An excerpt out of: http://www.raptureme.com/terry/james27.html

 

 

 

The Discovery of the Tombs of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus

 

Some writers have claimed that there is virtually no archaeological evidence to back up the historical claims of the Gospels. The truth is that tremendous archaeological evidence has been discovered in Israel that proves the accuracy of the New Testament!

 

Over a century ago a French Christian archaeologist, Charles Claremont-Gannueau, wrote a little-known report, dated November 13, 1873, from Jerusalem to the Palestine Exploration Fund. In this report he told of his monumental discovery, in a sepulchral cave near Bethany, of a group of Jewish ossuaries (stone coffins) from the first century of the Christian era. To his great surprise, Claremont-Gannueau found that these ancient Jewish stone coffins contained the names of numerous individuals mentioned in the New Testament as members of the Jerusalem Church. Despite its importance, this report was not published in the newspapers of the day. As a result, it was virtually lost to history. Several years ago I purchased a book, from a rare book dealer in London, which contained this obscure report by Charles Claremont-Gannueau. The 1874 report, published by the Palestine Exploration Fund, included his translation of several of these inscriptions, which indicated that he had discovered the tombs of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, as well as numerous other Christians from the first- century church. A Christian newspaper from Israel, the Jerusalem Christian Review, has carried several fascinating articles in the last few years about the wonderful archaeological discoveries that confirm the historical accuracy of the Gospel account.

 

In the spring of 1873, Effendi Abu Saud, while constructing his house on the eastern slopes of the Mount of Olives near the road to ancient Bethany, accidentally discovered a cave that proved to be an ancient burial catacomb. Inside, he found 30 ancient stone coffins. Professor Charles Claremont- Gannueau examined the ossuaries in this ancient family sepulchral cave carved out of limestone rock. The Jews in the first century buried their dead either in the ground or in a tomb. Several years later they would clean the bones of the skeleton and re-bury these bones in a small limestone ossuary, often 45 inches long, 20 inches wide, and 25 inches high. The lids of these ossuaries are triangular, semi-circular, or rectangular. Inscriptions containing the name and identification of the deceased were painted or engraved on the sides or on the lids of the ossuaries, in Hebrew or Greek. Claremont- Gannueau was excited to note that several ossuaries were inscribed with crosses or the name "Jesus," proving that these Jewish deceased were Christians. Although he was unable to take photographs, he did take squeezes with a special cloth of the ornamented surfaces as well as of the inscriptions.

 

Engraved on the sides of three of these ossuaries from this cave were the names of "Eleazar" (the Hebrew form of the Greek name "Lazarus"), "Martha," and "Mary." These names were followed by the sign of the cross, proving they were Christian. In the Gospel of John we read the touching story of Christ raising His friend Lazarus from the dead. "Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha" (John 11: 1).

 

Claremont-Gannueau noted that this was one of the most important archaeological discoveries ever made concerning the origins of the early New Testament Church. He wrote, "This catacomb on the Mount of Olives belonged apparently to one of the earliest families which joined the new religion of Christianity. In this group of sarcophagi, some of which have the Christian symbol and some have not, we are, so to speak, [witnessing the] actual unfolding of Christianity. Personally, I think that many of the Hebrew-speaking people whose remains are contained in these ossuaries were among the first followers of Christ.... The appearance of Christianity at the very gates of Jerusalem is, in my opinion, extraordinary and unprecedented. Somehow the new [Christian] doctrine must have made its way into the Jewish system.... The association of the sign of the cross with (the name of Jesus) written in Hebrew alone constitutes a valuable fact."

 

The 1874 report contained the following additional inscriptions found on ossuaries:

 

Hebrew Inscriptions:

1. Salome, wife of Judah, engraved in very small characters ... a cruciform sign.
2.
Judah, with the cross. Perhaps the husband of Salome.
3.
Judah the Scribe. On another face of the sarcophagus, Judah, son of Eleazar the Scribe.
4. Simeon the Priest (Cohen).
5. Martha, daughter of Pasach. Perhaps the name is Jewish as well as Christian.
6. Eleazar, son of Nathalu. The form "Nathai" for Nathan is not uncommon.
7. Salamtsion, daughter of Simeon the Priest. The name of the woman, Salam Sion, is of the greatest interest.

It is the name Salampsion of Josephus (daughter of Herod).

 

Greek inscriptions:

1. Jesus, twice repeated, with the cross
2. Nathaniel, accompanied by a cross.

 

It is interesting to note that Claremont-Gannueau also found in one of the ossuaries "three or four small instruments in copper of bronze, much oxidized, consisting of an actual small bell, surmounted by a ring. The Arabs thought they were a kind of castanets. Can we trace here the equivalent of the bells hung on the robe of the high priest? And do these ornaments come from the sarcophagus of our Simeon?"

 

The French archaeologist realized that there is a high degree of probability that these tombs belonged to the family of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, the close friends of Jesus. Claremont-Gannueau wrote, "What gives additional value to these short inscriptions is that they furnish a whole series of names found in the Gospels, in their popular and local Syro-Chaldaic forms. The presence of the names of Jesus and Martha, of which we only knew historically that it was the feminine form of the Aramaic, would alone be sufficient to make this collection important from an exegetic point of view. By a singular coincidence, which from the first struck me forcibly, these inscriptions, found close to the Bethany road, and very near the site of the village, contain nearly all the names of the personages in the Gospel scenes which belonged to the place: Eleazar (Lazarus), Simon, Martha ... a host of other coincidences occur at the sight of all these most evangelical names."

 

In addition, the Italian scholar P. Bagatti discovered another catacomb holding 100 ossuaries on the western side of the Mount of Olives, opposite the Temple Mount, near the Catholic chapel called Dominus Flevit. Coins minted by Governor Varius Gratus (A.D. 16) proved that these tombs were used for burial of Christians before the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Several of the coffins in the cave belonged to a family of priests buried in the first century. Based on the inscribed crosses and the name "Jesus," Baggati concluded that several of these priests were followers of Jesus Christ. Bagatti found many ossuaries containing the following names inscribed on their sides, together with the sign of the cross or the name of Jesus: Jonathan, Joseph, Jarius, Judah, Matthias, Menahem, Salome, Simon, and Zechariah. Many of these names appear in the New Testament records of the Early Church at Jerusalem. One ossuary contained the Greek inscription "Iota, Chi and Beta," which read "Jesus Christ, the Redeemer."

 

Without question, the most fascinating ossuary was the one inscribed with crosses and the name "Shappira." This is a unique name which has not been found in contemporary Jewish literature outside the New Testament passage of Acts 5: 1. Luke recorded the death of this woman and her husband when they lied to God and the Church (Acts 5:1, 5-10). "But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. . . ."

During the fall of 1945, Dr. Eleazar Sukenik of Hebrew University investigated another first century Jewish catacomb at the southern end of the Kidron Valley on the road to Bethlehem. He found several ossuaries with the sign of the cross, Greek inscriptions, a coin minted in A.D. 41 for King Herod Agrippa 1, proving the tomb was sealed by A.D. 42. Professor Sukenik concluded that the ossuaries "contain almost the whole dictionary of names in the New Testament.

 

One coffin had a surprising dedication in Greek to "Jesus" followed by the exclamation "Y'ho," meaning "Jehovah" or "the Lord." The inscription reads: "[To] Jesus, the Lord." In light of the A.D. 42 date for the sealing of this tomb, the presence of this dedication to "Jesus, the Lord" attests to the acceptance by Christians of Jesus Christ as God within ten years of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Christian theologian Professor Alexander Hopkins commented on this significant inscription as follows: "The inscription which was hidden for almost 2,000 years and inscribed at least two decades before any part of the New Testament was written. . . bears a personal testimony of faith ... a message from the past with a very modem meaning for the present."

 

Several years ago they found another Jewish Christian ossuary in Jerusalem that contained the inscription "Alexander, son of Simon of Cyrene." The Gospel of Mark refers to this person as follows, "Now they compelled a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, the father of Alexander and Rufus, as he was coming out of the country and passing by, to bear his cross" (Mark 15:21).

 

 

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