Category Archives: History

The Search for Noah’s Ark: Why It Will Never Be Found

The story of Noah’s Ark, one of the most famous parts in the Old Testament, tells of a massive flood sent by God to wipe out humanity, except for the patriarch and his family who were saved with pairs of every animal in a large wooden vessel.

Some believers who regard the religious text as a historically accurate account have searched for evidence of the Ark on the slopes of Mount Ararat in Armenia and beyond.

Though many “discoveries” have been claimed, from a piece of wood retrieved in 1876 to petrified wood found in the early 2000s, there is no conclusive evidence of the Ark’s existence.

But searches for the Ark draw everything from exasperation to disdain from academic archaeologists and biblical scholars. “No legitimate archaeologist does this,” says National Geographic Explorer Jodi Magness, an archaeologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, of modern searches for evidence of Noah.

“Archaeology is not treasure hunting,” she adds. “It’s not about finding a specific object. It’s a science where we come up with research questions that we hope to answer by excavation.”

Flood or fiction?

Stories of destructive floods and those who survive them predate the Hebrew Bible, the oldest parts of which are thought to have been written in the 8th century B.C. Legends about a deluge that destroys civilisation at the behest of a supernatural deity can be found in multiple Mesopotamian texts, from the Epic of Gilgamesh, which was written around the early second millennium B.C., to a recently deciphered Babylonian cuneiform tablet from about 1750 B.C. describing how the ark was built.

Could these flood myths be based in fact? “There does seem to be geological evidence that there was a major flood in the Black Sea region about 7,500 years ago,” says National Geographic Explorer Eric Cline, an archaeologist at George Washington University. But scientists disagree on the extent of that event, just as historians of the era differ on whether writings about a deluge were inspired by real life. It seems likelier that floods were simply experienced in different places and at different times—and that those events naturally made their way into the world’s oral and written lore.

Complicating the issue even further, scholars differ on the precise location of Noah’s Ark according to the Hebrew Bible. In the Book of Genesis, the ark came to rest  “upon the mountains of Ararat” located in the ancient kingdom of Urartu, an area that now includes Armenia and parts of eastern Turkey and Iran—not the single, iconic peak that bears its name today.

“There’s no way we can determine where exactly in the ancient Near East it occurred,” says Magness.

And both Cline and Magness say that even if artefacts from the Ark have been or will be found, they could never be conclusively connected to historical events.

“We have no way of placing Noah, if he really existed, and the flood, if there really was one, in time and space,” says Magness. “The only way you could determine that would be if you had an authentic ancient inscription”—and even then, she points out, such an inscription could refer to another Noah, or another flood.

That hasn’t stopped the proliferation of pseudoarchaeology that upholds the Bible as literal truth. The fruitless searches are often aligned with adherents of “young-earth creationism,” the belief that, despite evidence to the contrary, Earth is only thousands of years old.

Same evidence, very different conclusions

Such groups use secular archaeological evidence to bolster their literal interpretation of Scripture—and simply disregard or attempt to disprove evidence to the contrary. But they don’t all share the same tactics. Answers In Genesis, a self-described apologetics ministry that focuses on scientific issues and even runs a Noah’s Ark-themed amusement park in Kentucky, acknowledges the ubiquity of flood-related myths beyond the Old Testament story of Noah, and even concedes that the Ark could never be found.

“We do not expect the Ark to have survived and been available to find after 4,350 years,” says Andrew A. Snelling, a geologist and Director of Research for Answers in Genesis who has spent decades attempting to prove Earth’s youth.

Snelling differs from archaeologists, however, about why the vessel’s remains will never be found. “With no mature trees available for Noah and his family to build shelters after they got off the Ark, there is every reason to expect they dismantled the Ark (which they didn’t need anymore) to salvage timber from it,” he says. While the ministry does not rule out the potential of one day finding the Ark, Snelling rues what he calls “questionable claims” by Ark-seekers that “blunt the potential impact of a true discovery.”

For Magness, who currently leads excavations at a late-Roman synagogue in Galilee. the search for Noah’s Ark not only confuses the public, but diminishes excitement about actual archaeological finds, even ones that offer support for parts of the Bible such as the existence of the House of David.

“We know a lot about the biblical world, and it’s very interesting,” she says.

Setting the record straight

Part of the problem, says Cline, is that the public has unrealistic expectations of the discipline of archaeology—and popular media highlights the thrill of the chase instead of the slow accretion of archaeological knowledge. “We’re not like Indiana Jones,” he says. “It’s a scientific procedure. It’s painstaking. But what excites us does not necessarily excite other people.”

In his younger years, says Cline, he spent significant time and energy attempting to rebut the purported biblical evidence that enchants the public year after year. Eventually, though, he quit—and now focuses his time on both his expeditions and translating his research for those willing to accept the results of the scientific process. “People are gonna believe what they want to believe,” he sighs.

That won’t change any time soon—so in the meantime, he’s focused on unearthing an 18th-century B.C. Canaanite palace at Tel Kabri in what is now northern Israel. Following a pandemic-related pause on fieldwork, he anticipates returning next summer to continue excavating a painted plaster floor at the Old Testament-era site. “For us, [the floor] is incredibly important, because it shows international relations and contacts from almost 4,000 years ago,” he says.

“It’s not Noah’s Ark, but it’s a painted floor,” the archaeologist says, “which is good enough for me.”

The Truth Behind the ‘Separation of Church and State’

The phrase “separation of church and state” is widely used in sociopolitical discussions, but many people mistakenly think it is written verbatim in the US Constitution.

The term, typically used to claim there can be no intermingling of faith and government, has a fascinating history, according to Howard Goldthwaite, senior creative director at First Liberty Institute.

Goldthwaite recently wrote, directed, and produced a short animated video titled “No Better Letter,” an effort to explain where “the separation of church and state” term originated and why some misunderstand not only the history but also its application to constitutional law.

“The phrase is from a letter; it’s not in the Constitution, like everybody seemed to assume,” he said. “It’s from a letter written on Jan. 1 of 1802 by Thomas Jefferson [to] a group from Danbury, Connecticut.”

That group had written Jefferson expressing concern “they were going to be … told what to teach, what to preach,” Goldthwaite said.

Jefferson, then the third president of the United States, told them in his reply they had nothing to worry about and that the government didn’t have the power to tell them what to do in their house of worship.

But Goldthwaite said this letter has been used to drive a wedge between church and state — one that disallows the two from any proximity.

Atheist and Satanist groups, among others, often invoke the phrase to target nativities and other religious displays if and when these images are present on public property.

Voluntary prayer has also been targeted, with football coach Joe Kennedy losing his job before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in his favor last summer.

The natural question, of course, is why so many believe this term is somehow implied in the U.S. Constitution. And the broader discussion, of course, is just how much church and state can intermingle without violating the First Amendment — something over which both sides continue to haggle.

“I encourage everybody to read the original Danbury letter and then Jefferson’s response,” Goldthwaite said. “Jefferson was clearly putting their minds at ease that the government’s not here to tell them what to teach, what to believe.”

He continued, “That misunderstanding is kind of where the train jumps the track with a lot of people. They think the government has the right to tell any religious group to just back off anytime they want.”

Goldthwaite said he believes some of the motivation in using the term centers on a quest some secularists have not to see people of faith engaging in politics and government.

“They want to keep them out. They want to keep their values out,” he said. And so they wrap themselves in this ‘separation of church and state’ phrase.”

In the end, Goldthwaite said the “wall of separation” protects the church from state control, expressing his belief that many critics simply get it backward.

He’s hoping “No Better Letter” helps set the record straight.

It should be noted that organizations like the Freedom From Religion Foundation, an atheist activist group, seem to take a very different view, seeing the Danbury letter as a call for separation.

“As president, [Jefferson] issued his famous letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, on Jan. 1, 1802, explaining that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment builds ‘a wall of separation between church and state,’” the FFRF wrote. “He refused to issue any days of prayer or thanksgiving, believing civil powers alone were conferred on public officials.”

Best Evidence for the Flood

“…the fountains of the great deep [were] broken up, and the windows of the heavens were opened. And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights.”

This quote from the Book of Genesis is part of a familiar tale — the story of Noah’s flood. Scholars have known for a long time that the Bible isn’t the only place this story is found — in fact, the biblical story is similar to a much older Mesopotamian flood story in the epic of Gilgamesh. Scholars usually attribute things like the worldwide occurrence of flood stories to common human experiences and our love of repeating good stories, but recently scientists have started to uncover evidence that Noah’s flood may have a basis in some rather astonishing events that took place around the Black Sea some 7,500 years ago.

The scientific version of Noah’s flood actually starts long before that, back during the last great glaciation some 20,000 years ago.

This was a time when the earth looked very different from what we are used to today. Thick ice sheets extended down from the North Pole as far as Chicago and New York City. All that water had to come from somewhere, so ocean levels were about 400 feet lower than they are today. In essence, water that evaporated from the oceans fell as snow (which was compacted into glacial ice) rather than rain (which would flow back and replenish the oceans as it does now). The East Coast of the United States was 75 to 150 miles farther out than it is today, and places like Manhattan and Baltimore would have been inland cities. During this period, meltwater from the European glaciers flowed down to the Black Sea basin, then out through a river channel into the Mediterranean. Because the Mediterranean is connected to the world ocean at Gibraltar, it was also 400 feet lower than it is today, so this flow of fresh water through the Black Sea was downhill.

Two geologists at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory have offered a new theory of what happened next. William Ryan and Walter Pitman, in Noah’s Flood (Simon & Schuster), postulate that as time went on, the world warmed, the glaciers retreated and meltwater from the European glaciers began to flow north into the North Sea, depriving the Black Sea of its main source of replenishment. The level of the Black Sea began to drop, and most of the area around its northern boundary — the area adjacent to present-day Crimea and the Sea of Azov — became dry land. At this point, the level of the Black Sea was several hundred feet below that of the Mediterranean, and the two were separated by the barrier of the Bosporus, then dry land. This situation, with the world ocean rising while the Black Sea was falling, could not last forever. Eventually, like a bathtub overflowing, the Mediterranean had to pour through into the Black Sea basin.

The idea that ocean basins can flood catastrophically during periods of rising sea levels is nothing new in geology. Five million years ago, long before there were any humans around, just such an event occurred. The level of the Atlantic Ocean had dropped, or some tectonic event had occurred, with the result that water could no longer get through, and the Mediterranean gradually shrank down to a desert spotted with a few salty bits of ocean. Subsequently, when either the Atlantic rose again or another geological change took place, ocean water began pouring back into the former sea. The basin filled, and the present-day Mediterranean was created.

We know such things because sediments reveal history. Ryan and Pitman began taking cores of the present-day Black Sea. The cores seemed to be telling a strange story indeed, particularly in the northern areas. At the very bottom of the cores, dozens of feet below the present seafloor, they found layered mud typical of river deltas.

Carbon-dating of shells in this mud indicates that it was laid down between 18,000 and 8,600 years ago. This data showed that an area of the Black Sea about the size of Florida might have been much like the lower Mississippi Delta today — rich farmland with an abundant supply of fresh water.

Directly above the layers of mud is a layer of what Pitman calls “shell hash” — an inch-thick layer of broken shells — overlain by several feet of fine sediment of the type being brought into the Black Sea by rivers today. The shells in the “hash” are typical of what was in the Black Sea when it was a body of fresh water. The fine sediments contain evidence of saltwater species previously unknown in the Black Sea. It is the interpretation of these layers that tells us what happened on that inevitable day when rising sea levels in the Mediterranean reached the base of the sediments at the bottom of the Bosporus — and all hell broke loose.

When the Mediterranean began to flow northward, it “popped the plug” and pushed those sediments into a “tongue” of loose sediment on the bottom of what would become the present-day Black Sea (this tongue can still be seen in cores taken from the ocean bottom in that area). As the flow of water increased, it began to cut into the bedrock itself. The rock in this area is broken — Pitman calls it “trashy” — and even today rockslides are a major engineering problem for roads cut into the cliffs alongside the Bosporus. The incoming water eventually dug a channel more than 300 feet deep as it poured into the Black Sea basin, changing it from a freshwater lake to a saltwater ocean. In this scenario, the mud beneath the shell hash represents sediments from the rivers that fed the freshwater lake, the shell hash the remains of the animals that lived in that lake, and the layers above it the result of the saltwater incursion.

It was this event that Pitman and Ryan believe could be the flood recorded in the Book of Genesis. The salt water poured through the deepening channel, creating a waterfall 200 times the volume of Niagara Falls (anyone who has ever traveled to the base of the falls on the Maid of the Mist will have a sense of the power involved). In a single day enough water came through the channel to cover Manhattan to a depth at least two times the height of the World Trade Center, and the roar of the cascading water would have been audible at least 100 miles away. Anyone living in the fertile farmlands on the northern rim of the sea would have had the harrowing experience of seeing the boundary of the ocean move inland at the rate of a mile a day.

In addition, Pitman and Ryan point out what archaeologists who study ancient civilizations have known for a long time: that at roughly the time of the flood, a number of people and new customs suddenly appeared in places as far apart as Egypt and the foothills of the Himalayas, Prague and Paris. The people included speakers of Indo-European, the language from which most modern European and Indian languages are derived. Pitman and Ryan suggest that these people might, in fact, represent a diaspora of Black Sea farmers who were driven from their homes by the flood, and that the flood itself might have been the cause of the breakup of Indo-European languages.

Unfortunately, the evidence for this diaspora is a good deal less solid than the evidence for the flood itself. Linguists have long known how to reconstruct ancient languages by looking at words that have survived in the descendants of those languages today. The date of an event like the split-up of the Indo-European languages can then be estimated by comparing those words with artifacts found in excavations — a language probably won’t have a word for “wheel,” for example, unless it actually uses wheeled vehicles. “It is unlikely that the Indo-European languages split up before 3500 B.C. (that is, 2,000 years after the Black Sea flood),” says University of Chicago linguist Bill Darden, basing his conclusion on this sort of argument. If he and his colleagues are right, then the diaspora part of the flood story will be just another beautiful theory shot down by ugly facts.

Walter Pitman accepts that there is controversy on this part of his thesis, but can’t resist one final irreverent geologist’s observation: “When you look at the settlements those people built,” he says, “not one of them is less than 150 feet above sea level!”

Buddha Was A Christian Saint – Really

There are many examples in the history of religion, or literature in general, where a motif or a tale travels cross-cultures and changes, deforms or evolves into something that it did not connote to in the first place. Such is the case of Barlaam and Josaphat, two legendary Christian martyrs and saints, who, it turns out, were based eventually on the life of the Buddha.

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According to legend, King Abenner or Avenier in India persecuted the Christian Church on his territory, founded by the Apostle Thomas. When astrologers had predicted that it would be his own son who would convert to Christianity one day, Abenner had the young prince Josaphat isolated from any influences on that matter. Despite that, the young prince met the hermit Saint Barlaam and became a Christian. Josaphat preserved his new faith even in the face of his father’s anger and faith. Consequently, King Abenner also converted, turned over his throne to his son, and retired by going to the desert and becoming a hermit. Josaphat later resigned too and retreated with his old teacher Barlaam.

“Long attributed to the eighth-century monk and scholar, St. John of Damascus, Barlaam and Josaphat was translated into numerous languages around the world. Philologists eventually traced the name Josaphat as a derivation from the Sanskrit bodhisattva, the Buddhist term for the future Buddha, highlighting this text as essential source reading for connections between several of the world’s most popular religions,” writes also the College of Literature, Science, and Arts at the University of Michigan.

The ancient Buddhist text most likely dates back to the second through to the fourth century. The Sanskrit word Bodhisattva was first changed to Bodisav in Persian texts in the 6th or 7th century, then to Budhasaf or Yudasaf in an 8th century Arabic document. In the 10th century, in Georgia, the name appears as Iodasapah and from there was adopted in Greece as Iosapah, and in Latin under Iosaphat or Josaphat.

The two figures entered the Eastern Orthodox calendar with a feast day on 26th August, and in the Roman Martyrology in the Western calendar as “Barlaam and Josaphat” on 27th November. They were, however, never formally canonized by the church.

The majority of scholars who have researched how the narrative has traveled cross-borders, agree and point out to errors in prints that have mistranslated the first versions.

One of the first Christianized adaptations of the story is the Georgian epic “Balavariani” issued in the 10th century. Then, a Georgian monk translated the story into Greek and from there it was translated into Latin. That’s how the story got ultimately popular in Western Europe as “Barlaam and Josaphat”. Other accounts also suggest that the Greek legend of “Barlaam and Ioasaph” is attributed to the aforementioned 7th century John of Damascus.

Nevertheless, the story was widely read in the Middle Ages, almost in each Western European country. The tale appeared in such works as the “Golden Legend”, a popular late medieval Europe collection of hagiographies, written by the Italian chronicler and archbishop of Genoa, Jacobs de Voragine. A scene there that involves three caskets appears in Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice” too.

The misinterpretation behind the saint’s figure was largely debunked by Wilfred Cantwell Smith, a Canadian professor of comparative religion, who from 1967 to 1973 was director of Harvard’s Center for the Study of World Religions.

As one of the field’s most eminent and influential figures, he traced the story of Barlaam and Josaphat from the Mahayana Buddhist text, and how it found the way into Muslim cultures as the Arabic Book of Bilawhar and Yudasaf.

8 Saints From America

American saints are hard to find among the over 10,000 recognized saints of the Catholic Church. But in our 250-year history, from sea to shining sea, a handful of American saints have left their mark of patriotic holiness throughout the United States. Each one lived as witnesses to Christ in their everyday lives, many with miracles attributed to them, and some even called to give their lives on behalf of their faith. 

These are our favorite Patriots of the faith!

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (1774  – 1841), founder of the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph was born to an Episcopalian family in New York. Her marriage at the age of 19 landed her in Italy, where she learned about Catholicism from friends.

Upon the passing of her husband and her return to the United States, Seton converted to the Catholic faith, provoking much ridicule from friends and family. Seton and her five children soon moved to Baltimore to open a school for girls, and over time many young women from throughout the country moved there to join in her work. She later founded a religious order, the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph, of which she was named the first superior. Seton is credited with founding the U.S. Catholic school system. 

St. Damien de Veuster of Molokai

Born in Belgium, St. Damien de Veuster of Molokai (1840 – 1884) had a strong devotion to St. Francis Xavier, patron of missionaries, and prayed especially to be sent on a mission. In March 1864, his religious congregation sent him to Honolulu, Hawaii, where he was ordained to the priesthood soon after. 

At the time, the Hawaiian government was quarantining people to prevent the spread of leprosy. Those infected were sent to the island of Molokai, to bear as best they could what was then an incurable disease. 

Knowing that lepers on the island still needed the sacraments, Damien volunteered to go to the island, in spite of the fact that such an assignment amounted to a death sentence. For 16 years, he performed the Church’s works of mercy, raising the lepers up from their physical sufferings and making them aware of their worth as beloved children of God. 

He died at the age of 49 during Holy Week, having himself contracted leprosy. 

St. John Neumann

Born in Bohemia, St. John Neumann (1811 – 1860) took up a missionary opportunity in New York after finishing seminary. Neumann was ordained a priest only 16 days after his arrival in the United States and sent to serve the people of Buffalo, NY. There he joined the Redemptorist order and continued his missionary work. 

After serving in Buffalo for 16 years, living humbly – often off of merely bread and water – he was named the Bishop of Philadelphia.

As bishop, Neumann was responsible for the building of 50 churches, 100 schools, and initiating the construction of the city’s cathedral. Amid all of this, he is credited with increasing Catholic school enrollment from 500 to 9,000.

Neumann was the first bishop of an American diocese to be canonized. 

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini (1850 – 1917) longed to be a missionary in China from a very young age, but God had other plans for her. An 18-year-old orphan in Italy, she joined the Sisters of the Sacred Heart, taking the name “Xavier” in honor of St. Francis Xavier, the great missionary to the Orient.

St. Frances focused her efforts on the United States, after receiving advice from Pope Leo XIII, who told her, “Not to the East, but to the West.” She soon came to the United States, became a naturalized U.S. citizen, and, despite her deathly fear of water and drowning, re-crossed the Atlantic ocean over 30 times in her efforts to help immigrants. 

She spent much of her life traveling across America, setting up orphanages, hospitals, convents, and schools for Italian immigrants. Frances died in 1917, just before a new, post-war wave of immigration, and is the patron saint of immigrants. 

St. Katharine Drexel

St. Katharine Drexel (1858 – 1955) was born into a wealthy family with a strong devotion to caring for the poor. After witnessing the destitute living conditions of Native and African Americans in the western and southwestern states, Katharine grew a particular interest in a life of service, focusing on education and attention to the poor and vulnerable.

When Katharine made her first vows as a religious sister, she formally renounced her fortune and personal freedom in order to grow closer to God, devoting her whole life to the social and spiritual development of black and American Indian communities.

Later, she would found the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, whose apostolate was to live in these communities while helping them acquire education and grow in faith. Over the course of the next 45 years, she would found almost 60 schools and missions in the western United States, with the help of her order. 

Among these schools, she founded New Orleans’ Xavier University, the only historically black Catholic college in the U.S., named after St. Francis Xavier. 

St. Rose Philippine Duchesne

Born into a wealthy family in France, St. Rose Philippine Duchesne (1769 – 1852), from a very young age, had a desire to evangelize the Americas. She was educated by the Visitation nuns, and eventually joined them – without her family’s permission – at the age of 19.

16 years later, she left the Visitation sisters to join the Society of the Sacred Heart, a missionary community that sent her to the United States. She first founded a convent and school in Missouri, and continued on to found more schools for girls and Native Americans.

She died in 1852, and is often referred to as the “Woman Who Prays Always.”

St. Marianne Cope

St. Marianne Cope (1838 – 1918) was a German-born teacher and principal of several schools in the state of New York. After she entered religious life in Syracuse in 1862, she helped found two of the first hospitals in New York, St. Elizabeth Hospital in Utica, and St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse.

About 20 years later, she received a request for Catholic sisters to provide health care to lepers on the Hawaiian Islands. She accepted the request and ministered to the lepers of Molokai, her time overlapping with the last years of St. Damien’s own life on the island.

Her dedication to caring for the sick and suffering led to her recognition as the “beloved mother of the outcasts.”

St. Junipero Serra

Having joined the Franciscan order at 17, St. Junipero Serra (1713 – 1884) became an accomplished scholar of philosophy at a young age. But when he was just 36, Serra left his prestigious position to become a missionary in the Americas.

He began work in Mexico amongst the Pame Indians, learning their language and even translating the catechism for them. It is there that Serra gained his reputation as a preacher and grew in his personal dedication to penance and mortification.

Years later, he was assigned to preach in California, where he established many missions. The mission churches remain today, stretching from San Diego to San Francisco.

Dolphins and Christians: A Bizarre Burial in a Medieval Graveyard

A three-week archaeological dig in the English Channel took a bizarre, inexplicable turn, after researchers chanced upon a carefully cut grave hidden in the soil – the contents of which were definitely not human.

The discovery, made on the small island of Chapelle Dom Hue off the coast of Guernsey in September 2017, revealed the ancient remains of a medieval porpoise buried in the earth, and archaeologists were at a loss to explain the story behind this mysterious animal tomb.

“It’s very peculiar, I don’t know what to make of it,” archaeologist Philip de Jersey from Oxford University in the UK told The Guardian at the time.

“Why go to the trouble of burying a porpoise in what looks like a grave?”

The mystery is all the greater due to the way the animal was buried, which doesn’t suggest the dead porpoise was simply disposed of underground.

Instead, it looks like it’s been laid to rest, with the body aligned east to west per Christian tradition, and the careful digging of the grave itself suggests it was intended as a solemn resting place.

For that reason, de Jersey expected to find the remains of a medieval monk in the tomb, as the island is thought to have been a religious retreat for monks seeking refuge.

But after noticing changes in the soil, which indicated the likely existence of a grave underneath, the researchers uncovered the skull of a juvenile porpoise, which they think has been entombed alongside the graves of other monks since some time in the 14th century.

It’s possible that the porpoise was killed for food, since these mammals were eaten in medieval times.

But if that’s the case, the researchers say it would have made a lot more sense for people to have disposed of the remains in the sea – located just 10 meters (32 ft) from the site, and the small island is surrounded by water on all sides.

“If we were in a church and we found something like this, based on the shape, we would think it was a grave cut,” de Jersey told the Guernsey Press.

“That is what puzzles me. If they had eaten it or killed it for the blubber, why take the trouble to bury it?”

One possibility is that the animal may have been killed for food and carefully stored until it was needed, but the preserved remains were never used, de Jersey thinks.

“It may have been packed in salt and then for some reason they didn’t come back to it,” he told The Guardian.

After their discovery, the porpoise bones were removed from their resting place, and handed over to be studied by a marine expert.

For his part, de Jersey says it’s the strangest find in his 35-year career as a scientist, and a true riddle for the ages.

“The dolphin has a strong significance in Christianity but I’ve not come across anything like this before,” he said.

“It’s the slightly wacky kind of thing that you might get in the Iron Age but not in medieval times.”

In a follow up in late 2018, de Jersey told the BBC he now believed it was most likely the animal had indeed been stored for food purposes, but that we would probably never reach a definitive answer, since so little is left of Chapelle Dom Hue.

“I suspect we won’t find out,” he said.

The Truth About Why Hasn’t Jesus Come Back Yet?

Dear Roger,
Why hasn’t Jesus come back yet? I see so much sorrow and suffering in our world. I see so many people rejecting Him. And when I compare that with all the Scriptures where Jesus promises to return, I just don’t understand why He is waiting so long. Can you help me?
Sincerely, Sarah

Dear Sarah,

From the very beginning, Jesus knew that He would fulfill the calling God had given Him to die in our place, paying the price for our sins. He also knew that He would return; His “Second Coming,” to reign over a new heaven and a new earth.

The apostle John wrote about that moment in Revelation 20:

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. … His name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following Him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. … on His robe and on His thigh he has this name written: King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

However, Jesus never told us exactly when He would come.

Jesus knew what would happen, but even He didn’t know when. In Matthew 24:36, He proclaimed, “About that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the son, but only the father.”

But over and over again, He reassured us that He would come; “You will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30).

We can count on His promise… however, we won’t know the exact time either. He commands us to “Keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come” (Matthew 24:42).

So, we can be certain that Jesus will return. But what’s taking him so long?

Let me give you some reasons why Jesus has not come back yet.

1. He is waiting to give as many people as possible a chance to repent and turn to him.

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:8-9)

There is a precedent for this kind of delay. God doesn’t want to send anyone to hell. He is a God of love. In fact, God gave Noah 120 years to build the ark, hoping against hope that many might repent and clean up their lives.

It is sad to say, but during these times of postponement very few change their minds and repent.

For example, the apostle John revealed what will happen in the future in Revelation 9:20-21:

The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood which cannot see or hear or walk, nor did they repent of their murderers or of their sorceries or their immoralities or their thefts.

2. He is waiting until there are not enough Christians left to hold back the evil in the world.

Speaking to his followers, Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has lost its taste, it is no longer good for anything, but to be thrown out and trodden under foot by men.” (Matthew 5:13)

Jesus is using an analogy here. Unfortunately, good salt would become diluted and lose its usefulness as it mixed with dirt in the unsanitary conditions of the first-century world. There would come a time when so much dirt mixed with the salt that the mixture would no longer be good for anything.

When the number of well-salted Christians declines to the point where the world is no longer impacted by their presence, Jesus says, “Throw it out!” Jesus will then return.

3. He is waiting until whoever or whatever is holding back the “man of lawlessness” releases him.

“Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day [the second coming] will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed.” (2 Thessalonians 2:3)

“And now you know what is holding him back, so that the man of lawlessness may be revealed at the proper time.” (2 Thessalonians 2:6)

In 2 Thessalonians, the apostle Paul is teaching about the Antichrist, using the term “man of lawlessness.” Note that his writings match John’s vision of the Antichrist in Revelation.

The “man of lawlessness” will come, he will be a portent of the end, he will precede Jesus’ Second Coming … but we do not know who or what is holding back the unveiling of the man of lawlessness.

Whatever it is, Jesus will not come back until the man of lawlessness is unmasked.

Many surmise that what holds the man of lawlessness back is the Holy Spirit. If that is the case, as soon as the Holy Spirit allows the Antichrist to act, Jesus will return.

4. He must first fulfill all of his prophesied responsibilities.

The Second Coming will occur at the end of the seven-year Great Tribulation. The seals have been opened, the trumpets have been blown, and the bowls of wrath have been poured out.

Now, occurs the battle of Armageddon.

The apostle John, watching from his God-given vantage point, declared, “And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, ‘Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe.’ And the earth was reaped” (Revelation 14:15-16).

At the Second Coming, hostile nations will gather at Armageddon to war against each other (Zechariah 14:2). Christ then returns and stands on the Mount of Olives. These enemy nations will recognize King Jesus as their real adversary. They join forces … and they don’t have a chance.

Jesus is now free to commence his post-Second Coming responsibilities, from the judgment of Satan and his armies to the day when the old earth passes away and the new heaven and earth come to be (read Revelation chapters 20 and 21).

By the way, the prophet Zechariah prophesied that at the Second Coming, Jesus will return with nail prints in his hands, feet, and side. The Jews will weep as they look upon the one whom they pierced and realize that they had crucified their Messiah.

“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of compassion and supplication, so that, when they look on him they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child.” (Zechariah 12:10)

You asked the question, “Why hasn’t Jesus come back yet?”

Now, we know why.

By the way, the rapture is not the second coming.

It’s all right to pray for the rapture to occur, when Jesus will come in the air and “we who are still alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). Those who have chosen to follow Christ at that time—dead or alive—will be taken up into heaven. But Jesus will NOT come back to earth at that time.

In conclusion, we would do well to emulate the words of Jesus in the Lord’s Prayer while we wait: “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” Let’s join Jesus to pray for God’s Kingdom to come on earth!

I hope this helps.

Love, Roger

Dr. Roger Barrier retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his 35-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work is, Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.

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.”

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.”

NATO Ally has Waged a War on Christianity

While Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is ongoing, an EU member nation remains occupied, ethnically cleansed and colonized by a NATO member — and this for the past 48 years. I’m referring to the continual occupation of the Republic of Cyprus by Turkey.

Much of the cultural and religious heritage of this ancient nation has been obliterated by Turkey. The Turkish invasion brought with it destruction to non-Muslim historic sites, including the cultural heritage of Greek, Jewish, Armenian, Latin, Maronite, and other communities. In spite of this, the West has largely remained silent.

The illegal invasion and forced division of Cyprus by Turkey in 1974 based on the religion and ethnicity of its residents, has led to countless human rights violations including cultural heritage destruction and systematic discrimination — even regarding death and burial.

Ninety-year-old Greek Cypriot citizen, Spyros Hadjigregoriou, for example, lost his life in November of last year due to a brain hemorrhage. He died in his native country, Cyprus, deprived of his greatest wish: being buried in his village of Gerolakkos. Nicosia has been illegally divided in two by Turkey, which occupies part of the city. After the invasion campaign, in violation of international law, Turkey established an illegal regime in the occupied north of Cyprus.

Hadjigregoriou spent decades trying to receive “permission” from the de-facto Turkish “authorities,” including the presidents of the occupying regime in the north of the Republic of Cyprus. His constant requests and appeals were of no use. The Turkish occupying forces did not allow him to rest in peace in the village of his ancestors.

Since its occupation in 1974, 36% of Cyprus has remained under Turkey’s rule.

Sener Levent, a Turkish Cypriot journalist, and editor in chief of the newspaper Avrupa, has extensively covered Hadjigregoriou’s story: “I wrote my first article about Spyros in the late 1980s,” Levent said.  “My newspaper continued covering his story for years until his death. Spyros was a peace activist who hosted events in his house to bring together all Cypriots. He was a good friend of mine, and we once went to the cemetery of his village together. Most gravestones were no longer in the cemetery. But he still yearned to be buried there.”

Around 40,000 Turkish troops are still illegally deployed in the northern part of Cyprus. Forced mass displacement occurred when Turkey invaded Cyprus twice in 1974 — on July 20 and August 14 — 14 years after Cyprus gained independence from British rule and became an independent republic in 1960.  Like the rest of the island, the northern part of Cyprus’s population was Greek majority until the invasion, which forcibly changed the demographic character of Cyprus.

The military campaign was characterized by murders, bombing of civilian targets including hospitals, unlawful detention of both soldiers and civilians in what amounted to concentration camps, systematic, summary execution of civilians, as well as torture and mistreatment including rapes of Greek Cypriots. Through these atrocities, the Turkish occupation forces terrorized Greek Cypriots, causing approximately 170,000 to flee south. Their lands, homes, businesses and other properties were seized, looted and distributed to members of the Turkish occupation army and illegal settlers from Turkey. To this day, at least 1,000 Cypriots remain missing.

Hadjigregoriou’s story is not an isolated incident. Indigenous Greek Cypriots who were forced to leave the occupied north are not allowed by the Turkish occupying forces to be buried in their ancestral cemeteries. In fact, the cemetery where Hadjigregoriou’s parents were buried is in ruins. “The tombstones are scattered all around … Dry yellow grass is knee-deep … Hadjigregoriou could not find [the graves of] his mother and father lying in this cemetery, ” the newspaper Afrika reported in 2012. This is part of the Turkish campaign to plunder and systematically destroy the Cypriot cultural and religious heritage in the occupied part of the island.

Even if Hadjigregoriou had been able to be buried in his native village, his grave would probably not be safe as Christian cemeteries in the occupied area have been methodically destroyed.

According to a report “The Destruction of the European Civilization of Cyprus by Turkey” by the Committee of Cyprus Occupied Municipalities:

“When a number of checkpoints opened in 2003, Greek Cypriots who visited their villages and cities witnessed with their own eyes the extent of barbarity and devastation, especially so in Kyrenia, Yialousa, Assia, Genagra, Lysi etc. Similar treatment was reserved for the Jewish cemetery in Margo, which was desecrated in a grossly irreverent manner.”

Historic churches, chapels and monasteries have also been subject to desecration and destruction. They have been pillaged, deliberately vandalized and, in some cases, demolished. Many have suffered irreparable damage. Innumerable cultural and religious artifacts of enormous value have been stolen to be illegally transferred to different countries around the world and sold.

The Representation of the Church of Cyprus to the European Union further reports:

“All cemeteries have been ravaged and churches have been turned into mosques, museums, cultural centres, athletic clubs, cafes, hotel apartments, granaries, stables and barns, warehouses, theaters, hostels, restaurants, offices, art studios and galleries, garages and military installations. One of them is even a morgue! Some have already collapsed, and others have been purposely demolished … The cemeteries of our ancestors have been looted and destroyed. Graves have been opened and crosses and gravestones have been broken.” 

All this destruction has taken place in an ancient land known for its Christian history, civilization, and heritage. The report explains:

“Cyprus possesses a unique history and an ancient civilisation that dates back to 9,000 BC. Thanks to its geographical location close to the Holy Land, it was one of the earliest countries to embrace Christianity. In 45 AD, when the Apostles Paul, Barnabas and Mark travelled to the island and preached the Gospel. It is for this reason that the whole island represents an open museum of Christian Art, with a huge number of churches and monasteries in urban rural and mountainous areas, frequently decorated with mosaics, murals and icons from every historical period. In Cyprus, the religion of the vast majority of the population, 80%, are Orthodox Christian, while 18% are Muslims and 2% are Maronite Christians, Armenians and Latins.”

The destruction is not limited to the monuments belonging to the Church of Cyprus, but also extends to religious monuments belonging to the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem and to the Armenian, Maronite and Catholic Churches of Cyprus.

Sadly, the West has stayed silent, if not complicit regarding the occupation and the subsequent ethnic cleansing and destruction of cultural heritage in the occupied territory. What is the reason for the West’s incoherent attitude towards Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus compared to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine? 

Sadly, in the case of the occupation of Cyprus, the West, and NATO have stood with the aggressor and against the victim. This Western incoherency in freely allowing the Turkish occupation of Cyprus undermines the West’s credibility and international authority.

For the past 48 years, the rightful owners of the Turkish occupied territory are unable to return to their homelands. Most of their cultural heritage has been demolished, and they have been subject to apartheid-style segregation by Turkey, even in death.

Uzay Bulut is a Turkish journalist and political analyst formerly based in Ankara. Her writings have appeared in The Washington Times, The American Conservative, The Christian Post, The Jerusalem Post, and Al-Ahram Weekly. Her work focuses mainly on human rights, Turkish politics and history, religious minorities in the Middle East, and antisemitism.