Friday, April 9, 2010

Did the Apostles play chess?

By Frank 'Boy' Pestaño

ARCHAEOLOGISTS in Israel have found one of the largest ever cache of rare coins from the time of the reign of Herod Archelaus, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem said on Wednesday. It was found in a cave in the Judaean Hills near Jerusalem.

The cache includes 80 gold, silver and bronze coins, as well as some pottery and weapons. But what was intriguing was the discovery of an ossuary box, which included what looks like a chessboard with some playing pieces.

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While the idea of an ossuary makes some individuals squeamish, ossuaries have been a part of human life for thousands of years. The bodies of prominent Jews in first century Palestine were interred in multi-chambered tombs and allowed to decompose.

The process usually took about 18 months. After decomposition, the bones of the deceased were gathered and placed in a small stone burial box called an ossuary. This practice was common during the Hasmonean Dynasty (about 150 BC) to just after the Bar Kochba (bar Kochva) Revolt (approximately 150 AD).

This is not the first time that an ossuary was found. In fact, hundreds of them dating to this period have been found in excavations in Israel.

Some have inscriptions (like the James and Ciaphas ossuaries).

Most have no inscriptions. Ossuaries also come in different sizes. Different sizes for men, women, and children have been found.

The most famous ossuary was discovered in October 2002 in a Jerusalem cave. The box apparently once contained the bones of James, the brother of Jesus. According to the Biblical Archeology review the James ossuary may be the most important find in New Testament Archeology.

Another famous ossuary discovered was that of Caiphas, the high priest.

According to the latest hypothesis, chess was probably invented in Chaturanga, India (not China as some historians postulate) around the third to fourth century AD.

Apparently it was played much earlier as somehow the game reached Palestine in the first century or earlier.

Herod Archelaus (23BC-18AD) was the son of Herod the Great who inherited the southern part of his kingdom—Judaea, Samaria, and Idumaea. Jerusalem was his capital. He reigned from 4 BC TO 6 AD.

Augustus denied him the title King and gave him the title Ethnarch with a promise to name him king if he governed well.

He was so unpopular with his subjects that Augustus deposed him, banished him to Gaul and annexed his territory. Appointed to replace him was the Roman procurator, Pontius Pilate.

The discovery of this apparent chessboard was intended to show that the person played chess. If he did, there should be other players as well..

Since the apostles were some sort of a fraternity and Nazareth was a small community, I presume that a game as exciting as chess could easily spread. As every player knows, it is a healthy and fun way to pass the time. Thus a chess-playing apostle is very possible, and if one played, it was easy to convince and teach the others.

On further research, I came across an article about excavations in Nazareth that revealed the first dwelling can be dated back to the first century.

The dwelling and older discoveries of nearby tombs in burial caves suggest that Nazareth was an out-of-the-way hamlet of around 50 houses on a patch of about four acres (1.6 hectares).

It was evidently populated by Jews of modest means, who kept camouflaged grottos to hide from Roman invaders.

Based on clay and chalk shards found at the site, the dwelling appeared to house a “simple Jewish family.”

The shards date back to the late Hellenic, early Roman period that ranges from around 100 B.C. to 100 A.D.



Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Pay somebody back in his own coin.......................................................