Christians and the Holy Places: The Myth of Jewish-Christian Origins
Clarendon Press, 1993 - Social Science - 384 pages
The origins of Christian holy places in Palestine and the beginnings of pilgrimage to these sites have seemed obscure. From a detailed examination of literature and archaeology, the present author finds no evidence that Christians of any kind venerated 'holy places' before the fourth century. In the second and third centuries, scholarly Christians visited certain Biblical sites out of historical interest, but these sites were not considered holy, and the visitors were not 'pilgrims'. Instead, the origins of Christian pilgrimage to holy places rest with the emperor Constantine, who established four basilicas in Palestine in c.325 and provided two imperial matrons, Helena and Eutropia, as examples of a new kind of pious pilgrim. Pilgrimage to intrinsically sacred shrines had been a pagan practice, which was grafted on to Christianity. Many Jewish, Samaritan, and pagan sites were appropriated by the Church and turned into Christian holy places. This process helped to destroy the widespread paganism of Palestine, and mark the country as a 'holy land'. Very few sites are genuine, but one which may well be is the cave (not garden) of Gethsemane, in which Jesus was probably arrested. The book is fully illustrated, and includes both plates and maps.
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