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Egyptian Explorer Shocked by Early Biblical Text

Egypt is best-known for its coveted ancient history: a continuous civilisation that has lived along the banks of the river Nile for thousands of years. Many of the finds archaeologists and Egyptologists have made in the region consist largely of things like great statues of the pharaohs and mummified remains. In the 19th century, however, Robert Curzon, an English traveller and aristocrat, set out on a journey to the North African nation in search not of ancient Egypt, but ancient Christianity.

Curzon arrived in Alexandria, Egypt, three years later, and was aware that the country held early records about the religion that once swept the world — but did not know where to start.

But he was in the right place — by 300 AD Alexandria had become one of the great centres of Christianity.

Around the same time in Britain the religion was illegal and was often punishable by death.

Its followers within the Roman Empire would have to wait another 14 years to practice their faith freely.

So, with a knowledge of Christianity’s history, Curzon knew that Egypt held some of the religion’s earliest monasteries and, by extension, some of its earliest texts.

His momentous journey was explored during the Smithsonian Channel’s documentary, ‘Bible Hunters: Search for Truth‘.

Dr Jeff Rose, an archaeologist who presented the show, travelled to Egypt to follow in Curzon’s footsteps, and explained how the monastic movement began in Egypt.

He said: “Monks who had gone out to the desert to live in solitude banded together in self-sufficient communities and those became the first monasteries.

“One of the oldest monasteries in Egypt, and the world, is the Syrian monastery 90 miles west of Cairo.

“In 1834, it took Curzon nearly two days to reach it by boat and camel, today it’s less than two hours away by [motor]bike.

“Founded in the sixth century AD, the monastery was known for its wall paintings in its library of precious manuscripts.

“When Curzon visited the library, he found the place in complete disarray with manuscripts just littering the floor.”

Many of the books had been burned by poverty-stricken Egyptians desperate to keep warm.

But, some of the texts had been safeguarded and kept under lock and key.

Curzon was certain this was the case, and is said to have plied a blind monk with alcohol and coaxed him into showing him to the secret library within the depths of the monastery — and that is exactly what the monk did.

The Englishman soon found himself surrounded by ancient biblical texts.

Dr Rose explained: “Inside the room, Curzon found a treasure trove, the dusty pages of some of the earliest dated Bible texts in existence.”

He found fully bound Christian manuscripts, as well as several gospel fragments, all written in ancient Syriac — a language similar to what Jesus would have spoken.

The texts dated back to the fourth century AD.

Dr Rose continued: “Curzon also stumbled upon a surprise — a biblical text, the Acts of Peter and Paul, which was never included in the Bible.

“At the time, questions about why this Christian text was omitted led to speculation among scholars about the accuracy of the Bible.”

Five years after his now-famous voyage, Curzon, hungry for more answers, set out once again.

This time his travels took him to Mount Athos in Greece — an important centre of Eastern Orthodox monasticism.

His journeys resulted in the book, ‘Visit to the Monasteries in the Levant’.

It gained huge traction, and by 1881, Curzon had completed a further six expeditions to the Levant and the surrounding region.

His finds were viewed as breakthroughs in modern understanding of Christianity, and culminated in the British Museum’s acquisition of the collection of Nitrian manuscripts.

New Evidence of Jesus Crucifixion

The Easter story is at the heart of the Christan religion. On Good Friday Jesus was executed by crucifixion for treason after claiming he was “King of the Jews”, and his body was subsequently taken down from the cross, and buried in a cave. The entrance to the guarded tomb was sealed off by an enormous stone, so that no one could steal Jesus’ body.

However, the following Sunday, some women visited the grave and found that the stone had been moved and that the tomb was empty. 

Jesus himself was seen that day, and for days afterwards by a number of people, and his followers claimed that God had raised his son from the dead.

Naturally, some atheist scholars have long refuted the claim that Jesus ever existed, let alone that he was crucified as told in the Bible.

Professor Richard Dawkins insisted in the God Delusion that a “serious” historical case can be made that “Jesus never lived at all”.

The late Christopher Hitchens also noted Jesus’ “highly questionable existence” and on the Easter story said: “We have a right, if not an obligation, to respect ourselves enough to disbelieve the whole thing”.

Meanwhile, French philosopher Michel Onfray contends that Jesus was merely a “trick born of the rational mind”, while he finds the crucifixion story particularly implausible. 

Mr Onfray stated in 1980: “At the time, Jews were not crucified, but stoned to death.”

He also asserted that if Jesus had been crucified he would not have been placed in a tomb as the Gospels say, because crucifixion victims were never given a proper burial.

However, Mr Onfray’s claims have been refuted by 1968 discovery of Jehohanan, a Jewish man who had been put to death by crucifixion in the 1st century.

Dr John Dickson, the director of the Centre for Public Christianity, wrote in Sydney Morning Herald in 2008: “Jews were perhaps the most crucified people in antiquity.

“The Dead Sea Scrolls and Josphus both report an incident where 800 Pharisees were crucified on one day; their wives and children made to look on.

“Josephus tells us further that during the siege of Jerusalem in AD70 the Romans crucified 500 Jews a day while sacking the city.”

He added: “Actually our only archaeological remains of a crucifixion victim ‒ a male heel bone with an 11-centimietre nail still in place ‒ were discovered in a Jewish tomb.

“This Jew, like Jesus, had been crucified and then properly buried.”

Though the resurrection story is a matter of faith, a consensus of historians agree that Jesus did exist and the Easter events have some accuracy.

Mr Dickson continued: “Few biblical historians accept all of the details of the Gospel accounts ‒ but most, whether Jewish, Christian or agnostic, agree that these writings have preserved a reliable core of information about the tumultuous final days of Jesus’ life.

“He created a public disturbance in the Jerusalem temple shortly before his arrest; he shared a final (Passover) meal which his disciples; he was arrested by the priestly elite and handed over to the Romans; he was crucified for treason under the mocking charge ‘King of the Jews’.

“These are accepted facts of the Easter narrative. Christian apologists may often exaggerate them but the new atheists simply ignore them.”

Most mainstream scholars do not treat the resurrection story as part of their field of inquiry, but instead it is for philosophers and theologians to decipher.

However most scholars do claim that Jesus’ tomb was empty just days after his crucifixion.

Mr Dickinson said: “No historian wearing his or her historical cap would say God raised Jesus from the dead. This is a theological interpretation of the evidence.

“What most scholars do affirm is more modest, though not without significance: Jesus’ tomb was empty shortly after his crucifixion and significant numbers of men and women experienced what they believed to be appearances of the risen Jesus.

“These are the historical facts of Easter Sunday: an empty tomb and resurrection experiences.”

The Dirty Truth About Judas

According to the New Testament, Jesus was arrested by the Roman authorities for claiming to be the son of God, though some modern day historians suggest that the Romans detained him as he was a threat to the empire. However, before his arrest, all four canonical gospels claim Jesus was betrayed by Judas to the Sanhedrin in the Garden of Gethsemane. Judas is said to have kissed Jesus and addressed him as a “rabbi” to reveal his identity to the crowd who had come to arrest him.

Jesus was then sentenced to death by Pontius Pilate, the Roman prefect in the province of Judea.

After the crucifixion, Jesus’ body was taken down from the cross and buried in a cave, with the entrance sealed off by an enormous stone to prevent anyone stealing his body.

However, three days later, some women visited the grave and found that the stone had been moved and that the tomb was empty.

Jesus was then seen by a number of people after his death which, to the apostles, is proof that he was the living son of God.

Five years ago, author Tom Bissell wrote ‘Apostle: Travels Among the Tombs of the Twelve’, which set off to discover whether the twelve apostles were actual historical figures or merely fictional characters.

Mr Bissell walked 500 miles along the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route in north Spain, during which he hunted for a mysterious monastery where Apostle Matthew is believed to be buried.

He also visited the place where Judas who, overcome with remorse for his part in Jesus’ death, is said to have hanged himself.

In the book, Mr Bissell described Judas as the “electromagnet of wickedness”, however the author has since explored in an interview with National Geographic whether the shamed disciple even existed.

When asked by the publication whether he believed Judas was a real historical person, Mr Bissell replied: “That is a very thorny question.

“According to tradition, though the scripture is not clear on this, Judas hanged himself in a place called Hakeldama in the Hinnom Valley, which is this rocky, desert-like valley in the southern part of Jerusalem.

“When you go there, it really does feel like it’s a cursed place. That’s the power of these stories.

“You feel the centuries of hatred and disgust for this person who betrayed Jesus.”

Miracle Appears After Fire Torches Texas Church

Pastor Sonny Smith is calling it “a sign from God” after his church’s sanctuary burned to the ground with only one thing remaining upright: the cross.

“To me, that was a sign from God, saying, ‘Don’t worry, I’m still here and I’m going to lead you forward,’” the preacher told KDFW-TV, noting the congregation would meet outside, near the scene of the fire.

“Shed some tears together over what was — but also create some excitement for what God plans for us in the future,” Smith continued, referring to the Sunday outdoor gathering, which came two days after the building went up in flames. “I can tell you what’s inside of our church family: it’s faith.”

During an interview with CBS News, Smith called the cross’ survival “an absolute miracle.”

“That cross is where we would get little pieces of paper with a string and everyone put all their family members and different ones they wanted to pray for and we hung them up on that cross,” he explained. “It’s an absolute miracle that that cross made it through the fire when nothing else did.”

A spokesperson for the Wise County Emergency Services Department No. 2 told Fox News the fire at Balsora Baptist Church was “a devastating loss to our community” but called the still-standing cross a “sight to behold.”

“The fire took the structure, but not the cross,” added the representative. “A symbol that the building was just that, a building. The church is the congregation, and where two or more gather, there He shall be also.”

According to county officials, the sanctuary was more than 120 years old.

As firefighters were working diligently to put out the flames, the roof of the decades-old building began to collapse with first responders still inside the sanctuary. The cause of the fire has not yet been determined, but the incident is under investigation.

The pastor, for his part, said the fire broke out after a construction crew left the property for lunch on Friday. The church has been doing renovations on the fellowship hall to expand the kitchen.

“They came back, the fire was going, and they tried their best to get it out, but they just couldn’t get it out,” he said, adding he’s trusting God to “carry us through.”

The Bible Destroys Racism

According to Num 12 Moses’ marriage (lit. “taking” l–q–ḥ) of a Cushite woman is the cause (ʿal-ʾōdôt) for Miriam and Aaron to speak against (dibbēr bĕ) their brother and question whether YHWH speaks exclusively through (dibbēr bĕ) him. (On the different meanings of dibbēr bĕ see Levine: 328–29). YHWH responds “suddenly” (pitʾom), summoning Moses, Aaron, and Miriam to the tent of meeting, where he descends in a pillar of cloud and summons Aaron and Miriam to step forward. He then affirms to them that he speaks “mouth to mouth” with Moses, in contrast to visions and dreams used for (other) prophets, and he angrily rebukes them for daring to speak against Moses. The encounter leaves Miriam with a skin disorder that renders her “white as snow.” At Aaron’s behest Moses intercedes for Miriam, and the disorder lasts only seven days, during which time she is shut out of the camp.

The story evokes multiple questions: What is meant by the designation “Cushite”? Is this woman to be identified with Zipporah, who is named as Moses’ wife in Exod 2:21; 4:25; 18:2? If not, had Zipporah died previously or was Moses a bigamist? Why would the marriage cause Miriam and Aaron to question Moses’ leadership? Why was Miriam alone punished and why was she afflicted with a temporary skin disorder? Above all, what was the point or purpose of this story? While these questions remain open, the following responses are ventured as reasonable ways of answering them that have emerged in scholarly discussion.

The story is composite (Römer). In one tradition, Miriam was the sole complainant, as indicated by the feminine singular verb form in v. 1 (wattĕdabbēr, “she spoke”) and by the punishment upon Miriam alone (v. 10). The exact reason behind Miriam’s complaint is no longer clear, but it seems to be personal. According to some authors it is impossible to isolate this tradition from the rest of the present narrative (Coats: 261; Noth: 92–93), which changes it into a story about a challenge to Moses’ leadership. One may however observe that the story combines a question about Moses’ status in comparison to the prophets and a question about “mixed” marriages. As the story stands, Miriam is still the leading complainant; her name precedes Aaron’s in 12:1, though elsewhere Aaron’s comes first (12:4–5). As a woman, Miriam has more in common with Moses’ wife and can be read as the one from whom greater empathy should have been forthcoming.

Cush is the name in the HB/OT for Nubia, the area south of Egypt (Jer 13:23; 2 Chr 12:3). The LXX translates it as Αἰθίοψ (“Ethiopian,” so also KJV). If she was from Nubia, this woman would have been black, “rendering the whitened skin of Miriam a singularly fit punishment for her objections to the Cushite wife” (Cross: 204). She would also have been a different person than Zipporah, who was from Midian in northern Arabia. In this case, the Cushite was Moses’ second wife, whether after Zipporah or simultaneously is not clear.

However, Cush was also a designation for part of Midian (Albright: 205, n. 49). In Hab 3:7 Cushan, a biform, occurs in parallel with Midian. According to 2 Chr 21:16, the Cushites are located next to the Arabs. Hence, the Cushite wife might still have been Zipporah. The story about the Cushite may once have been connected with that of Zipporah being brought by her father from Midian to join Moses in Exod 18:5–6, as the two texts are separated by the collection of legal material set at Sinai that dominates Exod 19–Num 10 and that might have intervened in the development of the literature (Wright: 203–4). Perhaps Num 12 avoids Zipporah’s name because of its stress on her non-Israelite ethnicity, which is the concern of Miriam’s and Aaron’s complaint about Moses’ fitness for leadership. A woman from Midian, though not Nubian, would have been dark-skinned, so that Miriam’s punishment of being made “white as snow” remains appropriate. The translation “leprous” in some English versions for the skin disorder (mĕṣoraʿat) is misleading, since whiteness is not a symptom of the disease known today as leprosy (Hansen’s disease).

The story’s present purpose is related to its inclusion of Aaron. It affirms Moses’ leadership and seems to promote Moses’ line of Levitical priesthood over that of Aaron, perhaps against claims that the Mushite line was compromised by non-Israelite blood (Cross: 204). YHWH’s declaration that he speaks mouth to mouth to Moses also contrasts with the means used to communicate with prophets, although it no doubt came to be interpreted to mean that Moses was the preeminent prophet, along the lines espoused by Deut 34:10.

The Secret Research Into Dead Sea Scrolls

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

“Most of the Christian world, it seems to me, has heard of these famous pre-Christian scrolls, discovered in the Judean desert. But the story of their discovery and release is actually more dramatic and interesting than most Christians seem to be aware,” said Mark Ward, editor of Bible Study Magazine, which dedicated space to the anniversary in the January-February 2022 issue.

The story many people learned says that in 1946, a shepherd boy searching for a lost animal threw a rock into a cave in the Qumran. Instead of a goat, he heard pottery breaking. Inside of that pottery were ancient scrolls.

Those scrolls turned out to be ancient copies of the Hebrew Bible from before the New Testament era.

The shepherds sold the scrolls to antiquities dealers, who in turn sold them to an archbishop and a professor in Jerusalem.

Later, British archaeologists discovered more caves with scrolls in the area. Beyond that, most people didn’t know much about the scrolls.

A handful of scholars began to study the scrolls, but they remained rather unknown until some scrolls were advertised for sale in an ad in the Wall Street Journal.

Some scrolls or fragments were displayed, but only a few people had access to really study them. The scholars created a concordance of the scrolls by the mid 1950s. However, that concordance was kept secret.

A concordance is a list of words in a work — often the Bible — and where the passages are found in the work.

During this time, the scrolls were being photographed and sent to certain scholars. The same was true for the concordance.

Through those first decades, the public didn’t know much about the scrolls beyond their existence and that they were aiding Bible research. But in the mid 1980s, that began to change. Some of that change came from a man named Marty Abegg, Bible Study Magazine said. Abegg learned of the concordance and eventually was given access to it. However, he was not given access to some of the other scrolls that would aid his research.

The magazine said Abegg eventually realized he could recreate those scrolls using the concordance’s information. He also recreated some of the scrolls his academic adviser needed and couldn’t get. Eventually, Abegg was able to get his recreations published.

And in 1991, the doors opened for the public and many other people to start studying the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Why are the Dead Sea Scrolls so significant to us?

Before their discovery, the oldest existing complete version of the Hebrew Bible was from the year 1008, long after Jesus walked the earth. The Dead Sea Scrolls are from 250 BC to AD 68.

Scholars found much of the Hebrew Bible was close to what was in the 1008 version and the minor differences didn’t change meanings. However, some passages were added or omitted in the newer versions. If you read newer English translations of the Bible, you may find notes that point out that certain passages aren’t in older translations. The Dead Sea Scrolls led to a lot of that.

Bible Study Magazine shares several passages with the newer, different translations that emerge from using the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Among them is Psalm 139:14, which in the English Standard Version says, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”

In the International Standard Version, published in 2011, the verse reads, “I praise you, because you are fearful and wondrous! Your work is wonderful, and I am fully aware of it.”

Visit biblestudymagazine.com to see a detailed telling of Abegg’s story and to see more on how the scrolls and their history have affected Bible translation in the past 75 years.

The Truth About the Shroud of Turin

Since it first popped up on history’s radar hundreds of years ago, the Shroud of Turin has captivated scientists, the public, and people of God worldwide. The linen is viewed by some as the burial Shroud of Jesus Christ and others as a medieval forgery.  
    
The story of the piece of cloth is an age-old tale that threads together a centuries-old debate about a religious artifact that has survived fires and a series of perils across a journey through history. 

The first gaze upon the mysterious relic resembles a Rorschach’s test of damage dating back hundreds if not thousands of years. 

Zoom in a little closer, though, and the faint image of a tortured and crucified man comes into focus. Look longer, and the serene face of that man becomes clear.

“It seems so peaceful in comparison to the violence that you see all over the rest of the body,” said Brian Hyland, an exhibit curator at the Museum of the Bible.

In an interview with CBN News, Hyland said that “there have been questions about the veracity of this image ever since its first documented appearance in the late 14th century.” 

In 1988, carbon testing dated the Shroud back to medieval times. That test has repeatedly been called into question by various experts.

“The only single sample they took did not represent anywhere else on the cloth because it had been manipulated,” said Barrie Schwortz, a Jewish photographer based in Colorado who was called upon to photograph the Shroud in the 1970s. 

Now, a new scientific procedure dates fabric from the Shroud to roughly 2,000 years ago. That Italian study is just the latest in a long series of scientific testing, including studies of pollen plucked from the Shroud with a scientific tape dispenser. 

“The pollen samples that were gathered they, a lot of them are from plants that are native to not just the Middle East, but specifically the area around Judea, Palestine, and Syria and stay where it was in that time period,” said Hyland. 

“There’s also pollen from the area around Constantinople. There’s a lot of pollen from Europe,” he said. 

The pollen samples suggest a journey of thousands of miles from Jerusalem, through modern-day Turkey, France, and now Italy, where the artifact has been kept since the 16th Century. 

Some say the cloth housed in the Turin Cathedral is a vessel for human blood, and therefore may be nothing less than the Holy Grail, an object of some captivation that is said to have gone missing in 1204. 

British filmmaker David Rolfe said of the Holy Grail theory, “You realize that the cloth is a vessel that’s containing Christ’s blood. I mean, there it is, and it is blood, and not only is it blood, it is type AB, which is the type that’s consistent with Palestinian Jews.”

Still others call this “bit of linen” a forgery by none other than Leonardo da Vinci. Clive Prince, who along with Lynn Picknett, wrote The Turin Shroud: How Leonardo da Vinci Fooled History, said “It’s a 500-year-old photograph by Leonardo da Vinci.”

“And if that doesn’t sound crazy enough, we’re saying it’s a 500-year-old photograph of Leonardo da Vinci because he used his own face as the model, because that’s the kind of thing he did,” Prince added.
 
The co-authors even put together their own experiments to try and replicate the religious relic using a bust of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. They also compared da Vinci’s disputed Salvator Mundi painting to the image on the Shroud.

Like nearly every theory surrounding the mystery, that, too, is disputed.

“The Shroud has been publicly shown 100 years before da Vinci was born. He was a good artist, but it wasn’t that good,” said Schwortz. 

Before Schwortz first photographed the Turin Shroud over four decades ago, he said he was “biased against it,” adding, “I even said somewhere along the line to somebody that, you know, we’ll get to Turin, we’ll give it five minutes, we’ll find the paint, we’ll come home, we’ll be done.”

But there is no paint on this cloth, and there are no brush strokes, and there’s another mystery: it’s 3-D. Scientists using an image analyzer revealed decades ago that the lights and darks of the Shroud image translate into dimensional shapes. 

In his fourth film on the subject, “Who Can He Be,” Rolfe, the director, released previous footage showing image analyzing tests. An expert in the film said, “A normal photograph records only variations in light and does not record information about the distance the camera was from the subject.” 

Then a photo of the Shroud is put under a VP8 image analyzer. “This image is clearly recognizable,” he says. “This can only be explained if the intensity levels of the Shroud image itself are encoded with distance information from the cloth to the body.”

Now, in “Who Can He Be,” Rolfe’s team uses the latest technology to digitally extract data encoded in the fabric, revealing a three-dimensional model of a man. “We can see what I believe to be the body of the crucified Jesus in front of us,” he said. 

Rolfe contends that, “the only way that the image could’ve got on to that cloth is a miraculous one. A miracle that emanated from the body with unbelievable amounts of energy but within an infinitesimally short space of time.” 

No matter the evidence, the Shroud of Turin may always remain a mystery. But for many, this “mirror of the gospel,” as Pope John Paul II called it, connects them to the divine. 

Million yeah old evidence of man found in Israel

Using state-of-the-art artificial intelligence, researchers in Israel have been able to uncover some of the earliest evidence for the use of fire, dating back at least 800,000 years ago.

In an article published on Monday in PNAS Science Journal, Weizmann Institute of Science researchers detailed the advanced, innovative method that they have developed and used to detect nonvisual traces of fire, giving a rare glimpse into the lives of early humans.

Archaeologists believe that the controlled use of fire by ancient hominins – a group that includes humans and some of our extinct family members — developed around a million years ago.

The prevailing theory, called the “cooking hypothesis,” states that the use of fire was crucial for the evolution of homo sapiens, with flames not only enabling the creation of more sophisticated tools but also making food safer to eat and increasing its nutritional and digestive benefit — providing more nutrients for brains to develop and grow.

While the theory is widely accepted in the academic community, researchers have found it difficult to find evidence of fire use at the early stages of humans’ evolutionary development, and thus do not have the necessary data to fully support it.

Traditional archaeological methods allow for the discovery of fire usage to only as far back as some 200,000 years ago, since researchers rely mainly on modifications to material by heat, for example color changes.

So far, evidence of fire use dating back to 500,000 years ago has only been found in five sites around the world, and data is sparse.

“We may have just found the sixth site,” said Dr. Filipe Natalio of Weizmann’s Plant and Environmental Sciences Department.

Natalio had previously worked with Dr. Ido Azuri, of Weizmann’s Life Core Facilities Department, to discover evidence of controlled burning dating back to between 200,000 and 420,000 years ago at several archeological sites in Israel using AI and spectroscopy. That partnership served as the basis for the latest project.

Joined by PhD student Zane Stepka, Dr. Liora Kolska Horwitz from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Prof. Michael Chazan from the University of Toronto, Canada, the team set out on an expedition to the Evron Quarry in northern Israel — an open-air archaeological site in the Western Galilee that was first discovered in the mid-1970s.

“When we started this project,” said Natalio, “the archaeologists who’ve been analyzing the findings from Evron Quarry told us we wouldn’t find anything. We should have made a bet.”

Previous archeological work at Evron, led by Prof. Avraham Ronen, uncovered 14 meters (45 feet) of animal fossils and tools from the Paleolithic era, dating back to between 800,000 and 1 million years ago, which made it one of the oldest sites in Israel.

However, researchers did not discover any evidence at the site of fire use.

With ash and charcoal degrading over time, the finding of such evidence at the site is close to impossible.

Before arriving at Evron, the team began by updating and advancing the AI models they have used before.

“We tested a variety of methods, among them traditional data analysis methods, machine learning modeling, and more advanced deep learning models,” said Azuri, who headed the development of the models.

“The deep learning models that prevailed had a specific architecture that outperformed the others and successfully gave us the confidence we needed to further use this tool in an archaeological context having no visual signs of fire use,” he said.

The main benefit of using AI is that it can analyze the chemical composition of materials and from there estimate the templates they were heated in.

With an accurate AI method in hand, the team could start fishing for molecular signals from the stone tools used by the inhabitants of the Evron Quarry almost a million years ago.

An analysis for the heat exposure of 26 flint tools previously found at the site showed some exceeding 600°C, with a tusk of an extinct elephant also showing signs of heating.

Besides being the clearest evidence for ancient fire usage at the site, the researchers said that the presence of the heat signature could also be evidence of ancient hominids’ experimentation with different materials.

The team believes that the technique could be employed not only to identify the use of fire, but serve as a window into the origin of its implementation by early humans.

“Especially in the case of early fire,” said Stepka, “if we use this method at archaeological sites that are one or two million years old, we might learn something new.”

“It was not only a demonstration of exploration and being rewarded in terms of the knowledge gained,” said Natalio, “but of the potential that lies in combining different disciplines: Ido has a background in quantum chemistry, Zane is a scientific archaeologist, and Liora and Michael are prehistorians. By working together, we have learned from each other. For me, it’s a demonstration of how scientific research across the humanities and science should work.”

Savage Burglars steal $2 million tabernacle

A gold tabernacle decorated with jewels — worth an estimated $2 million — was stolen from a Catholic church in Brooklyn over Memorial Day weekend and police are now on the hunt for who carried out the carefully planned heist.

The tabernacle, which is pure 18-karat gold, dates back to the 1890s, according to the Diocese of Brooklyn.

The burglars broke into Saint Augustine Roman Catholic Church in Park Slope and cut through the metal case protecting the tabernacle.

The person is believed to have left through the front door, according to New York ABC station WABC. The perpetrators also made off with the security footage, WABC reported.

A statue of an angel beside the tabernacle was also decapitated, authorities said.

The theft took place sometime between Thursday night and Saturday afternoon, according to the New York Police Department. The pastor, who discovered the theft on Saturday, said he believes it took place on Friday.

“This is devastating, as the Tabernacle is the central focus of our church outside of worship, holding the Body of Christ, the Eucharist, which is delivered to the sick and homebound,” Father Frank Tumino, pastor at Saint Augustine, said in a statement. “To know that a burglar entered the most sacred space of our beautiful Church and took great pains to cut into a security system is a heinous act of disrespect.”

The burglars also apparently cut into a safe in the church’s sacristy, but there was nothing inside, according to WABC.

The Holy Eucharist, or communion, kept inside the tabernacle was also tossed all over the alter.

Transgender bishop resigns

An openly transgender cleric from San Francisco, who made history last year with an appointment as a bishop by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, has resigned amid allegations of racism after firing the pastor of a predominantly Latino congregation.

The Rev. Megan Rohrer, who uses the pronoun “they,” led one of the church’s 65 synods, overseeing nearly 200 congregations in Northern California and northern Nevada. They were elected in May 2021 to serve a six-year term as bishop of the Sierra Pacific Synod.

In a letter to the synod Saturday, Rohrer said they were resigning because of “the constant misinformation, bullying and harassment” they experienced after the synod voted to remove the pastor of Mision Latina Luterana on Dec. 12, the Feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe, a significant holiday for congregants of the Stockton, California, church.

Rohrer fired the Rev. Nelson Rabell-Gonzalez after an investigation by the church into verbal harassment and retaliation allegations against the pastor, all of which he has denied. The synod council voted on Dec. 11 to vacate Rabell-Gonzalez’s call as a mission developer and to terminate his employment after they said he refused to fulfill certain mandatory requirements.

Rohrer was not available to speak with The Associated Press on Tuesday, saying they were “trying to rest and be with my family.”

A spokeswoman for the ELCA declined further comment Tuesday.

After Rabell-Gonzalez’s removal upset members of the Mision Latina Luterana, the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, the denomination’s presiding bishop, appointed a three-person “listening panel” in March to review Rohrer’s actions.

That report released June 1 made several recommendations to the ELCA, including publicly apologizing to the Latino church community for the hurt caused, planning anti-racism training for churchwide staff and leaders, paying a “healing visit” to the community and creating a task force to review the church’s policies and procedures.

Church leaders initiated the process to discipline Rohrer on Sunday following their resignation on Saturday. Eaton posted on Twitter that the Conference of Bishops met Sunday, a meeting she said Rohrer “chose not to attend.”

“I shared that I am initiating the discipline process immediately including suspension of Bishop Rohrer, based on additional information that has come to light.”

She added that the process will take time and that she will continue “to provide updates as appropriate.”

On Twitter, Rohrer questioned the church’s move to continue with the disciplinary process following their resignation “without providing any specifics about what I allegedly did.”

“That appears to be in conflict with their own procedures,” Roher said.

Members of the listening panel reported that the Mision Latina Luterana congregation had no idea their pastor was fired on Dec. 12. The congregation comprising mostly Mexican immigrants had planned an elaborate program that day with mariachi singers, traditional dancers and performances by children, all led by their pastor.

A video, which one of the congregants recorded live, shows distraught congregants voicing their concerns. One woman said in Spanish: “Pastor Nelson has worked a lot for this day to happen. He has done a lot for our community. He has fought for our rights.”

Others said the move to fire him was “unfair” and “racist.” The report mentions other congregants asked if the complaints against Rabell-Gonzalez were sexual in nature and were further upset when they did not get a response from Rohrer or other leaders.