Lava Mid the Ruins
Thursday July 10th 2008, 3:51 pm
Filed under: Archeology,Patristics

I get excited about new discoveries in archeology. Surely there are lost works of the Fathers still waiting to be discovered, and I’m eager to learn what they might reveal. (Meantime, though, we do have plenty to work with!) I’m also hoping we’ll eventually be able to draw more out of the material we already have. The recent readings of palimpsests give us cause for hope. Now the guys in the white lab coats are doing MRIs to read charred scrolls found at Herculaneum.

Consider the possibilities: Nero persecuted the Christians in Rome (64 A.D.), which surely drove some believers away from the city, to places like … Pompeii … and Herculaneum? How lovely it would be to find a Christian cache from before the blast (79 A.D.).

It’s a long shot, I know.

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I have long speculated on the same subject. There is a house in Herculaenum with a cruciform indentation in the wall, as if some cross-shaped object had been hung from the wall. Scholars have rejected the notion that this is a Christian symbol, since they have long ago decided that before the age of Constantine Christians did not use crosses as objects of veneration. (We have, on several occasions, noted the circualrity of the reasoning involved.) So it would be wonderful to find another line of evidence that there were Christians in Herculaneum before its destruction. It is, of course, as you noted, a long shot…

Comment by Carl Sommer 07.10.08 @ 4:02 pm

I discuss the Herculaneum cross in my book Signs and Mysteries: Revealing Ancient Christian Symbols, due out on August 1.

Comment by Mike Aquilina 07.10.08 @ 4:28 pm

It wouldn’t even have to be a Christian, necessarily. Admittedly Christians had to be careful, but before persecution started, a collector of curiosities or religious works, or a searcher, or even an occultist, might well have been able to acquire or copy works by an obscure but interestingly odd Jewish sect.

I seem to have acquired information about all sorts of religious groups that don’t even interest me, for example, simply by bumping into people who are interested in them. There were a lot of searchers in Roman society, both at the top and the bottom. So I suspect that a certain amount of information would have been in circulation.

But a Christian cache would be coolest, of course! :)

Comment by Maureen 07.10.08 @ 10:16 pm

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