Ancient sanctuary of the Roman god Mithra re-discovered

The opening of a new border control point between Greece and Bulgaria has made possible public access to an ancient sanctuary of the Roman god Mithra[1].

Bulgarian archaeologist Bogdan Filov discovered the site in 1915 near the Greek town of Thermes, but further investigation or excavation was not carried out until recently because of the political situation. A cleanup by local people has opened up the site which was overgrown with trees and bushes. Visitors can now view a bas-relief showing the sun-god Mithra offering a bull as a sacrifice, and gain access to a water spring. It is believed by archaeologists that excavations may uncover a large temple from the third or fourth century AD.

Mithraism originated in Persia and entered the Roman Empire through Asia Minor in the first century BC. Its teachings and ritual are obscure and what is known depends largely on archaeological evidence, especially inscriptions. Mithraism was popular among Roman soldiers particularly those serving on the remote northern frontiers of the empire. It began to spread rapidly in the second century AD until by the third century Mithraism had become a serious rival of Christianity. Conflict between the two religions was intense as many of the concepts were similar in outline but, unlike Christianity, Mithraism excluded women and provided little direct support for family life, and so disappeared as the Roman Empire was Christianized.

It was suggested by the nineteenth century French historian Ernest Renan that “if the growth of Christianity had been arrested by some mortal malady, the world would have been Mithraic”[2]. But not all scholars agree with Renan’s stark conclusion and many believe that it was by no means certain that Mithraism would have been widely adopted by the Roman world.

pic

Moreover, the Word of God had predicted the course of history. In Revelation chapter 6, the seals set out the progress of Christianity in its conflict with the pagan Roman establishment until victory was achieved under the emperor Constantine. This revolution is symbolised by the heaven departing as a scroll (Rev 6:14). With the defeat of Licinius at the battle of Chrysopolis in 324, paganism received a mortal blow from which it did not recover. Apart from enjoying a very brief revival by emperor Julian the ‘Apostata’ (361–363AD), by the end of the fourth century paganism was officially a prohibited religion.

Christians by this time were represented in all areas of public life including the government and the army, and with paganism “taken out of the way” the “mystery of iniquity” (2 Thess 2:7) was free to develop. There was, however, a “remnant” which held fast to the Truth and which now found itself persecuted by the established Catholic Church (Rev 12:17). But today the Christian apostasy has developed to its fullness and only remains to be destroyed by the brightness of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thess 2:8)[3].

Noah’s ark: new site identified

A group known as Noah’s Ark Ministries claims they are almost certain that they have discovered the remains of Noah’s ark on Mount Ararat in Turkey[4] . The Hong Kong based group has been visiting the site since 2007. They report finding seven large wooden compartments which they have identified as part of Noah’s ark.

So far the report has been greeted with scepticism by some historians and archaeologists as in the past so many discoveries of Noah’s ark have turned out to be groundless or to lack credible evidence. It therefore remains to be seen what this new find will reveal. We can be confident, however, that the Bible is a true record of the past and that it promises a wonderful future for the earth under Christ’s rule. With so much rich archaeological evidence that supports the biblical record discovered in recent years, there is every good reason to believe that the Bible record is true.

References

[1] ‘Greece and Bulgaria: archaeologists excavate previously inaccessible site in border region,’ BalkanTravellers.com 9 April

2010 http://www.balkantravellers.com/en/read/article/1876

[2] The Origins of Christianity (1882) p. 579 quoted in http://www. newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Mithraism

[3] References: Encyclopaedia Britannica. 14th ed. (1969) v. 15, 603–605. ‘Mithras’, in The Oxford Interactive Encyclopedia.

(CD-ROM) Learning Company, 1997.

[4] Ker Than, ‘Noah’s Ark found in Turkey?’ National GeographicNews April 28, 2010 http://news.nationalgeographic.com.au/ news/2010/04/100428-noahs-ark-found-in-turkey-sciencereligion-culture