March 23, 2017
Israeli Warehouse Yields Clues
To Jesus’ Life And Death
By Daniel Estrin
Beit Shemesh, Israel (AP) -- In a cavernous warehouse where Israel stores its archaeological treasures, an ancient burial box is inscribed with the name of Jesus.
Not THAT Jesus. Archaeologists in Israel say Jesus was a common name in the Holy Land 2,000 years ago, and that they have found about 30 ancient burial boxes inscribed with it.
Ahead of Easter, Israel’s antiquities authority opened up its vast storeroom to reporters on Sunday for a peek at unearthed artifacts from the time of Jesus. Experts say they have yet to find direct archaeological evidence of Jesus Christ, but in recent years have found a wealth of material that helps fill out historians’ understanding of how Jesus may have lived and died.
“There’s good news,” said Gideon Avni, head of the archaeological division of the Israel Antiquities Authority. “Today we can reconstruct very accurately many, many aspects of the daily life of the time of Christ.”
Israel is one of the most excavated places on the planet. Some 300 digs take place each year, including about 50 foreign expeditions from as far away as the United States and Japan, the Antiquities Authority said.
About 40,000 artifacts are dug up in Israel each year. A third of all the antiquities found attest to the ancient Christian presence in the Holy Land, Avni said. Historians now know how long it took to travel between cities and villages where Jesus preached, and what those places looked like at the time.
Mosaic depicting Jesus Christ
Avni said knowledge of the period has advanced over the past 20 years. “We can reconstruct precisely how the country looked,” he said.
In a brightly-lit, 5,000-square meter (54,000-sq. feet) warehouse crammed with stacks of ancient jugs and pottery sherds - what the Antiquities Authority calls its “Ali Baba cave” of ancient treasures - officials set up a simple white table with finds from the time of Jesus.
There were well-preserved limestone drinking cups and dishes, widely used by Jews in the Holy Land at the time as part of their strict practice to ensure the ritual purity of their food. There was an intricately decorated limestone burial box belonging to a scion of the high priest Caiaphas, known in the New Testament for his involvement in delivering Jesus to the Roman authorities who crucified him. In ancient times, families would gather the bones of the deceased and place them into boxes known as ossuaries.
They also showed off a replica of a major artifact located in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem - a heel bone pierced by an iron nail with wood fragments on each end, discovered in a Jewish burial box in northern Jerusalem dating to the 1st century AD. To date, it’s the only evidence found of a victim of Roman crucifixion buried according to Jewish custom.
It has helped archaeologists reconstruct how the man was crucified - with his feet nailed to the sides of the cross. Avni said Jesus may have been crucified in the same manner, unlike the way the crucifixion is depicted in traditional Christian art.
Across from cardboard boxes marked “bones” from Bethsaida of the New Testament, a massive stone block sat on a wooden crate on the warehouse floor. The stone bears an apparent carved depiction of the Second Jewish Temple, and was discovered in 2009 at the site of an ancient synagogue on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Archaeologists have suggested Jesus may have preached in the synagogue.
Avni said there is no reason to believe Jesus did not exist just because archaeologists haven’t found physical evidence of him. “You have to remember that Christ was one among more than a million people living during this time in the Holy Land,” he said.
Yisca Harani, an Israeli scholar of Christianity, said the lack of physical evidence of Jesus is a “trivial mystery.”
“Why do we expect in antiquity that there would be some evidence of his existence?” Harani said. “It’s the reality of human life. It’s either rulers or military men who had their memory inscribed in stone and artifacts.”
She said what remained of Jesus “are his words.”
Man Who Unjustly Spent 32 Years In Prison Has Been Released
Los Angeles (AP) - A Los Angeles judge Wednesday ordered the release of a man who spent more than three decades in prison for murder after prosecutors conceded he did not get a fair trial.
Deputy District Attorney Erika Jerez said during in a Superior Court that there were errors in the case against Andrew Leander Wilson, now 62.
Judge Laura Priver thanked the DA’s office for seeing that justice was done, granted a motion to dismiss the case, and then told Wilson he was discharged.
Wilson, his head bowed and wearing a blue prison jumpsuit, quietly said ``Thank you’’ to the judge.
She replied: ``You are welcome, Mr. Wilson.’’
He maintained his innocence since his arrest in 1984 for the killing of 21-year-old Christopher Hanson, who was stabbed in Los Angeles while sitting late at night in a parked pickup with his girlfriend.
A bailiff un-cuffed Wilson immediately but he was not expected to be released from custody until later Wednesday or Thursday.
Andrew Leander Wilson on the day he was freed
Wilson will travel as soon as he can to St. Louis to visit his 96-year-old mother, Margie Davis, who was a tireless advocate for his innocence over the decades, said his lawyer, Paula Mitchell.
Reached by phone in St. Louis, Davis said she was ``elated’’ to get the news that her son’s case was, at long last, dismissed.
``I wrote letters to the governor, to the police, to the Justice Department. I wrote to everybody over 30 years,’’ she said. ``The system we’re living in, you never know what’s going to happen. But I never gave up.’’
Mitchell said before the hearing that numerous due-process violations recently came to light that showed Wilson did not receive a fair trial.
She pointed particularly to a weeks-long delay before police began canvassing for suspects with Hanson’s girlfriend, Saladena Bishop, who was 17 at the time. Bishop was the prosecution’s only eyewitness.
Among missteps by the prosecution was the suppression of evidence that Bishop previously filed a false police report accusing another man of rape, according to court papers filed by Mitchell and other attorneys with Loyola Law School’s Project for the Innocent.
The district attorney’s office said it would not retry Wilson. Another hearing was set for May 3 to begin the process to determine whether he is factually innocent, which could lead to compensation claims.
Wilson’s mother said she wants to make sure her son has some warm clothes.
Then, she said, there are some chores at her home that need completing.
``He’s got to do the lawn, and there’s some painting,’’ she said. ``I’m 96. I need help around the house.’’