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'TITULUS CRUCIS'..Evidence that the Actual Sign Posted Above The Lord on The Cross
Has Been Located? .....Page 40

And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS. This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin.

Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am King of the Jews.

Pilate answered, What I have written I have written....John 19 KJV

In 1 Corinthians 14:22, the Apostle Paul makes the point that speaking in tongues (languages) in the early church was for the purpose of "impressing" Non-Believers rather than Believers. This was because a non-believer hearing the Gospel preached in his native tongue would view it as miraculous, while believers already had obeyed the Gospel.

We say that to say that while it would be exciting or interesting if this object turns out to in fact be the actual inscription written above the Lord's head--it should not strengthen a Christian's faith--nor should his/her faith be impacted if it turns out to be a fake. "Blessed is he who believes without seeing"--the Lord to Thomas.

We know that a certain segment of the "Christian Community" practically worships these things-real or not-and that shouldn't be because that is idolatry. Perhaps though, if it is proven to be from the first century, some Non-Believer would be persuaded to look into Jesus Christ and believe--and that would be a good

The Title

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It was customary for the Romans to attach a small sign on the crosses of criminals who had been sentenced to crucifixion, stating the victimís crime.

The sign was carried at the front of the procession and later hung around the neck of the victim or nailed to the cross above his head.

According to the Bible, Pilate had the inscription: ďJesus of Nazareth, the King of the JewsĒ written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek on the headboard of Jesusí cross (the Four Evangelists do not agree on the exact words).

A part of this sign, known as the ďTitleĒ or "Titulus Crucis", is allegedly kept as a precious relic at the church of ďSanta Croce in GerusalemmeĒ (Holy Cross in Jerusalem) in Rome, Italy.

The church, whose floor is said to have been packed with soil from the Holy Land, was built about 325, to house a number of relics recovered in Jerusalem by St. Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great.

About 455, the relic is said to have been hidden, to protect it from the attacking Visigoths. The board was apparently forgotten until February 1492, when it was rediscovered by some workmen in a sealed lead coffer built into a wall of the basilica behind a mosaic that was being repaired.

The brick which covered it was inscribed 'TITULUS CRUCIS'.

The board is made of walnut wood, 25x14 cm in size, 2.6 cm thick and has a weight of 687 g. It is inscribed on one side with three lines, of which the first one is mostly destroyed.

The second line is written in Greek letters and reversed script, the third in Latin letters, also with reversed script.

Two experts, Prof. Thiede and Prof. Roll, consider this a major indication of the authenticity of the titulus. First of all, a variation of Joh. 19,19 is a freedom no forger would ever risk.

But it makes sense, since Pontius Pilatus, who, according to the gospels, dictated the inscription, was a Roman magistrate and used, especially for official documents, the official language Latin.

It was up to the writer to create a version in the other two languages, and therefore it was rather unlikely that he transferred the term "Nazarinus" in the correct Greek form.

The abbreviation of the name "Iesous/Iesus" as "I." is typical for Roman Latin inscriptions. Since "Yeshu/Yehoshua" was a common name during the 1st century -Flavius Josephus mentions 16 persons with this name-,

the unique "Nazarinus" rather pointed to the Savior from a small village in Galilee, at least for a Roman magistrate, although such an abbreviation in contrast to John 19,19 would be unthinkable for a Christian forger.

CONCLUSION: None of the consulted experts for Hebrew, Greek and Latin Palaeography found any indication of a mediaeval or late antique forgery.

Instead, they all dated it in the timeframe between the 1st and the 3./4th century AD, with a majority of experts preferring and none of them excluding the 1st century.

Therefore it is very well possible that the "Titulus Crucis" is indeed the title of the cross of Our Lord.......

The Quest for the True Cross

"The Ark" ABC Radio Program with Rachael Kohn


Carsten Pieter Thiede is well known for his "discovery" of the earliest known fragment of the Gospel of Matthew in the Bodleian Library. Now he's found a piece of the true cross in a church in Rome, the Santa Croce in Gerusalemme.

Program Transcript
This program was first broadcast on 04/04/2004.


Rachael Kohn: In mediaeval times fragments of the true cross were the most sought-after relics in Christendom, but most were fakes. Today, one scholar believes heís found the real thing.

Hello, this is The Ark and Iím Rachael Kohn.

Carsten Pieter Thiede is a papyrologist, and heís known for his claim to have found the earliest fragment of the Gospel of Matthew in the Bodleian Library.

Now he believes heís discovered a piece of the true cross in a church in Rome, where itís been kept for the past 1700 years. But this is no ordinary piece of wood from the cross, as Carsten Thiede explains.

Carsten Thiede: The cross as such, thereís two bars or beams, the vertical and the horizontal one, when you look at the actual crucifixion of Jesus or any Roman crucifixion for that matter, what the person to be crucified would have carried to the site of the crucifixion was not the complete cross, it was just the horizontal beam, the horizontal bar.

The vertical one was always in situ, it was at the site.

It would have been used and re-used and re-used again, many, many times, over many years.

So for that bar, or for one of those two beams or bars, you would not really have any chance of authenticating any of those simply because they are all too small and they could be authentic, but you donít really know.

The difference, and that was what we were trying to establish, comes into the game when you have something with text on it, with an inscription, which you could gauge from the type of writing and the contents.

And that means the headboard, or as the technical term has it, the Titulus, the inscription on the cross of Jesus, that, if it still existed, or a fragment of it, could be authenticated.

Thatís exactly what we found, what we established still existed, today in a church in Rome in Italy, which originally, thatís the fascinating thing about it, was the palace of Empress Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great, who is the very person, Helena, who according to tradition, found the cross and headboard in Jerusalem in 328.

Rachael Kohn: And isnít that attested by various paintings that have commemorated this famous pilgrimage?

Carsten Thiede: The pilgrimage of Helena is recorded in all sorts of contemporary documents, or near-contemporary documents. So we have details about her pilgrimage, and indeed the sites she rediscovered or established, where she built the first church as such in Bethlehem, or indeed in Jerusalem.

Paintings, or those we still have in museums, in galleries in churches, are of course much later, so theyíre mediaeval, and you canít really know, with one or two exceptions.

Thereís one by Michelangelo, if those people who painted them knew two fragments in the Middle Ages or had access to the inscription for example, you just donít know that. So we canít rely on mediaeval paintings in our quest for the true cross.

Rachael Kohn: Now how did Helena come to acquire this Titulus, the inscription at the head of the cross?

Carsten Thiede: Well she went to Jerusalem on her pilgrimage to the Holy Land and from the New Testament everyone knew, even in those days the Gospels had all been published, had been accessible before for 300 years by the time of her pilgrimage, so she made inquiries.

She asked the local, the Christian community where is that site, because it wasnít visible any more, the site of Golgotha and the empty tomb.

Another Emperor, Hadrian, in 135, had actually built a temple dedicated to the Roman goddess Venus above the two sides, the twin sides of Golgotha, and the empty tomb, so all Helena had to do when she was told about this was to pull down the temple, which she did, and underneath she found indeed the hillock of Golgotha and tombs, one of them, according to tradition, was the tomb of Jesus. So thatís how she established the site.

Rachael Kohn: She was in her late 70s or 80s then; how long did she stay in Jerusalem to have this temple pulled down and excavated?

Carsten Thiede: Well she probably stayed for about a year. She stayed for quite some time.

Rachael Kohn: And there under that former temple, she found the cross, and I gather a couple of other crosses too?

Carsten Thiede: Yes, she excavated or had others to excavate on her behalf, underneath the rubble, which was there once the temple had been destroyed, Hadrianís temple, and so some of her people, her diggers, her fellow archaeologists, found bars, beams of wood of crosses and indeed the inscription, at least one of the inscriptions.

You see what happened was when someone was crucified, the horizontal beam and the inscription, which was not just an inscription for Jesus, anyone who was crucified by the Romans in those days had at least a papyrus or a piece of wood attached to his neck or attached to the cross detailing the reason why that person was crucified.

That was Roman law so people would see even from a distance why that person had been crucified. The Titulus is the Latin technical term for it.

So once a person had been crucified, the relatives or friends could take everything that belonged to the crucified person away, including of course the corpse to bury him or her.

And so the only one that was found interestingly, by Helenaís archaeologist, was the headboard, the Titulus of the cross of Jesus, with the inscription still intact.

But there were three crosses. Now at that stage, legend takes over. How did they find out which of the crosses was the one of Jesus? And so they took all those crosses to a sick person in her bed and when she touched the real one, she was healed, and so according to this tradition, they knew that this was the cross of Jesus.

I must emphasis this is just a legend attached, if you like to the authentic historical record of the rediscovery.

Rachael Kohn: Well the Titulus itself, its inscription, Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews, now thatís what you would expect, certainly from the Gospel accounts. So how do you know that this inscription precedes the Gospel accounts?

Carsten Thiede: Well if you read what it says on the piece of wood that has survived, which is about one-third of the complete inscription, you realise that itís not word identical with any of the four gospel accounts.

All four gospels mention the inscription, the longest version is the one in John, who also says that he was an eye-witness of the crucifixion, thatís what it actually says in his gospel.

So the text on the headboard, which we rediscovered, is not word identical, it does not match any of the four gospel versions. That means of course it canít be a forgery.

Rachael Kohn: What does it actually say?

Carsten Thiede: Well it says if you translate it in English, it says ĎJesus the Nazarinus King of the Jewsí. We only have the Greek version of course in the gospels, although John says that it was in three languages.

Actually Luke in the better manuscript says the same thing, that the languages were Hebrew and Greek, and followed by Latin as the legal language of the Roman Empire.

So the prefect, Pontius Pilate sealed and signed the death warrant in Latin. So we know that. And we have the Greek in the gospels. But in the gospels it actually says 'Jesus the Nazarenus', not the 'Nazarinus'.

Itís a tiny detail in the Greek; you wonít notice this in any English translation but itís there in the Greek, which means of course that anyone who knew the gospels, particularly the one of John, would have copied one of the existing gospel versions which is, as I said, not the case on the PC file in Rome, therefore it canít be a forgery.

A forger copies and existing model so as not to cause suspicion, if you like.

Rachael Kohn: Is there any other extant inscription which makes you think that this one that youíve got is authentic, and from that time?

Carsten Thiede: Yes there is indeed. First of all we have wood, and wood with texts from that period. There is evidence on wood just south of Hadrianís Wall in northern England, just south of the Scottish border, which also has survived beautifully in the right conditions for almost 2,000 years.

We also have inscriptions on stone from that period which confirm that the particular characteristics of the text and the variants in the text on the surviving piece of wood are early First Century.

So thatís the contemporary evidence to show us that it belongs to that period, simply because of the writing and the kind of writing and the type of writing on wood.

Rachael Kohn: Well Carsten, I guess most people would wonder why you simply donít subject this piece of wood to carbon dating.

Carsten Thiede: What we have done first of all is we have not only analysed as any palaeographer or epigrapher, that is any expert in ancient writings on wood and stone and so forth would do, weíve analysed the style of writing.

There is one example which prior to the question of radio carbon dating and so forth, gives us circumstantial evidence for Pontius Pilate actually having been behind that very piece of wood, and thatís the Latin line.

The Latin line on the piece of wood, it says Nazarinus for Nazareth or of Nazareth, with an Ďií, whereas we in all our churches where the ĎINRIí is spelt out, on paintings for example of the crucifixion, the letters are, or the words are ĎJesus of Nazarethí and ĎKing of the Newsí and Nazarenus is spelled with an Ďeí, Nazarenus with an Ďeí rather than Nazarinus.

Now thatís a later Latin, thatís Vulgate Latin, which is correct for the 4th and 5th centuries, but a Roman bureaucrat like Pontius Pilate of course would have known that the correct Latin ending is Nazarinus with an Ďií.

So we have Nazarinus on the piece of wood, it pre-dates any Latin version of Johnís gospel and therefore again canít be a forgery. It must belong to the period of Pilate and people who knew how to write classical Latin.

We have therefore an authentic document in correct Latin, the bureaucratic correct Latin which points to that period. So you could go on, itís a long list of things you do.

Dendrochronology, dating the type of wood for example, looking for pollen in whatís the kind of circumstantial evidence from that source. The one thing you donít do finally to answer your question is using radio carbon analysis. And the reason for that is simple.

Any document like that, or that type, and that includes also papyri, papyrus, manuscripts from antiquity, has of course been handled, touched, exhibited, used, over centuries, in this case over two millennia, and that means thereís so much external evidence that has influenced the material that you canít calibrate it any more.

If you analyse anything by radio carbon dating, you have to have external data to calibrate those influences. You canít do that otherwise you get wrong dates, you get mediaeval dates, or you get even later dates.

Rachael Kohn: Well where is the Titulus now? Does it remain in the church of Santa Croce on the outskirts of Rome?

Carsten Thiede: Well it has been in that church since 328 really, when Helena returned from the Holy Land she put her fragment, one third of it, she left one third in Jerusalem and gave another one to her son, Constantine, Constantine the Great, who at that stage was in Byzantium where Constantinople, modern Istanbul,is and so she kept it there in her private room, which later became a chapel, and is todayís church, itís always been there.

Hardly ever on display until several decades ago, because it was really not an official relic, it was a private possession of Helena and her successors, the mediaeval monastery.

But itís now on public display, well itís not actually at the moment, because itís being restored after all our methods of analysis applied to it, itís now properly restored, but itís there, and people will be able to see it.

Anyone who goes to Rome and goes to that church, Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, which is its full name, will be able to see it. Itís on display.

Rachael Kohn: Iím surprised itís not mobbed.

Carsten Thiede: Ah well, yes, the security of course has been tightened since we published our analysis in the book. Itís very safe, it really is. I can guarantee that.

Rachael Kohn: Just one last question I mean one would think cynically that this would certainly serve Constantineís purpose to establish himself as the head of Christendom; couldnít this just have been a very handy device?

Carsten Thiede: Absolutely. Thatís always a very justified question, if anyone, a ruler, had vested, hidden interests in such a matter, therefore the starting point is could it have been a forgery, could anyone have had that laid for Helena or for Constantine.

The simple answer to that question is No, that must be ruled out 100%. By the time of Helenaís discovery in Jerusalem, Constantine had long been established as a safe ruler and emperor of the empire, so there was no danger really, or no need for him to use an object like that to establish himself among Christians, like for example the Council of Nicaea had taken place and Nicaea was in 325. The discovery of the Titulus was in 328.

Rachael Kohn: Carsten Pieter Thiedeís book is The Quest for the True Cross.

THEME Publications:
The Quest for the True Cross
Author: Carsten Peter Thiede & Matthew D'Ancona
Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2000
Guests on this program:
Carsten Peter Thiede is Professor of New Testament History in Basel, Switzerland, and teaches at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, Israel.

He is also a historian and papyrologist and on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority in Jerusalem, he directs damage detection research on the Dead Sea Scrolls. His previous book, written with Matthew d'Ancona, is The Jesus Papyrus.

Source: The Ark

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