Was Jesus a Witch?

Earliest reference describes Christ as 'magician'
Bowl dated between late 2nd century B.C. and the early 1st century A.D.

A bowl, dating to between the late 2nd century B.C. and the early 1st century A.D., is engraved with what may be the world's first known reference to Christ. The engraving reads, "DIA CHRSTOU O GOISTAIS," which has been interpreted to mean either, "by Christ the magician" or, "the magician by Christ."

A team of scientists led by renowned French marine archaeologist Franck Goddio recently announced that they have found a bowl, dating to between the late 2nd century B.C. and the early 1st century A.D., that is engraved with what they believe could be the world's first known reference to Christ.

If the word "Christ" refers to the Biblical Jesus Christ, as is speculated, then the discovery may provide evidence that Christianity and paganism at times intertwined in the ancient world.

The full engraving on the bowl reads, "DIA CHRSTOU O GOISTAIS," which has been interpreted by the excavation team to mean either, "by Christ the magician" or, "the magician by Christ."

"It could very well be a reference to Jesus Christ, in that he was once the primary exponent of white magic," Goddio, co-founder of the Oxford Center of Maritime Archaeology, said.

He and his colleagues found the object during an excavation of the underwater ruins of Alexandria's ancient great harbor. The Egyptian site also includes the now submerged island of Antirhodos, where Cleopatra's palace may have been located.

Both Goddio and Egyptologist David Fabre, a member of the European Institute of Submarine Archaeology, think a "magus" could have practiced fortune telling rituals using the bowl. The Book of Matthew refers to "wisemen," or Magi, believed to have been prevalent in the ancient world.

According to Fabre, the bowl is also very similar to one depicted in two early Egyptian earthenware statuettes that are thought to show a soothsaying ritual.

"It has been known in Mesopotamia probably since the 3rd millennium B.C.," Fabre said. "The soothsayer interprets the forms taken by the oil poured into a cup of water in an interpretation guided by manuals."

He added that the individual, or "medium," then goes into a hallucinatory trance when studying the oil in the cup.

"They therefore see the divinities, or supernatural beings appear that they call to answer their questions with regard to the future," he said.

The magus might then have used the engraving on the bowl to legitimize his supernatural powers by invoking the name of Christ, the scientists theorize.

Goddio said, "It is very probable that in Alexandria they were aware of the existence of Jesus" and of his associated legendary miracles, such as transforming water into wine, multiplying loaves of bread, conducting miraculous health cures, and the story of the resurrection itself.

While not discounting the Jesus Christ interpretation, other researchers have offered different possible interpretations for the engraving, which was made on the thin-walled ceramic bowl after it was fired, since slip was removed during the process.

Bert Smith, a professor of classical archaeology and art at Oxford University, suggests the engraving might be a dedication, or present, made by a certain "Chrestos" belonging to a possible religious association called Ogoistais.

Klaus Hallof, director of the Institute of Greek inscriptions at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy, added that if Smith's interpretation proves valid, the word "Ogoistais" could then be connected to known religious groups that worshipped early Greek and Egyptian gods and goddesses, such as Hermes, Athena and Isis.

Hallof additionally pointed out that historians working at around, or just after, the time of the bowl, such as Strabon and Pausanias, refer to the god "Osogo" or "Ogoa," so a variation of this might be what's on the bowl. It is even possible that the bowl refers to both Jesus Christ and Osogo.

Fabre concluded, "It should be remembered that in Alexandria, paganism, Judaism and Christianity never evolved in isolation. All of these forms of religion (evolved) magical practices that seduced both the humble members of the population and the most well-off classes."

"It was in Alexandria where new religious constructions were made to propose solutions to the problem of man, of God's world," he added. "Cults of Isis, mysteries of Mithra, and early Christianity bear witness to this."

The bowl is currently on public display in the exhibit "Egypt's Sunken Treasures" at the Matadero Cultural Center in Madrid, Spain, until November 15.
© 2009 Discovery Channel


x said...

This is an interesting response to this bowl


Harry McCall said...

The reference for this article was taken for the Society of Biblical Literature Forum:


Rev. Ouabache said...

Holy crap! Sarah Silverman was right! Jesus really is magic.

Brad Haggard said...

Thanks for the link. This is interesting.

Brad Haggard said...


That article is interesting, but we have other examples of Jesus' name being used in incantations around that time. We have some magic scrolls where Jesus is listed among a list of all the deities that the writer could think of. It was like they were trying to cover all their bases. So it at least can fit in with the history we have of that area. And also, "Chrestus" could be a mispronunciation of "Christos". It looks like it could go either way.

But I don't want to get my info from Discovery, unless it's Survivorman ;-)

Evan said...

X, I find it interesting that when a historical document uses "Chrestus" it's proof of the historical Jesus, but when a bowl uses it to describe a magician who is known before the historical period of Jesus, it's just nothing.

Nice double standard.

Harry McCall said...


This is a great example of how the human mind invents and defends want it calls religion.

The fact that Jesus must, at times, spit in blind eyes or spit on the ground making clay to be place in the bind’s eyes for healing has more in common with witchcraft and sorcery than with what we know as Christianity today.

As a few examples in the Gospels we find these oddities:

22 And they came to Bethsaida. And they brought a blind man to Jesus and implored Him to touch him. 23 Taking the blind man by the hand, He brought him out of the village; and after spitting on his eyes and laying His hands on him, He asked him, “Do you see anything?” 24 And he looked up and said, “I see men, for I see them like trees, walking around.” 25 Then again He laid His hands on his eyes; and he looked intently and was restored, and began to see everything clearly. 26 And He sent him to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.” Mark 8

And again in John 9:

1 As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. 2 And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 “We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5 “While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.” 6 When He had said this, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes, 7 and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent). So he went away and washed, and came back seeing.

Evan said...

Harry, sounds a lot like some other miracle workers of the time.

Harry McCall said...

I remeber that post Evan: It was great!

I wonder why, if Jesus is the example, why Benny Hinn does not spit in peoples eyes also...hum(I have yet to see him heal a totally blind person. Mybe spitting in their eyes might help or get him in a lawsuit!)

District Supt. Harvey Burnett said...


"If the word "Christ" refers to the Biblical Jesus Christ, as is speculated, then the discovery may provide evidence that Christianity and paganism at times intertwined in the ancient world."

Why is it always so "speculated" by the skeptics and atheists that "Christ" refers specifically to the Jesus of the bible when the refrences could be damaging to Christianity, while at the same time, when Christians produce evidence of writings from individuals such as Josephus and Pliny it's always ambiguous or unclear who was being referenced.

Harry you've spent so much time trying to convince the populous that Josephus never mentions Jesus of the bible that u should be ashamed to suggest that this does.

I believe evan has an correct assessment only in reverse.


Brad Haggard said...

Evan, in my post I didn't commit that double standard. The bowl fits in nicely with the culture of Alexandria at the time.

Harry McCall said...

Harvey: Harry you've spent so much time trying to convince the populous that Josephus never mentions Jesus of the bible that u should be ashamed to suggest that this does.

Harvey, I have not finished with Josephus yet and the remarks about Jesus. Stay tuned!

District Supt. Harvey Burnett said...


And I suppose you forgot about the other "Jesus" of the bible who lived during the same times that was admittedly a magician or sourcerer? Remember BarJesus? (Acts 13:6-11)

I mean you guys make all kinds of fanciful leaps with information when you believe it blosters your cause. Then when the Christian makes relationships with the information (that actually make sense) you give him all sorts of grief...

All I'm saying is approach it all evenly. Be as critical with that bowl as you are with Josephus or Tacitus. I might say at that time that these guys have something I should listen to. Until then it's all smoke and mirrors.

Lvka said...

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Harry McCall said...


I didn't write the article I just posted it. I introduced it as a question and not a fact.

My point on Josephus is entirely different; I feel the whole testimony is forged.

Harvey, based simply on the acts of Jesus in the two passages I quoted (Mark 8 and John 9) have you or your church spit in blind people’s eye to heal them? How about spit mixed with dirt to make mud and them stuffed it in their eyes? Why have you not done this? Are you scared of a law suited?

Since Jesus did it himself, why not you and your Pentecostal church? Why didn't Jesus simply heal the or heal them with a simple prayer to the Father?

My be, Harvey, Jesus could have used the wart of a toad and the eye of a newt to heal with since it as good a spit and mud!

Stay tuned!

District Supt. Harvey Burnett said...


If you're asking me for the rationale of Jesus during healing the blind with spit and mud (clay) There are a host of "types" that are fulfilled in the event and his actions, and as the post is not about that I won't elaborate.

I will say however that in neither of the Mark and John texts were the actions of Jesus described as being the acts of a "magician". Not even by the questioning enemy (John 9)

They questioned whether he was a "sinner" or a true follower of God and you would think they would run the gambit and include "magic" as a choice.

Maybe these "superstitious" persons, as you guys claim, knew that "magic" wasn't real or an option in healing this man confirmed to have been previously blind...This seriously debunks both you and John's argument to the contrary...A "superstitious" people would have claimed "magic" for every event and especially this one...but they don't.

That would have been the perfect place to introduce such language as we see said of BarJesus in Acts BUT it's missing...Why? Because "magic" wasn't a viable option for the works of Jesus.

What I see is an agenda by the authors of the article no more no less and certainly not less than fanciful conjecture with no support...Should I say Da Vinci Code?

Later Harry.

Harry McCall said...

So, Harvey, in the end simply praying to God did nothing with these two examples. Little wonder no one is healed expect as only Harvey knows of.

This figure of Jesus in the Gospels would be more at home in Harry Potter series than what I see as Benny Hinn healing ministry (He never spit in the blind eyes).

So why does Benny Hinn heal while Billy Graham can not? I’ve followed The Hour of Decision for 40 years and I NEVER saw anyone “Healed” at any of his crusades.

Even Hinn has been studied in long term follow ups where the “healed” cancer believer dies later only to me never mentioned by Hinn again.

Again, Harvey, why have you not spit in blind peoples eyes like Jesus did to heal them? Is this too much like magic?

As Morton Smith has pointed out: Your religion is another persons magic and vice-versa.

District Supt. Harvey Burnett said...


Morton Smith??? Wasn't he that homosexual who faked a supposedly lost book condoning homosexuality???

Anyway, back to the point...Personally I've seen healings Harry, we've gone over this before. I've experienced healings also...Evan told me what a certain condition was that I had some years ago...Those aren't any problems neither is it anything I obsess over...

So far as Graham, since you've watched Graham for over 40 years, has he ever once during that time prayed for anyone's healing specifically? Has he ever called anyone or has anyone ever communicated to him that they had an ailment that they wanted healed??? You tell me. That might be why you never witnessed a healing by his ministry.

So far as Hinn, he's certainly the exception to the rule in my book. I see nothing there that would make me glorify Christ in my opinion, so he's not tooo sterling of an example...

So far as what Jesus did with this blind man's eyes...did he pray for the man at all???


Seek4Truth said...

I would be curious to know if anyone thinks Christianity arose from mystery religions. I'm familiar with Osiris-Dionysus and the book "The Jesus Mysteries" by Freke and Gandy, which I wrote some commentary on here: (http://schoonmaker.wordpress.com/category/jesus/). However, Christians argue the following:

1) Most mystery religions are dated later than the New Testament, making mystery theology and symbolism dependent on Christianity.
2) There is no evidence of mystery religions existing in 1st century Palestine.

If you think Christianity is a rehash of mystery religions, why do you think this is the case?

Harry McCall said...

For well documented answers to your questions, Walter Burkert is a master on this subject and the two following books (published by Harvard University Press and sold at a discount by Amazon) are two great masterful surveys to start with.

Ancient Mystery Cults (Carl Newell Jackson Lectures)

From the back cover:
[The foremost historian of Greek religion provides the first comprehensive, comparative study of a little-known aspect of ancient religious beliefs and practices. Secret mystery cults flourished within the larger culture of the public religion of Greece and Rome for roughly a thousand years. This book is neither a history nor a survey but a comparative phenomenology. Concentrating on five major cults. In defining the mysteries and describing their rituals, membership, organization, and dissemination, Walter Burkert displays the remarkable erudition we have come to expect of him; he also shows sensitivity and sympathy in interpreting the experiences and motivations of the devotees.]

Greek Religion: Archaic and Classical

Well stated review by a reviewer at Amazon:

“I recommend this book as an introduction for everybody who is interested in this daunting subject. Daunting, because it was forbidden for the initiated to speak about the mystery. Nearly everything we know (besides artwork - Athens - architectural sites) came to us indirectly (e.g. the formidable play 'Bakchai' by Euripides).

Furthermore, all sanctuaries were destroyed after the imperial decrees (391/392) of Theodosius the Great prohibiting all pagan cults.

The author analyses 5 mystery cults : Eleusis, Meter, Isis, Mithras, and the Dionysian and Bacchian mysteries.

As we can learn from the work of Karl Kerenyi, the influence of Eleusis on Christianity should not be underestimated. Apparently, through the myth of Demeter/Persephone, the initiated were 'shown' that there was life after death. Plato was initiated (as nearly all Roman emperors) and as Hannah Ahrendt tells us in her book 'The origins of Totalitarianism', Plato must be considered as one of the fathers of the Christian creed.

For the mysteries of Mithras, I recommend the work of J. Vermaseren.

As Burkert states, most of the mysteries were expensive clubs and the experience was purely individual. That is the reason why they disappeared so rapidly: they lacked any lasting organization as the Christian Church. Another reason for Burkert was the inclusion of the family as the basic unit of piety in Christianity. The Church got the upper hand for demographic reasons.

Contrary to Burkert, we know from the work of Kerenyi on Eleusis that the taking of drugs (the kykeon) was important (it was taken after a longer period of fasting).
Burkert gives us a very good summary indeed.”