Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Did Jeremiah Hide the Ark on Mt. Nebo?

Mt. Nebo: 2 Maccabees 2:4-8 claims the Ark was hidden here by Jeremiah

Continuing our series on the whereabouts of the Ark of the Covenant, we come to the third possibility: that the prophet Jeremiah hid the Ark of the Covenant on Mt. Nebo prior to the Babylonian invasion, where it has been lost ever since. The primary proof for this conclusion comes from 2 Maccabees 2:4-8, where it is written:

It was also in the writing that the prophet [Jeremiah], having received an oracle, ordered that the tent and ark should follow with him, and that he went out to the mountain where Moses had gone up and had seen the inheritance of God. And Jeremiah came and found a cave, and he brought there the tent and the ark and the altar of incense, and he sealed up the entrance. Some of those who followed him came up to mark the way, but could not find it. When Jeremiah learned of it, he rebuked them and declared: "The place shall be unknown until God gathers His people together again and shows His mercy. And then the Lord will disclose these things, and the glory of the Lord and the cloud will appear, as they were shown in the case of Moses, and as Solomon asked that a place should be especially consecrated" (2. Macc. 2:4-8).

This theory is also supported by some archaeological finds in the mid-1980's by an American archaeologist named Tom Crotser who carried out excavations on Mount Pisgah (the highest point in the Mt. Nebo range) in 1981. In his excavations, Croster reportedly discovered "a large object covered with blue material", which they measured to be "62 inches long, 37 inches high and 37 inches deep." Crotser, however, who runs the Institute for Restoring Ancient History in Kansas, also claims to have found Noah's Ark and the Tower of Babel and has little professional credibility. Though Crotser claims to have not only discovered the Ark but even photographed it, he for some reason refused to attempt to bring the Ark out or tell anybody else where it was. He said, "'God sent me only to locate the Ark. I was not to open it; neither was I to bring it out." Indeed, he believed his very expedition was ordained by God: "'I knew that God had chosen us to find this most sacred box that belongs to the Almighty. It belongs to Him for this specific purpose: the Regathering of His People Israel for the receiving of the Kingdom of God on earth."

This second quote demonstrates another weakness in Crotser's credibility: that his "discovery of the Ark" is related directly to his messianic-political beliefs about the State of Israel. Though Crotser did not move or touch the Ark, he claimed to have photographed it. When asked for the photographs, he replied that he would not release them until he had first shown them to London banker, and Jew, David Rothschild, who Crotser believed would fund the building of a new Temple in Jerusalem (incidentally, Rothschild referred to the claim as a "pure joke"). Thus, the photos never surfaced and Crotser quietly went away. But what were his plans following the Ark debacle? Crotser says, "In 1985, I will be moving to Jerusalem. In '86, I will witness the mark of the beast. In '87 I will be one of God's Chosen 144,000 sent by Christ to preach the Word. In '88 I will meet Jesus Christ on Mount Sion which is 125 miles north of Jerusalem. And then, from Revelation chapter 11, I will be in Jerusalem when the two witnesses are assassinated. For three and a half days they will be dead, then rise and go into the city of Petra where the 144,000 will be. Soon after the Battle of Armageddon will be fought. And Christ will establish his Kingdom on earth and rule and reign as King for 1,000 years of peace." This should be enough to discredit him.

But on a more serious note, what about this verse from Maccabees? Since this is from Sacred Scripture, does this not prove irrefutably that the Ark is on the summit of Pisgah in Mount Nebo? As the Catholic Encyclopedia points out, the answer is no, for a very simple reason relating to Scriptural infallibility. Regarding the passage from Maccabees cited above, the Encyclopedia notes that:

"[T]he letter from which the above-cited lines are supposed to have been copied cannot be regarded as possessing Divine authority; for, as a rule, a citation remains in the Bible what it was outside of the inspired writing; the impossibility of dating the original document makes it very difficult to pass a judgment on its historical reliability."

If we re-read Maccabees carefully, we see that indeed, the account is said to be transcribed from a letter, and letters and outside writings which are quoted in the Bible do not therefore gain canonicity, but retain their original authority. Therefore, the fact that this citation appears in 2 Maccabees does not give it any infallible authority, though, as the Encyclopedia says, neither ought it to be discarded automatically.

In my opinion, the argument that the Ark is on Mt. Nebo fails for the following reasons:

1) No constant, historical tradition of the Ark being there, even in the Franciscan Church that sits on Mt. Nebo. Though the Church claims to be the resting place of Moses (which I think is a tenuous claim), there is no tradition of anything to do with the Ark here. Click here for info on this Church of the Jerusalemite Franciscans.

2) Archaeological expeditions, like Crotser's, have turned up no promising evidence.

3) It is unlikely that Jeremiah, who was at such odds with the Jerusalem priesthood in the period before the destruction of the Temple, would have been permitted by them to simply take the Ark away. Remember, the Jerusalem priesthood of Jeremiah's time did not believe his prophecies about the destruction of the city, and thus would have no incentive to move the Ark, let alone give it to Jeremiah, whom they despised.

4) Scripture seems to attest that the Ark was gone by the reign of King Josiah (see II Chronicles 35:3), at least 25 years before the coming of Nebuchadnezzar.

5) Like the assertion that the Ark is under the Temple Mount, this one seems to be tied up with political-Zionist aspirations that have little to do with true, objective archaeology.

6) As we have seen, the Scriptural reference to the Ark being on Mt. Nebo is taken from a quotation and thus is not inerrant.

These factors seem to indicate that the Ark of the Covenant is not on Mt. Nebo. This leaves us only one of our original four options left for examination: could the Ark be in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church of St. Mary of Zion in the Ethiopian City of Axum?

Click here for the previous article in this series.

Click here for Tom Crotser's laughable account of his "discovery" of the Ark
UPDATE! I am now a bit more uncertain about some propositions in this article. Please read the comments for more info.

12 comments:

HECTOR said...

I really loved reeding your articles on the Arc (and all your other articles too). H├ęctor Amuedo ( Roman catholic from Uruguay, South America)

Jordanes said...

Most fascinating, but I'm afraid you're mistaken on several points here.

1) The old Catholic Encyclopedia occasionally gets things wrong, and one can trace the faint influence of "Higher Criticism" in its treatment of the Old Testament at times. This is one of those instances. It is difficult to see how The Catholic Encyclopedia's claims, "[T]he letter from which the above-cited lines are supposed to have been copied cannot be regarded as possessing Divine authority; for, as a rule, a citation remains in the Bible what it was outside of the inspired writing; the impossibility of dating the original document makes it very difficult to pass a judgment on its historical reliability," can be reconciled with Leo XIII's Providentissimus Deus 20-21 ("But it is absolutely wrong and forbidden, either to narrow inspiration to certain parts only of Holy Scripture, or to admit that the sacred writer has erred. . . . For all the books which the Church receives as sacred and canonical, are written wholly and entirely, with all their parts, at the dictation of the Holy Ghost; and so far is it from being possible that any error can co-exist with inspiration, that inspiration not only is essentially incompatible with error, but excludes and rejects it as absolutely and necessarily as it is impossible that God Himself, the supreme Truth, can utter that which is not true. This is the ancient and unchanging faith of the Church, solemnly defined in the Councils of Florence and of Trent, and finally confirmed and more expressly formulated by the Council of the Vatican. . . . It follows that those who maintain that an error is possible in any genuine passage of the sacred writings, either pervert the Catholic notion of inspiration, or make God the author of such error."), Pius XII's Humani Generis 38 ("If, however, the ancient sacred writers have taken anything from popular narrations (and this may be conceded), it must never be forgotten that they did so with the help of divine inspiration, through which they were rendered immune from any error in selecting and evaluating those documents."), and Vatican II's Dei Verbum 11 ("the books of both the Old and New Testaments in their entirety, with all their parts, are sacred and canonical because written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author and have been handed on as such to the Church herself. In composing the sacred books, God chose men and while employed by Him they made use of their powers and abilities, so that with Him acting in them and through them, they, as true authors, consigned to writing everything and only those things which He wanted. Therefore, since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, it follows that the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation.").

In light of what the Church believes about the inerrancy of Sacred Scripture, we must reject any attempt to suggest that some parts of the Scripture are not canonical or not infallible. If it is a part of a scriptural book, then it is canonical, and if it asserts anything, then the assertion is true. In this case, we have only to determine if the inspired author/compiler of II Maccabees intended to assert that Jeremiah concealed the Ark of the Covenant on Mt. Nebo. If he quoted that letter with the belief that what the letter says is true, then because he was the Holy Spirit's inspired instrument, what the letter says about the Ark is true. At the very least, the fact that the letter was included in Scripture proves that the letter is authentic and was written when it claims to have been written. Now the author's intention in quoting the letter was to provide historical background and evidence for his story, which tells how God brought about the cleansing of the Temple and explains the origin of the festival of Hanukkah. It seems unlikely that the author would have included the letter if he thought it contained counterfactual statements: the author is presumed to have believed what the letter says, which would mean he asserted the contents of the letter, which under the Catholic doctrine of biblical inerrancy would mean the letter's story of Jeremiah's concealment of the Ark is true, vouched for by the Holy Spirit.

2) You says there is no constant, historical tradition of the Ark being hidden somewhere on Mt. Nebo. I can't speak to that, because I haven't made a comprehensive survey of the relevant literature of the past two millennia. To my knowledge, however, no ancient Christian author contradicted the II Maccabees account, that would counter one argument from silence with another. We should not expect the Church on Mt. Nebo to claim to be the location of the unknown cave where Jeremiah is said to have hidden the Ark, since the caves location is supposed to remain unknowable until the general conversion of the Jewish people to Catholicism at the end of time.

3) We should not expect any archaeological expeditions on Mt. Nebo to find the cave, since Jeremiah is said to have pronounced that it would remain hidden until the time when the scattered Israelites are regathered and God has mercy on them, something the Church Fathers say won't happen until the Last Days. Anyway you do an excellent job of showing that Crotser is a nutjob, so we should expect him to find anything at all.

4) You say that it's not likely that Jeremiah would have been permitted by them to simply take the Ark away. True, the unfaithful priests of Jerusalem would not likely have given him the Ark or allowed him to take it -- but after Nebuchadnezzar's vizier Nebuzaradan had sacked Jerusalem and the high priest Seraiah had been put to death, with the other leading priests dragged off in shackles to a Babylonian dungeon, those priests would not have been in any position to stop Jeremiah from taking the Ark. We know that Jeremiah was on reasonably good terms with Nebuzaradan, and we know from the Book of Baruch that Jeremiah's secretary Baruch managed to obtain some silver Temple vessels in Babylon, intending to take them back to the ragtag group of Jews still living in or near the desolate, ruined city of Jerusalem so they could resume sacrifices there. In that light, it's not hard to believe that the Babylonians could have given the Ark to Jeremiah before they set fire to the Temple. Again, in IV Kings' catalogue of items looted from the Temple, the Ark is not mentioned: unless the Ark had already left the Temple years before the time of the fall of Jerusalem, the absence of the Ark from that catalogue would suggest that somehow it had been removed from the Temple just before, during, or just after the sack of Jerusalem.

4) II Chron. 35:3 does not say that the Ark was gone by the reign of King Josiah. On the contrary, after cleansing and repairing the Temple and reconstituting the priestly worship, Josiah issued a decree to the Levites to return the Ark to the Temple. If the Ark was gone before Josiah's reign, its absence would have been noticed when the Temple renovation project began. If the Levites had not been carrying the Ark on their shoulders, Josiah would not have told them, "It shall no longer be a burden on you shoulders." So he issued his decree, and we are not told that the Levites failed to obey it: the usual meaning in such cases is that the King's edict had gone into effect and had been obeyed. Far from attesting that the Ark was gone by Josiah's reign, II Chron. 35:3 shows that the Ark was still in Jerusalem in his day.

5) Some "Christian Zionists" or evangelical Protestants, or oddball kook frauds like Crotser, suffer from fevered delusions of the imminent return of Christ, and they hope that the prophecy of II Macc. 2:7 will be fulfilled -- so Crotser tries to find the Ark on Mt. Nebo, thereby ushering in the Second Advent of Christ. But the truth or falsity of this biblical tradition cannot be established through well poisoning or guilty by association. There are a lot of kooks who believe things the Bible says: that doesn't mean what the Bible says is wrong.

7) You reiterate that "the Scriptural reference to the Ark being on Mt. Nebo is taken from a quotation and thus is not inerrant." I have already addressed that point above, but here is a further example. At the Areopagus, St. Paul quoted two pagan Greek poets, Epimenides of Knossos and Aratus of Soli (Acts 17:28). Does the fact that verse 28 is made up of two quotations of pagan poets establish that what they said is not inerrant, and therefore could be false? By no means: it is infallibly true that in God we live and move and have our being, and we too are His offspring. As Leo XIII said, it is forbidden to limit inerrancy only to certain passages of Scripture: inerrancy applies to all of Scripture, even the quotations.

All things taken together, I say the scenario that must hold pride of place is that recounted in II Macc. 2: Jeremiah concealed the Ark somewhere on Mt. Nebo, and the location of that cave will remain unknown until Christ comes again in glory to judge the living and the dead. Anyone trying to find that cave is wasting his time. And anyway, as Jeremiah prophesied elsewhere, the time will come when the Ark of the Covenant will no longer be of important to God's People: that time came 2,000 years ago, at the Annunciation, when the Power of God, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, overshadowed the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant which has been assumed into heaven. As I'm sure you agree, that is the Ark we should really be focusing on.

BONIFACE said...

Jordanes-

Thank you for your very thoughtful and lenghthy response. I too have pondered the point on inerrancy of quotations since I posted this almost a year ago. I agree that the crux of the issue is whether or not the author intends this as historical evidence, or whether he is just citing it to make mention that this is the opinion of some. It seems that the writer of II Macc. does quote this letter with the intent of demonstrating that these things happened. But we have to admit the possibility of things making it into the Scriptures that are simply recorded, not attested.

For example, the Scriptures can record David, or some other figure, saying something, but the thing they happen to be saying can be false, and the Scriptures contain it by means of recording that it was said, not necessarily by way of asserting its truth. That does not mean it is not inspired. Inspiration does not mean every person who speaks in the Scriptures has to be telling the truth all of the time, for if it is true that a certain person tells an untruth, then to record that the untruth was spoken is in fact to record the historical truth.

So, I think, if the account of the hiding of the ark by Jeremiah is not accurate (and the originals of these documents are clearly lost), the possibility remains that this historical narrative may be incorrect, and the Scriptures cite it by way or merely acknowledging that such an account exists. But then again, that idea could be used to undermine other portions of Scripture narrative, and so I would be careful about it.

Thanks for the insight.

Jordanes said...

Boniface, glad you found my comments to be helpful and of interest. Pardon all those typos: I still haven't managed to teach this computer keyboard proper spelling and grammar. ;-)

It sounds like we're in agreement here. Yes, the Bible can inerrantly record that someone said something that isn't true, which is why I tried to couch my position in careful and accurate language. I do think the II Macc. 2 tradition is true, though as for arguments that it is true, I can only say that it is most likely that the author intended his readers to accept the letter's account as true. Wholly apart from the inerrancy question, though, I would say this tradition should hold pride of place, simply because it is the oldest tradition about what became of the Ark that we have. The Ethiopian tradition cannot be traced back of the Middle Ages (and certainly the Makeda/Menelik tale is to be rejected as fabulous), and I believe the "Shishak" hypothesis is modern.

Ambrose Mooney said...

The Irish Tradition

Full article is at
http://www.unisa.ac.za/dept/press/rt/41/enstrom.html

Another tradition contingent on the Jeremiah theory is related by Dobson (1939). In this theory Jeremiah, his scribe, Baruch, and the two royal princesses, daughters of Zedekiah, who after the death of Gedaliah, had been entrusted to the care of Jeremiah, were all taken away to Egypt.
According to the legend, on leaving Jerusalem Jeremiah carried away with him a covered box together with the `coronation stone' on which the kings of Israel had been crowned, and which tradition claims to be Jacob's pillow.

On arrival in Egypt the four later took ship and sailed to Tarshish (Spain) where one of the princesses married a Spanish chieftain.

Tradition holds that the clan of Dan had been great sailors and had
traversed the seas to settle in Spain and Ireland. It was a Danite
chieftain whom the first princess married. Later the remaining three set sail for Ireland.

Ancient Irish documents state that Ollam Fodhla (translated as holy
prophet), Simon Brug and Tamar Tephi landed in Northern Ireland (Ulster)with a mysteriously covered box and a stone and set out for Clothair, Co. Meath, subsequently called Tara. After their arrival new laws were
instituted in the land. Dobson (1939:60) assumes these people to be none other than Jeremiah, Baruch and the remaining daughter of King Zedekiah. The contents of the mysterious box, Dobson surmises, were to be the key to the future, containing not only proof of the Davidic descent of Tamar Tephi, (who married the Heremon Eochaidh I of Co Meath, and whose long line of kingly descendants reaches right down to the present English royal line in Queen Elizabeth II), but also manuscripts written by Jeremiah which contain details of the Ark's hiding place. Irish tradition states that the box was buried with Tamar Tephi on the hill of Tara.

Some historical evidence for the truth of this tradition rests on
well-authenticated historical documents (Dobson 1939:68). The tradition is that the stone known as Jacob's Pillow is still in existence and is known as the Stone of Scone. Until recently it was set in the coronation chair of the kings of England and its origin, together with that of the
English royal line, can be traced back to Ireland and Tamar Tephi.

Jordanes said...

Ancient Irish documents state that Ollam Fodhla (translated as holy prophet), Simon Brug and Tamar Tephi landed in Northern Ireland (Ulster) with a mysteriously covered box and a stone and set out for Clothair, Co. Meath, subsequently called Tara. After their arrival new laws were instituted in the land.*** Sorry, but this story is complete rubbish. There are no ancient Irish document that mention this story, which was invented by the British Israelists during the 1800s. Old Irish documents refer to an ancient legendary Irish king named Ollamh Fodhla, another ancient legendary Irish kin named Siomon Breac, and an Egyptian princess named Tephi (NOT "Tamar Tephi"), daughter of Pharaoh (supposedly the eponym of Teamhuir or Tara, ancient cultic seat of the Irish high kings in County Meath), but there is no old Irish text that ever mentions these three individuals living at the same time or arriving in Ireland together with an mysterious box or stone. There's just no such story in the ancient Irish Gaelic legendarium -- it's a concoction of the British Israelists, wholly unknown to anybody before it appears in their literature during the Victorian age.

Also, this spurious legend identifies the stone that "Ollamh Fodhla"/Jeremiah supposedly brought to Ireland not as the Ark of the Covenant, but as the Lia Fail, or Stone of Destiny. Late medieval legend claims that the Lia Fail was moved from Tara to Scone in Scotland, where it became the coronation stone of the Scottish kings. Modern research has determined, however, that the Lia Fail never left Tara, and that the Stone of Scone, also called Jacob's Pillow Stone, is of Scottish origin, not Irish or Near Eastern. Even if the Stone of Scone originally came from Ireland, there's no evidence no any authentic tradition that Jeremiah ever came to Ireland, and no trace of any tradition that he brought the Ark to Ireland. Irish tradition knows nothing of "Tamar Tephi," nor of her allegedly Davidic descent (as stated above, the legend says Tephi was Egyptian, not Hebrew), nor of anything being buried with her under Tara Hill. This whole story is complete and utter rubbish.

Anonymous said...

It sounds, from the scripture, like we need to get up to Mount Nebo with some powerful metal detectors. They have these new scanner types that can analyze pretty deep.

Dan Rapp
dan_rapp@msn.com

Kevin said...

They found the Ark of the Covenant where Moses placed the 10 Commandments, in a cave under Golgotha.

http://arkofthecovenant2.blogspot.com/

BONIFACE said...

You are referring to the expedition of Ron Wyatt? Wyatt is completely unreliable as an archaeologist - and his story about the angel forbidding him to take pictures of the ark is bunk. Wyatt is a crack-pot archaeologist and he brought back no credible evidence that he had found the ark other than his word and his peculiar (Seventh Day Adventist) interpretation of the Scriptures.

Kevin said...

Christ tomb, Crucifixion site and the Ark of the Covenant found buried under a trash pile at the foot of Skull Mountain.

http://arkofthecovenant2.blogspot.com/

BONIFACE said...

Haha...NOT. Maybe according to Ron Wyatt and Bob Cornuke.

Retrovit said...

Thanks for review, it was excellent and very informative.
thank you :)