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Historical Precedents: Simon of Cyrene

According to New Testament Gospel accounts, Simon of Cyrene was the one who helped to Jesus to carry the cross during the crucifixion.

The Forgotten Discovery

In 1941, a discovery of several ossuaries belonging to the family of Simon of Cyrene were discovered by a Hebrew University professor Eleazer Sukenink, and his assistant Nahman Avigad. The tomb was found in the Kidron valley, near the Old City of Jerusalem and the Arab village of Silwan. When they found it, the tomb was partially blocked by a closing stone.

The Professor Sukenink and Avigad carefully documented their finds and the ossuaries and other artifacts were then stored away. Most perplexingly, however, is that their complete findings would not be made public for some two decades. When finally released in 1962, the discovery was lacking the excitement of a recent find, and its conclusions and implications were quickly forgotten about, and their discovery would not be fully appreciated for some four decades later.

The fact is that Professor Sukenink and his assistant came across some very interesting finds among them, intact pottery pieces dating back to the first century A.D. However, even more intriguing were the 11 ossuaries contained in the tomb. Although the discovery of an ossuary is not rare, the inscriptions borne on nine of them were; two of these contained the name "Simon".

The first inscription read "Sara (daughter) of Simon, of Ptolemais." However, the second one was of greater interest. It read in three separate places "Alexander (son) of Simon". Could this be the same Alexander mentioned by Mark? Those examining the finds have noted that Alexander, as a Jewish name, was extremely rare at this time and even rarer to appear alongside a Simon. From a statistical perspective, presuming it is the same Simon mentioned in the New Testament, this connection between Alexander and Simon actually becomes quite probable.

The significance of this find among others is that is proves there may exist archaeological evidence to verify the existence of persons referred to in the Bible.


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