Thursday, August 14, 2014

A triumph of faith over common sense

I hadn’t realised it until today but the Anglican Church here on St. Helena has a piece of the “true cross” on which Jesus was crucified.

Oh, really?

I found this quote from one of their priests:

A few years ago Monsignor McPartland very kindly gave a tiny fragment of the True Cross to the Diocese of Saint Helena. It is kept in a relatively simple brass reliquary in Arabia, the Bishop’s Chapel at Bishopsholme. Each year on Good Friday it is taken to the Cathedral and it is taken to Saint Helena and the Cross on Saint Helena Day. Can we be sure these tiny fragments really are parts of the cross on which Jesus died? No, there is no way of proving it. But we can be sure that it is part of that relic in Santa Croce and dates back over a thousand years. More importantly we know it is part of that wood which millions of Christians over many hundreds of years have used in their devotions reminding them of Jesus’s death for us on the Cross.

OK, let’s apply some cold hard logic to this.

Let’s assume that Jesus actually existed, even though there is no independent evidence to prove it (all the stories about him were written by his followers…)

Let’s also assume he upset somebody and got himself crucified. The Romans didn’t record doing so, but then as far as they were concerned he was a common criminal. They crucified loads of people in Palestine in the relevant period and Jesus would have been nobody special to them.

OK, so they nail him onto the cross and wait till he dies.  Then they take the cross down, remove the body and then use it again!  

St. Helena retrieving the True Cross
These things were not disposable. They were re-used until they fell apart.  So the cross on which Jesus was crucified was not newly made for him, and would have been reused and reused, maybe for as long as the Masada revolt in 70ad.  And then when it eventually fell to bits it would have been used for firewood.  It could not possibly have survived.

The idea that St. Helena could come along in 328ad (300 years later) and dig it up – intact! – is just beyond belief.

In the early 1990s my brother (and many others) were making money selling bits of concrete that were supposedly fragments of the Berlin Wall. He did once admit to me that, in all probability, if you joined all the bits of ‘genuine’ Berlin Wall back together you’d end up with a wall that would reach to the moon. I wonder how big the True Cross would be if you rejoined all the bits?

But then if you re-read Father Fred’s text more carefully, he neatly evades the question of whether this fragment that is locked in a safe box on St. Helena is actually part of Jesus’ cross.  He says “..we can be sure that it is part of that relic in Santa Croce and dates back over a thousand years..” 

So what they have is a bit of old wood.  That’s all.  

To believe otherwise is a triumph of faith over common sense.