Candida Moss and Indiana Jones

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Candida Moss, Professor of Theology at Notre Dame, fresh off her laurels claiming that the Christian persecution by the Roman Emperors was much ado about nothing, read here and here for our examination of that deathless gift to scholarship, now comments about the latest claimant for the Holy Grail, basing her analysis on the same theory propounded by Indiana Jones in the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade:  that a cup made out of precious material would not have been used by a carpenter.  This latest attempt to gain publicity for herself has brought her to the attention of Christopher Johnson, a non-Catholic who has taken up the cudgels so frequently in defense of the Church that I have named him Defender of the Faith;



Some Spanish researchers recently claimed to have discovered the Holy Grail, the cup that Jesus employed at the Last Supper.  I’m not convinced but since I’ve never been a relics kind of guy, that doesn’t much matter.  Candida Moss, professor of the New Testament and early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame, is also skeptical:

Even if you strip off the precious metals the cup is still too fancy. Agate was widely used to carve high-value objects like signets and cylinder seals in the ancient Near East. The historian Pliny the Elder describes owning agate cups as a sign of wealth and luxury. The imperial biographer Suetonius tells us that, of all of the riches of Alexandria, the emperor Augustus kept only a single agate cup. The emperor Nero—known for his debauchery apparently collected the things. In 66 C.E., when one of Nero’s contemporaries, Petronius, realized that he was about to be executed by the emperor and planned to commit suicide, his final act was to smash an agate ladle worth 300,000 sesterces rather than allow Nero to get his hands on it. To put that in perspective: male laborers living in Republican Rome made about 3 sesterces a day. While agate could likely be acquired much more cheaply, aristocratic Romans were serious about their agate.

Yeah, uh, Candy?  Cupcake?  If I remember the Scriptures correctly, the Lord informed His disciples that the place where He was to eat His final Passover with his disciples had been prepared in advance so there would have been no need for Our Lord to have owned any particular item involved with it. 

Inasmuch as, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head,” why would the Son of the Most High God have ever owned His own chalice?  This is the intellectual and theological reason why, claims Candy, professor of the New Testament and early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame as well as an intellectual and theological badass.

Arguably the bigger issue is the cup’s appearance. As any fan of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade knows, Jesus would have used a simple carpenter’s cup. Like all dramatic reenactments, Indiana Jones has some minor historical flaws, but it certainly got that right. Archeological excavations have yielded many examples of ancient Israelite cups and they are made of cheap durable fabrics.

‘Kay.  Except that the “carpenter’s cup” in IJ&TLC was lined with gold.  Just sayin’, Candy.  Roman Catholics?  I know that most of you have gotten a huge kick out of how often you’ve rolled the Anglicans and quite justifiably so; if you’ve got a mark who doesn’t know he’s a mark then work that mark for as long as you can.

But Candy and ND are all yours.  So you will hopefully forgive a few Anglican chuckles.

Go here to read the comments.  Christ of course had rich as well as poor followers, think Joseph of Arimathea for example.  The argument that a cup could not be the Holy Grail because it is made out of precious materials therefore is rubbish.  Ms. Moss should stick to theology, because history obviously isn’t her strong suit.

More to explorer

Dear Crazy Leader

  News that I missed, courtesy of The Babylon Bee:   WASHINGTON, D.C.—In a scathing Twitter thread, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took Fox


  1. Or about His Saints, as in this review of Kyle Harper’s From Shame to Sin: the Christian Transformation of Sexual Morality in Late Antiquity, remarkable only for its pose of resigned tedium:

    [F]or a book that so stridently argues that marriage in the ancient world was about procreation,[n.b.: that’s not what Harper argues –E.S.] it is strange to find no discussion of the idealisation of adoption by both Romans and Christians, ancient Greek theories of population control, or the realities of contraception and infant exposure. As excavations of the sewer systems under Roman brothels have horrifyingly revealed, not everyone saw children as a blessing. And while Christian theologians may have dismissed same-sex love out of hand, it is difficult to deny the homoerotic undertones of the love between saints Sergius and Bacchus or Paulinus of Nola’s chaste love for Christ. The legislation may have been radical and clear-cut but the evidence can be queried.

    This whole Church as Bride, Christ as Bridegroom “thing” seems to be over her head here . Which is funny, since the beginning of the review seems to indicate that Moss is quite receptive to sexual allegory.

    Or rather, that’s the crux of the problem, since marital allegory is what we’re really talking about here, isn’t it?

  2. This demonstrates why scholarship should be left to scholars, like Professor Moss. Why start out with name-calling? Donny, if I may, this is sexist and juvenile.

    The Son of Man had nowhere to lay Head, but that does not mean the Lord set out a magic seder. Wouldn’t that have been a distraction to the Apostles? There is no record in the Bible where God tried to make an impression in the world with agate or precious stones. Even the Commandments were carved in stone. The Ark of the Covenant was gold-plated but with no jewels and made mostly of wood. All the evidence points to a medieval forgery, as Professor Moss argues.

  3. “This demonstrates why scholarship should be left to scholars, like Professor Moss.”
    I will assume that was a jest.

    “Why start out with name-calling? Donny, if I may, this is sexist and juvenile.”

    Complain to Christopher Johnson and not me Maria, he wrote it. Incidentally I grew up being called Donnie by my relatives, and that is what they still call me, so the tit for tat fell flat.

    “There is no record in the Bible where God tried to make an impression in the world with agate or precious stones.”
    In regard to the temple it was arrayed, at God’s command according to the Old Testament, with all sorts of precious finery.

    As to Christ, He was taken to task more than once for eating with tax collectors and publicans. Christ noted Himself that he was accused of eating and drinking by the same people who criticized John for fasting. Then there was the criticism by Judas in regard to the expensive perfume used by a sinner to anoint the feet of Jesus. Joseph of Arimathea gave Christ the tomb in which His body was laid, a luxury that only a wealthy man could afford. Your argument is without merit based on the Gospels. Christ owned nothing but he had no problem accepting contributions from His followers.

    “All the evidence points to a medieval forgery, as Professor Moss argues.”

    I make no argument for the validity of the alleged Holy Grail. I merely note that the argument of Candida Moss that it is too fine to be the cup used by Christ at the Last Supper is rubbish.

  4. You published it. Don’t you have standards of decorum? You can’t be proud that a Professor at Notre Dame is called “cupcake” in the pages of The American Catholic.

    Professor Moss’ did not base her entire argument on the fact that the cup was probably too fine to have been owned by Christ. (Your change in emphasis, that was too fine to be “used” is unfair.) Most persuasive to me was her observation that the provenance of the alleged Holy Grail ends at 1037 CE when the relic trade was in full swing.

  5. “You can’t be proud that a Professor at Notre Dame is called “cupcake” in the pages of The American Catholic.”

    Rather prouder I think than Notre Dame should be to have a scholar so devoid of scholarship as Ms. Moss in its employ. I base my judgment as to her lack of scholarship on her The Myth of Persecution tome.

    “Professor Moss’ did not base her entire argument on the fact that the cup was probably too fine to have been owned by Christ.”

    No, and the rest of her argument was not the object of my criticism.

    “(Your change in emphasis, that was too fine to be “used” is unfair.)”

    Not at all. I never contended that Christ owned the cup He used at the Last Supper. What we know about the Last Supper would indicate that he owned nothing that was used in it, including the cup which He used for the first Mass, which makes arguments about what the cup would look like based upon Christ being a carpenter completely erroneous.

  6. For those who wish to know; this text by Anna Emerich accurately describes the chalice used by Jesus at the Last Supper.:


    The Chalice used at the Last Supper

    The chalice which the Apostles brought from Veronica’s house was
    wonderful and mysterious in its appearance. It had been kept a long
    time in the Temple among other precious objects of great antiquity, the
    use and origin of which had been forgotten. The same has been in some
    degree the case in the Christian Church, where many consecrated jewels
    have been forgotten and fallen into disuse with time. Ancient vases and
    jewels, buried beneath the Temple, had often been dug up, sold, or
    reset. Thus it was that, by God’s permission, this holy vessel, which
    none had ever been able to melt down on account of its being made of
    some unknown material, and which had been found by the priests in the
    treasury of the Temple among other objects no longer made use of, had
    been sold to some antiquaries. It was bought by Seraphia, was several
    times made use of by Jesus in the celebration of festivals, and, from
    the day of the Last Supper, became the exclusive property of the holy
    Christian community.

    More here and at many other links:

  7. As I understand your logic and the facts,

    1. You don’t like Candida Moss.
    2. She is called “cupcake” in a piece with your byline.
    3. You think that 2 is okay because of 1.

    Is that correct? I don’t agree with 1, but I accept that a person arguing in good faith might hold that view. But 3 is simply not a responsible position. If you really believe that (which I doubt you do if you reflect on it for a moment), than I can’t debate with you.

  8. “1. You don’t like Candida Moss.”

    Never having met her I haven’t the foggiest whether I would like her or not.

    “3. You think that 2 is okay because of 1.”

    No, my statement was that I was prouder of running Mr. Johnson’s post than Notre Dame should be to have a professor like Candida Moss who is a poor scholar. Her scholarship I can judge in regard to history and it is quite poor. That has nothing to do as to whether I would like her if I met her.

  9. The back & forth in these comments is superbly entertaining. Jesus did not own the donkey he entered Jerusalem on. The very idea that some “scholar” would attempt to place physical & historical limits on the Son of God is also extremely hilarious. :-D. I sincerely appreciate Donnie’s post. May there be many more like them. (Donald since u were defacto being accused of sexism I thought I would weigh in–though I know you are very skilled in answering your critics and have taken regular note of your advanced abilities to defend your posts using Internet ink! ROFLOL. 😉

  10. Moss’s attempt at scholarship is the very worst kind. In general, agate was used by the rich, therefore since Jesus was poor, he could not have used agate. I don’t believe the spanish story, but her lame attempt at quasi scholarship would have been laughed out of town in bygone days. Unfortunately, today the colleges are filled with politically active kooks, and this is what we get.

  11. Maria L. Ramirez,

    You evidently are unaware that statements posted in comment boxes are subject to response by anyone, not only the one to whom you imagine you are solely
    speaking. You appear to be ignorant of this reality, so now you know. I did get a good laugh from your correction of exNOAAman, so thanks for that.

    The central thrust of your argument seems to mostly consist of your sentiments as a defensive feminist who imagines that Candy (I just said that because you take the bait so easily; takes me back to fond days in grade school) is being disprespected because she is female. Not hardly.

    Candy is not flawed because she is a woman; she is a woman whose intellectual “achievements” are flawed because her research and theorizing are shoddy and absurd. There are plenty of men who equally deserve to be mocked for seriously advancing fluff as fact.

    She constructs a single theory based on limited facts about who in Jewish society in Jesus’ time would own a chalice made of precious metals. Not a bad idea to consider, but she offers no compelling (or even not so compelling) argument why other possibilities just as plausible shouldn’t be considered.

    While the citation of the Emmereich vision is not evidence, it does provide a possibility. A more likely scenario is that the master of the house to which the Apostles went to arrange the Passover meal may have owned it (we can presume he knew who Jesus was), and placed it at His seat as a gesture of honor. Either of these are just as likely as her proposal, and you don’t need to play a theologian on TV to come up with them.

    But the biggest factor in earning Candy full and total disprespect was the nonsense she put forward that Christians were not persecuted by Roman emporers. That nonsense reveals her anti-Christian agenda.

    Yours is revealed not only by sophomoric antics over your hurt feminist feelings, but also by your use of BCE/CE – another move by academic atheists designed to take a chunk out of the historic foundations of Christianity.

    Feminism is a lie; there is nothing of true value in it which was not always available to women in the Catholic Church. Yes, Christian men (as well as non-Christian) have sinfully mistreated and used women, but feminism is no less guilty of sending millions of young women into a sexual slavery of a different, more modern sort. Today, more than ever, young men are getting away with satiating their sexual urges by using young women whom feminism has made “willing” as part of the perceived sexual “equality” with men. In the limited vision of feminist theorists such equality is attained by asuming the sexual attitudes and behaviors typical of men. Yeah, that’s real smart.

    Whether the slavery of the 1st century or a male participant in today’s hook-up culture which feminism has enabled, women are still sexually used and oppressed but only more so, thanks to radical feminist theory.

    You probably have no idea what I’m referring to, so that disqualifies you from the possibility of any interaction between us. I don’t bother with trying to educate those hopelessly wrapped in the strait-jacket of progressive “thinking.” I find outlets for my charity work among those who are receptive to Truth. Hard cases like you and Candy are not my ministry.

  12. While almost every crucifixion victim’s body was thrown into a lime pit to dissolve bones and all as further punishment for their ‘crime’, Jesus’ Body was sought by Joseph of Arimetheia, a leading (and obviously dissenting) member of the Sanhedrin who had Jesus’ Body placed in his own (or at least one he bought for this occasion) rock tomb-that is a sign of substantive material backing for Jesus and His community of disciples.

    Scholars believe that the Upper Room was actually an Essene ‘retreat center’ [easiest way to put it]. A man did not carry a water jar yet that was the sign given to the two apostles to prepare for the Passover. It was not accidental in any stretch of the imagination

    Remember that Mary of Bethany (unnamed woman in Synoptics, but named in John’s Gospel) anointed Jesus’ feet etc with costly aromatic nard in an alibaster vase [all from India] again nothing ‘poor’ about this [BTW she is not the same woman who bathed Jesus’ feet in her tears, etc]. Judas was ‘scandalized’ but Jesus interpreted it as a prelimary for His own burial

    If we are to believe (which I do) that the Shroud is authentic, the linen is a very refined Egyptian twill dated from the first century-and it would have been very expensive.

    While I do not believe that the Holy Grail was as expensive and ornate as some Medieval and Baroque Chalices, to think it would have been simply ‘a Carpenter’s Cup’ is a real stretch in my estimation.

    BTW as a historical theology person with emphasis on the Church Fathers for Candida Moss to claim that the Roman persecution was ‘tame’ etc, especially the pogrom of the the Emperor Diocletian in the early 300’s defies all description.

    I would add however, that the ‘pagan’ Persian persecution of Christians in Persia, Iran, roughly at the time of Diocletian and Constantine was a campaign of all but completely successful extermination. More died in Persia than in the Roman Empire (but that does not mean the Roman persecution was negligible)

  13. to be clear—-My background is historical theology with an emphasis on the Church Fathers [I realize I was not clear in the original post]

  14. I would be embarrassed to cite an “Indiana Jones” movie in a footnote. And, that is saying a lot.

    Note to Bob Palmer: ” Shut up!!! ” is not a reasoned argument. I assume that you believe that unsupported conjectures, opinions, and wild-eyed speculations make a lib more smarter than the rest of us.

  15. “Like all dramatic reenactments, Indiana Jones has some minor historical flaws”
    Sean Connery as Dr. Jones slaps Harrison Ford as Indiana upside the head. “What’s that for?” “That’s for blasphemy.” Would that all film makers remember their place when it comes to the Person of God. Best scene I’ve ever seen, having suffered through so much stomach turning blasphemy. That 600 year old knight was cool too.

  16. Jesus embraced the virtue of poverty. Jesus was not poor. One of the three kings brought to Christ gold, for Christ’s sovereignty as King. Mary and Joseph would not have used it up for it was not gifted to them.

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