The Biblical book of Acts recounts the tale of a group of Jews who tried to get in on the Christian scene by invoking the name of Jesus in their exorcisms. Confronted with a mad man, possessed according to ancient belief by a god—and by Christian belief by a devil—they chanted, “In the name of Jesus whom Paul preaches”. The result was one of the few bits of humour in the Bible: shouting, “Paul I know and Jesus I know, but who are you?” the mad man leaped on them, beat them up and drove them from the house.
Jews had a reputation in the ancient world as exorcists. A typical exorcism involved burning foul-smelling herbs and other noxious substances—presumably on the basis that the devil prefers perfume and would be repelled by bad smells; chanting passages from the Hebrew Scriptures and invoking the names of supposedly powerful angels. The few which have come down to us are such jaw-breaking combinations of consonants that they were clearly invented to sound impressive.
Whether you regard the insane as psychologically disturbed or as actually devil possessed, it is clear that unpleasant odours and harsh-sounding names are not going to effect a cure. So, it is hardly surprising that the practitioners of exorcisms should have eagerly seized upon something more effective. And as Paul appeared to achieve good results with the name “Jesus”, it is entirely true-to-life that his rivals should have experimented with the same name.
Still, despite being true-to-life, the story could be regarded as nothing more than Christian propaganda were it not for a recent discovery by Frank Goddio. The underwater archaeologist, who has been in the news several times in past years for his discoveries at Alexandria. He claims—almost certainly correctly—to have discovered remains of the famous Pharaohs of Alexandria and also of Cleopatra’s palace, the place where the naked teenager tumbled out of a carpet and into the heart of Julius Caesar.
The bowl found by Frank Goddio on which is inscribed the name ‘Christ’. His most recent underwater discovery is of a bowl or cup (for it has a handle) on which someone has scratched the words “dia christou o goistais”, which translates as “through Christ the magician.” The style of the object places it somewhere between the late 2nd century BC and the first century AD.
Is this the lost chalice, known as the Holy Grail, what do you say?
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