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BREAKING: New Dead Sea Scrolls Cave Discovered

Cave 4 (credit- Cale Clarke)

This is an absolute bombshell.

My professor, Dr. Craig Evans, emailed me and some of his other students earlier this week, alerting us about an amazing discovery made in Israel, something he was sworn to secrecy about until the official announcement could be made today. It’s the kind of announcement that biblical scholars and, indeed, anyone who is concerned about the world of Jesus of Nazareth dreams about making: a new cave has been discovered in Israel, most likely containing more of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Dr. Evans, writing for the Logos academic blog:

The last Dead Sea Scrolls cave, linked to the ruins on the marl shelf at the mouth of Wadi Qumran, was discovered in 1956, bringing the total number of caves to eleven — eleven caves containing the famous Dead Sea Scrolls, ceramic jars, and a number of other artifacts.

For sixty years archaeologists and looters have been searching for a twelfth cave. Would another one ever be found? Most didn’t think so. This is what makes the announcement from Hebrew University so astounding: A twelfth cave has been discovered!

The cave that has been discovered has been unsurprisingly dubbed “Cave 12” (What did you expect? The Batcave? Already taken, sorry). Here’s what was inside:

Not only were six scroll jars recovered, but small fragments of parchment and papyrus, as well as at least one linen used for wrapping scrolls.

Scientific testing of the ceramic should confirm its link to the ruins and Qumran and to some of the other jars found in nearby caves. DNA testing of the parchment could confirm links to some of the scrolls whose origins have to date not been determined. The presence of the jars and the linen wrapper confirms that Scrolls used to be in this cave (and same applies in the case of Cave 8).

The Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) are not Christian documents, but they are vitally important for understanding Jesus and his world. They show what many Jews who were roughly contemporaneous with Jesus believed about the coming Messianic age. As Evans notes:

The Qumran Scrolls are also important because they shed a great deal of light on the Judaism of Jesus’ day and a great deal of light on specific teachings of Jesus and his early followers.

For example, an Aramaic scroll from Cave 4 speaks of a coming figure who will be called “Son of God” and “Son of the Most High” who will be “Great” and who will reign forever. The parallels with the Annunciation of Luke 1 are obvious. Another scroll from Cave 4 anticipates the coming of God’s Messiah who give sight to the blind, heal the wounded, raise the dead, and proclaim good news to the poor. The parallels to Jesus’ reply to John the Baptist are quite apparent.

Even Paul’s “works of the law” terminology finds an important parallel in a Cave 4 letter concerned with legal matters.
The Melchizedek Scroll from Cave 11 forecasts the coming of one who seems to be God himself, possessing the power to forgive sin, heal, and defeat Satan. Examples like these — and there are many more — should make it clear how important the Scrolls are.

Dr. Evans and another of his students, Jeremiah Johnston, have also published a piece today on FOX News, arguing that the Scrolls rightfully belong to Israel.

And, just in case all of this wasn’t enough to digest already, there is an extremely strong possibility that a thirteenth cave may also exist nearby! This one is even more promising, because the cave mouth has been sealed over (indicating that it may never have been looted). The coming days and weeks are going to be very, very interesting times for biblical scholars and archaeologists alike.

Share this article on social media and spread the word about this amazing discovery!

Sunday Scriptures: Christ the King

inri2This Sunday, we celebrate the Solemnity of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. This Sunday also marks the end of the liturgical year. In today’s Gospel (Luke 23:35-43), we read about the crucifixion of Jesus. Speaking of Jesus’ kingship, Luke here mentions the titulus (Latin for “title”, referring here to the the inscription above Jesus’ cross) that read, “This is the King of the Jews”.

It was very common in the Roman practice of crucifixion in late antiquity to affix a titulus either to, or above the cross of the condemned. As criminals were usually crucified in public places (as was the case with Jesus of Nazareth), this practice enabled passerby to discern exactly what offense a condemned criminal had been found guilty of, which led to that person’s death sentence. These public executions fostered a great deterrent to those who would dare to challenge the might of the Empire.

Interestingly, as scholar Craig A. Evans points out, this inscription is in all likelihood the first thing that was ever actually written down about Jesus of Nazareth. And, although unintended by Jesus’ tormentors, it expresses a powerful truth about his identity.

Luke’s account of the death of Jesus is the only Passion Narrative taht mentions the so-called “good thief” who is promised “Paradise” by Jesus. Luke here shows the two possible responses to the crucifixion of Christ. On one hand, there is the response of the religious leaders of Jerusalem (and the Roman soldiers): “The rulers sneered at Jesus and said, ‘He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God.’ Even the soldiers jeered at him” (Luke 23:35-36). Jesus is crucified alongside two criminals (probably insurrectionists). One of the two “reviled” (literally, “was blaspheming”) Jesus, echoing the insults and abuses of the rulers.

On the other hand, the other criminal rebukes his companion (vv. 41-42), noting that Jesus is not only innocent (“this man has done nothing criminal”), but that he believes Jesus will somehow survive his ordeal – an incredible act of faith (“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom”). As hearers of this Gospel, we are clearly encouraged to identify with this man, making the same request to our Lord.

Luke’s Gospel will go on to demonstrate that Jesus, although condemned by the Sanhedrin and Pilate, will indeed be vindicated – and that by a much higher authority: Almighty God. Jesus’ powerful Resurrection means that the inscription on his cross proved to be true, in a way his enemies never expected. Jesus is indeed the Messiah (the Christ), and the King of the Universe.

On the Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene: A Visit to Migdal

IMG_20130621_035724On this Feast Day of St. Mary Magdalene, I thought I’d let you know about the incredible excavation going on at her hometown – Magdala, known as Migdal in Hebrew. In 2013 and 2014, I had the privilege of visiting the work at Migdal, along with Dr. Craig Evans, Greg Monette, Dwight Crowell and Jesse Richards. Migdal, which was built just next to the Sea of Galilee, is an incredible archaeological find – it’s unique in that the entire first-century town has been unearthed.

During the great Jewish War with Rome (66-70 AD), the citizens of Migdal themselves destroyed their own synagogue – literally bringing down the house upon itself. They did this to prevent it from being desecrated by the Roman army, who either slaughtered Migdal’s inhabitants, or carried them off into slavery.

I took this photo of some of the original mosaic tile found on the synagogue’s floor. In all likelihood, Jesus stepped onto this very floor while preaching in Migdal, during his years of ministry in the Galilee. In all likelihood, this is where Mary of Magdala first heard Jesus’ message, and became a disciple of the Master. This is absolutely unique. In Capernaum (Kafir Nahum), the impressive synagogue that can be seen today is actually a fourth-century structure, built on top of the foundation of the original structure (made of black basalt stone, which can still be seen on the exterior) extant in Jesus’ time.

In Migdal, we are truly walking in the footsteps of Jesus.

“Unlocking the Book of Revelation” Conference: Get your tickets today!

ad_rectangleTickets are now available for The Faith Explained Conference: Unlocking the Book of Revelation on Saturday, September 12. You can get them at www.TheFaithExplained.com/Conference while they last! The conference will take place on Saturday, September 12 at St Joseph’s Parish in Streetsville (Mississauga), Ontario.

The Book of Revelation is the Bible’s most mysterious book. How can we make sense of it all – dragons, beasts, a killer lamb, and the end of the world? What’s the connection between the Apocalypse and the Mass? What message about Jesus Christ did this book hold for its original readers, and what does it mean for us today Together, we will discover the answers, as we learn how Revelation reveals Jesus Christ and his plan to us.

Speakers include the great Cardinal Thomas Collins and Monsignor Robert Nusca (Fellow at the St Paul Institute for Biblical Theology and former Rector of St Augustine’s Seminary). Both Cardinal Colllins and Monsignor Nusca are noted Revelation scholars who completed their PhD under the legendary Fr Ugo Vanni in Rome.

Speaking of legends, we’ll also have Dr Craig Evans joining us once again. Dr Scott Hahn calls Dr Evans “the best Bible scholar in the English-speaking world”, and with very good reason. Dr. Evans was recently invited to the Ratzinger Conference for Bible scholars in Rome, where he met Pope Francis. I will also be giving a talk, and we think your faith will be energized and encouraged by what you’ll learn with us. So don’t delay – click here to reserve your seats now! Priests, Seminarians, and religious enjoy complimentary admission.

Please let others know about our Revelation conference by emailing this post, or share via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media! You can use the sharing tools below. See you on Sept. 12!

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Conference Talks Now Available!

I’m very happy to announce today that all the talks from the recent Faith Explained Conference are now available for you to purchase and download in digital format by clicking here:

https://gumroad.com/l/aESf

This resource features a presentation by the great Cardinal Thomas Collins. Speaking as only he can, he enlightens minds and sets hearts on fire with his brilliant talk on discipleship. We are so grateful to His Eminence for taking the time out of his busy schedule to join us and celebrate Mass that day.

There are also two full-length presentations from the incomparable Dr Craig Evans. One talk is on the reliability and authenticity of the New Testament documents, with a special focus on what modern science can tell us. Evans also presents us a talk on Jesus and Archaeology, and how discoveries in this field can shed light on the Scriptures.

This series also includes my talk on the Resurrection of Jesus, which will help you explain the reality of Easter to your friends and family who have fallen away from the faith – or who perhaps have never known the living Christ.

I decided to release these talks as a set first – keeping the costs low, at only $6.75 per talk. Hey, that’s less than a fast food meal, and more nourishing to your faith! Please note that prices are in US dollars.

Happy Easter!

This Saturday’s conference talk topics revealed

imagesFolks, there is still a bit of time left to order tickets for The Faith Explained Conference online at this link: http://goo.gl/Rdgl6M. After tonight, one can only buy tickets at the door.

Here are the topics of tomorrow’s presentations:

Cale Clarke: Jesus, Alive Forevermore: The key question is this: Did Jesus rise from the dead? If this didn’t happen, nothing else matters, as St Paul himself said: “If Christ is not risen, our preaching is useless, and so is your faith”. We’ll examine the evidence for the bodily resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

Dr. Craig Evans: Talk #1: How Old and How Reliable are the Bible Manuscripts? Many scholars say that one can’t trust the text of the Bible – that it has been hopelessly corrupted over time. Is this true? What do the latest discoveries tell us about the trustworthiness of the Scriptures?

Talk #2: Jesus and Archaeology: Learn how archaeology helps us to understand – and in many cases to confirm what we know of – Jesus of Nazareth.

Cardinal Thomas Collins: Discipleship: What does it mean to truly follow Jesus in the 21st century?

I can’t wait…see you there!

 

 

 

Bible Study (Genesis) Thursday; The Faith Explained Conference this Saturday!

GenesisYou’ve no doubt heard about The Faith Explained Conference this Saturday, Sept. 27, featuring Cardinal Thomas Collins, Dr Craig Evans, and me. If you don’t have tickets yet, grab them at this link: http://goo.gl/Rdgl6M, but hurry, as online sales will end soon.

However, that’s not the only big event we’ve got this week: if you’re in the Toronto area and are looking for a Catholic Bible Study, join us this Thursday night at 7:30 at St Justin Martyr parish in Markham as we begin The Faith Explained Bible Study of the book of Genesis.

The Bible’s first book is endlessly fascinating, and we’ll be exploring a lot of important questions people ask about it. Just what does Genesis teach, for example, about creation?

One of the best Catholic scholars out there, Dr Brant Pitre, has put together a good shortlist of what we need to believe about creation, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC). The axiom about Church teaching as an interpretation of Scripture holds here:

Fundamental Catholic Doctrines on Creation

1. Creation is a work of the holy Trinity (CCC 290-92)

2. The world was created for the glory of God (293)

3. God created the world from his free will and divine love (295)

4. God created the world ex nihilo (“out of nothing”) (296-99)

5. God created an ordered and good world (299)

6. God transcends creation and is present to it (300)

7. God upholds and sustains creation at every moment (301)

8. God’s providence guides creation towards its perfection (302-305)

9. God gives his creatures free will to share in his providence (306-308)

10. If Creation is good, why does evil exist? (309)

a. Reality of physical evil (310)
b. Reality of moral evil (311)
c. God can bring good out of an evil (312-314)

(source: BrantPitre.com)

For much more, join us for our series on Thursday evenings.

Is that Craig Evans….or Tom Selleck?

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Here’s a blast from the past: Dr Craig Evans, looking very Magnum, P.I.-ish, delivering a lecture on Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls, back in ’99.

Catch the good Doctor in person, along with Cardinal Thomas Collins and me, at The Faith Explained Conference in Toronto on September 27. Get your tickets at http://goo.gl/Rdgl6M while you still can!

Craig Evans Responds to Bart Ehrman: How God Became Jesus

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Don’t miss Dr Craig Evans live at The Faith Explained Conference on September 27. Cardinal Thomas Collins will also speak, so grab your tickets here while you still can! Check out Dr Evans’ response to Bart Ehrman in this YouTube clip.

Cardinal Collins to speak at The Faith Explained Conference Sept 27

Thomas Cardinal Collins will headline The Faith Explained Conference on Sept 27, along with Dr. Craig Evans. Get your tickets right here:

Cardinal Collins is a phenomenal speaker with a rare gift for opening the Scriptures. Check out this clip from the Cardinal’s phenomenal Lectio Devina series on the Gospel of Mark below. See you on Sept 27!

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