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 Sunday, June 29, 2003

  Other News Makers: The Historians

(A) Emperor Constantine's Conversion to Christianity: What did he see ?

Eusebius was a very much quoted Roman historian who wrote, among other things, the events that led to the conversion of Constantine to Christianity. Prior to this, the early Christians had been severely persecuted throughout the Roman Empire and was struggling to survive as a religious institution.

This was what Eusebius wrote about Constantine:

".... a most marvellous sign appeared to him from heaven, the account of which it might have been hard to believe had it been related by any other person.....about noon, when the day was already beginning to decline, he saw with his own eyes the trophy of a cross of light in the heavens, above the Sun, and bearing the inscription 'conquer by this'.

At this sight he himself was struck with amazement, and his whole army also, which followed him on this expedition, and witnessed the miracle.

Spurred on by divine intervention, Constantine's army won the day and he gave homage to the God of the Christians whom he believed had helped him. "
Constantine went on to take control of Rome, and became Emperor. He then made an imperial edict that Christians should not henceforth be persecuted. Christianity was given official recognition and considerable status in the Roman Empire.

With that, Constantine changed the course of history and the development of Christianity in the western world. It gave rise to the power of Popes in Rome through the centuries in Europe and the emerging power of Christianity, up to this day.

History would have recorded a different story for Christianity, had it not been for Constantine.

Fast forward to present day.

In a recent article, BBC reported that what Constantine saw as a blaze of light in the sky was a meteor flying across the Italian sky.

According to the article, " A team of geologists believes it has found the incoming space rock's impact crater, and dating suggests its formation coincided with the celestial vision said to have converted a future Roman emperor to Christianity".

Here's an excerpt from the BBC article :
" Jens Ormo, a Swedish geologist, and colleagues working in Italy believe Constantine witnessed a meteoroid impact. It is the small, circular Cratere del Sirente in central Italy.

The impact of the crater - about the size of a football field

It is clearly an impact crater, Ormo says, because its shape fits and it is also surrounded by numerous smaller, secondary craters, gouged out by ejected debris, as expected from impact models.

Radiocarbon dating puts the crater's formation at about the right time to have been witnessed by Constantine and there are magnetic anomalies detected around the secondary craters - possibly due to magnetic fragments from the meteorite.

Scientists drilling at the crater

According to Ormo, it would have struck the Earth with the force of a small nuclear bomb, perhaps a kiloton in yield. It would have looked like a nuclear blast, with a mushroom cloud and shockwaves.

It would have been quite an impressive sight and, if it really was what Constantine saw.
According to the geologists studying the crater, the meteor fell around AD 312, at about the time Constantine was waging a war to take control of Rome.

(B) Ossuary Box Containing Jesus's Brother's Bones is a Hoax

Corinne Heller of Reuters reports:
Israeli archaeological experts said Wednesday an inscription on an ancient stone box suggesting it once contained the bones of Jesus' brother, James, was a forgery.

The Ossuary Box

The burial box and its Aramaic inscription "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus" had excited speculation it could be the earliest physical reference to the founder of Christianity outside the New Testament.

But the director of Israel's Antiquities Authority, Shuka Dorfman, called it a hoax.

"The ossuary is real. But the inscription is fake. What this means is that somebody took a real box and forged the writing on it, probably to give it a religious significance," Dorfman told Reuters after a news conference on the matter.

Ossuaries were used by Jews in Jerusalem from 10 B.C. to A.D. 70 to hold skeletal remains of bodies near caves. Many believed that once decomposed, the dead could be resurrected with the coming of the Messiah.

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