Category Archives: History

Archaeological Evidence for the Kingdom of Judah

During the past 14 years (2007–2021), archaeological digs have taken place at four separate sites in the Judean foothills: Khirbet Qeiyafa (biblical Sha’arayim, mentioned in 1 Samuel 17:52 and 1 Chronicles 4:31), Khirbet el-Ra’I (biblical Ziklag, mentioned as being in southern Judah in Joshua 15:31), Socoh (Joshua 15:31), and Lachish (mentioned as being in southern Judah in Joshua 15:31). As cities mentioned in Scripture in the southern part of Israel (and during the divided monarchy, Judah) at the western border with the Philistines, they should be expected to have been fortified cities, with walls and gates.

Since the 1990s, more and more evidence of the southern kingdom of Judah has come to light, including seals, pottery, inscribed tablets, and rings which mention David, Solomon, or a later king from the “house of David.” While skeptical biblical archaeologists and historians have grudgingly accepted these findings, they have maintained the attitude that Judah was a petty kingdom, or even a small chiefdom of little significance. Even as recently as 2010, liberal Jewish archaeologist Israel Finkelstein said in an interview that Jerusalem was little more than a “hill-country village” and David’s armies were “500 people with sticks in their hands shouting and cursing and spitting—not the stuff of great armies of chariots described in the text.”1

But the recent archaeological digs have begun to change that opinion as more and more information comes to light. Evidence of well-fortified towns and cities has been unearthed, and several important artifacts with biblical names have surfaced.


The smallest of the sites excavated was Khirbet Qeiyafa (biblical Sha’arayim). The town was located on the border with Philistia, opposite Tell es-Safi (biblical Gath). After David killed Goliath and the armies of Israel routed the Philistines, the Israelite armies chased them as they fled back through Sha’arayim on their way to Gath (Joshua 15:31). Excavations took place from 2007–2013 and revealed a heavily fortified city with “a rich destruction layer” surrounded by a casemate wall (a double, parallel line of walls with partition walls), two gates and a row of houses adjacent to the city wall.2 During their last year there, a monumental administrative building was uncovered on the acropolis in the 2013 season. The building was found out to be from the Byzantine era (c. AD 500), but further excavation found that it had been built over a building from the time of King Saul and David (c. 1050–1000 BC). This earlier building covered more than 10,000 square feet and its walls were three feet thick. According to the authors of the paper, they believed it “occupied the highest and most important location—at the center of the site, overlooking the entire city as well as the surrounding countryside as far as Jerusalem and the Hebron mountains to the east and Ashdod to the west. This huge structure was both a prominent and potent point of the city. It reflects power and authority over the city, as well as the region. We believe it was an administrative center of the recently established Davidic kingdom.”3

But the major find was an ostracon (shard of pottery with an inscription) discovered in 2008 with five lines of the oldest known Hebrew text ever discovered, believed to be a thousand years older than the Dead Sea Scrolls. The text has received numerous (and differing) translations, one of which contends that it contains a reference to the chief officers establishing a king,4 while another contends it is instruction for the king to remember the poor and the widows and execute justice on their behalf.5 Both of these things are mentioned in Scripture, Saul being made King of Israel by the people at Gilgal (1 Samuel 11:14–15) and God’s instructions to kings, princes, and leaders in Israel not to pervert justice (Isaiah 1:17, 23; Jeremiah 7:6–7, 22:1–3), so either translation is consistent with Scripture on these points. The translators of the text mentioned above both consider the ostracon to be from the time of King Saul (c. 1100–1050 BC).

Interestingly, the only other biblical mention of Sha’arayim (1 Chronicles 4:31) tells us that this city was inhabited “until David reigned.” This is significant because after Saul and his son Jonathan were killed on Mt. Gilboa (northern Israel) and the armies of Israel routed, the Philistines raided several towns in Israel and Judah. Not long after Saul’s death, the armies of David and the armies of Ishbosheth, Saul’s son, had engaged in a battle (2 Samuel 2:12–17). Then after Ishbosheth was killed in a palace coup, David was crowned king of all Israel at Hebron. Subsequently, David and the armies of Israel fought the Jebusites in Jerusalem and took the city (2 Samuel 5:6–9).

Then we read that David turned his attention to the Philistines, who by this time had occupied much of western Israel as far north as Baal Perazim, about six miles northwest of Jerusalem (2 Samuel 5:19–25). A short time later, he routed the Philistines again and drove them all the way back to the coastal plains, even taking the city of Metheg-ammah, which was likely a western suburb of Gath (2 Samuel 8:1). David then defeated Moab, Edom, and Syria (2 Samuel 8:2–5). He put garrisons in Syria and Edom (2 Samuel 8:6, 15) but did not put garrisons again in western Israel. It therefore appears that the Philistines destroyed Sha’arayim right after the defeat of Saul, but David’s routing of the Philistines a few years later and their being put under subjugation and tribute meant he did not need a strong border on this western side of the kingdom. So the city walls and “administrative building” mentioned above may have been built during Saul’s reign and lasted to the time of David’s reign over Judah, but by the time he became king over all Israel, the city had been destroyed. This accords well with 1 Chronicles 4:31.


Of special note in this 2010 archaeological dig was a royal jar handle with the name Zephaniah on it. The prophet Zephaniah was a great-great-grandson of King Hezekiah and prophesied in the time of King Josiah of Judah.

Socoh (also spelled Sochoh) was one of the towns of southern Judah (Joshua 15:35). Socoh was a small walled town with two primary building phases, fortified during the time of Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 11:7) and also in the eighth century BC, likely from the time of King Uzziah (Azariah), who is recorded as fortifying southern Judah and even occupying Philistine lands. But Socoh/Sochoh had been in existence as a village long before and was actually the site where the Philistines camped when the battle of David and Goliath took place (1 Samuel 17:1). The last mention of Sochoh is in 2 Chronicles 28:18, when the city was captured and occupied by the Philistines during the reign of wicked King Ahaz (Uzziah’s grandson). Of special note in this 2010 archaeological dig was a royal jar handle with the name Zephaniah on it. The prophet Zephaniah was a great-great-grandson of King Hezekiah, and he prophesied in the time of King Josiah of Judah. King Hezekiah had recaptured much of southern Israel from the Philistines and had even conquered parts of Philistia (2 Kings 18:8), so it is likely that Judah reoccupied Socoh at this time, meaning it is plausible that the Zephaniah seal was the prophet’s or referred to him.


The excavations at Khirbet al-Ra’I (biblical Ziklag) that occurred from 2015–2018 revealed several layers of occupation from the time of the judges, massive fortifications during the time of King David (c. 1050–1000 BC) and Solomon/Rehoboam (c. 1000–900 BC), and a Persian and Hellenistic layer. Between the layers from the time of the judges and David, there were periods of Philistine occupancy (deduced from Philistine pottery dominating at certain levels). Ziklag is not a Semitic name but appears to be of Philistine origin.6 When Joshua listed the tribe of Judah’s land portion, it included many cities that were held by the Philistines at the time, including Ziklag (Joshua 15:31).

We read in 1 Samuel 27:1–6 that Ziklag, during the time of King Saul, was occupied by the Philistines but given to David as a gift by Achish, king of Gath. Of special note was a destruction layer between the Davidic and Solomon layers, corresponding exactly with 1 Samuel 30:1, which states that while David was away, the Amalekites came and burned the city down and took everyone captive. David was able to catch up to and decimate the Amalekites and recover all the people and spoils (1 Samuel 30:16–20). But likely he and his army had to rebuild the city. There is evidence of building stone being reused, and the rebuilding was on a much smaller scale than the former city had been, only about one-tenth the size.7

Again, this would fit well with the biblical text, which informs us that as David was returning to Ziklag, King Saul had been killed in battle. Shortly afterward, David went to Hebron and was crowned king of Judah (2 Samuel 2:1–4), so he and his family and armies moved to Hebron. Ziklag did not need to be as large as it had been, so it was scaled down. However, this smaller village lasted only a short time and ended in a sudden destruction, leaving dozens of complete pottery vessels in the destruction layer.8 This fits the account of Shishak’s campaign during the time of Rehoboam, when Shishak plundered southern Judah on his way to Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 12:2–4). Shishak would not have been interested in looting Judean pottery, as his pillaging of the gold artifacts in the temple in Jerusalem makes clear.


The second-to-last site excavated (2013–2017) by Garfinkel and his associates, and the largest by far, was Lachish. In the southern kingdom of Judah, Lachish was probably the second most important site besides Jerusalem. The city as it was in the c. 1000–900 BC timeframe (Level 5) was circled by a massive, almost 10 ft. (3 m) thick wall with residential buildings abutting the wall.9 According to 2 Chronicles 11:5–12, Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, fortified Lachish together with several other cities in Judah. This accords well with the timeline estimated for the city’s fortification and settlement during this period. Rehoboam’s reign is dated at 975–957 BC by Ussher and 931–913 BC by conventional archaeologists, either of which fit the proposed dates.

Lachish is mentioned numerous times in the OT, starting with the mention of its Amorite occupants prior to Israel conquering it in Joshua 10:31–32. Its last mention is in Nehemiah 11:30, as some of the Israelites returned there from the Babylonian captivity during the time of Ezra. Consequently, there are nine main archaeological layers to sift through on the Tell, with the oldest having the highest numbers. Level 3 has been positively identified as being the level when the Assyrian king Sennacherib and his armies destroyed the town in 701 BC, because positive evidence of a siege mound has been found at that level (e.g., 2 Chronicles 32:9). Level 2 was the then-current city which Nebuchadnezzar destroyed in 586 BC (e.g., Jeremiah 34:7), and Level 1 was the layer which covers the post-exilic times mentioned in Nehemiah 11:30.

Level 5 is the one with the most impressive defensive structures and is dated to 1000–900 BC. Pottery types found at this level are typical Judean pottery found elsewhere in Israel dated to the same period, and in addition to the thick walls, remains of a fortress have been found on Level 5.10 Of special note is that there was no destruction layer between Level 5 and Level 4. In fact, Level 4 seems to have grown out of and spread over a larger area than Level 5.11 As the population increased, people started moving and building outside the fortress walls but still had the option of retreating inside the fortress walls in the case of a battle or siege. This same pattern repeated itself between Level 4 and Level 3: no destruction layer, but urban expanse and reuse of materials.12 Four-handled jars, some with seals bearing the names of Hebron and Socoh (and possibly Mareshah) on them, attest to commerce between the Judean cities.

Archaeology Corroborates Scripture (Again and Again)

The excavations at these four Tells (archaeological mounds of former villages and/or cities) in what was the southern part of the kingdom of Judah correspond perfectly with the descriptions of events in the Bible, starting in Joshua and through the books of Kings and Chronicles (and even to the time of Nehemiah).

The excavations at these four Tells (archaeological mounds of former villages and/or cities) in what was the southern part of the kingdom of Judah correspond perfectly with the descriptions of events in the Bible, starting in Joshua and through the books of Kings and Chronicles (and even to the time of Nehemiah). They are proof of a widespread monarchy, from the time of Saul through to the last kings of Judah, with the resources to build and fortify large towns and establish trade between them. The Israelites (and Judahites) of the time of the united and divided monarchies were not a ragtag group of petty chiefdoms as envisioned by liberal critics but a complex society ruled by occasional godly and, more oftentimes, wicked kings who did not follow the Lord but instead fell into idolatry. Historical evidence of warfare with outside monarchs (from Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon) testifies to the accuracy of Scripture when it touches on historical matters. Evidence does not “prove” Scripture, but it helps us to see that what God has said is trustworthy and true. And when one has the proper perspective of the Word of God being absolute truth from an omniscient and holy God, it follows that the Bible’s history is true, its message of the fall of man, the flood, dispersion at Babel, and most importantly, the gospel, is true.

The True Son of David

Archaeological finds of physical objects bearing descriptions of members of the “house of David” serve yet again to deny revisionist history which sought, and still seeks, to claim that David and Solomon were mythical characters. Answers in Genesis often points out that denying a historical Adam undermines the very gospel itself. Christ in his humanity was a literal descendant of a literal Adam and came as the last Adam to give life since the first Adam brought death. But denying a literal David is just as critical a mistake. Christ is descended from a literal David, and Paul emphasized this important connection: “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel” (2 Timothy 2:8).

As Christians, we know from Scripture that David was the king of Israel, and this should impact our worship of Christ. How so? We should remember that Jesus’ human lineage was from the line of David, as emphasized in the very first verse of the New Testament (Matthew 1:1), and we can (and should) glorify God by remembering what was said of Jesus during his triumphal entry—“Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9). And Jesus personally identifies with David at the very close of Scripture, reminding all true churches throughout all generations, “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star” (Revelation 22:16). From the very first verse to the last chapter of the New Testament we see Christ identified with David—a real person who was a real king—whose descendant is the true King of kings!

Holocaust Remembrance Day: ‘Never again’

Yesterday, January 27, marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day. It was on this date in 1945 that Soviet troops took control of the extensive Auschwitz labor and extermination complex that the Nazi Reich operated from 1940-45, finally liberating the remaining survivors.

Of the 1.3 million people who were taken to Auschwitz, 1.1 million were murdered. Of that number, 865,000 Jews were killed by lethal gas upon arrival. Others succumbed to starvation, disease, beatings, execution and medical experimentation.

The Red Army soldiers experienced shock and disbelief as they approached and liberated the camp. These were hardened men, having fought the Nazis since June 1941.

In December 1941, they had retreated to the outer perimeter of urban Moscow. Yet, they fought their way back after turning the tide of the war in late 1942 and were in the outskirts of Krakow, Poland, approaching the pre-war German-Polish border.

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s “Holocaust Encyclopedia” has a page devoted to giving a brief descriptive overview of the “Nazi camps.” The Encyclopedia states that in its 12 years of existence, the Nazi state “established more than 44,000 camps and other incarceration sites (including ghettos).” And these were used for a “a range of purposes, including forced labor, detention of people thought to be enemies of the state, and for mass murder.” Imagine the death and destruction Soviet soldiers witnessed walking through the tragic scenes the Nazis left behind in Auschwitz.

In addition to the carnage in the camps, there was the endless destruction brought about by the war itself being fought eastward to Moscow and back to near-Germany with millions of men bombing, shelling, and shooting apart so much of the pre-war civilization that existed in these regions. They must have already seen many horrific sites in the past several years, yet Soviet soldiers were appalled by what they saw in Auschwitz. The level of brutality and depravity seen there was beyond comprehension. Of course, it still is.

Yet, the Nazis did not operate haphazardly. Hitler held to a racial hierarchy of human life. In it, the most despised were the Jews. The Nazis targeted the Jews and psychologically manipulated the German people to “other” them.  They accused the Jews of being the source of every sort of evil in the world. Thus, their complete extermination would be a paramount goal of the Reich’s war aims.

The Holocaust is unique for its horror and scale in world history. In the other cases, the perpetrators of genocides targeted a people group because they occupied territory that the perpetrator wanted free and clear: They lived next to each other, one group had to go. The extermination of the Jews by the Reich was a different thing altogether. Hitler sought the killing of the Jews in all places.

When the Nazis invaded North Africa, they brought SS killing teams to hunt down Jews in Africa. The Isle of Guernsey, Corfu, Tunisia, Norway, Sicily, the Caucuses — all became killing fields for Jews. There was no realpolitik reasoning for it. 

Hitler sought a metaphysical purge of the Jews from the earth reminiscent of the same demonic drive exhibited in the Book of Esther (Esther 3:5-6). Satan hates God, and he hates the Jews for their relationship with Him. It is a hatred that never rests.

There has never been anything like the tragedy of the Holocaust. That is why we observe International Holocaust Remembrance Day. We remember the victims, and we renew our commitment to Never Again allow this to happen.

Originally published at the Family Research Council. 

How Catholics Influenced Civil Rights

The civil rights movement was a series of events and developments that profoundly affected and radically changed life in the United States, and Catholics and the Church played important roles.

Setting a date for the beginning of the movement is not that easy. It began in no single place. In some historical estimates, it began with the abolitionists, those Americans who demanded an end to legalized slavery, gradually making themselves heard in the generations before the Civil War.

For other historians, the deciding moment was the Emancipation Proclamation, an executive order issued by President Abraham Lincoln on Jan. 1, 1863. Although remembered today, not inappropriately, as a bold, wide step forward, the Emancipation Proclamation was limited. It freed slaves in most, but not all, the territory of the 11 states that had withdrawn from the Union to become the Confederate States of America.

It left in bondage slaves in all of Tennessee, a Confederate state; in Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri, states that had remained within the Union despite their acceptance of slavery; and in parts of Louisiana and Virginia, both also states that had entered the Confederacy.

In fact, it was the adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and the amendment’s seating in law on Dec. 31, 1865, that slavery at last was outlawed in the United States.

Catholics were among the Americans arguing about slavery, both pro and con, and they were affected by all the events of the time, but they were not major players, given their status as a small and not yet influential minority — except in Louisiana and to a lesser degree in Maryland.

With regard to racial justice and equality, however, no Catholic either in Louisiana or Maryland made history opposing slavery. Catholic New Orleans was a huge slave market. From Galveston, Texas, to Wilmington, Del., Catholics owned slaves. And, perhaps hard to imagine, dioceses and religious congregations also owned slaves.

Plessy v. Ferguson

The Catholic community in these states, and in other states, at the time either lost sight of African-Americans, preoccupied as the bishops and also the laity were by other concerns, many of them of the bread-and-butter variety, or Church efforts for blacks that were concentrated upon rudimentary education or human services such as care for the sick. It is important here to recall the general state of education and of human services at the time.

A candlelight procession led by nuns calmed tensions in East Harlem in New York in 1967. That year, several cities across the United States experienced riots due to civil rights issues.

Racial segregation, eventually the match that ignited the civil rights movement, was set in constitutional law on May 1, 1896. At that time, by a vote of seven to one, with one associate justice abstaining, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Plessy v. Ferguson, ruled that “separate but equal” facilities based on race were in accord with the Constitution. The case was originally about seating in railroad coaches. It came to involve every aspect of life, and in practical terms it meant the deprivation and humiliation of African-Americans virtually throughout much of the United States. What Plessy did not permit in law, it accommodated and empowered as social convention.

The case became the basis of an entire cultural pattern. How did Catholic bishops, priests and laity react? Catholics were gaining numerical strength and political power as the 20th century dawned. There was little, if any, however, Catholic criticism of, and certainly no defiance of, segregation. For Catholics, criticizing the culture created by Plessy was going too far out on a limb.

There were exceptions, specifically in the sense of attention on the part of some bishops and other Catholics to the plight of blacks, a plight inevitably bleak and hopeless because of the widespread, popular frame of mind enabled by Plessy.

Trapped in Surrounding Culture

Katharine Drexel, a wealthy Philadelphia heiress, took an interest in African-Americans and Native Americans and eventually founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament to educate black and Indian youths. At the same time, the Josephite Fathers and the priests of the Society of the Divine Word turned their eyes toward blacks.

While these efforts were praiseworthy, the overwhelming current of American Catholic opinion, and organized effort, was to ignore injustices imposed on blacks. It may be hard to imagine such indifference, but segregation was so strict and encompassing that few whites truly knew precisely what blacks experienced.

The formal stance of the Church was to relieve human misery and to equip young blacks for lives easier and more rewarding than those their forebears had known, but the attitude was paternalistic. It was as if blacks were perpetual children, rendered as such by their lack of the aptitude that whites enjoyed.

In this, the Church was trapped in the culture surrounding it, and rare was the program that denied this presupposition about anyone not born white. After all, going beyond the United States, it was the mindset that launched, and certainly fixed in place, the great colonial empires ruled from Europe, including Catholic Belgium, France, Italy and Portugal.

Some Catholics, by the 1920s, came to see these injustices indeed as injustices. Jesuit Father John LaFarge was among them. Editor of America magazine, he had a platform to dissect the social norms so widely prevalent and to call for correction.

Bishops were appointed to dioceses with large black populations and, while never confronting what Plessy had created, they built schools and hospitals for African-Americans. Perhaps unwittingly they sowed the seeds of logical questions that later entered the minds of Catholics. If blacks are entitled to the Christian concern of the Church, how then are they different from other human beings? If they are not different, how can they be treated as if they were?

Then came the terrible events in Europe, in particular the savage anti-Semitism in Germany. No decent person could observe what was being done to Jews by the Adolf Hitler regime and not be repelled. To be sure, it was not the same in this country, although the collective experience of American blacks hardly was exempt from brutality of the most frightful type in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. Lynchings were not uncommon. The criminal justice system and judicial action were jokes when it came to justice for blacks. Still, the specter of European Jewry’s sufferings under Hitler caused some Catholics in this country to think.

Always, of course, Catholics, as well as others, simply were kindhearted and prompted by the love of Christ that embraced all. Once, for example, the Ku Klux Klan stopped a train in Alabama and dragged a black man from the train. They led him to a tree along the roadbed, planning to hang him. Unnoticed by the Klan, a Benedictine abbot was on the train. He had not all that much security himself, being a Catholic cleric. Nevertheless, seeing what was happening, he left the train and walked directly to the Klan leader to plead for the man’s life. Ignored, the abbot then knelt in the dirt before the Klan wizard and implored that the man’s life be spared.

The man was hanged, nevertheless, but Christianity drove the abbot, and it drove many other Catholics to recoil at the abuses of blacks.

Jumping on Board

When the U.S. Supreme Court, in Brown v. Topeka Board of Education, on May 17, 1954, reversed Plessy, strong currents of interracial justice moved through American Catholic public opinion, but by no means pulled the heartstrings of every American Catholic.

To give them their due, the older generation of Southern bishops at the time not only guided the Church through the terrible days of the convent inspection laws, the Ku Klux Klan, the Al Smith campaign of 1928, and limited resources and great demands, but in communities from El Paso, Texas, to Norfolk, Va., Little Rock, Ark., to Jacksonville, Fla., they had made the Church a presence for the good of the entire society.

Some were reluctant to embrace the cause of desegregation. It was not as if any opposed equal rights nor denied the status of human dignity of blacks. Most had worked precisely to enhance this status. Rather, they feared that if they moved too quickly, all would be lost, and in the end neither Catholics as a whole or blacks would be in better straits.

Given the natural course of events, these more cautious bishops were leaving the scene. Succeeding them was a new breed. Having matured in the days just before World War II, and often educated in Europe or in the more intellectually sophisticated centers of the Atlantic Northeast, they saw as the priority the bringing of justice to African-Americans.

Some came from outside the South. Native Southerners, however, were outstanding as bold champions of change, such as Bishop Vincent S. Waters of Raleigh, a Virginia native, Tennessee-born Bishop Joseph A. Durick of Nashville, Bishop Joseph Brunini of Natchez-Jackson, himself from Mississippi, and Bishop Carroll T. Dozier of Memphis, also from Virginia.

To be honest, all these bishops headed divided presbyterates. Old ways died hard for more than a few Catholic priests. Others, to their credit, were at the front line.

There were dozens and dozens of priests who marched when the demonstrations started. They were insulted and cursed by many, encouraged by some, but they marched precisely to put the Church in the forefront of the movement to recognize human rights for blacks.

In Mississippi, Father Bernard F. Law, later cardinal-archbishop of Boston, did remarkable things to elevate and validate the image of the Church because of his constant, but often resented, call for rights for blacks.

Swinging Toward Racial Equality

At the national level, the Catholic bishops were unswervingly behind the civil rights movement, and their series of public statements made their position crystal clear. At the level of the papacy, Pope Paul VI left no question about Catholic teaching and universal Church policy in the matter. For example, he named African-American priests to the episcopacy, a switch from the time when many dioceses would not accept black applicants for the seminary. The arc was swinging toward racial equality in American Catholicism. At the very time so many young Catholics were attending Catholic schools, Catholic education embraced racial equality. Teachers taught it. Catholic publications forthrightly supported it, and at the time when the Catholic press was at its strongest. Young priests were ordained who fully supported civil rights, and some Catholic lay organizations came around, albeit sluggishly.

This hardly is to say that in the 1950s and 1960s American Catholic public opinion, especially in the South, accounted for one great, mighty groundswell for rights for blacks. Many Catholics feared violence. The Church lost ground numerically among whites, although in the end maybe not as much as might be assumed. Bishops and priests lost good will, although again not as much as they had presumed. No social study of American life today escapes the facts that racism lives in this country. The arc, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, swings toward justice. Still, it goes back and forth. As the U.S. bishops wrote in a statement marking the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington: “The dream of Dr. King and all who marched and worked with him has not yet fully become a reality for many in our country. While we cannot deny the change that has taken place, there remains much to be accomplished.”

Christians point to genetics breakthroughs to prove Adam and Eve

Many Christians have rejected the scientific theory of evolution in part because they think it rules out the existence of a historical Adam and Eve. Yet some scientists and theologians argue that recent breakthroughs in genetics make a historical Adam and Eve compatible with evolution, and that this development may help bridge what many see as a conflict between faith and science.

“For over 160 years, the societal conflict over evolution has been deep and stubborn. But now, in a surprise twist, evolutionary science is making space for Adam and Eve,” S. Joshua Swamidass, an associate professor at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, told Fox News Digital. “It turns out that the theological questions are about genealogical ancestry, not genetics. In this paradigm shift, we are finding a better way forward, a better story to tell.”

In his book “The Genealogical Adam and Eve: The Surprising Science of Universal Ancestry,” Swamidass argues that genetics and evolutionary theory do not conflict with the existence of Adam and Eve, universal ancestors of all humans whom Jesus died to save.

Modern genetics only captures a small sliver of the story of human ancestry, Swamidass writes. While your parents are both 100 percent your parents, you only get roughly 50 percent of your DNA from each of them, and only about 25 percent of your DNA from your grandparents. As you go farther back, you have more genealogical ancestors who each contribute less and less to your DNA.

The Genealogical Adam & Eve: The Surprising Science of Universal Ancestry cover courtesy S. Joshua Swamidass

While universal genetic ancestors are rare, universal genealogical ancestors are surprisingly common, the author noted. Each individual has four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, and so on, but population size in past generations tends to get smaller, so overlap is inevitable. He argues that by 1 A.D., every person on Earth was descended from Adam and Eve.

Swamidass’ model of a Genealogical Adam and Eve (GAE) claims that biological humans may still share a common ancestor with apes according to the theory of evolution, but God could have created Adam and Eve from the dust and a rib, without parents, and these two became the ancestors of all humans by 1 A.D. Swamidass claims that Genesis appears to require biological humans outside of Adam and Eve’s family line because after Cain murders Abel and leaves his parents, he fears that he will be killed, he acquires a wife, and he builds a city.

“Most readers of Genesis understood Adam and Eve to be (1) ancestors of us all, and (2) miraculously created without parents of their own,” Swamidass told Fox News Digital. “In contrast, evolution teaches that (3) we share common ancestors with apes, and (4) we arise from a large population, not a single couple. This conflict of fact only seemed solvable by revising foundational Christian theological beliefs, or by rejecting evolution.”

“But now, clearing up some big scientific understandings, we know that all four of these things can be true at the same time,” Swamidass said. “Even if Adam and Eve lived as recently as just 6,000 years ago, they would be the genealogical ancestors of everyone across the globe by AD 1. They could even have been created de novo, from the dust and a rib. Of course, at the same time, we would also descend from people outside the Garden, others whom God created by a providentially governed process of evolution.”

Swamidass’ GAE model has already made waves in theological and scientific circles. The BioLogos Foundation, a Christian nonprofit founded by NIH Director Francis Collins that embraces the scientific theory of evolution, appears to have reversed its position on Adam and Eve, deleting articles claiming that genetics ruled out a historical Adam and Eve and posting articles that echo Swamidass’ model. BioLogos did not respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment on the matter.

William Lane Craig, a Christian philosophy professor at Houston Baptist University and Biola University’s Talbot School of Theology, published the book “In Quest of the Historical Adam: A Biblical and Scientific Exploration” in September. His book echoes Swamidass’ arguments – although he places Adam and Eve further back in history.

Reasons to Believe (RTB), a Christian nonprofit dedicated to blending faith and science in a way that questions evolution but embraces an old earth, published a book in 2020 in which the author, Anjeanette Roberts, wrote that Swamidass’ model “provides a way for biblical interpretations of a historical Adam and Eve—understood as universal, genealogical ancestors for all humanity living at the time of Christ and today—to be reconciled with mainstream evolutionary science.”

Michael Murray, a Christian philosophy professor at Franklin and Marshall College, recently said at an evangelical conference that due to the work of Swamidass, Craig, and others, “we have arrived at the point where we can confidently affirm that the basic evolutionary story is not the threat to Christian orthodoxy that we once feared, and not because we had to compromise on orthodoxy.”

“My view is that recent findings in genetics and paleontology have shown that our best scientific theories and data do not rule out a historical Adam and Eve,” Murray told Fox News Digital. He said the developments do not make Adam and Eve more or less likely, but they do show that, “for all we know, there might have been a pair that is the ancestor of all extant humans or extant Homo sapiens.”

Murray noted that “there was an emerging consensus among both secular scientists and scientists of faith that the relevant empirical data was flatly inconsistent with an ancestral pair.” Yet these recent developments have shown “that an ancestral pair is not flatly ruled out as was previously thought.”

Nathan Lents, a secular professor of philosophy at John Jay College, told Fox News Digital that recent developments have made Adam and Eve more plausible.

“I would not say that there is any evidence, historical or scientific, in favor of the existence of Adam and Eve, as they are presented in the Bible,” Lents said. “However, there have been developments in our understanding of ancestry and genetics that allow for the possibility of universal ancestors of the entire human population in the surprisingly recent past.”

He noted that “there are important caveats” about the possibility of universal ancestors, such as isolated populations, and about the impact of the GAE model – it does not involve “sole progenitorship of the human race from just two people.”

Many Christians disagree with the model, however. According to Gallup, 40 percent of Americans say God created man in his present form, and between 38 percent and 66 percent of White evangelical Protestants say the same, according to the Pew Research Center.

Fazale Rana, vice president of research and apologetics at RTB, told Fox News Digital that the models of Swamidass and Craig “both suffer from theological problems, despite their agreement with mainstream science.” Rana said that since the models do not consider Adam and Eve the sole progenitors of humanity, they “potentially put key Christian doctrines (such as human exceptionalism, the Fall, Original Sin and the Atonement) in harm’s way.”

Dr. Nathaniel Jeanson, a Christian biologist with the young-earth creationist organization Answers in Genesis, told Fox News Digital that Swamidass’ “definition of Adam and eve is almost unrecognizable from a Young Earth perspective; it’s essentially the mainstream model with an undetectable supernaturally created pair inserted at some point.”

Jeanson said that his forthcoming book “Traced: Human DNA’s Big Surprise” uses the same developments in genetics to show that “the DNA history of mankind makes sense from a young-earth perspective,” making and examining testable predictions.

Yet even Rana and Jeanson admitted that the GAE model may decrease the public perception of a conflict between science and religion.

“It may soften the antagonism on the part of the evolutionary community,” Jeanson said. 

Rana described these developments as “good for the Church” because “they offer models that preserve the biblical narrative of human origins for those people who are persuaded by evidence for human evolution.” Yet he suggested that the GAE models “will have little or no impact” in the scientific community because they do not offer anything “that distinguishes them from materialistic evolutionary models.”

The secular Lents noted that “science and Christianity have been pitted against each other unnecessarily. Conflicts over evolution have bred mistrust on both sides that has bled into other issues,” like skepticism about vaccines.

“When Christians and evolutionary science find harmony and common ground, or at least a peaceful truce, we can build trust and begin to work together on matters that threaten the healthy, safety, and flourishing of us all,” Lents said. “For this reason, I applaud the work that Christian scientists are doing to bring greater acceptance and understanding of science into their communities. We need not be at war with each other.”

Ken Keathley, a theology professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, said that the efforts of Swamidass, Craig, and others “have been very fruitfrul.”

Women’s higher education was pioneered by Christians

Southern Baptist Convention leader Paige Patterson was fired Wednesday following a meeting of the board of trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he served as president. With a following of over 15 million, Southern Baptists are America’s largest Protestant denomination.

Trustees were responding to a petition by over 3,000 Southern Baptist women regarding what they called Patterson’s “unbiblical” remarks on womanhood, sexuality and domestic violence. In an audio recording from 2000 that surfaced recently, Patterson was heard counseling a woman to stay with her abusive husband. In another sermon, he commented on a 16-year-old girl’s body. Trustees specifically cited Patterson’s handling of a student’s assault allegations. One female seminary student claimed that Patterson advised her not to report a rape to the police.

It would be easy to assume evangelical Christian educators like Patterson uniformly discriminate against women because they believe the Bible teaches women to submit to men. But, as a historian of women, religion and higher education, I know that the story is not that simple: Evangelicals actually led in opening higher education to women.

Evangelicals pioneer women’s higher education

The very first college in world history to offer a bachelor’s degree to women, Oberlin, did so in 1837, with the goal of training more people to spread the evangelical gospel.

In other words, theologically conservative Christians pioneered women’s higher education for theological reasons.

I call these people “evangelical pragmatists” because they were willing to bend cultural norms about appropriate activities for women in order to get more hands on deck for God. For the same reason, they structured Oberlin to be unusually affordable and even admitted African-American students starting in 1835. Prior to this time, only a handful of African-Americans are believed to have graduated from any American college.

Remarkably, the first and longest standing single-sex institution of higher education for American women, Mount Holyoke, was founded in 1837 by evangelical pragmatists for the same reason. Mount Holyoke was only a three-year institution at its founding, and it did not immediately admit African-Americans. But it was the most advanced and affordable single-sex education available to American women at the time.

Evangelicals historically disagree on women

Even in the 1800s, when almost all ministers were men, Oberlin president Charles Finney, one of the most famous evangelists of that era, allowed a woman, Antoinette Brown Blackwell, to enroll in Oberlin’s attached theological seminary. Members of Oberlin’s faculty disagreed on whether the Bible permitted women to preach, but they supported Christian women getting the best education possible.

Unlike the founders of Oberlin and Mount Holyoke, not all evangelical educators believed in theological education for women and their role in the church – a disagreement that continues to the present.

The problem is that the Christian scriptures contain some passages that affirm absolute equality between men and women – which is truly radical for the time they were written. Other passages, however, seem to teach divinely ordained roles for men and women.

Even Christians who agree that the Bible is a reliable communication from God to humankind disagree on the meaning of the teachings on gender difference. The contentious debate about those passages has often centered around questions such as: Were they simply advice to women and men in past cultures on how to act wisely in those contexts, or did God intend those roles to be binding at all times?

Modern Southern Baptists and women

Since the 1980s, the Southern Baptist Convention has fallen into what is called the “complementarian” category that believes God intended different gender roles for all times. In particular, Paige Patterson was a leader in the “conservative resurgence” within the denomination that led to a more restrictive interpretation of the Bible.

The SBC statement of belief subsequently published in 2000, The Baptist Faith and Message (BFM), asserts, “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.” Many Southern Baptist seminaries interpret this ruling to mean that the professors who train pastors should also be men.

Indeed, the thousands of Southern Baptist women who signed the petition against Patterson explicitly affirmed SBC doctrine and did not ask for women’s ordination. They, and many Southern Baptist men, believe that while women and men have distinct roles to play, they should receive equal hearing and respect.

Many of the first women to attend Oberlin would have agreed with the BFM statement as well, although Oberlin also graduated early Christian feminists like Lucy Stone, who founded the American Woman Suffrage Association and was one of the first women to keep her maiden name after marriage.

Thus, even evangelicals who agree on different roles for the sexes disagree on what types of educational and church leadership opportunities women should have. “Culture warrior” Christians, focused on defending the accuracy of the Bible against liberals, have tended towards being more restrictive of women’s opportunities. Pragmatists, who are more focused on spreading the Christian message, have, on the other hand, tended to open up opportunities for women.

Prominent among Southern Baptist pragmatists is women’s Bible study teacher Beth Moore. She recently penned an open letter to Southern Baptist men about the sexism she has encountered in the denomination. Moore noted many men use her lack of formal theological training as an excuse to discount her, but that she was unwelcome when she sought to attend Southwestern Seminary in 1988. Even today only three of the seminary’s 38 faculty members are women. All three teach in a separate women’s studies department.

With the upcoming June annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention following closely on the removal of Patterson, it remains to be seen whether the denomination will follow Moore’s lead and open more opportunities to women.

Is This How Jesus Walked On Water?

Walking on water is one of the most well-known miracles attributed to Jesus. Most experts agree Jesus was a real person, per Live Science.

The miraculous feats he’s said to have accomplished during his lifetime are another matter, at least as far as they can be proven through science, rather than accepted as a matter of faith, or through divine intervention.

When it comes to walking on water, though, research from the last decade suggests that the story may in fact have a scientific explanation, more so than what was previously believed.

Per Learn Religions, the New Testament story of Jesus walking on water begins shortly after another miracle, called the feeding of the 5,000, or the miracle of the five loaves and two fish. According to the story, Jesus sent his disciples across the Sea of Galilee before him.

When a storm struck, Jesus was then seen walking on the water, reassuring them as he approached. Although believers take many lessons from the New Testament story, scientific evidence that might explain the story has been missing until relatively recently.


As reported by The Guardian in 2006, unique weather and water conditions can sometimes create a thin layer of ice on the surface of the Sea of Galilee. According to a team of U.S. and Israeli scientists, this possibly explains how Jesus appeared to be walking on water, as it is recorded in the New Testament.

According to the study, iced-over parts of the water, called “springs ice” or salty springs, dotted the shore of Galilee. The phenomenon has even been observed near Tabgha, an ancient settlement mentioned elsewhere in the Bible.

If a patch of ice had broken off, blown smooth and nearly undetectable by the heavy wind, it might explain how Jesus seemed to be walking on water. According to Doron Nof, professor of physical oceanography at Florida State University and the study’s lead author, odds are there was at least one, but perhaps as many as four, of these cold periods that occurred during the life of Christ, per The Guardian.

For this reason, “The chance that there was ice on the lake is very, very high,” he said. For science-minded individuals, this presents a scientific explanation for the miraculous feat. For the faithful, the veracity of the story was never in doubt.

Original Article:

What the names Jesus, Mary, and Joseph mean

What is the importance of one’s name? For Jews during the time of Jesus, names we very important and were believed to alter the trajectory of a person’s life. Here are the meaning behind Mary, Joseph and Jesus.

1. Origins


In Hebrew, Yeshua is short for the name Jehoshua. It is one of the so-called theophoric names, in other words, it contains the name of God. The name is composed of two words. The first part of the name: “Jeho” comes from Yahweh, and the second “shua” is derived from the verb save. Thus, the name Jesus literally means “Yahweh is salvation” or “Yahweh saves.” 

This is indeed the meaning of the name Jesus indicated in the Gospels. The angel told Joseph that Mary would give birth to a son “and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sin” (Matthew 1:21). 


There are many hypotheses about the meaning of the name Mary. A very convincing one speaks about the Egyptian-Jewish origin of the name. It was given to girls who were born to elderly parents. This name has two parts, the Egyptian “Mar” means beloved/loving and the Jewish abbreviation for “ja” from the name Yahweh, meaning “loving God” or “beloved by God.” 


Joseph, or the Hebrew Yosef, is a biblical name. It has the word God in its meaning: it is composed of Jo (shortened from Jeho, Yahweh “God”) and the verb jasaf “to appropriate.” Thus, it means “may God multiply—thoughtfully—the good.” 

Genesis’ story of Joseph in Egypt is also related to Joseph, Mary’s spouse. Doctors of the Church and popes have said that precisely Joseph of Egypt is Joseph of Nazareth’s prototype. Joseph of Nazareth is the guardian of God the Father’s most precious treasures: Jesus and His mother. 

2. The importance of a name

In Jewish tradition, a name is very important. It is supposed to express a person’s special traits, and even his or her mission in life. Bestowing a name is treated like a prayer that the one who bears that name will fulfill the message contained in it. 

3. Today

Do I know the meaning of my name? Do I know why I was given this name? What qualities in my name would I like to fulfill in my life? 

Today, I will ask Jesus, Mary, and Joseph to help me live beautifully and according to the Gospel. 

Defining the Messiah – The Ancient Prophecies

The arrival of a newborn is always an occasion for celebration and joy. A child’s first Christmas, however, is also an opportunity for family members to project their hopes and unfulfilled dreams onto the next generation.

That Harvard onesie or baseball bat under the tree are not-so-subtle hints about the life you want for your child. Just as people heap expectations on new arrivals today, baby Jesus had a lot to live up to. For Christians, Jesus is the Messiah, the anointed one of God, a descendant of King David, and the one who would save the world.

That’s a lot for any of us to shoulder, but especially an infant. These messianic expectations are particularly prominent during the Christmas season popping up everywhere from beloved Carols to children’s Christmas books. But what does it mean to call Jesus the Messiah? And did Jesus live up to society’s expectations?

Even if you think of Christmas as more about the tree, Santa, and present than anointing or kingship, the imagery and language of a royal messiah ripples through the Christmas story. According to the Gospel of Matthew, the Magi (sorry, there aren’t Three Kings in the Gospels) come to see the one “born King of the Jews.”

The angels proclaim the arrival of “Christ the Lord” to the shepherds in the Gospel of Luke. The word “Christ,” which to modern readers seems like a family name, just means “anointed one” and is the Greek version of the Hebrew word “Mashiah” or “anointed.” It’s from the Hebrew that we get the English word “Messiah.” The twin themes of royal lineage and messiahship are found everywhere in the Nativity story.

For Jews who lived at the turn of the Common Era, the Messiah (or messiahs in some instances) was very much on their minds. At the time the holy land was occupied and controlled by the Roman Empire, and people wrestled with the economic and political ramifications of foreign occupation.

As a result, Jews spoke about a coming anointed one, a Messiah, who was spoken of in scripture and who would liberate them from their oppressors and usher in a new era of independence and flourishing. Matthew Novenson, senior lecturer in New Testament and Christian Origins at the University of Edinburgh, and author of two books on Messianism, told the Daily Beast that the Messiah was “a kind of mythology, that had a solid foundation in scriptural sources, that was useful for making religious sense of Judea’s complicated political situation in the early Roman Empire.”

There was considerable diversity of thought, however, about what the Messiah would be like. Some claimed that he would be, like King David, a monarch who would lead a successful military rebellion. Others emphasized his prophetic or priestly credentials. Others still, like the inhabitants of Qumran who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls, seemed to have thought that there would be two messiahs. This model reproduces the organizational structure of ancient Israel, when the people were led by both a King and a High Priest.

These messiahs, Novenson told me, “were often associated with certain ancient scriptural heroes, in particular Aaron the high priest and King David.” We can see the same tendency among followers of Jesus: “Our sources about Jesus mostly associate him with King David, either saying that he was a descendant of David, or that he did things like David did, or both.”

There was no set script here. The messiah was a mythological construct that was constantly being redescribed and reinterpreted. There were other early Christians, Novenson noted, who tried to distance Jesus from David, just as there were ancient Jews who did not appear to care about the idea of a messiah at all.

The infancy stories about Jesus in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, however, are preoccupied with messianism because stories about ancient kings and heroes were, generally speaking, fascinated by childhood stories. Just as every Marvel superhero has his or her “origin story” so too biographies of political leaders, generals, and revolutionaries were interested in where the great man came from, who raised him, and what kinds of auspicious events accompanied his birth. In this context the appearance of a star was not unusual.

Dr. Robyn Walsh, an associate professor at the University of Miami, told me that “from the biblical Abraham and Moses, to Alexander the Great and the Roman emperor Augustus, the birth of great leaders, heroes, and founders of cities were often marked by celestial events.” Broadly speaking, she said, ancient artwork and propaganda used stars to symbolize the transition of political power or “birth” of a new order. Birth stories, quasi-miraculous events, and narratives about influential figures go hand in hand.

Of course, as every practicing Christian knows, Jesus was no Alexander the Great or Augustus. He didn’t overthrow the Romans or lead a successful rebellion. As a result, later generations of Christians (including our own) reinterpreted the references to messiahship in the Gospels as spiritual kingship, rather than literal earthly rule. This simple fact led to the development of a particularly problematic explanation that is found in modern scholarship, religious writings, and on popular websites: the idea that the Christian messiah wasn’t political, he was spiritual.

A study guide for high school students, produced by the BBC, for example, hints at this idea. It suggests that the term Messiah may not be helpful because it might “confusing[ly]” evoke ideas of earthly monarchy. It would be a “misleading,” it seems, to think of the messiah as a political earthly figure.

Out of this crucial distinction have grown other antisemitic sentiments and ideas: namely, that Jews couldn’t understand their own scriptures. Jews of Jesus’s day, the argument goes, may have been anticipating a political messiah, but they were fundamentally wrong.

The Christian website, for example, connects this supposed misunderstanding about the Messiah to an even more troublesome idea: the Jewish rejection of Jesus. The website reads, “The Jews rejected Jesus because He failed, in their eyes, to do what they expected their Messiah to do—destroy evil and all their enemies and establish an eternal kingdom with Israel as the preeminent nation in the world. The prophecies in Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22 describe a suffering Messiah who would be persecuted and killed, but the Jews chose to focus instead on those prophecies that discuss His glorious victories, not His crucifixion.”

(At risk of being a pedant, although they are important passages for Christians, we should note that neither Isaiah 53 nor Psalm 22 refer to a crucified messiah. It thus seems unfair to imply that Jewish interpreters were overlooking something. You have to have a suffering messiah to read these texts this way.) The bigger problem here is the idea that Jews rejected Jesus: Jesus himself and all his first followers were Jews. Historically, the idea that Jews rejected Jesus has been linked to the dangerous and erroneous idea that “the Jews” were responsible for killing the messiah.

Some Christians go even further and assert that Jewish messianism is not just wrong or mistaken, it is actually demonic. In his work on messianism, Novenson argues that these explanations aren’t just tragically cruel and antisemitic, they are also grounded in some profound historical errors. When Christians claim that Jesus was a spiritual messiah they do so because they “take for granted the messiahship of Jesus and say whatever they need to say to maintain that axiom.” It’s precisely because Jesus suffered and because Christians believe he was the messiah that Christians argue for a spiritual messiah who suffers.

In truth, says Novenson “Christian messianic texts are not categorically different from Jewish messianic texts.” They do describe Jesus as a political figure. Novenson told me that, “The idea of Jesus as a political, not just spiritual, messiah appears in a number of Gospel sayings and stories (e.g., Matt 10:34: “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword”), but above all in the widespread early Christian idea of the future coming (or parousia) of Jesus to execute judgment and rule over the nations.” In other words, early Christians doanticipate that Jesus will behave as a political messiah, just not yet.

The sharpest example of this, Novenson said, is the book of Revelation in which Jesus returns and a New Jerusalem descends onto the earth. There are all kinds of things to worry about in this vision of the Second Coming—Revelation describes genocide and the widespread destruction of non-believers in ways that should be ethically concerning for devout Christians—but the point here is that the Jesus of end of days is as political a messiah as they come.

As Wil Gafney, author of the recently publishedWomens’ Lectionary for the Whole Churchand Hulsey Professor of Hebrew Bible at Brite Divinity, has written, this is the problem with romanticizing monarchy and Christly kingship. David, who we name-check throughout our Christmas celebrations, was a warlord and a thug. Kingship, says, Gafney, “comes with so much baggage.” If we want to augment the messiahship of Jesus it should be for this reason.

What the broad view of Christian messianic expectation means, Novenson writes in his book Grammar of Messianism, is that Christianity did not change the definition of messiah; it just chose from among the available ancient Jewish definitions, then added its own details to the developing tradition. It’s one thread in a tapestry of ancient interpretative traditions about the meaning of scripture and the identity of the messiah.

“We can see a very similar thing,” said Novenson, “happening in texts about other Jewish messiahs like Judah Maccabee, Bar Kokhba, or Rabbi Judah the Patriarch.” The point of all of this is that the celebration of the birth of the Messiah does not need to invoke inaccurate or antisemitic ideas about Christianity’s superiority to and difference from Judaism. Christianity is not uniquely special. On the contrary, our Nativity story is fully embedded in the theopolitical thought of first century Judaism.

Original Article: The Way We Think About the Messiah Is Very Problematic (

No one knows how the world’s most remote church was built atop this 130-foot stone pillar

Sitting atop a 130-foot stone pillar is the most remote and possibly the highest church in the world.

For years mystery has surrounded the Katshki Pillar in Georgia as it remains unknown how the church got on top of the monolith limestone structure or who first built it.

The mysterious structure is viewed in local legend as a “pillar of life” and a “symbol of the true cross” – upon which Jesus was crucified in the Bible.

Much like Stonehenge or the Pyramids, historians are still probing exactly how the structures was built atop the towering pillar.

Not much is known about the sacred church except that it was abandoned until a mountaineer and his team climbed the 130ft natural structure in 1944.

Alexander Japaridze and his team reported finding the remains of two churches dating back to the fifth and sixth centuries.

During those centuries the religious practice of Asceticism was practiced and saw monks and priests abstain from pleasures in the pursuit of spiritual goals.

But more recent studies have dated the church back to the ninth or tenth century.

The Katskhi pillar, formed after tectonic shifts, is a natural limestone monolith of almost 130 feet. Monks use a metal ladder for climbing, and cargo is lifted separately using ropes.
The Katskhi pillar, formed after tectonic shifts, is a natural limestone monolith of almost 130 feet. Monks use a metal ladder for climbing, and cargo is lifted separately using ropes.

It still means the earliest foundations of the church likely date back more than 1000 years.

Visitors are banned from visiting the striking structure as the climb up the pillar is considered too dangerous.

The mysterious chapel is situated around 125 miles from Georgia’s capital city Tbilisi.

But the hardest part of the trek to the remarkable landmark is yet to come.

The next part of the pilgrimage is done by foot and consists of a hike before reaching the base of the stone pillar.

And then you are faced with a 20-minute climb up a narrow steel ladder – if visitors are allowed to make the ascent.

The monastery at the bottom of the structure has been dedicated to Maximum the Confessor – a monk born in 580AD.

For those brave enough, a ladder resting alongside the 130ft pillar is the only way to get inside the structure.

Visitors are banned from visiting the striking structure as the climb up the pillar is considered too dangerous.
Visitors are banned from visiting the striking structure as the climb up the pillar is considered too dangerous.

Monks are now the only people allowed to make the pilgrimage up the sheer cliffside to the remote church.

At the base of the pillar, a crypt, a wine cellar, three hermit cells and a small fortification still stands.

More recent studies have shown that the holy structures are believed to have been built between the ninth and tenth centuries.

In the 1990s, religious life on top of the pillar was revived and in 2005, the monastery was rebuilt.

For 20 years Father Maxime Qavtaradze lived in the sacred church in a bid to bring him closer to God.

During those two decades, he fixed the 1,200-year-old church and would only leave the pillar two days a week.

And it was Patriarch Ilia II, the spiritual leader of the Georgian Orthodox Church. who ordered the tourists should be banned from making the climb.

Monastery head Leader Ilarion told CNN: “The Patriarch passed an order stating that only the monks can enter the church at the top of the pillar.

“Until he overturns that order, we are not allowed to let any visitors up.”

Original Article: Mystery of world’s loneliest church which sits alone atop 130ft stone pillar & no one knows how it got there (

Archaeologist stunned at discovery of Jesus’ ‘childhood home’

As families gather to celebrate this Christmas, it can be very easy to forget the true meaning of the festive season. For two millennia, people across the world have observed the sacred religious holiday with a wide range of traditions. Christians celebrate Christmas Day as the anniversary of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, the figurehead of Christianity.

Though the Bible does not mention a specific date for Jesus’ birth, the gospels of Matthew and Luke both agree that Christ was born in Bethlehem.

They both describe Jesus’ birth to a virgin named Mary, but their respective accounts are rather different besides that.

However, the various gospels are in agreement that Jesus’ childhood home was in the town of Nazareth in Galilee, modern day Israel.

English archaeologist Professor Ken Dark spent 14 years studying the remains of a 1st Century dwelling beneath a modern-day convent in Nazareth.

He published his findings in the book ‘The Sisters of Nazareth Convent: A Roman-Period, Byzantine, and Crusader Site in Central Nazareth’.

A group of nuns first stumbled upon the dwelling in 1881.

Prof Dark told Artnet News last year: “In many ways, they were way ahead of their time. They conducted a perfectly reasonable rescue excavation, or salvage excavation.”

He described the discovery as “one of the first examples of an archaeological project directed by a woman”.

Jesus' alleged childhood home.

The idea that this was Jesus’ home was dismissed by archaeologists in the Thirties, and remained largely forgotten until 2006.

The site contained a 1st Century building, partly cut out of rock, that could possibly have been a dwelling.

A Byzantine church was built on the ground above, which Prof Dark suspects could be the previously lost Church of the Nutrition — built to commemorate the place where Jesus was raised, and mentioned in historian Adomnán’s 7th Century book ‘De Locis Sanctis’.

He told the BBC last year: “We know from written evidence this church was believed in the Byzantine period to have been built on the site of Jesus’ home and the dwelling preserved in its crypt.

“It’s almost certainly the Church of the Nutrition, which was dedicated to the upbringing of Christ, and mentioned in a 7th Century pilgrim’s account.”

The church is believed to have burned down around the year 1200, not used for religious purposes again until the Sisters of Nazareth started to build their convent there almost 700 years later.

Prof Dark told Artnet News: “The Byzantine church Sisters of Nazareth seems as though it was almost certainly the building described by Adomnán. It was very large, very elaborately decorated, and probably from the 5th Century.

“It overlays a crypt, which is also described in his book.

“In the crypt, just as he says, there are two Roman-period tombs, and between them there’s a house.”

Adomnán said that house is the place where Jesus was raised.

Prof Dark added: “So, we found the church, we found the crypt, we found the house.”

Whoever built the house, Prof Dark said, had excellent knowledge of stone-working.

Joseph was described as a “tekton” in Matthew 13:55. Though this has traditionally been translated into English as “carpenter”, it is a rather general word that could cover makers of objects in various materials — including builders.

Jesus was also called a “tekton” in Mark 6:3.

While these factors do not definitely prove that it was Jesus’ home, Prof Dark said various factors contribute to the conclusion that it might have been. He said: “If this is the childhood environment of Jesus, there’s no reason to believe he grew up in anything other than a very typical Galilean rural home of its time.

“By itself, that’s not got flashing lights saying, ‘this is where Jesus lived’. But it’s underneath a fifth to seventh century Byzantine church.”

He added: “This is about as close as we will probably ever get to being able to say it was.”

“But it’s underneath a fifth to seventh century Byzantine church.”

He added: “This is about as close as we will probably ever get to being able to say it was.”

Jesus' alleged childhood home.