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.