Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Reading the Magdala Stone

Alice C. Linsley

A carved stone found in 2009 in Magdala, in northern Israel may explain why Jesus was accused of blasphemy by the High Priest. The stone was unearthed at what was subsequently identified as a first-century synagogue.

The stone depicts the oldest image of the Second Temple’s menorah found to date.

According to the Gospel of Mark, Jesus was sentences to die for blasphemy. He said that people would one day see him "seated at the right hand of power and coming with clouds of glory." This is an allusion to Daniel 7, and the High Priest Caiaphas understood perfectly what what Jesus was claiming. Psalm 104 describes God as a chariot driver who rides the clouds. Daniel 7 speaks of the Ancient of Days. The name in Aramaic, as it appears in Daniel, is Atik Yomin.
I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of Days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. (Daniel 7:9)

Solar images depicting the Creator surrounded by the constellations appear in several early synagogues. When I asked Jodi Magness, who has been studying the iconography of early synagogues, about the solar imagery on the Magdala Stone, she responded that "at least 1-2 archaeologists have suggested that the imagery on it should be understood in connection with the idea of the divine chariot."

Aspects of the ancient solar symbolism are found in the Bible and in historical texts. Psalm 92:2 describes the Lord as “a sun and a shield.” Psalm 104 describes YHWH as a chariot driver who rides the clouds. The Victory Tablet of Amenhotep III describes Horus as “The Good God, Golden [Horus], Shining in the chariot, like the rising of the sun; great in strength, strong in might…” (Tablet of Victory of Amenhotep III, J.H. Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, Part Two, p. 854).

On the top of the Magdala Stone there is a 6-prong star inside a circle, a solar image like that which appears on ancient Jewish ossuaries. This is the merkaba, a solar chariot of the Creator, the vehicle of Light that would carry the dead to the place of rest. They hoped to rise on the Last Day. In the Iron Age this merkaba was shown as a chariot. The spokes within a circle are both the rays of the sun and the spokes of the chariot wheel. This symbol likely appeared on the Ark of the Covenant. In the Ethiopian Church a replica of the Ark, called ta-bot, is displayed in the churches. It is decorated with the 6-pointed star inside a circle at the center of the ark.

The same image appears on tomb stones, at threshing floors, and on bread, suggesting a connection between the idea of sowing seed in the ground (burial) and new life.

Tomb at Banais, Israel

Ossuary of Miriam, daughter of the priest Yeshua

Threshing floors were sacred places at high level elevations where the wind could carry away the chaff. Araunah, a Jebusite ruler, sold David a threshing floor upon which David constructed an altar. These were places of worship in the ancient world.

Threshing floor 
Among the Habiru Horite priests there was a commemoration of the death of Horus, the "son" of God. On the third day the priests led processions to the fields where grain was sowed. St. Augustine noted that the Egyptians took great care in the burial of their dead and never practiced cremation, as in the religions that seek to escape physical existence. Abraham's ancestors believed in the resurrection of the body and their ceremonies and solar symbolism express their yearning for a deified king who would rise from the grave and deliver his people from death.

The 6-prong rosette is found on Irish Maslin bread (shown above). Maslin bread is the oldest known bread eaten by the Celts. It was the bread of common folks, containing a blend of wheat and rye flours. The rosette is a solar symbol. 

Caiaphas understood what Jesus was saying about himself. Jesus was claiming to be the fulfillment of Messianic expectation, the divine Seed of Genesis 3:15 who tramples the serpent and overcomes death. Jesus referred to Himself as the promised "Seed" when He foretold his death in Jerusalem. He said, "Unless a seed fall into the ground and die, it cannot give life." (John 12:24)

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