A initially century CE mikveh or ritual bath was was uncovered in 2015 just south of the Old City and east of Hebron road in the Arnona neighborhood of Talpiot as a outcome of building of a kindergarten. At the time of its discovery Shimon Gibson and I have been been invited by the IAA to check out this newly found web-site. We spoke with the excavators and have been capable to examine the graffiti inscriptions firsthand. Right here are two hyperlinks with videos and pictures, one particular in HaArtez the other from Arutz Sheva.
You can get a great thought of the inscriptions, some reduce into the plaster, other folks created with smeared soot or mud, in this Youtube video, if you can stand the “creepy” music–but perhaps it is somehow acceptable:
I locate it someplace among amusing and predictable that speculation by the a variety of authorities evaluating the “significance” of these inscriptions variety from assertions that they are nonsense, “secular,” or have no which means at all. I am pretty certain these symbols in the mikveh have to do with mystical tips of death, rebirth and the heavenly planet that we can document precisely in Jerusalem for the duration of the late 2nd Temple from literary as properly as inscriptional sources. People need to have to get out their copies of some of the publications of Goodenough, Danielou, Testa, Saller, and Bagatti on Jewish/Christian symbols to place this locate in its suitable context. For instance, right here is a plastered wall of a Jerusalem tomb I will not determine, lest it get defaced, but notice the striking similarities in motif and symbolism–and try to remember this is a tomb not a mikveh.
We also have comparable symbols in the Talpiot patio tomb, not far from the Jesus “Family” tomb, as properly as inside the numerous ossuaries in the Dominus Flevit necropolis on the Mt of Olives. This mikveh is just down the ridge from the Talpiot tombs and dates to the very same period.
A single does not have to go far from Paul’s tips of mystical “union with Christ” by means of the “watery grave” of baptism, as a assure of heavenly ascent and immortality to fully grasp what is going on right here. We can ignore the categories of Jewish, Christian, and Judeo-Christian at this early point in time, namely the late 2nd Temple period. All of these components are Jewish by definition, the query then becomes what sort of “Judaism” do they reflect? I cover this extensively in chapter Six of my book Paul and Jesus, titled “A Mystical Union with Christ.” Albert Schweitzer, The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle, E. R. Goodenough, Jewish Symbols, Cardinal Danièlou,The Theology of Jewish Christianity: A History of Early Christian Doctrine Ahead of The Council of Nicaea, Morton Smith, Clement of Alexandria and a Secret Gospel of Mark, and Jonathan Z. Smith, “Garments of Shame” in Map is Not Territory, all had it ideal. And that is not to ignore the material proof that Testa, Saller, and Bagatti published, regardless of some of their overly enthusiastic interpretations. Some of my colleagues get that, definitely Rachel Elior, Michael Stone, and April DeConick, to name a couple of who have genuinely sophisticated the field. But as well numerous nonetheless assume reading the New Testament is some type of exegetical procedure to be carried out at ones desk with lexicons and commentaries. I am not suggesting we turn out the lights, burn incense, and light candles, and commence chanting Aramaic, but truly that would not be such a negative thought for starters.
We have not however found even a tiny fraction of what is “out there,” mainly now covered more than with roads, apartments, homes, and condos–all about the Old City of Jerusalem, but there are usually surprises to come. As Jonathan Z. Smith utilised to say to his classes as we delved into letters like 1 Coninthians, “Don’t assume if you time-traveled back to an early gathering of Paul’s “Christ Mystics” you would fully grasp a damned issue about what was going on ritually.” This was not a standard “Church Service,” as issues ultimately created liturgically by the 4th century CE. What we have right now, even with the “most liturgical” of Christian traditions, East and West, is a domesticated normalized version of the magical mystery tour we now contact “early Christianity.”
Most essential, these types of Jewish expression in the late 2nd Temple period need to have to be set in their wider astral mystical context of Hellenistic Mediterranean religions far more typically. Soon after all, “these issues have been not completed in a corner.” To picture the “crazy stuff” only came later with the so-referred to as “Gnostics” reflects not only a category error, but an inexcusable ignorance of the wider planet of Hellenistic religions–not as background to early Christianity but as its base and foundation. Right here I refer my earnest readers to Jonathan Z. Smith’s incomparable survey in the Encyclopedia Britannica “Hellenistic Religions.” Run, do not stroll to study this one particular.