Friday, August 2, 2013

Pieces of the Cross Discovered?

Turkish excavation team leader Gulgun Koroglu
holds a stone fragment engraved with a cross. 
When you are kid a pile of trash looks like a pile of treasure. I'm not talking about normal everyday
trash (cans, bottles, food scraps, etc). I am talking about the pile of stuff that appears at the curb when someone cleans our their basement or closets either as part of a new year resolution or in preparation for a move. 

I remember one such "treasure pile" when I was kid. My brother and cousin discovered it around the corner from our house and spent some time "treasure hunting." Among the things they brought home was a small plastic bag containing some splinters with a piece of paper claiming that they were from the cross of some long dead saint. I don't know whatever happened to those splinters and to the best of my knowledge they never caused any miracles to occur in our house. But they are an important reminder that people think that having an artifact from history somehow makes history real and provable for them. 

Christians have been saving and venerating "holy relics" since the earliest days of the church. John Calvin is said to have once quipped that if all the pieces of the "true cross" scattered across Europe were gathered together they would provide enough wood to build a small ship. 

Some do not seem to have benefited from Calvin's sagacity, however, and are claiming once again to have found an authentic piece of the cross in an archaeological dig in Turkey. According to the report:

Turkish archaeologists say they have found a stone chest in a 1,350-year-old church that appears to contain a relic venerated as a piece of Jesus' cross.
The artifacts were unearthed during a dig at Balatlar Church in Turkey's Sinop Province, and displayed this week by excavation team leader Gülgün Köroğlu. “We have found a holy thing in a chest. It is a piece of a cross," the Hurriyet Daily News quoted her as saying.
Köroğlu, an art historian and archaeologist at Turkey's Mimar Sinan University of Fine Arts, said the team suspects that the chest served as a symbolic coffin for the relics of a holy person — and that the fragments within it were associated with Jesus' crucifixion.

Well, that is certainly not much evidence to go on. Perhaps the fragments in the chest are from the "real cross" or it could be that the fragments are splinters taken from the hand of the Roman soldier that crucified Jesus. Or it could simply be some other type of wood object that was in the chest and had decomposed over time. All of this has a familiar ring to it. See the post I did on the supposed discovery of John the Baptist's bones in Bulgaria

The fact is, promoting sensational claims like this to the public is not an example of responsible archaeology. This resembles more the "treasure hunt" I described above than a scientific inquiry. I realize that archaeologists need to raise money for their work and that sometimes donors want to see results. But this type of hype only serves to discredit the hard, serious work of those who take years to carefully uncover and study the past.

Nonetheless, there will be those who will hold up this "discovery" as proof that Jesus really was crucified and therefore everything the Bible says must be true. But just like the treasure hunting archaeologist, these people of faith are missing the real point of studying the Bible. 

No comments:

Post a Comment