A Nearly Infallible History of Christianity

A nearly Infallible History of Christianity cover

Accessible, informative, provocative and very, very funny, A Nearly Infallible History of Christianity is a history of the church for the rest of us.

Why do Christians believe the things they do? Who wrote all those creeds? Who invented excommunication? Why is Christmas on the 25th December? What does the invention of trousers have to do with the fall of Rome? And was Pope John Paul I really named after one half of the Beatles?

From Abelard to Zwingli, Nick Page brings you all the saints and sinners, holiness and heresy – not to mention several donkeys, one elephant and a prophetic goose.

Combining in-depth research, searing historical analysis, and cutting-edge guesswork, this is the story of how the church survived, despite the people who led it.

Here is everything you ever wanted to know about Christian history. And quite a lot you never realized you wanted to know. Not to mention some more stuff that you would rather not have known in the first place.

It’s funny. It’s fascinating. It’s always informative. But, like the church itself, perhaps not entirely infallible.

“I was predestined to read this.” John Calvin.

“I felt my heart strangely warmed. Or it could have been indigestion.” John Wesley.

“Nick Page has it all wrong. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: all our intellligence told us the Saracens had weapons of mass destruction.” Pope Urban II, inventor of the Crusades

Galilean new town and the bathtub of Jesus’ enemies

Two recent discoveries in Israel. In Galilee, researchers from Reading University have discovered the possible site of Dalmanutha, mentioned in the New Testament. Jesus stopped here after the feeding of the 4,000. It’s close to the site of Migdal, which would place it on the western shore of Galilee.

Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, archaeologists have been excavating a luxurious mansion from the first century, complete with palatial bath tubs. Sounds mundane, but these kind of high-status ritual baths were associated with the Sadducees, who were running the Temple at the time of Jesus’ death, and who were chiefly responsible for wanting him out of the way. So what we’re dealing with here may be a house of one of the major High Priestly families who were involved in the political machinations around Jesus’ death.

Remains of Revolution?

Monday 15th July is the 9th of Ab in the Jewish calendar, the date on which the Jews mourn the loss of the Temple in the First Jewish revolt. Josephus records how during the revolt many Jews took refuge in underground hiding places:

So now the last hope… was in the caves and caverns under ground; whither, if they could once fly, they did not expect to be searched for; but endeavored, that after the whole city should be destroyed, and the Romans gone away, they might come out again, and escape from them. This was no better than a dream of theirs; for they were not able to lie hid either from God or from the Romans. War 6.370

Now archaeologists have discovered what might be one such passage:
a disused cistern which contains fragments of pottery

Emphasis on the might.

Animal Figurines Found in Ancient Israel Temple

Animal Figurines Found in Ancient Israel Temple – Yahoo! News.

Interesting find at a place called Tel Motza, not far from Jerusalem – a cache of vessels and figurines inside a 2,750-year-old temple. At that time, this would have been part of the kingdom of Judea.

According to the director: “The finds recently discovered at Tel Motza provide rare archaeological evidence for the existence of temples and ritual enclosures in the Kingdom of Judah in general, and in the Jerusalem region in particular, prior to the religious reforms throughout the kingdom at the end of the monarchic period (at the time of Hezekiah and Isaiah), which abolished all ritual sites, concentrating ritual practices solely at the Temple in Jerusalem.

Mr & Mrs Page Prepare for a Bracing Dip

On December 8th Claire and I will be going for a swim. Outdoors. In an unheated pool.

 

 

We’ll be taking part in the OSS December Dip at Parliament Hills Lido. The water temperature will be anything between 6 degrees and 0.1 degrees. We are already in training, taking an ice cold shower every morning.

We’re doing this to raise money for charity. You can find out more at our everyday hero sponsorship page.

We’re raising money for boreholes in northern Nigeria, where women and children often have to walk miles to collect water from wells in hostile communities, risking their personal safety to meet their family’s needs.

Please help us to make a huge SPLASH and change thousands of lives in northern Nigeria. Donate here – and you can lie in your snug warm bed with a clear conscience on December 8th.

UPDATE

The swim was duly completed. Thanks to everyone for their generous support, we raised over £2300. And here’s a video to prove that we did it:

 

 

 

Same scribe responsible for 50 of Dead Sea Scrolls

Israeli paleographer Ada Yardeni has recently identified 50 Dead Sea scrolls found near Qumran in Israel as having been penned by the same scribe. What is more work by the same scribe was also found at the Herodian mountain-top fortress of Masada, where Jewish rebel zealots made their last suicidal stand against the Romans.

The article’s author, writes that “it seems likely that some manuscripts from Qumran were carried south [i.e. in the direction of Masada] by refugees fleeing the Roman destruction of Qumran in 68 C.E. But that’s only a best guess.”

via Popular Archaeology.

Ancient Temple Dating Back to 1100 BC Found in Israel

A team of archaeologists from Tel Aviv University has unearthed ruins of a 3,100-year-old temple at the site of Tel Beth-Shemesh.

According to the story, the archaeologists, “This temple complex is unparalleled, possibly connected to an early Israelite cult – and provides remarkable new evidence of the deliberate desecration of a sacred site.”

The desecration in question, according to this story, is that when the Philistines took over, they not only destroyed the temple, but used it as animal pens.

Presumably the Philistines gained temporary control of Beth-Shemesh, and brought in livestock to live on what they knew had been a sacred site to their enemies.

Once the Philistines withdrew from the area, the descendents of the original worshippers returned to and religious worship resumed at the site.

In biblical terms this would have been around the time of the Judges. In the biblical account, at the time of the temple 1100 BC, Samson was living two miles away, across the valley in Zorah. It has been suggested that Samson’s name is a diminutive form of šemeš (sun), i.e. “little sun.” ‘Sunny’, maybe. Since Beth-shemesh means “house/temple of the sun [god]”, (Šamaš = the sun god), maybe there’s a link there.

As to the Philistines, a bit later, Beth-shemesh plays a prominent role in the story of the Philistine capture of the ark of the covenant (1 Sam 6:9–15). The ark is carried from Philistine territory to Beth-shemesh, which was a border town just inside Israelite territory.

Middle East 1860-1880

Retronaut has wonderful photos of the Middle East taken by Félix Bonfils in the late nineteenth century.

Below, a fab panorama of Jerusalem. And there are photos of the church of the Holy Sepulchre, complete with ladder (which is still standing there today).

And I love this one of the road to Bethlehem from the Jaffa gate.

I often use older photos in my books because I think they give more of an impression of the ancient city – at least in scale and size. (Also they’re out of copyright which always helps!)

Solomon, Socrates and Aristotle

Sounds like the Brazilian football team of the 80s, but we’re talking a wall painting in Pompeii.

Painted some time before 79 AD (the date when Pompeii had that little run-in with Vesuvius) the painting is the earliest known painting of a biblical scene, and it shows Solomon sitting in judgment.

But according to this article from the BAR, the painting also features the philosophers Socrates and Aristotle. The idea, apparently, was to show Greek philosophy showing respectful attention to Jewish wisdom.

Personally I’m more interested in their comedically large heads.