down into the vault from the site of Jesus’ crucifixion above the ground above it. And (yes, this gets better and better) Wyatt, at the urging of an angel, had Jesus blood analyzed by a lab, which found, mirable dictu, that Jesus had only 24 chromosomes — 23 autosomal chromosomes from Mary and one, his Y chromosome, which was from God. Now, c’mon: wouldn’t you just love to see a full analysis of God’s Y chromosome?
Marcus Ranum says
Out of a misplaced sense of loyalty, I have a long-term subscription to Nat Geo (also so I can go back through the digital archives and find pictures of all the places where they acted as cover for CIA operations) – I had a full-body cringe when I saw the jesus-laden cover.
“Hey, what’s this thing on the cutting room floor? Eeeeeeew.”
Ogvorbis, unfortunately, those underpants were stolen by the first tribe of the Underpants Gnomes. They are using this as the gnome version of the ark of the covenant.
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Ron Wyatt got DNA from Jesus’ red blood cells??? Now, that is an achievement.
— — — — — — — — — — — —
The hole was not a “grave” per se, but a containment chamber for zombie Lazarus. They had to keep him sequestered somewhere as they waited for all his tissues to safely decompose.
In their defense, “Jesus’ Tomb” sounds much sexier than “Early Christian Tourist Attraction”.
I presume the age of the tomb (345 CE), composed as it is of Jerusalem limestone (CaCO3), would be relatively easy to determine because the stuff’s so plentiful in the Temple Mount area. The age of the Shroud of Turin was a tad more difficult, given the Papacy’s reluctance to release more than a few tiny swatches for carbon-14 dating. It was dated to between the 13th and 14th century, making any connection with Jesus impossible. But devout Christians believe it’s the real deal anyway, either because it’s an inexplicable miracle or because Satan messed with the testing to lead humanity astray (just as he did with all those dinosaur fossils). But let’s go with the more plausible miracle explanation, with Jesus’s body somehow magically transcending the 1,200-year gap between his burial ca. 30 CE to the shroud’s nimble medieval weavers.
Pop quiz, hot shots: What’s more powerful than any god? Answer: a god that can do miracles without even existing! Hey, 2.2 billion people believe in it, so it must be true. It has to be true.
Finding a mortar underneath an ancient building is definitely a sign that something odd was going on. Were the ancients using 40-mm hardware or Soviet 30mm stuff?
…the most important question: Can they see the lunar craters and plains from the church built over the hole in the ground? https://xkcd.com/1921/
A hole in the ground? I’ll show you a hole in the ground! https://phys.org/news/2017-07-cave-mazes.html These cave systems go back 20 million years.
I suppose if you go down and wake up some hibernating chtonian or Elder God it may qualify as a religious experience. And if the church frescoes depict demons, are they “painted from life”?
I still want one of these geniuses to tell me who is going to win the next Kentucky Derby. Can it be all that hard?
Well, the article states repeatedly (if not very clearly) that the mortar connects the present-day location of “Sepulchre” to relatively early Christian tradition – specifically the historically recorded building of the earliest known Church of holy Sepulchre in 4th century. Further down, it briefly clarifies that the 4th century location’s connection to Jesus himself was kinda dubiously established.
This is the response I got from the woman that runs it:-
“Thank you for your note. I’m sorry you didn’t care for the story about Jesus. Archaeology and history have been a core part of National Geographic storytelling for almost 130 years. The Jesus story, by Kristin Romey (who is an archaeologist-turned-journalist), attempted to marry these two key coverage areas by exploring the life of an important historical figure based on the best and newest scientific (in this case, archaeological) evidence available about his life.
I can assure you that no one is trying to pander to anyone, or “suck up to the religious.” Instead, we’re trying to provide our readers with fascinating stories in the realms of science and innovation, cultures, exploration and history, through deep, globa reporting and spectacular visual journalism. Again, I’m sorry that this story didn’t resonate with you; I hope other stories in the issue were more to your liking.
Thank you for reading National Geographic, and thank you for sharing your feedback.”
The woman who wrote the article is neither scientist or archaeologist.
I myself own the true menu from the last supper ,plus the receipt .
A little known fact is that the scene depicted in da Vinci.s painting The Last Supper is of jc and his
mates arguing who had the Brisket .
It is perhaps going a bit far to call Constantine and Helena dedicated con artists. Their search for valuable Christian holy relics needs to be seen in the light of ancient religious assumptions, which were changing and developing significantly as Christian ideals began to spread among the establishment of the late Roman Empire. Cult objects were important to ancient Greek and Roman religion – every temple had a statue or representation of its patron deity, often something very ancient and disarmingly ordinary in the case of the most venerable ones. The cult object of Athena kept on the acropolis was little more than two pieces of wood strung together and dressed in a cloth. The cult object of Cybele, brought to Rome amid great pomp and splendour in the 4th century BC, was a black meteorite. This type of civic or national cult did not really have an element of inner faith, conviction or dogma – it was about going through communal rituals, sharing observances with fellow citizens and participating visibly in the life of the state. It didn’t matter where the relics came from, what mattered was that the state rituals imbued them with a communally agreed upon significance.
Christian thought developed the idea further – attaching magical significance to relics of specific saints and individuals by dint of actually being associated with those individuals. Christian cult objects were not just foci for communal rituals, they were thought to be magical items with a power of their own. The religious world Constantine grew up in was the world of the traditional Roman Imperial cult, and he viewed Christianity, to some extent, as analogous to that. He brought with him distinctively Roman assumptions about religion, which blended with some of the distinctiveness of Christian ideas that challenged those paradigms. His need for authentic Christian cult objects was a part of this – medieval thought would paint Constantine as the one who found the real magic items, powerful because of their holy provenance, but in reality he was just acquiring new cult objects for the new state cult, and how real they were or not probably wasn’t of much interest to him. Just as the cult of the Magna Mater in Rome didn’t much care whether their black meteorite was really anything to do with Cybele, and the priests of Hadrian’s cult to his boyfriend Antinous never really asked if the youth really was divine, it is unlikely Constantine would have thought in the terms later medieval relic cult did.
It’s not just Jesus. Recently it was reported that a 2013 Chinese archeological dig found a box that claimed to contain the remains of Buddha. But there’s a problem, because like Jesus all sorts of bits and pieces are claimed to be parts of Buddha, and they’re found in various places. This includes a temple in California.
Oh, to be standing on holey ground.
What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says
I don’t know why you would post such a denialist assertion when corroborating evidence is a few keyclicks away.
Google Scholar says that a K Romey has written multiple items for Archaeology, and also found a thesis submitted by someone named Kristin Romey to Texas A&M (The Vogelbarke of Medinet Habu)
One of the hits at Archaeology says that “Kristin M. Romey is an associate editor of ARCHAEOLOGY.” (note that this is dated to the year 2000).
Oh wow! Another story from Eusebius of Caesarea! I’m sure gonna believe every word of that. Did he get it from Eusebius of Nicomedia? Another source of unquestionable truth in the Pre-Truth age.
The legend of her birth in Bithynia is interesting. There’s this intriguing connection between northern Anatolia, the Magna Mater and Attis myths, and the early church.
cartomancer @ 20 — Is “meteorite” speculative? I’m aware you know a lot of classical writing. Are there contemporary descriptions of it that pin tiat down? Not sure it matters that much but the idea of a large-ish chunk of meteorite is curious.
What a Maroon @ #23 — Not just any horse, but a Thoroughbred.
I have to agree with lumipuna @#17. Nowhere does the article make any claims that this is the true tomb, only that it is believed to be, and that construction dating to the 4th century has been uncovered.
As I read it now, the title says:
And the subheading/first paragraph says:
A naïve reader might well think that “Roman” means “1st century Roman”, but the region in question was controlled by Rome from 64BCE until 390CE, and Eastern Rome — Byzantium — from 390CE until 634CE when it was conquered by Muslim Arabs.
So. . . no one was claiming anything excessive, at least that I could read.
But while the claims may not have been excessive, I think I can agree that the article is pandering to Christians in its tone, and in the lack of specificity in using the unqualified and broad term “Roman”. I, and most here, I would guess, are not naïve readers, but I suspect that many Christians are.
*reads Cartomancer’s explanation detailing exactly how the early Roman efforts on behalf of this new religion looked exactly like the efforts of previous con men to prop up the old religion.”
in fact, you did a great job of supporting the argument that it was indeed little more than a con.
Thanks, I was also thinking this, but didn’t attempt to put it in words.
I also appreciate Cartomancer’s clarification, as usual.
What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says
robro @ 36,
A three-year-old thoroughbred. You heard it here first.
After the “Mary” issue I was ready to let the subscription lapse. Then came the “Gender Revolution” issue which wasn’t bad, so what the heck, one more year. Some pretty decent issues on normal Geog topics in the meantime. Now the “Jesus” issue. It’s a roller-coaster ride.
They certainly did. And the analysis shows it’s full bodied, with a woody bouquet and hints of frankincense.
David Marjanović says
Oh yes! Which haplogroup is divine?
Bah! Twenty million years? Forget about dead gods, I want a live albanerpetid!!!