Religion & Philosophy

300 fingers for Bible thumbing

2009_02_06t075729_450x338_us_cyprus_bibleHoly Shit!  They found Jesus’ Bible and the folks over at the Rapture Ready forums, at least some of them, are already convinced that this is just one more easter egg laid down by God to let us know that the end times are right around the corner.

Ok, so it’s not Jesus’ actual Bible and the whole stink is being caused by the police in Cyprus declaring that the book they found in raiding an antiquities dealer could be 2,000 years old.  The world of Biblical archeology is neat stuff except that it’s generally ruined by people needing to find proof for their belief.  The practice goes all the way back to Constantine sending his mommy off in search of the True Cross and her subsequent population of European cathedrals with relics.  Jesus must have had like 300 fingers.

We won’t know how old the vellum book is until researchers get their dirty, atheist hands on the text, but a fair number of them are already calling foul from seeing a few pictures.  The gilt type shown in the released photo is the first give away.  We all saw Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade so we realize that the life of Jesus would not have been embellished by gold and jewels.

But the big problem is that the found book is written in Syriac.  The original Reuters report, via Yahoo News, makes just enough of a linguistic admission to cover asses while leaving enough wiggle room for the report to be sensationalized by the Rapture Ready crowd.  Jesus would have/could have spoken Aramaic, Hebrew and Koine Greek.  Syriac is, in fact, a dialect of Aramaic.  Unfortunately for this story’s cut and dried hopes, Aramaic had more dialects than Jesus had fingers.  It is generally held that Jesus spoke Galilean Aramaic, which was significantly different from even Jerusalem Aramaic much less Syriac.

Only a few scholars hold to the view that Jesus spoke Syriac, and the argument for Aramaic being the original language for the written canon is mostly held on the internet rather than the hallowed halls of academia.  But never mind that, the Syriac texts we have are far later, and of a more Eastern persuasion, than the time of Jesus.  Scholars assume that the Peshitta (Syriac Old Testament translation) is the oldest work of Syriac literature, and that is generally believed to be from the second century.

All this is further confused by the fact that Syriac never stopped being used in certain places and churches.  Consequently, this find cannot be dated by the “must be earlier than X” process, and even from photographs scholars have already pointed out linguistic clues that suggest a far younger age than the Cypriot police would have us believe…possibly as late as the 19th Century.

A few have vocalized hope that this might be the fabled “Q” document.  Fat chance.  If we’re lucky the book (or portions of it) will turn out to be old enough to predate the Nestorian schism.  And if we’re really, really lucky the book will contain the whole of Tatian’s Diatesseron (the four gospels combined into one narrative) .  At present we have only a reconstruction of the Diatesseron formed from quotes and commentaries.  Tatian was declared a heretic in 423 and Theodoret “put away” every copy of the Diatesseron he could find.

Of course, few of us will ever know what the book says because Reuters/Yahoo probably won’t publicize the dry findings of scholars who don’t say silly things like, “We found a 2,000 year old Bible.”  And the Christian community will ignore or attack any findings that open a window onto the diversity of early Christian thought.  The only hope for hearing more about this is if someone finds a bit from one of Jesus’ 300 fingernails stuck between two pages.

Photo credit: Reuters

16 replies »

  1. As an insurance policy? Sacrifice him again in case the first time didn’t take?

    My mother wouldn’t be speaking to me right now if she saw that.

    Lara Amber

  2. They could probably scrape some 2000 year old saliva from the top corners of the page (you know, where a person would lick his fingers if the pages were stuck together)… Going off that, we could clone ALL the apostles. Make a theme park where people could observe them in their natural habitats… Remember, kids, John the Baptist’s 7 o’clock performance is completely different than his 9 o’clock…

    • They could probably scrape some 2000 year old saliva from the top corners of the page…

      Jesus – did NOBODY pay any attention to Jurassic Park?

  3. Why? Do you think Jesus shared essential genes with frogs? And is he going to be breeding like…well…frogs? Or are you just worried about a 50 ft tall, King of Kings, T-Rex Jesus?

    • Or are you just worried about a 50 ft tall, King of Kings, T-Rex Jesus?

      I don’t think that’s a chance we can afford to take. Remember, cuddly New Testament Jesus has a lot of Bad-Ass Old Testament God DNA in his veins. Go ask the Pharaoh.

  4. Just because Jesus (if there ever was One) could speak doesn’t necessarily mean that he could read. Just about 100% of the people in his social class at that time in Galilee were illiterate.

  5. I assure you that my complex is extremely inferior to yours. And, technically, I wasn’t bashing God. I was bashing idiots who speak/act before they think. I have little doubt that Jesus would be drawn toward evolutionary biology were He alive today. If you want to find God (or Gods), S/He is in the mystery of details. S/He is in the art of thoughtful and insightful questioning. S/He is in the Why and the How. S/He is definitely not in self-inflicted ignorance. And S/He probably has a damned good sense of humor, too. Something far too many of His/Her “followers” seem to lack.

  6. I have to wonder if Clone Jesus and Zombie Jesus would go at it in some sort of sacrilegious slap-off a la Celebrity Deathmatch.

  7. im a christian think this is pretty great. christians dont usually think and just assume. oh and for the guy who said jesus probably coun’t read is an idiot. jesus was a rabbi which means he learned to read and write so he could interpet the torah and other texts. but how sweet would that be, jesus and john the baptist in a street fight.

  8. Not only was “Jesus” illiterate, but he was probably only about 5’2″ tall with tight curly black hair and very dark skin, christian.