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orion Pfann's Article

I am not sure if it is proper to do so- but following is the Times story
about Pfann's study.

I would point out that even the respected Times calls  the authors of the
Scrolls Essenes.  (How sad).

    Bible scholar has more humble
        vision of the Holy Grail 


  AN AMERICAN Bible scholar yesterday concluded that
  the Holy Grail was probably a simple clay cup rather than
  the much more elaborate traditional creations of artistic

  The findings of Stephen Pfann, head of the respected
  Centre for the Study of Early Christianity, about the
  wine cup that Christians believe was used by Jesus at the
  Last Supper and invested with miraculous powers, echo a
  scene in the film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
  The hero stands before rows of goblets and, in a
  life-or-death moment, has to decide which one is the Holy
  Grail. Ignoring richly adorned chalices, he lifts a plain
  vessel and says: "That is the cup of a carpenter." 

  Mr Pfann's theory about the nature of the vessel arises
  from his study of the pottery of the Essenes, a Jewish
  sect who lived in isolation in cliffs above the Dead Sea.
  Mr Pfann said he had found similarities between the
  Essenes' ritual meals and the Last Supper, and concluded
  that the common wine cup used by the Essenes was
  probably similar to the sacred vessel of Jesus. 

  The Essenes' communal cup, made of wafer-thin clay and
  just a little taller than an ordinary coffee cup, is "the
  only parallel we have for a communal cup contemporary
  with the time of the Last Supper", he said. 

  His theory has drawn mixed responses from rival experts
  in the Holy Land. Joe Zias, a former curator of the
  Israel Antiquities Authority, argued that the Last Supper
  was a Jewish Passover seder at which the finest
  tableware would have been used. "A clay cup is such a
  pedestrian piece of pottery that you definitely would not
  use it for any type of ceremonial function," he said. 

  However, support for the theory came from Jerome
  Murphy-O'Connor of Jerusalem's Ecole Biblique, the
  archaeological institute that excavated Qumran, where
  the Dead Sea Scrolls - written by the Essenes - were
  found by a Bedu shepherd boy. While wealthy Jews might
  have used more ornate tableware, perhaps made of glass
  or metal, Father Murphy-O'Connor said Jesus and His
  followers were poor, and in nine out of ten cases, pottery
  would have been used by the poor. 

  The Holy Grail has always fascinated Christians.
  According to legend, it was taken to England by Joseph
  of Arimathea, a follower of Jesus, in AD63. In stories
  about King Arthur and his knights, the search for the lost
  grail became a haunting central theme. The crusaders
  were among many Christians down the ages who dreamed
  of finding the real Holy Grail. Despite the wealth of
  stories, little was said about what the Holy Grail looked

  While working on an English translation and
  classification of the Qumran pottery, Mr Pfann studied
  the excavation notes of Roland de Vaux, the French
  archaeologist, and concluded that each sect member had
  a bowl, while three or four shared a plate and nine or ten
  shared a wine cup. Mr Pfann claimed that wine cups were
  easily distinguishable because of their thin rims. His
  interpretation matches accounts by Josephus, the Jewish
  historian, indicating that the Essenes' meals were the
  focus of their sacred rituals. 

  In the musty pottery room of the Ecole Biblique in east
  Jerusalem, two reddish-brown clay cups stand on a shelf
  in a corner. "If we were to search for an image of the
  Holy Grail, this simple cup is probably as close as we will
  get," Mr Pfann said. 
Jim West, ThD
Quartz Hill School of Theology