Archive for October 3rd, 2008

Earliest Reference Describes Christ as ‘Magician’

Science, Uncategorized, Unexplained Artifact | Posted by Chris Parker
Oct 03 2008

By Jennifer Viegas

updated 7:23 a.m. PT, Wed., Oct. 1, 2008
A team of scientists led by renowned French marine archaeologist Franck Goddio recently announced that they have found a bowl, dating to between the late 2nd century B.C. and the early 1st century A.D., that is engraved with what they believe could be the world’s first known reference to Christ.

© 2008 Discovery Channel
If the word “Christ” refers to the Biblical Jesus Christ, as is speculated, then the discovery may provide evidence that Christianity and paganism at times intertwined in the ancient world.

The full engraving on the bowl reads, “DIA CHRSTOU O GOISTAIS,” which has been interpreted by the excavation team to mean either, “by Christ the magician” or, “the magician by Christ.”

“It could very well be a reference to Jesus Christ, in that he was once the primary exponent of white magic,” Goddio, co-founder of the Oxford Center of Maritime Archaeology, said.

He and his colleagues found the object during an excavation of the underwater ruins of Alexandria’s ancient great harbor. The Egyptian site also includes the now submerged island of Antirhodos, where Cleopatra’s palace may have been located.

Both Goddio and Egyptologist David Fabre, a member of the European Institute of Submarine Archaeology, think a “magus” could have practiced fortune telling rituals using the bowl. The Book of Matthew refers to “wisemen,” or Magi, believed to have been prevalent in the ancient world.

According to Fabre, the bowl is also very similar to one depicted in two early Egyptian earthenware statuettes that are thought to show a soothsaying ritual.

“It has been known in Mesopotamia probably since the 3rd millennium B.C.,” Fabre said. “The soothsayer interprets the forms taken by the oil poured into a cup of water in an interpretation guided by manuals.”

He added that the individual, or “medium,” then goes into a hallucinatory trance when studying the oil in the cup.

“They therefore see the divinities, or supernatural beings appear that they call to answer their questions with regard to the future,” he said.

The magus might then have used the engraving on the bowl to legitimize his supernatural powers by invoking the name of Christ, the scientists theorize.

Goddio said, “It is very probable that in Alexandria they were aware of the existence of Jesus” and of his associated legendary miracles, such as transforming water into wine, multiplying loaves of bread, conducting miraculous health cures, and the story of the resurrection itself.

While not discounting the Jesus Christ interpretation, other researchers have offered different possible interpretations for the engraving, which was made on the thin-walled ceramic bowl after it was fired, since slip was removed during the process.

Bert Smith, a professor of classical archaeology and art at Oxford University, suggests the engraving might be a dedication, or present, made by a certain “Chrestos” belonging to a possible religious association called Ogoistais.

Klaus Hallof, director of the Institute of Greek inscriptions at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy, added that if Smith’s interpretation proves valid, the word “Ogoistais” could then be connected to known religious groups that worshipped early Greek and Egyptian gods and goddesses, such as Hermes, Athena and Isis.

Hallof additionally pointed out that historians working at around, or just after, the time of the bowl, such as Strabon and Pausanias, refer to the god “Osogo” or “Ogoa,” so a variation of this might be what’s on the bowl. It is even possible that the bowl refers to both Jesus Christ and Osogo.

Fabre concluded, “It should be remembered that in Alexandria, paganism, Judaism and Christianity never evolved in isolation. All of these forms of religion (evolved) magical practices that seduced both the humble members of the population and the most well-off classes.”

When Atheists Pray & Other Curiosities

Uncategorized | Posted by Chris Parker
Oct 03 2008

By DAVID YOUNT, Scripps Howard News Service Religion

Among the provocative findings of two recent surveys of religious faith is that a majority of Americans who claim to be atheists are inclined to pray, one-third of them “often.” About the same number of atheists profess a belief in Satan, hell and demons. Half of them believe in angels and ghosts.

Granted, we’re not talking big populations here. Only about 4 percent of Americans claim to be atheists. Baylor University pollsters suggest that professing to be an atheist is often just a personal objection to organized religion. That still leaves us to ponder what it is that disbelievers seek through prayer, and to whom they pray.

Perhaps the impulse to reach out through prayer may be even stronger than our intellectual assent to God’s existence. Alas, we’re back to the old cliche that there are no atheists in foxholes.

A nationwide survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life reveals yet another mystery: that one-fifth of people who say they are atheists also say they believe in God.

Some other findings:

– Megachurches offer more intimate communities of faith than small congregations of fewer than 100 members. Megachurch members tend to witness to friends and strangers, participate in small study groups, act as volunteers and tithe their earnings.

– 45 percent of Americans report having had at least two mystical experiences in their lives. Conservative Protestants, women, African-Americans and Republicans are more apt to report such experiences.

– Faith versus superstition: The Baylor survey reports that holding the traditional Christian faith sharply reduces credulity. Beliefs in Bigfoot, UFOs, the occult and paranormal, haunted houses and astrology do not comfortably coexist with Christianity.

– Americans overwhelmingly believe in heaven. African-Americans, women, Republicans and Southerners are most prominent in that belief. Only 29 percent of Americans believe that anyone is excluded from heaven, Three-fourths of Americans also believe in hell, led by 92 percent of conservative Protestants.

– Americans as a whole are about evenly divided on whether churches should become involved in political issues. At the same time, 40 percent of Americans wish the government would do more to improve the morality of American life.

– Four-fifths of Americans believe in miracles — that’s more than believe the Scriptures to be the word of God (63 percent) or believe that heaven exists (74 percent).

– Two-thirds of adults with children living in their homes pray or read Scripture with the youngsters.

– Church attendance. Slightly fewer than two in five Americans (39 percent) worship weekly with a congregation.

– A majority of members of every faith report being “very satisfied” with their personal lives. However, fewer than half (47 percent) of members of traditionally African-American churches report that level of contentment.

(David Yount’s new book is “How the Quakers Invented America” (Rowman & Littlefield). He answers readers at P.O. Box 2758, Woodbridge, VA 22195 and dyount(at)