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R.O.O.T.S. - Recycling of Old Testament Secrets


The Most Ancient Symbol of Christianity
“For the Oil of the Spirit”

By Reuven E. Schmalz

FOUND: The First Century baptismal grotto of James the Just and the Apostles on Mount Zion, Jerusalem. James, the brother of Jesus, was the leader of the first Nazarene (Messianic) church located in the Upper Room on Mount Zion.

Our story begins in 1963, when a small ceremonial silver lamina (a thin plate) was found in the Judean Desert near Jerusalem, dating back to the first Century. A Catholic priest and archaeologist named Emanuel Testa deciphered the Aramaic text of this artifact, the first line of which reads: “For the Oil of the Spirit.” Testa was amazed to find that the text was nearly identical to James 5:14-16. This tiny lamina (3"x1") is a sort of pass card or certificate of belief in Jesus, used in early Jewish-Christian baptism to confirm the forgiveness of sins and “right of passage” into the Kingdom of Heaven.

This text from the Book of James clearly indicates that the earliest Jewish Christians anointed believers with oil. What has not been clearly understood until now is how this anointing was connected with baptism and the entry into the faith. This is no longer a mystery.

Detail of inscription on the face of the oil stand. (at left)

Pictures from Schmalz, Reuven Efraim et al, The Messianic Seal of the Jerusalem Church, Olim Publications, Tiberias, Israel, 1999

In 1990, Ludwig Schneider, editor in chief of the magazine Israel Update, struck up a friendship with an old Greek Orthodox monk who lived as a hermit in the Old City of Jerusalem. On one occasion, the monk showed Schneider a cache of artifacts that he had secretly excavated on Mount Zion before the Six Day War in 1967. Scheneider was taken aback. Many of these pottery shards, oil lamps and stone pieces were engraved with an unknown symbol. The symbol consisted of a menorah on top, a Star of David in the centre and a fish at the bottom. Schneider was immediately convinced that this must have been a symbol of the first Jewish-Christian church (assembly).

The monk then led Schneider to a cavity in the rock adjacent to the Tomb of David and the Upper Room on Mount Zion, and told him that this is where he found the artifacts. Today, the cave is dark and musty and sealed off with iron bars. As legend has it, some great secrets are hidden there. Some say that according to the Dead Sea Scrolls, it is a cache of Second Temple treasures. The most popular legend is that deep within this cave lies the long lost Ark of the Covenant.

As it turns out, this is the sacred baptismal grotto of the first Nazarene (Messianic) church, and the treasure hidden there was the First and Second Century artifacts (about 60 in all) found by the monk. Among these artifacts is a brick-shaped piece of local marble inscribed with the Messianic Seal and the words in ancient Aramaic: “For the Oil of the Spirit.” This seems to have been the base for a vial of anointing oil. A small pottery flask with a Messianic Seal found nearby supports this theory.

In my opinion, this piece of marble came into use in the earliest Nazarene times at this baptismal site, below the church in the Upper Room established by James the Just and the Apostles. This was, of course, a perfect place for the first church, because the Upper Room is where the Holy Spirit fell upon the disciples at Pentecost. The church was located in the heart of the Essene (a strict, contemplative Jewish sect) Quarter, and was probably a Qumran-like Essene community. According to the Book of Acts, there was strict discipline and a hierarchy. It stands to reason that this group would have immediately established Nazarene ritual, including a ceremonial healing and baptismal centre where conversions were sealed by immersion in water and anointing with oil. Judging from the inscription “For the Oil of the Spirit,” the anointing was symbolic of baptism in the Holy Spirit. The Book of Acts records 3,000 conversions here on the day of Pentecost alone.

I believe that James and the Apostles administered the “Oil of the Spirit” from this very stone base. That would make this piece, if my suspicions are correct, the earliest known Christian artifact. I believe that the previously discovered lamina with the same inscription was also used in this congregation.

But ten years after its discovery, this historic, amazing find remains a well-kept secret. Ludwig Schneider approached the Israel Museum with the artifacts, and was promised that they would be put on display. But it never happened. It seems that the Israeli authorities do not want the mystery of the Messianic Seal to come to light.

The Messianic Seal of
the Jerusalem Church
is published by
Olim Publications
P.O. Box 2111
Tiberias, Israel
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This page was last updated on Sunday August 04, 2013 at 08:32 AM

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