June 23rd, 2014
09:01 AM ET
By Candida Moss, special to CNN
(CNN) - Archaeologists in Egypt have unearthed relics from an apocalyptic plague that some Christians believed heralded the end of the world - an idea that likely helped spread the faith centuries ago.
A team from the Italian Archaeological Mission to Luxor unearthed the remains in a funerary complex in the ancient city of Thebes. (The city is now known as Luxor.)
As archaeologists excavated the site earlier this month, they found remnants of bodies covered in a thick layer of lime. The lime was significant, as it was used in the ancient world as a form of disinfectant to prevent contamination.
Nearby, there was evidence of an enormous bonfire, used to incinerate the remains of plague victims, and three kilns used for lime production.
Pottery located in the kilns enabled the scientists to date the discovery to the middle of the third century, the time of a gruesome epidemic known as the “plague of Cyprian.”
April 29th, 2014
12:35 PM ET
Opinion by Joel S. Baden and Candida R. Moss, special to CNN
(CNN) - It seemed real; it seemed fake; it seemed real again; now we’re back to fake.
"It” is the controversial little scrap of papyrus, written in Coptic, that seems to have Jesus referring to “my wife,” in contrast to the traditional stance that affirms Jesus’ perpetual bachelorhood.
The quick backstory: In 2012, a Harvard professor, Karen King, brought this papyrus to the attention of scholars and the public.
Both the material and the script looked authentically ancient at first glance, and though the notion of Jesus having a wife was remarkable, these “lost” Christian writings, such as the Gnostic Gospels, are full of unorthodoxies.
It was good enough for King, who is widely respected in the scholarly world.
From the beginning, there were doubts, however, beyond the unlikelihood that the tiny scrap that survived the centuries would happen to be the one that contained the reference to Jesus’ wife.
The papyrus, along with a few other ancient papyri of lesser novelty, had been passed to King by an anonymous figure.
Anonymity, in the world of antiquities, is often a bad sign, compounding the inherent uncertainty when dealing with texts that are bought and sold rather than discovered in a firm archaeological setting.
Then there were aspects of the text itself that seemed suspicious.
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.