Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Carbon Dating The Apostle Paul?

Here's news for you. The pope announced that carbon dating on bone fragments suspected to be those of the Apostle Paul confirm the belief as true. The tomb was only recently uncovered (2006) by archaeologists working in the Vatican. Reporting for Reuters, Stephen Brown says,

"Pope Benedict gave details of the discovery, saying a tiny hole had been drilled in the sarcophaguus to permit inspection of the interior, revealing "traces of a precious linen cloth, purple in color, laminated with pure gold, and a blue colored textile with filaments of linen."

"It also revealed the presence of grains of red incense and traces of protein and limestone. There were also tiny fragments of bone, which, when subjected to Carbon 14 tests by experts, turned out to belong to someone who lived in the first or second century," said the pope."

Also discovered was a fresco (pictured here) of what is now estimated to be the oldest existing image of the Apostle Paul which dates back to the 4th century." Also see the article by A. N. Wilson here.

To my thinking the carbon dating cannot prove identity. It can only confirm that they date to the approximate time that the apostle lived. It is a stretch to say they belong to Paul. The role of relics remains an important aspect of both Roman Catholic and Orthodox traditions. John Calvin took serious issue with relics. See the list compiled from Calvin's book Treatise on Relics. Modern day defenses of relics are still worth reading. See here for example.

1 comment:

Andrew said...

Louis:
I agree with you on this issue - how can bone fragments alone determine identity? Short of having blood samples or dental records, how can we know for sure?

It's interesting however that they discovered an old picture of the apostle. Is this why they claim it is his grave?

No matter what, un-earthing a piece of art that old, especially of a Church father, is a prize indeed!