Candida Moss, Professor of Theology at Notre Dame, fresh off her laurels claiming that the Christian persecution by the Roman Emperors was much ado about nothing, read here and here for our examination of that deathless gift to scholarship, now comments about the latest claimant for the Holy Grail, basing her analysis on the same theory propounded by Indiana Jones in the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: that a cup made out of precious material would not have been used by a carpenter. This latest attempt to gain publicity for herself has brought her to the attention of Christopher Johnson, a non-Catholic who has taken up the cudgels so frequently in defense of the Church that I have named him Defender of the Faith;
Some Spanish researchers recently claimed to have discovered the Holy Grail, the cup that Jesus employed at the Last Supper. I’m not convinced but since I’ve never been a relics kind of guy, that doesn’t much matter. Candida Moss, professor of the New Testament and early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame, is also skeptical:
Even if you strip off the precious metals the cup is still too fancy. Agate was widely used to carve high-value objects like signets and cylinder seals in the ancient Near East. The historian Pliny the Elder describes owning agate cups as a sign of wealth and luxury. The imperial biographer Suetonius tells us that, of all of the riches of Alexandria, the emperor Augustus kept only a single agate cup. The emperor Nero—known for his debauchery apparently collected the things. In 66 C.E., when one of Nero’s contemporaries, Petronius, realized that he was about to be executed by the emperor and planned to commit suicide, his final act was to smash an agate ladle worth 300,000 sesterces rather than allow Nero to get his hands on it. To put that in perspective: male laborers living in Republican Rome made about 3 sesterces a day. While agate could likely be acquired much more cheaply, aristocratic Romans were serious about their agate.
Yeah, uh, Candy? Cupcake? If I remember the Scriptures correctly, the Lord informed His disciples that the place where He was to eat His final Passover with his disciples had been prepared in advance so there would have been no need for Our Lord to have owned any particular item involved with it.
Inasmuch as, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head,” why would the Son of the Most High God have ever owned His own chalice? This is the intellectual and theological reason why, claims Candy, professor of the New Testament and early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame as well as an intellectual and theological badass.
Arguably the bigger issue is the cup’s appearance. As any fan of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade knows, Jesus would have used a simple carpenter’s cup. Like all dramatic reenactments, Indiana Jones has some minor historical flaws, but it certainly got that right. Archeological excavations have yielded many examples of ancient Israelite cups and they are made of cheap durable fabrics.
‘Kay. Except that the “carpenter’s cup” in IJ&TLC was lined with gold. Just sayin’, Candy. Roman Catholics? I know that most of you have gotten a huge kick out of how often you’ve rolled the Anglicans and quite justifiably so; if you’ve got a mark who doesn’t know he’s a mark then work that mark for as long as you can.
But Candy and ND are all yours. So you will hopefully forgive a few Anglican chuckles. Continue Reading