A TOWN in California (where else?) is going nuts over a religious relic – a hair that is claimed to have come from Buddha’s body. The Buddhist temple in Rosemead also has two teeth that it claims were once Buddha’s.
The relics are said to be capable of producing miracles for people who go near them.
Meanwhile, archaeologists claim they may have found a piece of the cross of Jesus in a stone chest that was uncovered during the excavation of a 1350-year old church in Turkey.
The reformer John Calvin noted a few centuries ago that that European Catholic churches housed enough “genuine” splinters from the cross on which Christ was crucified to rebuild Noah’s Ark.
Calvin listed several churches claiming to have the genuine crown of thorns, others claiming to have water pots used by Jesus to change water into wine, and even a remarkably well-preserved piece of broiled fish that the disciple Peter supposedly offered to Jesus 1500 years earlier.
Another great religious reformer Martin Luther was bothered by the existence of phony religious relics. Luther famously wondered how 26 of Jesus’ disciples could possibly be buried in German churches, when only 12 existed in the Bible.
A Roman church of the time exhibited the supposed crib of Jesus every Christmas Eve. Other well-known relics were the Messiah’s baby teeth, his father Joseph’s carpentry tools, bones of the donkey on which Jesus rode into Jerusalem, Pilate’s basin and the empty purse of Judas.
Constantinople was crammed with fake relics, including letters in Jesus’ own hand, the gold brought to the baby Jesus by the three wise men, the 12 baskets of bread collected after the miraculous feeding of the 5000, the trumpets of Jericho and the axe with which Noah made his ark. Even the
alleged foreskin of Jesus was displayed by French Benedictine monks of Charroux.
Superstition and idolatry continue to accompany so-called religious relics in the 21st century.
Thousands flock to exhibitions of such dubious items as a piece of wood from the table of the Last Supper. a towel that Jesus supposedly used to wash his face, the Virgin Mary’s breast milk, Buddha’s tooth, the cloak of Muhammad and Mary Magdalene’s arm in the hope that laying eyes on the relics would cure them of illness..
Today, the Vatican is in possession of two skulls, each claimed by a different Pope to be the disciple Peter’s.
The cult of venerating relics continues among the superstitious despite so many being revealed as fakes. Some bones that were at one time acclaimed as the bones of Catholic saints have been exposed as the bones of animals.
In Spain, a cathedral once displayed what was said to be part of a wing of the Angel Gabriel when he visited Mary. It was found to be a magnificent ostrich feather.
What do any of these supposed relics mean in terms of faith? The answer is nothing. You will learn nothing more from teeth, nails and bits of wood than you would from the 10-yearold grilled cheese sandwich with a image of the Virgin Mary that sold for $45,000 on eBay.