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Saint Paul writing his epistles in a painting attributed to French painter Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632 AD). The works supposedly add up to what is known as St. Paul’s Bible.           Source: Valentin de Boulogne / Public domain

The Mystery of St. Paul’s Lost Bible: Is Someone Hiding Something!

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The noise that woke the neighbors in the twilight was the sound of trucks carrying the earth from the excavations in that small house in the neighborhood. What were they looking for in that little slum-like house? How many meters deep had they descended, since so much earth had come out of such a small place? Were they after a clue? Why was this excavation guarded by armed guards, and no one but a few authorized people could enter? What was the mystery of this excavation that lasted a year? Did the commissioner, who was killed for an unknown reason, wanted to inform someone about a "find" that he should not have seen? Believe it or not, the answer to all these questions has to do with the long-lost St. Paul’s bible.

The Vatican Embassy in Turkey declared through official channels in 2019 that the house excavation had nothing to do with St. Paul’s bible, which was said to be found in and taken from Tarsus, or related rumors! If the rumor that St. Paul’s bible was delivered personally to the pope long ago was untrue, why was it necessary to take these rumors seriously and make a statement at the highest level? Could this statement alone be seen as evidence and as a way for the source of the rumors disappear?

The excavation in question took place in Tarsus, an important 10,000-year-old city that could not become a province because it was sandwiched between Adana and Mersin in the south of Turkey.

The house in Tarsus where the excavation took place and where clues to St. Paul’s bible were possibly found and destroyed or hidden away. ( Sozcu / Author provided )

Mithra Temple and its Indirect Connections with St. Paul’s Bible

The “unexplained” house excavation took place in a Tarsus suburb near the ancient ruins of Donuktaş, one of the largest temples of the ancient era. Does the historical wind of philosophical development coming from the ruins of Donuktaş (Pale Stone), a Mithra temple , from the 2nd century BC, continue to affect Christianity even today?

Donuktaş still remains a mystery. The most valuable artifact unearthed from the Donuktaş temple so far was a huge bronze door . It was brought to Constantinople’s Hagia Sophia church by Emperor Theophilus (829-842 AD). The bronze door was “embroidered” like a textile is embroidered with needlework. There is no earlier example of a bronze door so finely decorated.

Donuktaş Mithra Temple, ( muratart / Adobe Stock)

After the mysterious excavation of the house in Tarsus was completed, the place was abandoned, and the unidentified finds were taken to an unknown location. It is not known what was found beneath that mysterious house, why this excavation was carried out, and why it took so long. For the community it was a complete mystery. And, so far, no satisfactory official explanation has been given about the finds and the results of the excavation.

Tarsus: The Birthplace of St. Paul

Tarsus was a city in ancient Cilicia . Today, it is located in the modern-day province of Mersin, Turkey. It is one of the oldest continually inhabited urban centers in the world, dating back to the Neolithic Period. It is best known as the birthplace of Saint Paul (5 AD-67 AD), and also some of the earliest teachings of Christianity. This is according to the biblical Book of Acts, the epistles which make up most of the Christian New Testament.

Tarsus was home to an ancient school of ancient philosophies influenced by St. Paul’s vision of Christianity. At the time of Saint Paul (also known as Saul of Tarsus), Tarsus was a sophisticated urban scholarly center. It was home to a university and a library of 200,000 volumes. The city became a center of learning and philosophy that trained the famous philosophers of the Stoic school . Tarsus was home to one of the three largest universities of the ancient era, along with Athens and Alexandria.

Saint Paul's Church in Tarsus. (CeeGee / CC BY-SA 4.0 )

The importance of education in Tarsus continues today. And the Tarsus American College established in 1888 continues to be influential in Turkey today. Tarsus is one of the unique cities of modern Turkey known for its cultural diversity and tolerance.

Because of St. Paul, Christianity more or less began in Tarsus and over time became the dominant religion not only in Cilicia but Europe as well.    

The iconographic diversity of the countless terracotta Tarsus figurines, which have been unearthed all over the area since the mid-19th century, indicates how important religion was in the ancient center. Many early religions met and intersected at Tarsus. And in the Jewish, Christian and Islamic religions the city is considered to be of great importance.

The geographic location of Tarsus, at the crossroads of trade routes linking the Aegean coast to the nearby cities of the east and the Levant, sits right on the southern reaches of the Mediterranean basin. Thus, as a place of transit, Tarsus was influenced by and absorbed numerous cultural and religious influences.

In 2008, declared the "Year of St. Paul" by Pope Benedict XVI, the Vatican ambassador to Ankara, the bishop of Anatolian Catholic Churches and a group of 37 religious’ figures from Italy visited St. Paul’s home at Tarsus.

Pope Benedict, as a theologian and scripture scholar, wanted to direct the Christian world’s attention to St. Paul, one of the most important figures in the history of the Church. St. Paul explicitly defined himself as "apostle by vocation" or "apostle by the will of God.” Believers called him the "13th Apostle," or "the first after the Only."

A 19th-century artistic rendering of the Library of Alexandria by the German artist O. Von Corven, based partially on the archaeological evidence available at that time. (O. Von Corven / Public domain )

The mystery of the tomb of the “Prophet Daniel”, the story of the “Seven Sleepers”, the mystical legend of “Shahmaran”, the love date of Cleopatra and Antonius and many others. These are not the only myths and facts that make Tarsus so popular, nor is the Tarsus American College, which has trained important people and leaders for Turkey and the world since 1888.

Tarsus, where the philosophy of Christianity began to form, was home to one of the few important schools of philosophy in the ancient era. We know that many important books were taken to Alexandria by Antonius and Cleopatra from the library of Tarsus. This library is also one of the 3 largest libraries of the ancient world, together with Antakya and Alexandria. Unfortunately, while the Library of Alexandria was burning, the great knowledge of the ancient world from Tarsus was also feeding that fire.

In ancient times, information was given in a lively discussion environment not only at school but also at public meetings. Thus, most of the community was able to benefit from the teaching. Tarsus influenced the entire Aegean region 2300 years ago with its school of Stoic and Mithra philosophies, and many important philosophers based in the city from the 3rd century BC onwards.

Mithraic relief with original colors (reconstitution) from roughly 140–160 AD; from Argentoratum (the ancient name of Strasbourg). Part of the Strasbourg Archaeological Museum collection. (Jona Lendering / CC0)

The Connections Between Mithra, Stoicism and Christianity

The understanding created by the Stoic thought in Tarsus and the personalization of the forces of nature, combined with the belief in Monotheism, evolved into the belief in God, the Son and Holy Spirit in Christianity. Many religions and philosophies that are the predecessors of each other and affect the next movement have deified the forces of nature. Persia’s Mithraism religion influenced Stoic philosophy in the 1st century. The Stoics' beliefs in astronomy and astrology from Mithra led to the formation of their "fate cannot be challenged" philosophies.

The great principle of Stoicism is to act in accordance with nature. In nature, everything is God. To act in accordance with nature means to act in accordance with reason and wisdom, thus being in conformity with oneself.

Raised in a world of Stoic philosophy, St. Paul was not completely indifferent to the social conditions lived in. For Paul (Saul), righteousness, virtue, devotion to religion, faith, helping the needy, loving God, walking in the path of Jesus and being knowledgeable were the rules that must be followed in life.

When this monotheistic and virtuous understanding was enriched and wrapped up with "Jesus" and his miracles , Christianity began to flourish.

Early Christianity , both institutionally and practically, was shaped by previous philosophical ideas and was rooted in Stoicism, Plato and Aristotle.

The ancient Greek philosophy, based on trust in the power of the human mind, was no longer dominant due to the creation of monotheist religions. The new era of a single-centered medieval thought was in power, in which man would adhere to religion and what it says. The development of free reasoning and wisdom was superseded by divine command, and philosophical thinking was thrust underground in the darkness of the Middle Ages.

Miniature in Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry depicting the Baptism of Jesus, where God the Father proclaimed Jesus to be his Son. (Jean Colombe / Public domain )

The “God’s Child Myth”

In prehistoric times when modern humans were evolving, the father of a child was unknown and there was no understanding of family. Sexual intercourse was done just for pleasure. In fact, it was thought that the father of the child could be any one of the sky gods due to the falling rain or an animal that was fought months ago. Initially they witnessed a seed from a fruit turning into a crop, emerging from the earth and blooming, and considered it as a process of rebirth! This might have been the reason for them to start burying their dead and hoping for a rebirth in due time. This could also be the reason for them to think that the magical raindrops coming from the gods were to be blamed for impregnating women, gods being the fathers! This thought was accumulated in the DNA memory of mankind and later, in all early religions. And many of these ancient civilizations believed in the myth of “children from God.”

In the belief of Mithraism, the prophet Mithra was born from a virgin, not as a result of normal pregnancy. He was also born a second time after death! At his last supper, there were 12 people with Mithra, just like the last supper of Jesus. With the influence of these and similar myths, "God's Son Jesus" was a very effective theory in order to deify Christianity and make it an acceptable religion. Thanks to the "Father-Son-Holy Spirit" trilogy, Christianity quickly gained supporters.

This and all the other miracles attributed to Jesus were used as tools for the acceptance of Christianity, which takes its philosophy from past knowledge and aims to regulate social life like all other religions.

As New Religions Grew So Did Cultural Military Might Grow

But for all new religions to grow and be accepted, power, especially military power, was needed. To enable this in the evolving world of Christianity the Edict of Milan was announced, by which Emperor Constantine I was able to attract many Christian soldiers. The Edict of Milan was a proclamation for tolerance towards Christians in the Roman Empire. It was the result of a political agreement reached in Milan in February 313 AD between the Roman emperors Constantine I and Licinius.

The edict that Licinius announced to Eastern Rome in June 313 gave everyone the freedom to worship any god they wished. Thus, Christians gained legal rights, which included founding churches. According to the edict, any properties confiscated by the state were to be immediately returned to the Christians. And the already trained, Christian armed forces, who were escaping and fighting with the Roman army, turned out to be an additional strong military force for Constantine.

Christianity began to reach a much wider population with the Edict of Milan. Christianity, which moved away from the other monotheistic religions common in the Middle East and appealed to more people, became the official religion of the Roman Empire over time. The choice of Christianity as an official religion by the Roman Empire took place in 381 AD during the reign of Theodosius.

16th-century fresco depicting the First Council of Nicaea from a fresco in the Sistine Chapel, Rome. ( Public domain )

The Bible: The Four Gospels and the First Nicaean Council

Around 60 AD, St. Paul also reconstructed the myth of his "Prophet Jesus." He established this new religion on solid foundations, which started to spread out with the help of other apostles sharing the same goal.

But there was an important problem: The Bible was not a single book. The different Gospels were written by many people and frequently expressed different and sometimes contradictory views.

Some of the notables of this new religion, including priest Arius, accepted that god was the one and only creator, but they rejected the concept of "Jesus, the Son of God." As a result of these and similar views finding supporters and the proliferation of contradictory voices, the First Council of Nicaea (325 AD) decided to destroy the gospels with different and contradictory views and continue with only the four gospels of today.

The four gospels were written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and became part of the first accepted Bible of Christianity. St. Paul, who created the theory of Christianity, was able to express his views only through his letters in the second part of the Bible.

What happened to the Bible that St. Paul wrote, St. Paul’s Bible, remains a most mysterious question? Was it lost? Or was it found but hidden because it contained opinions contrary to the prevailing view? The New Testament consists of the word of god reflected in the writings of the apostles, the Christian authors. If something went missing, then it looks like something went wrong, or that God's intentions were thwarted either intentionally or unintentionally.

At the time the First Council of Nicaea met, St. Paul's Bible did not exist. In other words, the Bible that was said to be found in Tarsus and thought to be hidden there had not yet been unearthed. And it would not be found for another 1700 years! When it was discovered during the excavation in Tarsus, did it have to be hidden or destroyed? Could this have been deemed necessary at the expense of the witnesses?

Did the findings in this excavation justify the views of Arius, who caused the meeting of the Nicaean council ? We do not know whether there were documents containing ideas, which St. Paul used while developing his theory, that were contrary to the generally accepted views about Jesus.

The idea of Jesus as the son of God is much older that Christianity and there are various versions of this “story.” The oldest one of all is the story of Thoth, “the Egyptian Jesus.” (Jean-François Champollion / Public domain )

How Many Jesuses Are There in History?

How many Jesuses are there in history? This is a great question, and the short answer is four.

The first and the oldest one that comes to mind is the “Egyptian Jesus,” who is the Egyptian God of wisdom, named Thoth (3000 BC). He became Hermes, who was blessed three times in the Ancient Greek period (Hermes Trismegistus). According to hermetic thought Thoth is Jesus's predecessor. And we know that the first “monotheistic” belief was the belief in the Egyptian God Athon, in 1300 BC.

Then comes the Iranian “Zoroastrian Jesus”” Saoshyant, 500 – 600 BC. The prophecy that the person who was born from a virgin woman would save the world was first stated in this belief, which can be seen as the foundation of the messianic faith.

And we have the contemporary of the Christian Jesus, from Anatolia. His name is Apollonius, and he was born in Bor (town of Tyana in the Roman province of Cappadocia in Anatolia) in 3 BC and died in Ephesus in 97 AD.

The “Jesus” of Nazareth was thought to have been born in the year “1 AD” and died around 30 AD. This means that Jesus passed away many years before the religion of Christianity was complete.

Apollonius of Tyana is also known as the “Jesus of Anatolia” was a contemporary of Jesus of Nazareth. He is shown here in a hat holding an orb, with dragon, fire, sphinx and tree. ( Public domain )

Apollonius, the son of a cultured and wealthy family, received a good education and went to Tarsus at the age of 16. In the school founded by Pythagoras, he received his education in a setting that offered semi-religious teachings based on mystery and philosophy. The school shared a parallel view with Ophism. The Ophites, also called Ophians, were a Christian Gnostic sect depicted by Hippolytus of Rome (170–235 AD) in a lost work, the Syntagma (the "arrangement"). It is also stated by some that the Christian Prophet Jesus is no one but Apollonius himself! 

According to Roman sources, in 135 AD, the name Apollonia was used instead of the name Tyana and the word “Appolonans” was used to refer to local people instead of the word “Romans.” According to these documents, Apollonius of Tyana was a miracle maker, healer, fortune teller, magician and a “neophytogorian” philosopher.

Apollonius expelled the demons that caused famine in the city of Ephesus, just as Prophet Jesus has expelled demons from an evil woman. He resurrected the dead daughter of a rich family from Ephesus, just like Jesus resurrected Lazarus. While Apollonius was on trial in Rome, he suddenly disappeared in front of everyone in the courtroom, just before the death sentence was to be given. This situation was recorded in historical documents and the minutes of the Roman Empire.

There are also claims that he cured a blind man and ended the black plague. With the Historical Council of Nicaea, the name Apollonius was erased from history, the claim that he was Jesus was rejected, and the name Tyana was to be used instead of Apollonia.

Are they all the same person, or are they figures created for the same purpose and then clothed with many legends and miracles? In other words, were existing different people equipped with this philosophical and religious symbolism?

The legacy inherited from Stoa to Christianity is “living, enjoying this world - not the other one that comes after death. Material environment is not important, and ‘virtue’ is enough for happiness.”

St. Paul used Jesus to transform his philosophy into a "religion." He needed such a mystery, a suitable figure and several miracles! Moreover, stories of miracles occurring in many other places and times continued to be attributed to Jesus. The best part of the job was that the person who would become the symbolic figure and prophet of the "religion" St. Paul was trying to create could no longer rival him, because he was dead!

The Ancient of Days (1794) Watercolor etching by William Blake. (William Blake / Public domain )

The Mysterious Tarsus Excavation: Hiding a Forbidden Truth?

Every religion needs a philosophical basis and miraculous stories to increase its credibility.

From Egypt to Zoroastrianism, from the Old Testament to other holy books, from Sumer to Ancient Greece, from Mithra to the Stoics, the same "core" material and knowledge appears again and again. Since there were many people who believed in the sanctity of this "essential core" material, the preference was to adapt the already believed miracles to the new religion instead of creating brand new ones.

Once the human brain was fully developed, people started to wonder, research and worry. During this quest, humans believed in many gods for a long time and tried to get rid of these worries a little bit.

With the accumulation of knowledge and the enlightenment of ancient times, the "thinking brain" began to seek the truth in and around itself. The mind turned from pagan polytheism to philosophical thoughts.

Before dogmatic religions, science was not developed enough, and people were looking for the “answers” with "thinking." While the search for the age of philosophy continued; on the one hand, scientific developments started to pave the way for truly enlightened minds. On the other hand, when too much enlightenment started to make the administration of society difficult, it was in the interest of the authorities to push people back into dogmas and God’s orders.

And thus, dogmatic religions were born. These strong religions have had the greatest influence ever on human societies. It was only in the Renaissance (1350-1450 AD) that science began its ascent.

Was St. Paul’s Lost Bible Found?

When St. Paul has completed his religious “doctrine” Jesus was dead. There were decades to go until the followers of Jesus were to be called “Christians” in Antioch

And it was only three hundred years later when the “Bible” as we know it became the standard text of Christianity.

And St. Paul’s secret shall likely remain hidden for many years to come. Sadly, the evidence found in Tarsus a few years ago will be kept a secret forever.

Top image: Saint Paul writing his epistles in a painting attributed to French painter Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632 AD). The works supposedly add up to what is known as St. Paul’s Bible.           Source: Valentin de Boulogne / Public domain

By A. Refik Kutluer

References

Hurriyet Daily News. (2020) UNESCO-listed St Paul Church in Turkey’s south aims to draw 200,000 visitors. Retrieved from https://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/unesco-listed-st-paul-church-in-turkeys-south-aims-to-draw-200-000-visitors-152659

Pismanlik, U. (2009). Philosophers of Tarsus in Ancient Times. Istanbul, Turkey: Arkeoloji ve Sanat Yayınlar.

The Daily Sabah. (2021). Google names excavation site in Mersin 'Mysterious House.' Retrieved from https://www.dailysabah.com/turkey/google-names-excavation-site-in-mersin-mysterious-house/news

The Daily Sabah. (2017). Vatican rejects claims of excavations for St. Paul’s Bible in Turkey's Tarsus. Retrieved from https://www.dailysabah.com/history/2017/11/02/vatican-rejects-claims-of-excavations-for-st-pauls-bible-in-turkeys-tarsus

Wallace, R., Williams, W. (1998). The Three Worlds of Paul of Tarsus. Abingdon-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, England, UK: Routledge Press.

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