Monday, June 29, 2009


The Vatican is claiming that ancient bone fragments have been confirmed to be those of the Apostle Paul:
Pope Benedict XVI said scientific tests confirmed shards found in the underground chamber at the church of St Paul's-Outside-the-Walls in Rome were from the apostle.

Saint Paul was said to have been buried with Saint Peter in a catacomb on the Via Appia, one of the Roman roads which leads out of the city, before being moved to a basilica which was erected in his honour.

For centuries it was believed that his remains were buried beneath the basilica's main altar, which was covered with a slab of marble inscribed in Latin with the words Paulo Apostolo Mart – "Paul, apostle and martyr".

The theory gained credence in 2006, when Vatican archeologists discovered a white marble sarcophagus hidden beneath the floor of the basilica – the largest in Rome after St Peter's at the Vatican – after four years of excavations.
It took three years for archeologists to subject the remains to the first ever scientific tests and establish that they belonged to Saint Paul, a Jewish Roman citizen from Tarsus, in what is now Turkey.

Pope Benedict XVI announced the findings during a service at the basilica, as Rome prepared to celebrate the Feasts of Saint Peter and Saint Paul.

"This seems to confirm the unanimous and undisputed tradition that these are the mortal remains of the Apostle Paul," he said.

Well, it would be nice, no question. But one can't help but have skepticism in the face of a centuries old relic tradition that include a forest of shards of the one true cross.

That someone is buried there I do not doubt. Even that the carbon dating is accurate I can't challenge. But that we can without question--or even with strong probability--identify these remains as those of Paul's is still very much in question. This does not sound like a first century burial of a poor executed man to me:
He said experts had drilled a tiny hole in the sarcophagus, which has remained closed for nearly two millennia, to allow inspection of its interior.
Inside they found "traces of a precious linen cloth, purple in colour, laminated with pure gold, and a blue coloured textile with filaments of linen," Benedict said.

Certainly, a reburial is possible. But when did that happen? More questions have been raised than have been answered.

In related news, the Vatican has also released a fourth century fresco identified as the oldest known image of Paul. And, while intriguing, we must remember that it would have been created 300 years after his death by someone with no knowledge of what he actually looked like.

I'm just a wet blanket today.

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