XE MAPIA graffiti/inscription dating?

I’ve read in multiple unofficial places (such as forums, blogs, etc.) that this XE MAPIA (Hail Mary) graffiti/inscription that appears in a grotto uncovered in an excavation at the Basilica of the Annunciation is from the 2nd century; however, I cannot seem to find any books in English making this claim. I managed to find two books in Spanish that state this, but do not give the source:

books.google.es/books?id=erA7dzSCTX0C&pg=PA280&lpg=PA280&dq=%22Xe+mapia%22&source=bl&ots=kZbxfBthDo&sig=AmWswjCQ4IqubBtn9xYMqiFpNtg&hl=en&sa=X&ei=NO-KVcPZFIbwUpiYl9gC&ved=0CEgQ6AEwCDgK#v=onepage&q=%22Xe%20mapia%22&f=false

books.google.es/books?id=qbAVBgAAQBAJ&pg=PA46&lpg=PA46&dq=%22Xe+mapia%22&source=bl&ots=7Nu7sTIi2-&sig=bTVn42IAomCnl8-mPFbC6w6gZ2g&hl=en&sa=X&ei=NO-KVcPZFIbwUpiYl9gC&ved=0CEMQ6AEwBzgK#v=onepage&q=%22Xe%20mapia%22&f=false

Does anyone know of any sources? :confused:

Jerome Murphy O’Connor, in his guide to the Holy Land in the Oxford Archaeological Guides series, gives the Basilica of the Annunciation only a single page because most of the building is too new to count as archeology. The only thing he has to say about graffiti in the oldest part of the basilica is this:

Very ambiguous graffiti incised into its plaster covering have persuaded the excavators that it was a pre-Constantinian baptistry.

That’s all.

Hm, that is indeed a bit more narrow. :hmmm: Pre-Constantinian implies before 306, but how much before?

A friend is trying to look up the original excavation report, maybe that will shed some light on the matter.

The point Murphy-O’Connor is trying to make, I think, is that there’s nothing there that’s earlier than Constantine. His assessment is that the oldest part of the basílica is Byzantine, i.e. post-Constantinian, and that the graffiti are too ambiguous to substantiate the excavators’ assertion to the contrary.

Then that’s even more puzzling, given that those two Spanish references seem to claim it’s from the 2nd century. :confused: :shrug:

I haven’t seen your Spanish references, but I don’t think there’s anything puzzling. It’s just a disagreement between archeologists. Some of them think the graffiti are from the second century while others, such as Murphy-O’Connor, are skeptical about that claim.

Well, the fact is, it is either from the 2nd century, or it isn’t, those are the only two logical possibilities. I wanted to blog about this, and I wanted to get my sources right, lest I claim it’s 2nd century only to have people comment and point out that, no, it is actually from later. I guess until my friend finds that excavation report, all one can say is, “some archeologists think it is from the 2nd century, others think it is from later; the only thing that we know for sure is that it is from before the council of Ephesus of 431”. :shrug:

It looks like one of those cases where the only people who ever knew the answer for certain, beyond any shadow of a doubt, have been dead for many centuries.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.