Sound Teaching

This is the teaching site of the West Side church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials were written and prepared by Stan Cox

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In the News: John the Baptist’s Finger?

The cable news television station, CNN is running a series titled Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery. The programs are typical fare. Supposed scholars and researchers intersperse comments with a dramatic reenacting of Bible events, trying to “separate truth” from the gospel accounts and church legend. There is no respect for the inspiration of scripture. The resulting program, though claiming to be even handed, is a skewed, skeptical view of the life and ministry of our Lord.
One aspect of this series is the examination of “Christian” relics as an adjunct to the narrative. In this they attempt to establish the authenticity of such items as the Shroud of Turin, the ossuary of the “brother of Jesus”, and bones claimed to be from John the Baptist.

Of course, each time such a relic is shown to be inauthentic, it emboldens some to claim another victory against the “superstition” that is the Christian faith.

Allow me to save them the trouble. I don’t believe the claims (most often made by the Catholic and Orthodox churches) concerning any of these relics. It is doubtful that any of the relics, whether claimed to be from Jesus, Peter, John the Baptist, or any ancient Christians are in any way legitimate. We have no pieces of the cross, no bones of any of the apostles, and no burial shroud of the resurrected Lord. And, we don’t need them.

Such relics are the byproduct of superstition and idolatry. They add absolutely nothing to our faith. They are not necessary, nor are they helpful. Rest assured, if an expedition to Mount Ararat were to actually locate the ark (and that depends greatly upon first correctly identifying the true Mount Ararat), such would not convince a single secularist of the reality of the flood. Recovering the ark of the covenant, the tablets of stone, or the cup Jesus passed at the institution of His supper will not make a Muslim, Buddhist, or Hindu rethink his own beliefs.

baptist fingerDuring the show I watched, scientists drilled a hole in a bone which was believed by some to be a finger bone of John the Baptist. It was mounted in gold, looking a little like a macabre amulet. Using the material extracted from the bone, they determined through testing it was probably from the 7th century, thus not belonging to John the Baptist. Of course, if it was dated from the 1st century, and DNA tests indicated it was from a Semitic man, there still would be no proof that it was authentic. However, such would be enough for some to revere it, and claim that it in some way legitimized their faith.

The veneration of relics is a form of idolatry. They become talismans, with protective and magical properties in the eyes of the possessor. They detract from, rather than enhance the person and mission of Christ. They are vestiges of the middle ages, and have no part in true faith. The scriptures teach the power of gospel to save the souls of man (Romans 1:16). It, and it alone should be our focus in seeking to convince the hearts of those who are lost in sin.

Something to think about the next time we decide to put a cross around our neck, or a fish on our car, or a WWJD bracelet on our wrist. Instead, let us open our Bibles, and share the message of Christ with our neighbors and friends!