Category Archives: History

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.

Secret Underground Christian City Discovered

Persecuted by the Romans, early Christians in what is now Turkey went underground—literally. Archaeologists have found evidence of a massive subterranean city they believe was designed for just that purpose. The city is thought to have housed roughly 70,000 people in the second and third centuries C.E., Live Science’s Tom Metcalfe reports.

Researchers believe the city, estimated to cover an area of over 4 million square feet, was used as a refuge by persecuted Jews and early Christians.

Situated beneath the city of Midyat, the complex was found in 2020 during routine restoration work on the city’s historic houses, according to the Wall Street Journal’s Joseph De Avila. After discovering a hidden entrance to a cave, workers took a passage that led them to the massive complex.

The complex has been named Matiate, which means “city of caves” in ancient Assyrian.

The city is “the only one [of its kind] in the world,” Gani Tarkan, director of the Mardin Museum and head of the excavations, tells Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency (AA).

Researchers believe the complex was inhabited through the sixth century C.E. and was later used as a catacomb and wine-manufacturing facility when residents moved back above ground, according to the Wall Street Journal. They have found 49 chambers so far—less than 5 percent of the estimated underground city. In the areas that have been studied, researchers have found silos, coins, and lamps, as well as human and animal bones.

The underground complex also includes a number of places researchers think were used as places of worship, including one with a Star of David carved near the ceiling.

“Christianity was not an official religion in the second century [and] families and groups who accepted Christianity generally took shelter in underground cities to escape the persecution of Rome,” Tarkan told LiveScience.

Since many early Christians were also Jews, both religions were subject to persecution. Rome’s pagan rituals were part of the “normal fabric” of life in Roman cities, writes Biblical historian Wayne A. Meeks—and those who refused to participate in them “had no legal standing.”

After the Romans, the early Christians were persecuted by the Persians. And medieval soldiers who came through the area in wartimes recorded entire cities devoid of people.

Though experts believe this underground city to be the largest in Turkey, it’s far from a unique discovery for the country. More than 40 other such cities have been discovered in Turkey, the most famous of which is Derinkuyu—a massive subterranean complex believed to have been built between the eighth and ninth centuries B.C.E. Able to hold around 20,000 people, Derinkuyu was used as a hiding place by Byzantine Christians and Jews between the 8th and 12th centuries C.E.

More recently, an underground complex discovered under a Turkish house by looters in 2017 was found to be an Iron Age creation, reports Smithsonian’s Elizabeth Djinis.

Other sites important to early Christianity have become tourist destinations across the region once dominated by the Roman Empire. Burials in the Roman catacombs helped spur the development of Christian funerary art; in Matera, Italy, tourists can visit caves that served as some of the earliest Christian churches and even book a stay in those that have been turned into hotel rooms.

While it seems unlikely the newly discovered city will be converted to hotel status, there are hopes the complex will become a tourist destination once excavations and research are complete, much like the city above it. AA writes that Midyat is “almost an open-air museum” because of its preservation of its rich history.

The area has received worldwide recognition for its cultural heritage and its many churches and monasteries, which date from the sixth to eighth centuries B.C.E., are candidates for Unesco’s World Heritage List. Throughout the centuries, early members of what is now the Syriac Orthodox Church practiced Christianity despite the rise and fall of numerous empires.

First settled around 4000 years ago by the Hurrians during the Bronze Age, the city has been ruled by, in order, the Assyrians, the Arameans, the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantines, and the Ottomans. Its 17th, 18th, and 19th-century architecture draws around 3 million tourists per year.

Church defends Christian’s singing on plane

A church has defended a Singaporean man’s singing of a worship song on a plane, noting that Singapore is not only a secular state but also a multi-cultural, multi-religious society.

In a post on its Facebook page on Tuesday (19 April), the 3:16 Church noted that Jonathan Neo’s action has drawn criticisms from many in Singapore for “imposing” his religious beliefs on others.

“The beauty of this nation is not in the exclusion of religious practices and views but a neutral platform for the free exercise of all cultural diversities which are beautiful and valuable to a thriving culture,” according to the post, written by a Pastor Norman.

The incident has led to many netizens criticising Neo, who was strumming his guitar on a plane while he sang a worship song to unsuspecting passengers during mid-flight. Neo was supposedly on board an easyJet flight when the incident happened.

Neo claimed on social media that the flight pilot had introduced him and his fellow worshippers to the passengers, and that they sang in six languages.

Singapore-based 3:16 Church claimed that in an “increasingly anti-Christian climate”, many will “amplify” their criticisms of such an incident. “In these last days, the scoffing is not something that Christians should be surprised by,” the church said.

Neo was given permission to sing, according to the church. Neo previously claimed that the pilot had introduced him and his fellow worshippers during the flight.

“Also, those on the plane had agency to voice out their disapproval should they not want to tolerate his singing. I’m certain Jon would have responded appropriately and humbly. I’m grateful to hear that many passengers reciprocated the love with claps, tears and smiles,” the church wrote.

Many netizens have criticised the church for its post.

Among them, a Germaine Ong said, “I am a believer. I am grieved – grieved that a preacher who professes to know Christ is taking this narrow and myopic view of the matter.” A Ryley Khandro said, “Please stop pushing your Christian agenda on the silent majority.”

However, other netizens also supported the church’s position and Neo’s action. One netizen, Adeline Pang Siow Ling, said, “I hope I would have his courage. Good job, Jonathan and thank you once again!” Praising the post, a Timothy Anand Weerasekera said, “So well written! So much for us to reflect on!”

Matthew Exposed Oldest Conspiracy Theory

In the middle of scenes of Jesus’ resurrection, the Gospel of Matthew recounts the birth of one of the oldest conspiracy theories.

On Easter morning, while the women are on their way to announce the resurrection of Jesus to the disciples, Matthew 28:11–15 highlights another movement: Some tomb guards report the weekend’s events to the chief priests. These men, in turn, then consult with the elders and decide together to conceal what has happened. At no point do they investigate what happened to Jesus’ body. They know from the start that what they might discover will not please them.

Instead, they invent what would today be called a conspiracy theory, with the “alternative facts” that support it: The disciples came to steal Jesus’ corpse. Never mind that those who had fled in fear after the arrest of their master would have needed to come at night to face a guard of several armed men. Never mind that they would have needed to loosen the seals on the tomb, roll away a massive stone, and remove the body of Jesus—all without waking anyone who could raise the alarm.

This version of the facts is absurd. Not only in and of itself, but because the disciples would later risk their lives to proclaim that Jesus had risen. If they had known it was a lie, where would they have found the courage to face the authorities threatening them? Why preach a knowingly falsified gospel? The audacity of the apostles, their courage, their zeal, their perseverance, and the whole expansion of Christianity is inexplicable without the Resurrection.

But all this, the elders do not yet know. So they try their luck and make a deal with the soldiers. The proposed lie is not without danger for them—the guards obviously weren’t supposed to fall asleep—but there is money involved, and the Jewish leaders assure them of their protection.

Thus, this version of the story, the text says, has spread among the Jews to this present day—the first century of our current era. But it is also our reality today, where theories to eschew the truth of the resurrection of Jesus continue to be propagated.

But it is probably not because of their credibility that these explanations persist. In fact, the explanation of the guards is so implausible that the apostle Matthew takes the liberty of mentioning it in his gospel, knowing full well that anyone who wanted could go and check this account.

When you want to drown out a truth, your lies or half-truths don’t have to be believable or well-founded. It is enough that your version suits what your listeners want to hear or avoids confronting them with a reality that disturbs them.

An ominous light

One might be surprised at the response of the Jewish leaders. The one announced to be the Messiah had just come back to life. An extraordinary miracle! A staggering truth! But instead of euphoria, they react with anger.