Stories about treasure hunting seem to have a universal appeal. Filmmakers and publishers can often count on such stories to attract large and enthusiastic audiences. Witness, for example, the box office success of the Indiana Jones and National Treasure films.


Accounts of actual treasure hunting can be even more interesting than the fictional tales told in popular films. One of history's most mysterious treasure maps dates from the first century A.D. and was discovered by archaeologists in Israel in 1952. Hammered in Hebrew letters into a thin sheet of copper are descriptions of sixty four caches of gold, silver, and other items said to be buried in various locations in Judea. No one knows how many, if any, of these stashes of treasure still lie in those locations, although a few possible sites have been explored. A review of a recent book on the Copper Scroll appears in this issue of Grace & Knowledge.


People have a variety of objectives in pursuing buried treasure. Many, of course, are simply trying to strike it rich. Others may be looking for fame, publications in scholarly journals, tenure on a university faculty, or the renewal of a research grant. One place where competition between amateur treasure hunters and scholars is especially intense is in modern-day Turkey, in the region in which the ancient empire of Lydia was once located. The current issue of Grace & Knowledge includes a report on the dynamics of this competition.


What constitutes treasure can be in the eye of the beholder. Many treasure hunters are looking for items that will command high prices on the antiquities market. Archaeologists, on the other hand, may be glad just to find old bones. Another article in this issue describes how bones from the first century-and ancient Jewish burial practices in general-can provide valuable background information for students of the Gospels.


In his parables, Jesus of Nazareth taught that a person who comes to comprehend completely the value of the Kingdom of God will recognize it as the greatest treasure of all, a treasure worth sacrificing everything to obtain:


"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it" (Matt 13:44-46, NIV).


When I read these verses today, I think of the small but growing number of people in Muslim countries who are coming to Jesus. These MBBs (Muslim-background believers) are some of the most courageous people in the world. They endure ostracism from their families and communities and risk their lives for their choice, but they do so gladly, knowing in their hearts the truth of Jesus' parables. A report on these "secret believers" appears in the current issue of Grace & Knowledge. May their story inspire us all to renewed commitment in following our Master and seeking his kingdom daily.


Doug Ward


Issue 24





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On 04 Aug 2008, 11:43.