Have you ever wondered how much of Jesus’s public ministry is not reflected in the Gospels? We already know that a good deal of His earthly life was not recorded. But even the sections on his active ministry seem, as far as the narrative is concerned, somewhat truncated. It’s a very short synopsis of three very active years.
Which is why a news story I saw today caught my attention:
Historian and archivist Ignazio Perrucci, was hired by the Vatican authorities in 2012, to sort, analyze and classify some 6,000 ancient documents that had been uncovered in the gigantic archive vaults. He was already very excited when he noticed that the author of the text was the famous Roman historian Velleius, but he was completely stunned when he realized the nature of the content.
The text as a whole is a narrative of the author’s return journey from Parthia to Rome that occurred in 31 AD, recorded in a highly rhetorical style of four sheets of parchment. He describes many different episodes taking place during his trip, like a a violent sandstorm in Mesopotamia and visit to a temple in Melitta (modern day Mdina, in Malta).
The part of the text that really caught M. Perrucci’s attention is an episode taking place in the city of Sebaste (near modern day Nablus, in the West Bank). The author first describes the arrival of a great leader in the town with a group of disciples and followers, causing many of the lower class people from neighbouring villages to gather around them. According to Velleius, that great man’s name was Iēsous de Nazarenus, a Greco-Latin translation of Jesus’ Hebrew name, Yeshua haNotzri.
Upon entering town, Jesus would have visited the house of a woman named Elisheba, who had just given birth to a stillborn child. Jesus picked up the dead child and uttered a prayer in Aramaic to the heavens, which unfortunately the author describes as “immensus”, meaning incomprehensible. To the crowd’s surprise and amazement, the baby came back to life almost immediately, crying and squirming like a healthy newborn.
Many tests and analysis have been realized over the last weeks to determine the authenticity of the manuscript. The composition of the parchment and ink, the literary style and handwriting have all been carefully scrutinized and were considered to be entirely legitimate. The dating analysis also revealed that the sheepskin parchment on which the text is written, does indeed date from the 1st century of this era, more precisely from between 20-45 AD.
Sadly, the website reporting the story seems…less than credible. (Unless, of course, ranchers shooting down UFOs and stock-photo cops saving babies floating away on balloons are really happening.) An Italian news site reporting the same uses the same image of ancient manuscripts – which are not the documents in question. (A reverse image search shows the image to actually be of the Vindolanda Tablets.) If the documents in question do exist, hopefully more information will be available through trustworthy news sources some time soon.
Whether the story in question is true, it’s thought-provoking. It seems to be precisely the sort of thing that Jesus would have done, and it’s always interesting to encounter a new story about Him – especially under the auspices of being told by a neutral third-party observer. We feel as though we know His life so well, we’ve heard the parables and the miracles a thousand times, but there’s so much more history there than we’ll ever discover.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have eight children. You can find more of his writing at his Substack, The Skojec File.