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Stories in Stone

About this Blogger

After earning an M.A. in Broadcast Journalism from Regent University, Erin spent four years at CBN News, where she served as a line producer for both Christian World News and The 700 Club newscast. Currently, she is travelling to Israel, Jordan, Turkey and Italy to produce segments about Christian history and biblical archaeology for The 700 Club.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Crypt & the Cathedral

I am not Catholic or Anglican or any other denomination that makes use of a cathedral, but I love an old church wherever I can find one – Jerusalem, Italy, London – anywhere at all. I live in daily horror of the big-box warehouse-looking monstrosities that pass as modern American churches today. Whenever I dare to say that out loud, I get the inevitable lecture about the church being the people, not the building. Yeah, yeah. I get that.

posted @ Wednesday, August 29, 2012 3:33 PM | Feedback (0)

Why I 90% Love Vienna

This was my first trip to Vienna, and after three days, I fell 90% in love with the city. I also fell 10% in irritation. If you ask Vienna how it enjoyed my stay, that ratio may be a little different. Here's why.

posted @ Wednesday, August 29, 2012 2:29 PM | Feedback (2)

Monday, April 02, 2012

The Blood That’s Thicker Than Water

Three years ago, I produced a series called The Jewish Jesus, that tells the story of Jesus entirely from the Old Testament. While I researched that story, I stumbled on a wealth of information about Jesus’ genealogy, and about the family that survived him. It wasn’t the sensational “Jesus had a wife and daughter” hook from The Da Vinci Code, but still fascinating nonetheless.

posted @ Monday, April 02, 2012 10:58 AM | Feedback (4)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Nightmare in Nuremberg

I love history. But there are some parts of it I only studied enough to pass a test, because I was bored by them (sorry, endless Chinese dynasties), they seemed idiotic and avoidable in the first place (hang your head in shame, Civil War) or because they were so dark that I didn’t want to delve into them. Yes, Adolf Hitler, I’m talking to you.

posted @ Monday, July 18, 2011 9:13 AM | Feedback (4)

A Visit to the Seat of Satan

What is the strangest thing your boss has ever asked you to do? In my job, with my boss, there would normally be several assignments fighting for that title, but this one came along and topped them all.

posted @ Monday, July 18, 2011 9:05 AM | Feedback (13)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Six Hours in Istanbul

It was an unforgettable, extraordinary day. The day we ate flaming sea bass, shot a nine-minute story in just six hours, climbed a 1,500-year-old wall and wandered back in time a thousand years to spend a few hours in ancient Byzantium.

posted @ Monday, May 23, 2011 12:44 PM | Feedback (5)

Monday, February 07, 2011

Valentine, Constantine, and the Roman She-Wolf

Valentine's Day is here, and if you made the unfortunate decision to meet your online match that night, you may find your conversation hitting an awkward silence somewhere between the drink order and the appetizers.

That's why I have your back. Keep reading for an array of information that will either impress your date or send him or her running back to the archives of Here's everything you never wanted to know about Valentine's Day: use it as you wish.
First of all, be sure to wish your date a Happy Lupercalia (that's Latin for "Wolf Festival"). If you lived in Rome on February 14 about 2,000 years ago, you would have been celebrating the pagan festival held in honor of Lupa, the legendary she-wolf who suckled the infant orphans, Romulus and Remus, the twin founders of Rome.

And to make sure that visitors to Rome will never forget that story, the Italians have placed pictures, sculptures and statues of the two human babies feeding from their wolf-mother on every street corner, which is enough to put anyone off Valentine's Day. Or wolves. Or nursing babies.

Roman Christians, quite understandably, were not about to raise a toast to the Roman She-Wolf Baby Mama, so instead they played the centuries-long game of "Christianize the Roman Holiday," and St. Valentine won the holiday lottery. Congratulations, St. Val -- the She-Wolf Festival is all yours.

Here's more on the story of St. Valentine -- or rather the three-man composite that made up the now-famous Catholic legend. Most accounts say that he was beheaded "outside the Flaminian Gate in Rome," which today is near the entrance of one my favorite art museums, the Galleria Borghese. And right in the entry hall of the museum? You guessed it. Statues of Romulus, Remus and their wolf-mother.

Now back to St. Valentine. The current Roman Martyrology (the Catholics' Big Book of Martyrs) records that he was buried near the Milvian Bridge, which spans Rome's Tiber River.

Today, the Milvian Bridge is famous for two reasons: first, it's the place where Emperor Constantine won the decisive battle that turned Rome into a Christian empire in AD 312.  Here's a fun story about the battle that aired on The 700 Club.

While we were shooting that story, I learned the other reason for the fame of the Milvian Bridge. In 2006, an Italian novelist, inspired by the legend of Valentine's murder near the bridge, wrote about a couple who hung a padlock on one of the bridge's lampposts, then threw the key into the Tiber River as a symbol of their undying love.

Can you see where this story is going next? A year after the book was published, so many couples had hung locks on the Milvian Bridge that the lampposts collapsed and had to be reinforced.

Today, panhandlers on the bridge still sell padlocks to gullible tourists. Trying to film a story about Constantine and the epic battle for Christianity without getting the "locks of love" in the shot was a challenge. There was an old Pat Benatar song about love being a battlefield running through my head the whole time. Come on, you know you were thinking it.

Today, several churches, including one in Ireland, claim to have the remains of St. Valentine (after all, what kind of church are you if you're not stashing the remains of some famous saint or apostle?).  While there is no sound history or archaeology supporting the whereabouts of St. Valentine's corpse-- or even, quite frankly, the saccharine romance of his life story -- the message of love is a good one.

Now, without further help from Constantine, Valentine, or the Roman She-Wolf, I'm going to leave you with the most powerful words I know about love. This is the blueprint for the way God loves you and me, and the way we were intended to love each other -- parents, siblings, spouses, friends and even our enemies. So... read on and have a Happy Roman She-Wolf Day. Or Possibly-Fictional Martyr Day. Whatever you celebrate, do it with love.

    Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love,
I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.
    And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge...
    And though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
    Love suffers long and is kind.
    Love does not envy.
    Love does not parade itself, is not puffed up.    
    Love does not behave rudely, does not seek its own,
    Love is not provoked, thinks no evil.
    Love does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth.
    Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
    Love never fails.
    But whether there are prophecies, they will fail;    
    Whether there are tongues, they will cease;    
    Whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.
    For we know in part and we prophesy in part.     
    But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
    For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face.
    Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
    And now abide faith, hope, love, these three...
    But the greatest of these is love.

posted @ Monday, February 07, 2011 6:12 PM | Feedback (1)

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Tomb Raiders Reveal 1500-Year-Old Church in Israel

If you've had enough of the wall-to-wall Egypt coverage, here's some lighter news from the Middle East.

This story is brought to you by a gang of Palestinian grave robbers and a gun-slinging archaeologist.

On Wednesday, Israeli archaeologists presented a newly uncovered 1,500-year-old Byzantine church in Hirbet Midras, located in the Judean hills southwest of Jerusalem, The find included an unusually well-preserved mosaic floor with images of lions, foxes, fish and peacocks. (Side note: If you dig up images in Israel, chances are they're Persian, Greek, Roman or Byzantine; the Jews strictly adhered to the ban on "graven images" in the Ten Commandments.)

Though an initial survey suggested the building was a synagogue, the excavation revealed stones carved with crosses, identifying it as a church. The building had been built atop another structure around 500 years older, dating to Roman times, when scholars believe the settlement was inhabited by Jews.

Hewn into the rock underneath that structure is a network of tunnels that archaeologists believe were used by Jewish rebels fighting Roman armies in the second century A.D.

Stone steps lead down from the floor of church to a small burial cave, which scholars suggest might have been venerated as the burial place of the Old Testament prophet Zechariah.

The claim about Zechariah has no concrete proof... yet. Ancient Christian sources dating from the fourth century claim the prophet was buried here. Hirbet Midras is also featured on Jordan's ancient Madaba map as "the city of Zechariah," and when it comes to finding ancient ruins, this map has generally been right on the nose.

To date, however, no one has found any concrete evidence linking the spot to the Old Testament prophet. That said, I don't have any concrete evidence that it's not the tomb of Zechariah. All the Bible has to say about Zechariah's death is that he was murdered "between the Temple and the altar" in Jerusalem (Matthew 23:35).

For now, we'll say the jury's still out on that one. At any rate, it looks like the Israel Antiquities Authority intends to promote the site as "the tomb of Zechariah" for the tourist appeal.

"It's been years since we've made a find like this," said Amir Ganor, head of the Antiquities Robbery Prevention unit.

Ganor is an archaeologist who carries a handgun. His team spends much of its time trying to catch thieves, spending nights lying in ambush or setting up stings for crooked antiquities dealers.

The thieves often vandalize or destroy archaeological remains before Ganor's unit can catch them. But in this case, he said, a group of Palestinians from the West Bank who were plundering ancient coins revealed the location of the lost church, some 25 miles southwest of Jerusalem.

To view a slide show of Hirbet Midras please visit

You can find more information on Hirbet Midras on this blog, called "Mosaic Art Now." It contains far more detail than most news stories I've seen on the web.

Also, here's the official press release from the Israel Antiquities Authority.

posted @ Wednesday, February 02, 2011 4:09 PM | Feedback (2)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Jesus' Trial: It Wasn't Where You Think

Two things can send my blood pressure into the red zone more quickly than anything else: bad grammar and bad archaeology. Or rather, religious traditions that ignore archaeology in order to lure unsuspecting pilgrims into yet another tourist trap.

posted @ Tuesday, January 18, 2011 10:06 AM | Feedback (1)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Five Things You Didn't Know About Nazareth

In a season where Bethlehem gets all the Christmas carol shout-outs and Nativity scenes, I thought I'd focus on Nazareth, the place where the Archangel Gabriel first announced the news of Jesus' birth to his mother Mary.

posted @ Sunday, December 19, 2010 8:54 AM | Feedback (5)