Archaeology of Christian origins

The emperor Augustus as Pontifex Maximus. His (adoptive) father Julius Caesar held the same office before him. 
Even a cursory view of history leads many today to the realisation that the Roman Empire never died, or even faded away, but became Christendom, with the imperial title of Pontifex Maximus transferring to the bishop of Rome (who became Pontiff). There is much evidence for this overall scenario, which we present here. The logical consequence of this view is profound: Christianity is not and cannot be concurrent with the Western Roman Empire.

The history you'll find here is evidence-based from a team of archaeologists studying how divine men were conjured into being in the period of Classical Antiquity. This includes textual artefacts across all media, such as coins/numismatics, inscriptions, mosaics and documents. Excluded are texts from later periods claiming, with no support, to be copies made from earlier.

Evidences

There is no evidence of Jesus, Christ, Christianity or Christians until after the end of the Western Roman Empire. The whole, claimed history for Christianity is late, first appearing - according to the accepted dates - in the 6th century, though the actual date may be as late as the 8th century (in response to the Arab Conquests).

The original New Testament (codices Vaticanus and Sinaiticus) is not Christian - it makes no mention of Jesus or Christ, and one of its books - The Shepherd of Hermas - was later removed.

So for what religion does the original New Testament speak and from where did it originate? And how did the Church of Rome come into being? The archaeological evidences for answers to these and related questions is presented in the pages here.

From the start to the end of the Western Roman Empire, there is much archaeology for Chrest, a Greek term very different in meaning to Messiah/Christ.

The origin of Chrest lies further back, in the Egypt ruled by the Ptolemaic dynasty. Chrest becomes a magical term from the Royal Library in Alexandria and is an example of Greek Magic. (The abbreviation of Chrest is Chi-Rho, much later appropriated by Christianity; the Chi-Rho derives from the Ankh, the symbol of resurrection in pharaonic Egypt.) Through the relations of Cleopatra VII with Julius Caesar (and his adopted son, who became Augustus), and Mark Antony, this Greek Magic entered the Roman Empire - particularly with its elite.

Early Chrestians

The early Chrestians were among the imperial aristocracy, whose influence extended into the provinces of Asia Minor, Judea and Egypt; we know this because good archaeology names them.

Right: epitaph inscription CIL VI 24944, naming Antonia Minor (36 BCE - 37 CE) a niece of Augustus, her husband the Roman general and consul Nero Claudius Drusus, and Jucundus, a name made famous by the villa found at Pompeii.

She expanded Chrestianity through her power and influence, using her estate manager in Egypt, Alexander the Alabarch; his brother the famous philosopher Philo of Alexandria; and her many freed slaves, such as Felix (procurator of Judea), Caenis (who became common-law wife of the emperor Vespasian), and Epaphroditus (head chamberlain of the imperial court in Rome). She also used the numerous children she had raised as hostages, as they became adult nobles and royalty in the provinces.

The Alabarch and his family were considered Jewish (at least in his lifetime) and their wealth was used to support the Herodian monarchy in Judea and the (Second) Temple; the Herodians, as ethnic Idumaeans, had been forcibly converted to Judaism. A number of Judean aristocracy had houses in Rome and some of the royal family resided there permanently.
Since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from Rome. (The Life of ClaudiusThe Lives of the Twelve Caesars by C. Suetonius Tranquillus)

Chrestians versus Messianic Judaism

 
Chrestian mosaic in a 3rd-century church at Megiddo.
Since Alexander III of Macedon (the Great) conquered the Levant, local peoples - their faiths and cultures - became Hellenised. In Judea, Antiochus Epiphanes IV tried this by force, which split society into those (usually the urban elite) who felt comfortable with the Greek way of life, and those (usually the rural and observant) who resisted. When he died, his Jewish supporters fled to Egypt with Onias IV; this history is confused and contradictory, suggesting that its authors supported the faction in Egypt.

When Herod I (the Great) took over Judea with Roman support, this split continued, this time with the urban elite choosing a Greco-Roman lifestyle. Jews rebelled against Herod I repeatedly.

The role of Antonia Minor, through her Romanised, hostage children, was to support Rome's local rulers and combat observant Jews; their aim was a version of Hellenised Judaism, which recognised the emperor as the ultimate, high authority, rather than Yahweh.

Jewish resistance centred on Qumran, near where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found; its leaders were killed one by one - for example John the Baptiser and then James the Just (killed 62 CE).

One of the Herodian leaders against the Jewish insurgency was Saul, who after having led a gang attacking observant Jews, became an agent provocateur inside Qumran and the insurgency. His attack on James, which led to the extra-judicial killing of this leader, and his attempt to lead Greeks into the Jerusalem Temple, instigated the first of three Jewish Roman wars.

The Chrestian Church, whose archaeological remains are across the Levant, grew out of the endeavours of this Saul.

Further in this site, you will find how Chrestianity became Christianity and how the textual tradition was substituted for history.


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