Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Jesus Bowl: Another Crock

Well, this is all over the place. Once again, it does not seem to be as big a deal as everyone is saying.

(1) The bowl pretty clearly reads δια χρηστοu, "through Chrestos," not "Christ." Chrestos is a personal name, as well as an adjective meaning "decent" or "useful."

(2) If the bowl is dated from the 2nd century BCE to the early 1st century CE, it cannot in any case refer to Jesus Christ. The epithet Christ was not added to the name of Jesus of Nazareth until after the crucifixion, in the 30's of the first century. And Jesus of Nazareth did not exist in the 2nd or 1st century BCE (unless he was an infant in the closing years of the 1st century BCE, as seems probable).

Not visible in the photo are the words supposed to be "the magician": O GOISTAIS. I don't recognize this form; I know the word γοητής or γόης which can mean magician. I have no idea what GOISTAIS is supposed to be.

In short, this big story is something of a muddle. Perhaps some experts on Greek paleography and lexicography could weigh in. In the meantime, don't get too excited.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Magic and Magicians in the Greco-Roman World, by Matthew Dickie (Routledge, 2003).


Unknown said...

I am scarcely a paleographer since I don't recognize goe^te^s.

What is your evidence that the term wasn't used before 30? Paul uses "Christos", I think that is as far back as we can get.

Waiting for more photos...


Nehemias said...

Professor Cook,

I think that this article in the spanish newspaper El Mundo is better written and more detailed than discovery channel website, take a look:

"El valor del descubrimiento se incrementa al comprobarse su antigüedad, ya que, según aseguran los egiptólogos que han estudiado la pieza, la vasija, procedente de Asia Menor, es del siglo I a.C. y la inscripción fue realizada antes del año 50 d.C. Esta datación convertiría el hallazgo en la primera referencia al Mesías que se conoce, ya que hasta ahora este honor lo ostenta una carta del apóstol San Pablo del año 51 d.C. en la que habla de su maestro. No obstante, ésta no es más que una de las dos o tres teorías que barajan los expertos sobre el origen y el significado de esta valiosa pieza."

I have found this english translation: (by Brian Duboc)

"The validity of this discovery is supported by the old age of the vase. Already Egyptologists have studied the piece and assure that the vase, coming from Asia minor, is of the first century and the inscription in question was made in 50 AD. This could be the oldest discovery and the first reference to the messiah that we know of, beating a letter from Saint Paul of the year 51AD that speaks of "his teacher."
Although, this is only one of two or three theories that have emerged from experts about the origin and significance of the valid piece."


Ed said...

The Spanish article is just as sensational, and no more scientific, than the Discovery Channel article. It is certainly not possible to date an ancient epigraph within such a narrow range, unless the text itself gives a date.

Anonymous said...

There were ancient Chrestian sects that believed in Jesus Chrest (i.e. Chrestos) rather than Jesus Christ (i.e. Christos). For example, the Marcionites who rejected the Old Testament entirely. But they believed Jesus to be a better (i.e. more compassionate and kind, which is what the word chrestos means) God than the Creator God of the Torah, not a magician.

This article makes a really good point about the proposed translation of this cup:

"The archaeologists have apparently forced their translation, as if goistais is genitive singular, like chrestou, and functions in the phrase as an appositive. The word goistais, however, is dative plural, making their suggested translation impossible. The phrase dia chrestou goistais probably means "'[Given] through kindness for the magicians.'"