Christian History Home > Blog > 2009 > December > Top(?) Ten Christian History News Stories of 2009
Top(?) Ten Christian History News Stories of 2009
A preliminary list.
1 of 3
As the managing editor for news and online journalism at Christianity Today, I'm constantly watching out for religion news. As a church history fan, I pay particular attention when today's developments intersect with yesterday's.
We've recently finished putting together our list of the top news stories of 2009 (we haven't released our list yet, but Religion Newswriters Association, Baptist Joint Committee, Catholic News Service, and Time have.) I have to say, for pure news value, it seemed like a slow news year in religion news.
It was a bit of a slow news year in Christian history news, too, but I was able to put a list together of some notable events. Still, I can't help but feel I'm missing something rather significant. Consider this, then, a non-authoritative, preliminary list.
1. A year of anniversaries
The "restoration movement" celebrated the 200th anniversary of its founding document of sorts, Thomas Campbell's "Declaration and Address of the Christian Association of Washington." Baptists celebrated the 400th anniversary of the first Baptist congregation by Thomas Helwys and John Smyth. The 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth drew renewed attention to his "enigmatic" faith (Charles Darwin, born the same day, got similar treatment.) But, probably due to the growing popularity of the "young Reformed movement," the 500th birthday of John Calvin got the most attention.
2. Archaeologists find Israel's largest artificial cave near Jericho
University of Haifa Archaeologist Adam Zertal told reporters he thought the site might be Galgala (Gilgal)—or perhaps just a place where later Christians thought Gilgal might have been. But at the very least, the 31 cross markings on the pillars and the suggestion that the site may have been a monastery or early Christian refuge during periods of persecution remains intriguing.
3. Discovery announced of a Byzantine church near Jerusalem with "breathtakingly beautiful mosaics"
The good news: A church from the sixth or seventh century was discovered at Moshav Nes-Harim, near Jerusalem. Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist Daniel Ein Mor said the excavation "supplements our knowledge about the nature of the Christian-Byzantine settlement in the rural areas between the main cities in this part of the country during the Byzantine period, among them Bet Guvrin, Emmaus and Jerusalem." Among the findings: "breathtakingly beautiful mosaics" and an inscription: "O Lord God of Saint Theodorus, protect Antonius and Theodosia the illustres [a title used to distinguish high nobility in the Byzantine period] - Theophylactus and John the priest [or priests]. [Remember o Lord] Mary and John who have offe[red - ] in the 6th indiction. Lord, have pity of Stephen."
The story does not have a happy ending: "In November , during the first excavation in the site, archaeologists exposed the church's narthex—the broad entrance at the front of the church's nave. It was filled with a carpet of polychrome mosaics that was adorned with geometric patterns of intertwined rhomboids separated by flower bud motifs. Unfortunately, at the conclusion of that excavation, the mosaic was defaced and almost completely destroyed by unknown vandals."
4. Pope Benedict XVI confronts Holocaust denial
The Pope's decision to lift the excommunication of four bishops associated with the Society of St. Pius X, including Richard Williamson, caused an uproar. Williamson had denied the extent of the Holocaust, saying, "I think that 200,000 to 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps, but none of them in gas chambers." Pope Benedict acknowledged "mistakes" in handling the lifting of the excommunication, including not "consulting the information available on the internet." The debate, which became a focus of Benedict's May visit to Israel, gave opportunity for pundits to call attention to the longstanding discussion over whether Vatican did enough to save Jews during World War II and to the history of Catholic-Jewish relations.
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