Daily Beast: Who Died and Made Him Pope?

Catholic tradition claims that the pope’s authority extends directly back to Saint Peter. But a new book argues Peter never even set foot in Rome.


Everyone loves Pope Francis. The statement is at this point so banal that it makes you want to stop reading here. Forget Time and Rolling Stone; President Obama is a Francis fan-boy. But if Francis’s popularity is rooted in his down-to-earth humility and man-of-the-people mentality, his authority is rooted in his position as occupant of the throne of St. Peter.

Read about the history here.

BBC: St. George’s Day Celebrating a Mythical Martyr?

April 23rd is St. George’s Day, a celebration of England’s patron saint. He inspired Shakespeare’s Henry V, his standard became the English flag, and the story of his battle with a dragon is, literally, iconic.

But who was St. George and how much do we actually know about him?

According to the influential medieval author Jacob de Voraigne’s The Golden Legend (1275), George was a soldier, born in Cappadocia (central Turkey) in the mid-3rd Century AD and martyred in the early 4th Century in Diospolis, Palestine.

Read the full story here.

National Geographic: Search for the Head of John the Baptist

It is potentially one of the greatest archaeological discoveries in the history of Christianity. Theologian and relic expert Candida Moss journeys to a remote island in the Black Sea to investigate the ruins of one of the oldest monasteries in Europe. Here, under the location where the altar once stood, scientists have dug up an exquisite marble box holding what they believe to be the bones of John the Baptist, the man who baptized Jesus.

Watch the full episode here.

CNN Belief Blog: Did Christians really steal Easter?

It’s that time of year again: the time when chocolate comes in pastels, cherry blossoms start to bloom and well-marketed religion exposés are released to the world.

In other words, it’s Easter. Among the rash of sensationalist stories we can expect through the season, the annual “Easter was stolen from the pagans” refrain has sprouted again just in time for Holy Week. Don’t believe the hype.

Read more here. For an excellent discussion of Ishtar see Tom Verenna’s blog here. For more on Easter-time misinformation see James McGrath’s piece here.

Daily Beast: The ‘Gospel of Jesus’s Wife’ is Still as Big as Mystery as Ever

Scholars had concluded that a papyrus referring to Jesus’s wife was a clever forgery—until new evidence re-opened the case. Is there any way to figure out the truth?

In September 2012 Karen King, Hollis Professor of Divinity at Harvard Divinity School, announced the discovery of a new Coptic manuscript that she titled The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife (GJW).

The revelation was met with a firestorm of media attention. The mobile-phone-sized scrap of papyrus contained the words “Jesus said to them, ‘my wife…’” before breaking off. In a subsequent line the fragment refers to a “Mary” and says that she “is worthy.” Worthy of what? To be a disciple? And, if so, is this about women priests? Is this Mary Magdalene? Do we finally have independent evidence to confirm the groundbreaking findings of The Da Vinci Code?

Read full story here

 

Wall Street Journal: The Vatican’s Precious Manuscripts Go Online

VATICAN CITY — Almost 600 years after Pope Nicholas V founded the Vatican Apostolic Library, the Holy See is now turning to 50 experts, five scanners and a Japanese IT firm to digitize millions of pages from its priceless manuscripts, opening them to the broader public for the first time.

When the project is finished, one of the richest and most important collections of historical texts in the world will be available with a click of the mouse—and free.

Read the full story (which I contributed to) here

 

Daily Beast: Spain’s New ‘Holy Grail’: Jesus Couldn’t Afford That Kind of Bling

Two historians claim they’ve identified the legendary cup—a relic made of gold and precious stones. But where’d a poor carpenter get that kind of money?

This week news emerged that two Spanish historians have identified the Holy Grail, the cup from which Jesus drank the night before he died. And wouldn’t you know it, they found the darned thing right before Easter, too! This is more than just your average Christian relic. According to some later legends, it was also used to catch the blood that flowed from his side at the crucifixion and bestows immortality on those who drank from it.

Full story here.

CBS News: Obama-Pope Francis Meeting

President Obama and Pope Francis’ Vatican meeting Thursday is the 28th time that a sitting American president has met with a pope. It’s a relationship that took more than a century to establish, CBS News’ Bill Plante noted.

Woodrow Wilson was the first American president to visit a pope back in 1919. He met with Pope Benedict XV after the two had already exchanged several letters regarding World War I. However, it would be 40 years before another president would visit the Vatican.

Watch me comment on the meeting here