The Holy Grail: Both A Matter Of Myth And Faith Term Paper Samples
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The search for ancient artifacts, lost histories and the beauty and awe of the 7 Wonders of the World is something that many historians, journalists, educators and archaeologists cannot resist. There is something to be said for being able to literally “touch” the past and feel a connection with those who came before us. Some artifacts have been highly sought after, but never found. These often become associated with grand myths and legends, which increase their significance and value. However, these myths and legends can make it harder to distinguish between what is fiction and what is history (Wood 1).This is never truer when the artifacts in question are of religious origins or associations. A prime example of such a relic is the Holy Grail. To this day, the nature, appearance, purpose and powers associated with Holy Grail are heavily debated, often controversial and place the Grail’s very existence into question, even in the eyes of the most devout of Christians.
For many Catholics, and many non-denominational Christians, the Holy Grail is the cup that Jesus Christ drank from at his last meal before his arrest, ultimate torture and inevitable crucifixion (Miesel 1).It is described as everything from a modest, shallow clay or pottery cup typical of the time period, others describe it as a much more elaborate design; often a solid gold, bejeweled and ornately engraved chalice. The variation of its appearance aside it is believed to possess divine powers; drinking from the cup would grant eternal life, or heal all ailments and, even, resurrect the dead. However, this is not the only theory that has been developed to explain the existence, origin, history, powers and present location of the Holy Grail. Some of these perspectives and theories are quite controversial and, even, heretical to many Christian teachings (Lovett 1). However, what makes the Holy Grail so fascinating is that the relic, regardless of it mythological popularity, varied theories and intrinsic religious and spiritual value, is not mentioned, specifically, in any translation and publishing of the Holy Bible (Karhunen and Della Quercia 1). Yet, the stories, searches and faith persist within the minds and hearts of many believers, archeologists, and scholars.
Again, many of the Christians have unwavering faith in the existence of the Holy Grail and its innate divine powers, despite the fact that the Holy Grail is not mention in the text of the bible and it is neither mentioned as being present at The Last Supper, nor on the painting, by Leonardo da Vinci by the same name (The History Channel 1). This is why many members of the mainstream Catholic Church and other Christian denominations as being more myth than fact. It is biblical scholars and religious clergy that are in agreement that if the Holy Grail was so powerful and significant to the story of Jesus Christ, then would not, at least, be worthy of a footnote within the pages of the Bible. The reality is, is that the Holy Grail did not appear within the faith until the earliest beginnings of the Middle Ages. It is intrinsically intertwined with the legendary and historically questionable, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table (Heaney 2). In Arthurian myth and legend the Holy Grail was the center of many grand sojourns to seek the Grail by Knights, like Percival in the fictional works of Chretien de Troyes, a French author that set precedent of the search by the purest Knights to find the Holy Grail (Miesel 1). This does raise questions of the Grail’s historic presence and authenticity.
Another popular religious legend, which discusses the nature and origins of the Holy Grail, is centered on Joseph of Arimathea. It tells that the cup used by Jesus on the evening of the last supper was later used by Joseph of Arimathea to catch the blood of Jesus Christ as he was left to die on the cross (Amazing Bible Timeline 1). This is considered to be a part of the origin of Eucharist ceremony practiced in Catholicism that involves the consumption of wafers and wine as the body and blood of Jesus Christ. However, many modern historical and biblical scholars alike agree that there are a few issues with this interpretation. Firstly, if blood was collected from Jesus in a cup by Joseph of Arimathea it is unlikely the same cup. Again, there was no significance assigned to the value of that single cup, since his followers did not know what was to come, then why would he have known to save it. Many scholars believe that this story was developed after the life and death of Jesus and is very likely more myth the fact (Miesel 1).
There are other theories regarding the Holy Grail that offer the idea that the grail is not and never was a cup at all; that somewhere in history the translation was misunderstood or intentionally made misleading. For example, some tales say that it was more of a serving plate; others say a solid piece of stone possessing mythical or mystical powers. There are even some who firmly believe that the Holy Grail was some sort of alien technological device that granted Jesus his otherworldly powers. However, the most controversial and popularized explanation, where the Holy Grail is not a cup at all, involves the underground and hidden Christian history hinted at in the “Da Vinci Code,” in the novel, written by Dan Brown, and the film, by the same name, starring Tom Hanks (Wilson, C. 1).The general idea is that the story of Jesus that people are told and is detailed in the Bible is incomplete and , in some ways, are completely alternative to traditional teachings in ways that spark immense controversy. While Jesus could very well have been the “Son of God,” but according to this theory he was also married to Mary Magdalene, whom he intended to bequeath the leadership of his new faith after he was gone and may have been the mother of the offspring of Jesus Christ (Williams 1). This theory was not invented by Dan Brown; there are a number of hints at a few facts of Christian history, which may be a bit different that what has always been thought. For example, for generations many Christians have taught that Mary Magdalene and the prostitute that Jesus saved from stoning, also named Mary, were one in the same. However, research as alluded to the fact that Mary of Magdalene was a wealthy woman from a prominent family; she is not and never was a prostitute (StarBird 1).
The idea that Mary Magdalene and Jesus were wed and may have had a child or children is a very difficult theory for devout Christians, particularly, Catholics to accept. Jesus as the son of God is a divine being; he was above the needs of flesh and would not marry a woman or create mortal offspring (Williams 1). The perception of Jesus as, both, divine and as a man, a leader and a husband, a messenger of the Lord and a father is, very much, antithetical to many teachings. However, these tales also tell a story of Mary Magdalene, or more specifically her womb, is the Holy Grail, because she carries within her “chalice” the precious offspring of Jesus. So the Grail has nothing to do with a drinking cup or magical instrument, but, in fact, the divine blood-line of Jesus Christ (Starbird 1).
The Holy Grail myth has been an object of desire for hundreds of years. Not only are their mysteries as to, origin, identity and purpose of the Grail, determining what became of the artifact, leading to its “disappearance from the world,” also, have a number of theories. There are different ideas as to where to find the Grail today. There are locations suggested for the Grail all over the world, from Western Europe to the Middle East and from Canada to the United States. (Listverse 1)A number of the stories are associated with the Knights Templar, which was a militant religious order that was originally established to protect travel Christians from attacks and robberies. It is believed that the order was, both effective, and proving to be lucrative for the Knights. They were believed to have amassed an immense treasure of monetary wealth and valuable artifacts. Ultimately, the Church turned on the order and sentenced the bulk of the order to death. That said the surviving Knights were compelled to escape and hide whatever treasures they possesses (Van Biema 1).Many feel that the Knights Templar would ultimately fade into history, but they potentially parented others orders and shared “secrets” with them, for example the Free Masons and the Rosicrucian’s, both share Christian values but, also, include elements that vary from mainstream Christianity. Due to the Templar connection, it may have inspired the Arthurian literature that sent pure Knight’s on a quest to find the Grail. In the bloodline of Jesus theory argue that the “Holy Grail,” as a pregnant Mary Magdalene, was transported by the remaining Knights Templar to safety to locations in Western Europe or, possibly, the New World (Wilson 1).
There are other locations, some more probable than others to seek the Holy Grail. Some place the Grail as part of hidden treasure at Oak Island. A small, spooky island, in Nova Scotia, with manmade swamps and underground booby-traps that have led many explorers to attempt to find the treasures; a number have died in the attempt (Listverse 1).There is currently a History Channel documentary series called, the Secrets Oak Island, focusing on the current owners and their expensive and dangerous efforts to find that treasure, which may include the Holy Grail. Recently, in Spain, a famous Goblet, called the “Infanta Dona Urraca,” dated to the 11th century may have a historical connection to the Grail (Fredericks 1).While the goblet is stemmed in gold, formed of onyx and bejeweled, the bowl of the cup actually dates back to the biblical era. However, while that is fascinating and may possibly be a genuine artifact from the time of Jesus, there is no way at all to realistically confirm that the piece ever was held in Christ’s hands or touched his lips. (Wilson 1).
With all of these varied and, sometimes, outlandish theories, tales, myths and legends regarding the Holy Grail, how does anyone narrow down what is truth and what is fiction? In truth, as with all things of religious relevance, it is a matter of faith. There might have been a cup that Jesus drank form, there may have been one that gathered his blood at the crucifixion and it could possibly been hidden away with a mysterious treasure. The forces of the Great Crusades hoped to find the Grail and even Adolf Hitler believed in and sought the Grail, from the altar piece at Ghent where one could find a map to the Grail (Charney 1).However, the likelihood of human beings actually finding and proving that any relic is in fact the Holy Grail, or that the Grail is certainly something other than a cup, is unlikely and unrealistic, divine or not. If there is such a vessel, a cup belonging to Jesus then it would be innately valuable and deserving of respect. In truth, many modern Christians, including many Catholics, no longer place much faith in the truth of the Holy Grail and because it is not in the Bible, it can easily be disregarded without feeling as if one is being unfaithful or lacking in belief (Miesel 1).
The Holy Grail has been and is fantastically well suited to being the center of many adventure stories, like” Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” and, again, like the “Da Vinci Code.” However, the real, historical presence of a Holy Grail, certainly used by Christ, may not exist (Miesel 1).So it is really up to the individual believers to decide how they feel about the validity and existence of the Holy Grail is really a matter of faith; no more, no less. However, if one thinks logically, one of the major tenants, in fact a Commandment, of the Christian faith is no idolatry. The Grail is an item, but items are not what Christians should need in order to worship. Therefore if the relic known as the Holy Grail should ever be recovered then it should be treated with respect and humility, but if it is not ever recovered or is proven to be fiction it cannot sway or diminish one’s faith.
The Holy Grail is a wonderful idea. A cup with great powers that once belonged to one of the most beloved, essential and founding figures of Christianity is inspiring and a validation of the divine powers of the faith. However, the core of Christianity is found in faith and not inside of a cup. For believers in the Holy Grail one cannot deny their dedication and fortitude of belief in the face of historical, religious, and scholarly criticisms. At the same time, if one chooses to disregard the Holy Grail has wishful thinking or, simply, a mythological creation, they are not less Christian and cannot be ridiculed. Again and finally, the Holy Grail, like all things of religious or spiritual value, is matter of faith; and in the end, for an individual, that is all that really matters.
Charney, N. "Hitler’s Hunt for the Holy Grail and the Ghent Altarpiece." Daily Beast 21 December 2013, 1. Web. 10 Feb. 2015. <http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/12/21/hitler-s-hunt-for-the-holy-grail-and-the-ghent-altarpiece.html>
Fredericks, B. "Historians claim to have recovered Holy Grail." New York Post 31 March 2014, 1. Web. 10 Feb. 2015. <http://nypost.com/2014/03/31/historians-claim-to-have-recovered-fabled-holy-grail/>.
Heaney, Danielle. "The Development of Arthurian Legends." Lycoming College. (2010): 1-25. Print.
Karhunen, B., and J. Della Quercia. "5 Things You Won’t Believe Aren’t in the Bible." Cracked Magazine. 19 Oct 2010: 1. Web. 10 Feb. 2015. http://www.cracked.com/article_18757_5-things-you-wont-believe-arent-in-bible.html
Lovett, R.A.” Holy Grail Legend Endures for Centuries.” National Geographic Magazine. 2015: 1. Web. 9 Feb. 2015. <http://science.nationalgeographic.com/science/archaeology/holy-grail/http://science.nationalgeographic.com/science/archaeology/holy-grail/Holy Grail Legend Endures for Centuries>.
Miesel, S.. "The Real History of the Holy Grail." Catholic Culure Organization. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Feb 2015. <http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=6511>.
Starbird, M. "Mary Magdalene: Bearer of the Holy Grail." New Age Journal. (2005): 1. Print.
Van Biema, D. "The Vatican and the Knights Templar." Time Magazine. 24 Oct 2007: 1. Web. 10 Feb. 2015. <http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1674980,00.html>.
Williams, A. "Who Was Mary Magdalene?." People Magazine. 5 Jun 2006: 1. Web. 10 Feb. 2015. <http://www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20061096,00.html>.
Wilson, A. "Our cup overflows with stories of the Holy Grail." The Telegraph 1 April 2014, 1. Web. 10 Feb. 2015. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/10737175/Our-cup-overflows-with-stories-of-the-Holy-Grail.html>
Wilson, Chris. "The Rosslyn Code." Slate Magazine. 11 May 2011: 1. Web. 10 Feb. 2015. <http://www.slate.com/articles/life/the_rosslyn_code/2011/05/the_rosslyn_code_5.html>.
Wood , J. "The Phantom Cup that Comes and Goes: The Story of the Holy Grail." Grisham College. (2913): 1. Web. 10 Feb. 2015. <http://www.gresham.ac.uk/lectures-and-events/the-phantom-cup-that-comes-and-goes-the-story-of-the-holy-grail>.
Amazing Bible Timeline with World History, . "What is the Holy Grail?." Amazing Bible Timeline. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Feb 2015. <http://amazingbibletimeline.com/bible_questions/q31_what_is_the_holy_grail/>.
The History Channel, . "The Development of Arthurian Legends." The History Channel. 1. Jun 26. Web. 10 Feb 2015. <http://www.history.com/news/ask-history/what-is-the-holy-grail>.
Listverse, . "10 Possible Resting Places of the Holy Grail." Listverse. N.p., 8 Feburary 2010. Web. 10 Feb 2015. <http://listverse.com/2010/02/08/10-possible-resting-places-of-the-holy-grail/>.
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