There are hundreds of cathedrals that claim to have the skull of Paul or Peter. There is a church in Ethiopia that claims to have the Ark of the Covenant. Such claims are too common to be believable.
Then there was the Shroud of Turin, which was supposedly the burial cloth of Jesus. Add to that statues that weep, the face of Jesus in a tortilla, and a host of other scams and aberrations and it becomes laughable.
Archeology can verify dating and locations. The archeological digs around Israel are incredible to observe. Relics from the Promised Land have to be verified by the government with a certificate of authenticity.
In my study, I have a jar that dates back to the time of Abraham. I have a teardrop bottle that dates to the time of Christ. I have coins from the time of Christ. I have a fishing weight taken from the Sea of Galilee that dates back to the first century. You can actually see the remains of a fishing boat from the time of Christ at the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee -- it's called "The Jesus Boat." Not because it's actually the boat or even a boat Jesus was on, but because it dates back to the time of Jesus.
One show I love to watch is the History Channel's "The Naked Archeologist." It's entertaining and enlightening, as the host mixes humor with research. Often I don't agree with his conclusions, but it's a fun show to watch.
Earlier this month Linda Gradstein wrote an article posted on AOL entitled "Did Journalist Find 'THE Nails' Used to Crucify Jesus?" In it she writes of Simcha Jacobovici from Canada, host of "The Naked Archeologist" as saying "he may have found the nails that were used to crucify Jesus more than 2,000 years ago."
He claims this in a documentary, "The Nails of the Cross," which will be broadcast in the United States in a few weeks. In the documentary he presents two Roman nails dating to the first century that were "bent in a way that is consistent with crucifixion."
Gradstein writes, "He contends that these are the same nails found in the burial tomb of Caiaphas, the Jewish High Priest who is associated in the Gospels with the crucifixion of Jesus, although he found them at a lab in Tel Aviv University."
Jacobovici says he spent two years trying to find the nails. Professor Israel Hershkowitz says in the documentary, "Based on the size, shape and condition of the nails, it is possible that these were used in crucifixion." True. Factual. BUT, notice "crucifixion" not "the crucifixion" of Christ. Thousands were crucified by the Romans. It was a common form of death penalty for criminals. There would have been hundreds of nails.
He says it's "possible." Sure it is. But I should tell you, this is the same man who jumped on board with James Cameron on the movie "The Lost Tomb of Jesus." In that controversial film, he says a burial site in Jerusalem is the original burial site of Jesus and his family.
The Israel Antiquities Authority says, "The interpretation presented in it has no basis in archaeological findings or research."
What's my bottom line? It wasn't two nails (or actually three if anyone reads the Bible) that held Jesus to the cross -- it was His love for us and His willingness to die for our sin.
Also, I might note, one reason the first century was the "fullness of time" for Jesus was because there were no cameras or video recorders. If there were, we would worship an image, picture or painting of Christ. The pictures in our Bibles (and in my children's Bible growing up) make Jesus look like a white man. He was Jewish, olive skinned. We all tend to make Jesus into what we want Him to be.
Think of what would happen if the disciples had been able to buy, barter or steal those nails that held Christ to the cross. We would worship them as relics. People would believe that they, in and of themselves, had power to save. Like the people of the Old Testament who began to worship the brass serpent lifted up in the wilderness, we would (or someone would) take a good thing and make it a god.
Even if they are THE nails, they are just nails. I don't worship nails; I worship the Lord who lived, died and rose from the grave. The tomb is empty. We don't need the nails. We have something better: an empty tomb, a resurrected Lord, an ascended Lord, a constant Advocate, and a soon coming King.
Michael Catt is senior pastor of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga. This column first appeared on his blog, MichaelCatt.com.
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