Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Letter From Cromwell To Henry VIII

From the Telegraph in June 2012:
A rare letter written by Thomas Cromwell attempting to speed up Henry VIII's marriage to Anne of Cleves has emerged for sale.

Unfortunately for Cromwell the king was repulsed when he finally saw his bride because she looked nothing like her portrait - and he was beheaded.

The letter, dated November 8, 1539, was sent to the clerical diplomat, Dr Nicholas Wootton.

The diplomat was in Cleves in Germany finalising arrangements for what would turn out to be the shortest of Henry's six marriages.

Cromwell had promoted the match with the staunchly Protestant Anne as a means of tightening the Reformation in England.

Anglo Saxon Christian Burial

A fascinating story that featured back in March 2012.

From the Daily Mail:
Laid to rest in her best clothes and lying on an ornamental bed, she was probably of noble blood.  Quite how the 16-year-old Anglo Saxon girl died and who she was remain a mystery.  But she was buried wearing a gold cross – suggesting she was one of Britain’s earliest Christians.

Her well-preserved 1,400-year-old grave has been discovered by Cambridge University scientists, who described the find as ‘astonishing’.

The burial site at Trumpington Meadows, a village near Cambridge, indicates Christianity had already taken root in the area as early as the middle of the 7th century.

The grave is one of 13 Anglo Saxon ‘bed burials’ to be discovered. Usually reserved for noble women, they involved being laid to rest on a wood and metal frame topped with a straw mattress. Such burials are not found after the 7th century. The girl’s inch-wide gold cross, studded with cut garnets, has been dated to between 650 and 680AD.

From BBC News:
An Anglo-Saxon grave discovered near Cambridge could be one of the earliest examples of Christianity taking over from Paganism, archaeologists said.

The skeleton of a teenage girl was found buried on a wooden bed, with a gold and garnet cross on her chest.

The grave is thought to date from the mid-7th Century AD, when Christianity was beginning to be introduced to the Pagan Anglo-Saxon kings.

It was uncovered at Trumpington Meadows by Cambridge Archaeological Unit.

The cross is only the fifth to be discovered in the UK.

The Case of Mistress Mary Hampson

From the Daily Mail comes a harrowing tale of marital abuse from the 17th century:
A pamphlet detailing the beatings, threats and intimidation endured by a Yorkshire housewife more than 300 years ago has been uncovered by academics at the University of Huddersfield.

In the work, which dates from 1684 (A Plain and Compendious Relation of the Case of Mrs. Mary Hampson, as it Now is: And Formerly Printed for the Satisfaction of a Private Friend, But Now is Set Forth by Her Relief), a woman named Mary Hampson lists the catalogue of abuse she suffered at the hands of her overbearing and violent husband.

Although Mrs Hampson eventually escaped her abusive spouse, she first endured being beaten and starved and a violent incident involving a gun - all of which is detailed the 1684 pamphlet.

In her new book, The Case of Mistress Mary Hampson, academic Dr Jessica Malay includes the full text of the 1684 pamphlet plus extensive extra material, which examines the episode in depth and rounds out the story of Mary, who died in 1698, after a few short, final years of relative peace and prosperity.

For more on the story see:

Gospel of Jesus' Wife

In September 2012, Harvard’s Hollis Chair of Divinity Karen L. King announced the discovery of a Coptic papyrus fragment that includes the text “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife …’” After an extended silence while the papyrus was subjected to extensive scientific tests, Harvard’s Divinity School announced that “testing indicates ‘Gospel of Jesus’s Wife’ papyrus fragment to be ancient,” following the April 2014 issue of Harvard Theological Review’s (HTR) publication of carbon-14, paleographical, spectroscopy and other scientific analyses. Harvard Divinity School’s website includes updated images, Q & A and other resources on the papyrus.

However, the subject is still open for debate. In the second postscript to his forward in the same issue of HTR, Brown University’s Leo Depuydt writes, “All this still leaves me personally 100% convinced that the Wife of Jesus Fragment is a forgery.”

Just when the debate regarding the authenticity of the “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” reached a fevered pitch, it was silenced. The Harvard Theological Review pulled King’s article, and Smithsonian suspended the airing of a documentary about the papyrus. HTR announced that the fragment would undergo testing, though the lack of specific information frustrated interested scholars and journalists (see: Bible History Daily: Is the Harvard Theological Review a Coward).

The “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” is back in the April 2014 issue of Harvard Theological Review. HTR gives the papyrus fragment considerable treatment beyond Karen L. King’s critical presentation of the papyrus; the issue includes a paleographic analysis by Malcolm Choat, a chemical ink analysis by James T. Yardley and Alexis Hagadorn, microspectroscopy results by Joseph M. Azzarelli, John B. Goods and Timothy M. Swager, spectrometry radiocarbon analyses by Gregory Hodgins andNoreen Tuross, a condemnation as a forgery by Leo Depuydt, and, finally, a response by Karen L. King.

See Also:
Harvard Divinity School: The Gospel of Jesus' Wife

Queen Helena of Adiabene

Queen Helena of Adiabene lived in the first century C.E. in the semi-autonomous kingdom of Adiabene in the upper Tigris region of Assyria. She famously converted to Judaism and spent many years in Jerusalem—where her generosity and piety earned her a lasting legacy.

In “Queen Helena’s Jerusalem Palace—In a Parking Lot?” in the May/June 2014 issue of BAR, R. Steven Notley and Jeffrey P. García explore Queen Helena’s Jerusalem tomb and the recently excavated Jerusalem palace that might belong to her.

Louis Félicien de Saulcy excavated the Tomb of the Kings—really the tomb of Queen Helena of Adiabene—in Jerusalem in 1863. He discovered five sarcophagi in the tomb, as well as a broken sarcophagus lid. 

Essentially, the only line of argument for the identification of the sarcophagus with Helena is (a) Queen Helena of Adiabene was buried in one of the chambers in the tomb, and (b) the woman buried in the inscribed sarcophagus is called “queen.”

Who Was Queen Helena?
Helena of Adiabene was queen of Adiabene (a Persian province on the northern Tigris and vassal kingdom of the Partihian Empire) and sister-wife of Monobaz Bazaeus I (source: Josephus . Jewish Antiquities xx. 4, § 3;). With her husband she was the mother of Izates II and Monobaz II. She was possibly Zoroastrian prior to her conversion to Judaism c.30CE.

Helene played an important role in the succession of her son, summoning the nobles of the kingdom and informing them that it had been her husband’s wish to nominate Izates king. Declining their advice to put Izates’s brothers to death in order to avoid plots against him, she instead placed her elder son, Monobazus, as guardian of the country until the return of the heir. Josephus lauds her for all these sage decisions.  On Izates’s death in 55CE, she returned to Adiabene to see her elder son Monobazus crowned king. 

The Talmud speaks of important presents which the queen gave to the Temple at Jerusalem which included a golden candlestick (sometimes called a lantern) and golden plate (also referred to as a plaque); she was also generous with gifts to aid the famine stricken city of Jerusalem in 46–4CE.

She died shortly after the coronation of Monobazus c.56CE, having moved to Jerusalem. The bodies of both Helene and Izates were then buried in the royal sepulchre (pyramidal tomb) she had built while in the city.  These tombs are now said to be located in the catacombs known as the "Tomb of the Kings", said discovered in the 19th century by Louis Felicien de Saulcy.

See Also:
Haaretz: A Royal Return
Chabad dot org: Queen Helena