18 December 2003

New find, old tomb, and peeks at early Christians

Like Puech and Zias, he says the building is from the 1st century and the inscription is from the 4th century. But Jim Strange, a professor of religious studies at the University of South Florida, says the recovery of the inscription is 'quite amazing.'

'Here you have something showing 4th-century Christians were trying to locate the traditional places of the gospels,' he says. 'We don't know if it actually is Zacharias's tomb ... but it is clear someone in the 4th century was convinced it was. This suggests that the Byzantine Christians had some piece of intelligence to make the identification. They spoke to locals who told them, 'We know where Zacharias and Simeon are buried.' '

He is calling for more searches for inscriptions nearby. 'The Kidron Valley could be full of sites offering insights about what 4th-century Christians believed.'

Zias says his discovery also tells us about the futility of disputes over sacred sites in the Holy Land. 'If the Absalom Memorial is not Absalom's tomb, but rather Zacharias's Tomb, then we could ask, What about David's Tomb, or Rachel's Tomb, or Joseph's Tomb in Nablus? The question of whether we are killing each other over something authentic is highly relevant.'

When the Crusaders occupied Jerusalem they convinced themselves that the Dome of the Rock, built 684 CE, was the actual Temple of Solomon (of which no evidence has ever been found) and promptly converted it to a palace.

I'm not sure which armband theory of history that fits but it clearly shows that ascriptive history can be problematic.

No comments: