Friday, September 2, 2011


2,000 Year Old Biblical Burial Box Reveals clues about the Death of Jesus

FOX NEWS 30 August 2011

Rare inscriptions on a 2,000-year-old burial box may provide fresh insight to the death of Jesus Christ, researchers said. Called an ossuary, the limestone box could reveal the home of Caiaphas, the high priest involved in the crucifixion of Jesus. The Israel Antiquities Authority, which confiscated the ossuary from looters three years ago, passed it along to Prof. Yuval Goren of Tel Aviv University's Department of Archaeology who led the authentication effort."Beyond any reasonable doubt, the inscription is authentic," Goren said, after conducting a thorough examination of the limestone box, which boasts decorative rosettes in addition to the inscription.Goren's findings mean the unusually descriptive inscription sheds light on one of the men behind Jesus' death. The full inscription reads: "Miriam daughter of Yeshua son of Caiaphus, priest of Maaziah from Beth Imri," naming the deceased within the context of three generations and a potential location. The Maaziah refers to a clan that was the last mentioned order of 24 orders of high priests during the second temple period, Goren explained. While there are some records of the clan in Talmudic sources that detail their lives after they spread into the Galilee in 70 AD, the reference to Beit Imri gives new insight into the family's location prior to their migration.  Though it is possible that Beit Imri refers to another priestly order, the researchers said, it more probably refers to a geographical location, likely that of Caiaphus' family's village of origin. The ossuary is thought to come from a burial site in the Valley of Elah, southwest of Jerusalem, the legendary location of the battle between David and Goliath. Beit Imri was probably located on the slopes of Mount Hebron. It's not the first time ossuaries have made the news. An inscription discovered recently claiming an ossuary's inhabitant to be James son of Joseph, the brother of Jesus. That revelation made headlines in 2002 -- only to be revealed to be a hoax. [It's authenticity is disputed-it has not been "revealed to be a hoax."] Goren is convinced this one is real -- and he has science on his side. "When a rock is deposited in the ground for millennia, it is affected by the surrounding environment and affects the surrounding environment," he noted. Processes such as erosion by acidic ground water and the accumulation of calcareous or siliceous coatings, biological activity such as the development of bacteria, algae, lichens, and the nearby activity of flora and fauna lead to a coating of the stone. Most of these features are impossible to replicate in the lab. Prof. Goren's finding is reported in the Israel Exploration Journal.

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Remembering 9-11

It has been ten years since 9-11-01. We have actually lost a lot of ground in the war on terror. The American people do not have the resolve to fight the good fight. They say that American's are "weary of war." That is baloney. They don't have the right to be weary of war-I do. I have been at war twice. At best, they are bored with the war. They don't want to be bothered with it. They don't want to be distracted from their amusements by such serious matters. And like cowards they are willing to give in to the Muslim extremist. Why? Because they are scared of the Muslims. When someone threatens America-America should defend itself-but we are to weak, divided and indifferent.

Some sort of attack on the anniversary of 9-11 is inevitable. I recently saw a book entitled "the Terrorist Next Door: How the Government is Misleading You about the Threat of Islamic Terror." I also want to recommend Lebanese Christian Brigette Gabriel's wake-up call. It is hard to wake up Americans from their apathy and self indulgence to get them to defend their lives from such a serious threat.

We Shall Never Forget 9-11: A Kid's Book of Freedom by Wayne Bell.

Terrorist organization "CAIR" condemned a coloring book entitled "We Shall Never Forget 9-11." They seem to have two objections, firstly, that it presents historical facts and secondly, that it shows Osama Bin Laden hiding behind a woman when the Navy SEAL team six arrived. I believe Wayne Bell is a brave man and a true American hero.

How to pronounce "Yahweh" or "the Sacred Name" in Aramaic

The Aramaic Church of the East often uses the Sacred Name of God-which is pronounced in Aramaic as "E-who-wah" or "Ye-who-wah."

"The Writing on the Wall"

In his follow up to his excellent "America Alone" entitled "After America" Mark Steyn references the Aramaic from the Book of Daniel. The Aramaic words "Mene, Mene, Teqel Upharsin" are financial terms that were commonly heard in the market place. Steyn says it is like referring to the "Millions, billions, and trillions" of dollars of our national debt (which now exceeds the value of America's gross national product and our runaway out of control spending). I think that Americans need to heed Mr. Steyn's warnings. The subtitle of the book is "Prepare for Armageddon."

The Aramaic Mafia

On my way back from Chicago and my visit with the Patriarch Mar Dinkha IV, I picked up a copy of the newsmagazine "the Week" dated September 2, 2011. In is, unfortunately, a liberal rag. I did, however, happen to find an article about the Aramaic Christians in it. The story is highly embarrassing-but, however, not entirely surprising to me. I shall quote it in its entirety. Before I begin, I shall note that I have visited the so-called "Chaldeans" in Detroit and in the San Diego area. I have also heard a rumor or to about Aramaic gangsters among the Assyrian Christians. (Mesopotamian Christians have divided into two main groups. The Assyrians and the "Chaldeans." The "Chaldeans" are Aramaic Christians who converted to Roman Catholicism.) I have been to El Cajon several times. The story reads, "Iraqi-Mexican drug ring busted: More than 60 Iraqi Christians were arrested last week and charged with conspiring with one of Mexico's most notorious drug cartels to smuggle guns, drugs, and grenades in to the U.S. In taking down the ring, local police and federal Drug Enforcement Agency officers seized 18 pounds of methamphetamine [that is "Crystal Meth" a very serious and very dangerous drug] and other narcotics, along with guns, explosives, and 3.500 pounds of marijuana. Officials said the gang worked out of an Iraqi social club [probably, and shamefully, a Chaldean Catholic one] in the San Diego suburb of El Cajon, where residents have long complained about illegal activity, including high-sakes card games protected by armed guards. Many of those charged are suspected of being part of a Detroit-based organized-crime syndicate of Chaldeans, an Iraqi Christian minority descended from Mesopotamia's original inhabitants. The group is said to have long-standing ties to the powerful Sinoloa cartel led by Joaquin "El Champo" Guzman." Well, the Ecclesiastical leadership needs to deal with this problem. This is very shameful. This beings us to another issue-"Ethnic Christians."

Idealizations and Stereotypes

It seems that there is some truth to stereotypes. However, we have negative stereotypes about our own American culture and idealize other cultures. This is modern politically correct liberalism. They are self-loathing and believe the very worst about themselves. However, we are not allowed to criticize other cultures-especially not Islamic culture. People in America imagine that Muslims have very high moral values-especially in regard to sexual behavior. In Egypt and Iraq, I saw great sexual perversity in the culture. They have the same problems, and overall, worse problems than we have in America. Muslims are very devoted to their religious identity-and we live in a fanatical era, but that being said, most Muslims aren't observant. Many Mexicans see themselves as "good Catholics" as do the Italians and the Irish. But we find that many of them are Christians in name only. Usually, in Middle Eastern Christian communities, the Ecclesiastical leaders are the leaders, even the political leaders of the community. But it seems that among the Aramaic Chaldeans, the actual leader is a "godfather."

Ethnic Christians

When I was in Egypt, I found a very devout Christian population. When I was in Syria, I awaken to the problem of "Ethnic Christians." What I mean by this is Christians who belong to an ethnicity or tribe that has a cultural allegiance to Christianity. A sect of Christianity is part of their cultural identity. As is illustrated above, some of these people are not genuine Christians. Now, I must state that while the majority of Christians in Egypt are devout, and many in Syria are not, there are many wonderful good Christians in Syria. However, in Syria, it is obvious that a large number of Syrian Christians (not necessarily the majority) belong to a Christian ethnicity-but do not have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

Gangster Flicks

My chaplain assistant loves Gangster movies. I have them. Many people love and idolize the mafia and can't get enough of it. I had a friend who had a book about the real life godfathers. It sickened me. It had photographs, going back to the 1920s, of mob-leaders who had been murdered by other mob-leaders. Brains splattered all over, dismembered bodies-the horrifying expressions on corpses of those who suffered an agonizing death. It was revolting and disgusting. And-what kind of life is that? You never know when you are going to die a horrifying death. Then, in these movies, not only do you get to watch murder-you get to see people get beat to a bloody pulp and/or have fingers cut off. While channel surfing once I saw a portion of the "Sopranos," I unwillingly saw Tony Soprano bust all the teeth out of a man's head. It is profane. I don't understand the appeal-why do people want to watch disgusting and fat Tony Soprano have sex, do drugs, kill and torture people? On top of that, he had some kind of speech disability that made him seem mentally retarded. So, America was watching a disgusting vile mentally retarded villain commit unspeakable crimes and they loved it. It is from hell. That trash should not be allowed to pollute America. And now we have Aramaic Christians coming to America and embracing that lifestyle. They need to repent. I think this gangster stuff is demonic and I think that my chaplain assistant needs to throw the trash away, stop poisoning his soul by watching this trash. The Bible says, "The wages of sin is death." I watched the end of "Goodfellas," supposedly based on a true story. The "hero" was in organized crime long enough to know when he inevitably found himself on a hit list. So, he became an informant in order to save his life. Jesus came so that we can have life more abundantly. This life of crime is a life of suffering and death-some do enjoy sin for a season-by violating the golden rule-treating others how they would not like to be treated-in the end, what goes around comes around, so the gangsters themselves, had fun at the expense of others, only to have themselves "offed."

NATO arm chair generals.

Our NATO allies are eager to go to war in Libya-but they want Americans to do the fighting and the dying and the paying. "America Alone" by Mark Steyn, discusses how Americans have freed up the Europeans from paying for their own defense.

We are no longer in the Cold War. America needs to pullout of NATO and let the Eurpeans pay for their own defense.

Who are you to judge?

I admit that I can be a little incendiary at times. I need to work on that. However, I am going to continue to speak out on important and controversial issues. Why? Firstly, because I have freedom of speech and I intend to avail myself of that right. Secondly, "someone needs to say it." The silence of the church on important issues is deafening. Now, if the church is afraid of providing moral guidance out of fear of causing offense, then we are good for nothing. We have then become, as Jesus said, salt that have lost its flavor and is good for nothing except casting out onto the ground. Most importantly, people have this idea about what Jesus taught about judging people which is inaccurate. I had a professor who once said (correctly) twenty-five years ago the most popular Bible verse was John 3:16. Today it is Matthew 7:1, which is the only verse most so-called Christians know. Jesus wasn't teaching moral relativism. Jesus later warned his followers to "judge with righteous judgment." Paul later calls on his disciples also to "judge." We must not be overly judgmental but we must judge!

Women in the Synagogue

I watched the old "Jesus of Nazareth" movie. It depicted synagogues with a screen in the back. The women stood behind the screen. Apparently, this is historically inaccurate. (There were other inaccuracies in the movie-including the Jews wearing the long curls in front of their ears. That is a medieval practice.) When I was in Nazareth, I went to a reconstructed first century synagogue. It was a rectangular room, with three steps along the walls going all around the building. These steps served as seats. Most likely men stood on one side of the synagogue and men on the other. Women need religious instruction, since they raise the children. Women could not have been excluded from the synagogue. We know from the Gospels that Jesus healed a woman in the synagogue and was rebuked by the rabbi from doing so. This shows us that we must be wary of Jewish culture. Some practices developed after the time of Jesus-so, this "Jesus of Nazareth" movie-which I did like overall, by attempting to incorporate Jewish practices actually put anachronisms and inaccuracies into the film.

"You need to learn Hebrew"

When certain Messianics disagree with my research, they will say, "You need to learn Hebrew." Well, I do know Hebrew-and I have studied it at a graduate level. Jesus said, "Ye must be born again" he didn't say "For a man to enter into the Kingdom of God-he must speak Hebrew. Biblical languages have their place-but what is important is knowing God as Father-not gaining knowledge. Paul says "Knowledge puffs up, love edifies." He tells us that if we have all knowledge and don't have love-it is nothing. What we all need is to get right with God-then from there we grow through study and discipline and perhaps looking at the biblical languages. Many Israelis are agnostic and atheists. An interesting thing is that Hebrew was spoken by the Israelites pagan neighbors. The language of the Phonecians and Carthaginians was a form of Hebrew.

Excavating at Bethsaida

Earlier this year I applied for the annual dig scholarship to excavate at Bethsaida. I had recently returned from a deployment to Iraq as a chaplain with the National Guard. I decided that I wanted to enter into a doctoral program focusing on the Old Testament and I felt that participating in an archeological expedition would help me in my academic career. Through the spring, I became busy and I had to deal with the tragic loss of a dear friend. I was devastated. Going on an archeological excavation then became the furthest thing from my mind. So, a few weeks before the dig I was surprised to learn that I had won the scholarship. (I was notified by email-but I didn't notice the email. Therefore, I was notified by phone.) With all that had happened in my personal life, I pondered whether or not I should accept the scholarship. Then I thought that participating in the dig was a wonderful opportunity and the chance of a lifetime and I decided it would be folly not to participate in the excavation. I resolved to go. At this time it became a last minute thing. I had to rush to buy a ticket and throw my things together. I think I needed to go for other reasons. I think that traveling to Israel would be a good way for me to unwind after coming home from Iraq. However, I was ready for some hard work. The dig was hard work indeed. But not as bad as I had imagined. Bethsaida is mentioned several times in the Gospels. It is significant as the home town of Peter, Andrew, Phillip and Nathaniel. (Apparently, although Peter came from Bethsaida, by the time of Christ's ministry, he had settled in Capernaum.) Bethsaida means "Fisherman's House" in Aramaic. The first day at the dig was the orientation. I missed the orientation as I arrived late in the afternoon. Part of the orientation was a visit to the Ginnosar museum, which houses the famous "Jesus Boat." (The "Jesus Boat" is a typical Galilean fishing boat from the first century which was discovered near Magdala during a drought in the late 1980s. There was a severe drought and the coastline receded and the miraculously preserved fishing boat was discovered uncovered after being underwater for two thousand years.) (The archeological team stays at the Kibbutz Ginnosar and commutes to the Bethsaida archeological site each morning. It is a 20-30 minutes bus ride.) We worked Monday through Friday and had Saturday and Sunday off. Naturally, I traveled on the weekend, trying to squeeze as much site-seeing into those two days as I could. (I was able to visit the Jordan River. Interesting archeological sites included Chorizen, Capernaum, and the rabbinic cemetery at Beth Sheraim. Nazareth Village was very interesting with its reconstruction of a first century synagogue (which was modeled after the one discovered at Gamala in Galilee). The Talmudic Village at Katzrin was fascinating-and it was featured in a cover story of an earlier edition of Biblical Archeological Review. I was also able to visit Sephoris-a city near Nazareth. I was also able to interact with the local Arab Christians. So, what did our days consist of? First, wake up was at 445 AM. We had to get on the bus at 530 AM. We arrived at Bethsaida at about 0600 AM. Once there, they opened up a connex storage shed from which we got our tools. The tools were a pick axe, a trowel and a bucket. Those were the tools that you need. Brushes, pads for sitting on,shovels and other assorted tools were also available. So, from 0600 to 0900 we worked at the excavation site. At 0900 we were served breakfast. At 0930-0945, it was time to head back to work. Then, at 1130 we had a "popsicle break." After working in the heat and sun for so long the popsicles were appreciated. We finished for the day at about 1215 and then headed back to the Kibbutz where we were staying. At about 100 PM we were served lunch. Then, we got to take a break until 400 in the afternoon. At that time we had "pottery reading." This consists of sorting the pottery shards (or "sherds") and getting statistics on them. We had trays full of pottery fragments. After we sorted the trays, the archeological directors examined them. They took out the important finds. The directors would talk to us about important finds which were then photographed by a professional photographer. After pottery reading we were given a break until dinner (at about 630). Then at 800 PM, one of the directors or one of the academics working with the excavation gave a lecture. Often, the lectures were an hour long. Finally, once the lecture was over we could turn in for the night. The question I always get is, "Did you find anything?" Well, yes we did, quite a bit actually. But, we didn't find any "lost scrolls," gold, or buried treasures. Not this year. More "significant" finds like that were found in previous years. But what did we find and what did I find particularly? I found human remains-probably Bedouin and about 300 years or so old. I found many pieces of pottery, most of which was first century. (Some large pieces but mostly small shards or "sherds.") I also found two nails that were probably from the Roman period. In my "locus" my team found several coins from the Hellenistic and Roman periods. Probably the most significant finds this year were two Egyptian Scarabs found at the site. One Scarab was found in the sifter. This illustrates why you should pay attention when you are sifting. (Here is how it works. You have an area in which you are assigned to work. This is your "locus." You have one bucket with a tag. This is the "Find Bucket." If you find something you put it in the "Find Bucket" unless it is obviously very significant, such as a coin or a nail, in which case you notify the director. You also have your bucket (or hopefully buckets) which you put your dirt that you dig up with your pickaxe and trowel. Once you have your buckets filled up you dump them at the dump site. But you should sift them first. Invariably, pottery shards or other relics-such as the Scarabs-are found.) The point isn't sensational finds. Everything adds to our understanding of the site, and that in turn expands our understanding of Jewish life in the first century, which in turn expands our understanding of Jesus of Nazareth, the Gospels and the New Testament. So, what is it like to participate in an excavation? Firstly, it is work and it is hot. The heat didn't bother me too much as I am from Houston and it was nothing like the 130 degree temperature I got used to when I was in Iraq with the army. Secondly, it was dirty. It consisted of shoveling dirt around and moving rocks too. So, at the end of the day I was covered with dirt. At first it was monotonous. It was also frustrating because during the Syrian occupation of the site pre-1967, the Syrians disturbed the site. They buried a concrete cylindrical bunker in the middle of the site and had obviously drove a bull-dozer over the site. What this meant is that the strata were disturbed. This means that we would find a Greco-Roman coin-but then the next coin discovered would be from the Arab Republic of Syria. We would find fragments of a first century pottery vessel and then a Pepsi bottle. Finally, we did manage to dig through the area that was disturbed by the Syrians. Finally, in a way, I took ownership of my locus and it became exciting as we found ancient walls and tombs. It became exciting as we dug deeper and I wanted to see all that we could find. And we dug through two-thousand years, from a recent Syrian military bunker, to centuries old Bedouin tombs, to remains and structures from the time of Jesus Christ-and elsewhere at the Bethsaida site, remains even more ancient that that. Participating in an archeological excavation was an amazing –indeed invaluable-experience. It was even more significant to me in that we were excavating a town that was of central importance in the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. While I had been to Israel before, I had never been to Galilee. Galilee is very significant because of its history in the life of Jesus, the rise of early Christianity and also in its importance in Judaism. As I explored Galilee, I could feel the presence of Jesus. Galilee is a very tranquil and spiritual place and a very fitting location for the sharing of the good news of the kingdom of God and the message of his fatherly love. It was interesting to work with an international team. Many of my fellow excavators were Australians and New Zealanders. We also had German and Israeli archeologists at the site. It was also interesting working with Bible Scholars and experts in their fields. Some of the diggers have seldom missed a season since the excavations at Bethsaida began. I am glad I was able to participate in this adventurous journey of discovery-a journey through history, a journey of connecting with those who lived so long ago through the relics that they left behind.

What was the U.S. Army was doing in Kosovo? U.S. Prosecutor Probes Claims That Kosovo Prime Minister Allegedly Took Part in Human Organ Selling (Fox News, August 29, 2011 AP)  A U.S. prosecutor will investigate claims that Prime Minister Hashim Thaci allegedly led a criminal network that sold organs of civilian captives during the 1998-99 Kosovo war, the EU's rule of law mission to Kosovo said Monday. John Clint Williamson was named "lead prosecutor" in a task force set up to investigate the allegations raised in a report last year by Council of Europe investigator Dick Marty, the mission said in a statement. Marty has alleged that Thaci and other rebel commanders of the Kosovo Liberation Army ran detention centers in Albania's border with Kosovo, where civilian captives, including Serbs, were killed and their organs sold on the black market. Thaci has denied the allegation and said he is ready to cooperate with any investigation into the claims. Williamson was the head of Kosovo's Justice Department in 2001-2002 when the territory was under the administration of the United Nations and was tasked with overseeing Kosovo's prisons and the justice system. He then served as United States Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues. Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008, a move that is backed by 80 countries, including the United States and most nations in the EU. Serbia says it will never recognize the new country. Classified U.N documents, which were made public by The Associated Press earlier this year, suggest the United Nations mission in Kosovo was aware of the organ trafficking allegations as early as 2003 when alleged witness statements where made available to U.N. investigators. U.N. authorities then briefly investigated the claims in 2004 but never launched a full-fledged probe. The claims were first made public in a book by former U.N. war crimes prosecutor, Carla del Ponte who also said hundreds of Serb civilians went missing and are believed to have perished in camps ran by the Kosovo Liberation Army in neighboring Albania's remote north. So far, both the U.N. and EU's rule of law mission -- deployed in the country as part of an international agreement following Kosovo's declaration of independence -- have maintained that their investigations into the alleged organ harvesting have failed to yield any evidence, but mounting pressure from Serbia and its ally Russia for a full investigation has brought the issue to international attention.

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