Thursday, October 2, 2008

Chrestou the Magician or Jesus Christ, Magic Man?

The latest archaeological sensation to have its "biblical" connections overblown by the media is a bowl with a Greek inscription that is being touted as "possibly" the earliest reference to Jesus Christ.  

I'd heard of this bowl from Alexandria a few weeks ago (also here) and how it could have the word "Christ" on it.  It might say "Magician through Christ" or "for Christ the Magician."  Or it might be "Chrestou", a proper name, not "Christos" anyway. 

But now despite the ambiguity, the cup's finders are making the most of the possible biblical connection. Their story's been picked up by the Discovery Channel, which like most media outlets has sensationalized the discovery by treating speculation as fact.  It is, of course, much ado about nothing, as has been pointed out on the web by Antonio Lombatti (who's pretty sure it's a fake),  Dorothy King and Ed Cook.  Tom Elliot at Current Epigraphy is also a good resource for the developing discussion of the cup and its ambiguous inscription.  There is also a running bibliography of stories related to the find here.

UPDATE (10/2/08, 2:55 pm):  April De Conick has weighed in with her opinion that the cup's inscription does not refer to Jesus Christ.  In fact, it could refer to a Sethian Gnostic archon named ATHOTH since Chrestou is one of his titles.  Jim Davila has also posted excerpts of the MSNBC version of the news story with comments.

Photo: Der Spiegel

HT:  Dorothy King

[N.B. An earlier version of this post was published at Wisconsin Hebrew.]

1 comment:

  1. You can clearly see on the visible portion of the cup that it says "dia xrhstou" not "dia xristou" -- In other words, it would have to be translated "by [the] good" not "by [the] Messiah" -- Yet, then there is this:

    "The archaeologists have apparently forced their translation, as if goistais is genitive singular, like chrestou, and functions in the phrase as an appositive. The word goistais, however, is dative plural, making their suggested translation impossible. The phrase dia chrestou goistais probably means '[Given] through kindness for the magicians.'"