Coming Dec. 12 – The Birth of Christianity: A Jewish Story

When did Christianity begin and what do we know about its origins? Did it begin with Jesus? And, what do we know about him? During the 20th century, a number of spectacular archeological discoveries in the land of Israel have greatly increased our knowledge of ancient Israel, culture and lifestyles.

When The Birth of Christianity: A Jewish Story, a new special exhibition, opens at the Houston Museum of Natural Science on Dec. 12, you’ll have a chance to explore these new discoveries for yourself, through the display of ancient scrolls, objects and artifacts. In the following video, Guest Curator Matthias Henze, Ph.D., discusses how the artifacts gathered in this premiere exhibition are “the closest we can get to the historical Jesus:”

Guest Curator Matthias Henze, Ph.D., Chair in Biblical Studies at Rice University, is a foremost scholar in The Dead Sea Scrolls, as well as the diverse eschatological branches of Early Judaism, including the Qumran community; Enochic Judaism; and nascent Christianity. In the video above, he also discusses how important it is to understand the “Jewish roots of early Christianity;” and the many commonalities these two religious traditions share to this day.

Artifacts on display will include one of the original Dead Sea Scrolls; original New Testament manuscripts, including an excerpt from the Gospel of Luke that contains the Christmas story; a large-scale, stone model of Jerusalem during the Second Temple period; and an ossuary bearing the inscription “Alexander, son of Simon of Cyrene.” According to the New Testament Gospels, Simon of Cyrene was forced to bear Jesus’ cross on his way to be crucified. However:

“What makes this exhibition so compelling…are not the objects alone. It is the story we are telling that brings the objects to life,” said Henze. “For example, an oil lamp remains just that – unless the visitor makes the connection that this object was used during the time the King Herod, who expanded the Second Temple complex in Jerusalem and is known from the New Testament for the notorious massacre of innocent babies.”

Judaism and Christianity are two of history’s most influential religions – discover their stories, and the connections between them, in The Birth of Christianity: A Jewish Story, on display Dec. 12 – April 12, 2009.

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