BLOG 429 April 22, 2019

WISE ON THE MIDDLE EAST ~ Each week Robert L. Wise, PhD, explores the Middle Eastern situation, ranging from Egypt through Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the surrounding area. Wise first traveled to Israel and the neighboring countries in 1968. Two of his sons taught in Jordan and Lebanon universities. Wise presents an objective view of the behind the scenes situation in these countries.

A number of interesting discoveries have surfaced in recent weeks that are worthy of our inspection. While the April 9 election overshadowed all other details in the Middle East, much was going on behind the scenes that is worthy of a second look.

The Jewish world took note of the fact that Pope Francis stated that he is opening the World War II archives in the Vatican. Controversy has swirled around the Vatican and the Roman Catholic Church ever since the end of the war. The target of much criticism has been whether Pope Pius XII ignored the plight of the Jews occurring right under his nose in Rome. What did Pius XII do or not do?

Several years ago, Pope Francis invited me to walk through the mausoleum recently uncovered during the period of the reign of Pius XII. After careful evaluation, scholars and archaeologists found the original tomb of Peter that was over 2,000 years old. As I peered through the excavations, I could see the plastic containers holding those bones. Quite an experience!

At the end of the tunnels, I found the tomb of Pius XII. The cement sarcophagus stands about three feet above the ground and is rather ordinary in appearance compared to some of the papal tombs in Saint Peter’s Basilica.

Part of the reason that Pope Francis has opened this door is because of his personal understanding and relationship with the Jewish community. Moreover, he is particularly interested in a greater openness in the Vatican. The world will be watching to see what comes forth.

And speaking of what is now appearing, a 2,600 year old seal from the Kingdom of Judah was recently discovered in the City of David. The inscription read, “belonging to Nathan-Melech, Servant of the King. While it was not impossible at the time to say that the seal belonged to the Nathan-Melech mentioned in the Bible, the similarity is uncanny. In II Kings 23:11, he is described as an official in the court of King Josiah. The seal was found in the remains of a public building destroyed during the fall of the First Temple. The seal attests to the highly developed system of administration in the Kingdom of Judah.

A second artifact was also uncovered. The bluish agate stone was engraved in ancient Hebrew (belonging to) Ikar the son of Matanyahu. Both of these finds will be presented in the Israel Exploration Journal. Pictures will help the reader envision these discoveries.

Keep your eyes open. More to come.

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Filed under Bible Lands, Israel, middle east

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