Ok, so I have never viewed the Discovery channel or their Discovery.com
website as a citeable source by any stretch of the imagination, but I did credit them with generally trying to give accurate facts, even if the delivery were slanted in favour of one theory or another. However, this article
has completely blown any faith I may have had in their credibility.
The article describes a bowl recently found and dated to between the 2nd century BC/BCE and the 1st century AD/CE as the "earliest reference to Christ". The bowl apparently carries a Greek inscription which the article transliterated as "DIA CHRSTOU O GOISTAIS" and translated as meaning either, "by Christ the magician" or "the magician by Christ." A photograph of the bowl is provided for our edification.
Let's look at that, shall we?
Now, I don't read Greek, but I *do* know my Greek letters. Bear with me a moment here. Clearly visible in the picture is the "DIA CHRSTOU" part of the inscription. Let's take a look. For those of you who don't know the Greek letters, allow me to 'spell' it out for you:
Δ = capital D
ι = lowercase i
α = lowercase a (it's a little distorted here, but hey, they're carving on clay)
Χ = capital CH (in Greek, the hard 'Ch' sound as in 'Christ' is one letter)
ρ = lowercase r (yes, I know it looks like a 'p'. It's an 'r')
σ = lowercase s (oftentimes, like here, truncated so it looks more like a 'c')
τ = lowercase t
ο = lowercase o (short o, not long o)
υ = lowercase u (again, looks like a 'v', it's actually a 'u')
D-i-a CH-r-s-t-o-u yes? But wait! you say. You're missing something. There's an extra letter in there, nice and clear, between the ρ and the σ. Why, so there is! And look, it's η
η = lowercase e
. Yes, 'e', not 'i'. Remember, 'i' is ι It's actually a pretty clear inscription. No amount of hemming and hawing is going to make that η a ι; make that 'e' an 'i'.
Oh, and in case you're wondering, our ever-helpful Oxford English Dictionary gives the root word (helpfully spelled out in both English and Greek) as Χριστος where ς is the lowercase 's' when it comes at the end of the word. In other words, "CH-r-i-s-t-o-s" The "-ou" instead of the "-os" in the inscription makes the noun possessive.
So, summing up, the bowl does *not* say "DIA CHRISTOU O GOISTAIS". It doesn't even say "DIA CHRSTOU O GOISTAIS" (note how the article conveniently omits the troublesome vowel entirely in its transcription). It says "DIA CHRE
STOU O GOISTAIS". "Chrestou" ≠ 'Christ,' folks
Only hint in the whole article that this whole "earliest reference to Christ" thing might not be all it's cracked up to be? One sentence, buried on the second page: "Bert Smith, a professor of classical archaeology and art at Oxford University, suggests the engraving might be a dedication, or present, made by a certain 'Chrestos' belonging to a possible religious association called Ogoistais."
Yeah, way to show the unbiased scholarship, guys.