On the first day of HMNS…a new exhibit debuts

Ring-oil lamp, 1st century B.C.E
On display in The Birth of Christianity:
A Jewish
Story
starting today.

The Birth of Christianity: A Jewish Story, a new special exhibition, makes its world premiere today, on the first day of HMNS. And that’s just the beginning – we’ve got 11 more days coming up, with great ideas for family fun this holiday season. You can check them all out now, at our spiffy new 12 Days of HMNS web site – or watch them roll out here until Christmas Eve.

For the first day of HMNS, we’re featuring our brand new exhibition, The Birth of Christianity: A Jewish Story – opening today. In the exhibit, you’ll embark on an adventure that spans the three centuries leading up to the birth of Jesus Christ, and the first decades after that – as the new religion of Christianity began to take shape.

Through a diverse array of artifacts, experience Jewish life during the reigns of Alexander the Great and the infamous King Herod. Return to the days of the Jewish War against the Romans and the stirring story of Masada, and learn the significance of Jewish burial customs. Finally, observe the dawn of the Christian Era. Along the way, marvel at ancient scrolls, objects and artifacts – such as 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 much more.

We’ve also developed an optional audio guide to go along with the exhibit, that allows you to explore what you see in greater depth. The voice of Flavius Josephus, a 1st century Jewish historian who survived the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem and lived during the development of early Christianity, is your guide through the exhibit. You can hear a preview of the audio guide here.

And, in case you missed it in our earlier post – in the video below, you can see guest curator Matthias Henze discuss how the artifacts gathered in this premiere exhibition are “the closest we can get to the historical Jesus,” how important it is to understand the “Jewish roots of early Christianity;” and the many commonalities these two religious traditions share to this day.

Learn more about The Birth of Christianity: A Jewish Story:
Ancient artifacts are delicate – but they’re sometimes very heavy. See how the exhibit came together.
Take a preview Walk Through the Exhibition online.
Get a sneak-listen of the new audio guide, developed specially for this exhibition, and based on the latest archaeological evidence.

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.