Dead Men's Bones

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Catholics have a thing about body parts, which they like to call “relics.” One Romish apologist I exchanged with pointed to an Old Testament account of a miracle involving the bones of a dead prophet in defense of his church's reverence for body parts.

1st Argument: The prophet Elisha died and was buried. At the time, bands of Moabites used to raid the land each year. Once some people were burying a man, when suddenly they spied such a raiding band. So they cast the dead man into the grave of Elisha, and everyone went off. But when the man came in contact with the bones of Elisha, he came back to life and rose to his feet.

1st Response: Yes, indeed, God used the bones of Elisha to restore a man to life. That this really happened cannot be denied, for it is validated in Holy Scripture. This miracle is recounted in 2 Kings, Chapter 13:

20 And Elisha died, and they buried him. And the bands of the Moabites invaded the land at the coming in of the year.
21 And it came to pass, as they were burying a man, that, behold, they spied a band of men; and they cast the man into the sepulchre of Elisha: and when the man was let down, and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood up on his feet.
-- 2 Kings 13:20-21, KJV

That God is able to perform miracles should come as no surprise to anyone who believes Him to be the Author of all creation. Let us examine this miraculous resurrection in the light of Scripture to see if we can discover why God would do such a thing.

The prophet Elisha had been the backbone of Israel's defense (verse 14), but he died, at the time of year when wars were usual fought. God raised up a dead man who touched the bones of Elisha. This miracle was a sign that, though the prophet had died, God's power was still working through him. The victories that God had promised through His prophet were going to happen. (verses 19,25). Syria would be defeated and three of the cities Syria had been taken would be restored to the kingdom of Israel (verses 22-25).

God raised up the dead man as confirmation that His promises, delivered through Elisha, were still in force.

Now, show me a miracle performed by one of the body parts the Roman Catholic Church claims is associated with great miracles. I accept that you could not refer to Scripture for support. Perhaps instead you can point to an alleged miracle that can be validated by reliable means, which of course rules out the testimony of the Magisterium.

Perhaps you can provide a verifiable account of some miracle associated with either of the two heads of John the Baptist kept as relics in Antioch and Aquitaine. If that is too difficult, how about an account of even a single validated miracle attributed to either the skull of Peter in the St. John Lateran church or the one in the Graffiti Wall in the Vatican. San Carlo Barromeo is the patron of Catholic clergy. Surely some one of them has observed or been the recipient of a bona fide miracle associated with his heart, which is on display in the church that bears his name in Rome.

Going back to the miracle involving the bones of God's prophet, I invite you to actually read the passage in context. Don't just pull the passage off some lame apologetics site on the web. See if you can find where the account describes how the Israelites hacked the prophet's bones into little pieces and shipped them around the Palestinian countryside to be placed in ornate containers and worshiped (with dulia or whatever). See if you can find the place in Scripture where we are told the Israelites lit candles and knelt before the bits and pieces of bones as they prayed to Elisha, asking him to carry their prayers before the Throne of God. Then, if you will, move ahead in your reading to Chapter 17 of that Book, where you will read what God thought about the growing trend toward idolatry in Israel. In case you missed that in the post you are responding to, here it is again:

And the children of Israel did secretly those things that were not right against the LORD their God, and they built them high places in all their cities, from the tower of the watchmen to the fenced city. And they set them up images and groves in every high hill, and under every green tree: And there they burnt incense in all the high places, as did the heathen whom the LORD carried away before them; and wrought wicked things to provoke the LORD to anger: For they served idols, whereof the LORD had said unto them, Ye shall not do this thing. Yet the LORD testified against Israel, and against Judah, by all the prophets, and by all the seers, saying, Turn ye from your evil ways, and keep my commandments and my statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by my servants the prophets. Notwithstanding they would not hear, but hardened their necks, like to the neck of their fathers, that did not believe in the LORD their God. And they rejected his statutes, and his covenant that he made with their fathers, and his testimonies which he testified against them; and they followed vanity, and became vain, and went after the heathen that were round about them, concerning whom the LORD had charged them, that they should not do like them. And they left all the commandments of the LORD their God, and made them molten images, even two calves, and made a grove, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served Baal. And they caused their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire, and used divination and enchantments, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger. Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel, and removed them out of his sight: there was none left but the tribe of Judah only. Also Judah kept not the commandments of the LORD their God, but walked in the statutes of Israel which they made. And the LORD rejected all the seed of Israel, and afflicted them, and delivered them into the hand of spoilers, until he had cast them out of his sight. -- 2 Kings 17:9-20, KJV

2nd Argument: God gives us his grace through everyday people, places, and things - not just His written word.

2nd Response: Show me that – in Scripture. Help me to understand that He gives me grace when I kneel before the heart of a dead man and pray.

Remove the veils from my eyes that prevent me from seeing that He gives me grace through the sacrament of baptism. Don't just tell me what you think. Show me where I might read it myself – in the Word of God. After all, an opinion and 35 cents will get you a local phone call these days, but it won't buy a cup of coffee anymore.

Nowhere in the Word of God is there even a suggestion that believers are to hang on to the bones and other body parts of the dead and make pendants and shrines of them. Look to Scripture. What did the earliest Christians do with the earthly remains of their martyrs? They buried them. Stephen was the very first Christian martyr. After he was stoned to death, the others buried him. All of him! (Acts 7:2) In Old Testament times, no one incorporated the bones and entrails of the OT saints into their religious practice. (BTW, every child of God through faith in Christ is a saint – see 1 Corinthians 1:2) It was precisely to prevent such things that God buried the body of Moses so that no one could dig up his bones and use them as holy relics (Deuteronomy 32:5,6)

The Catholic Church teaches:

1674. Besides sacramental liturgy and sacramentals, catechesis must take into account the forms of piety and popular devotions among the faithful. The religious sense of the Christian people has always found expression in various forms of piety surrounding the Church's sacramental life, such as the veneration of relics, visits to sanctuaries, pilgrimages, processions, the stations of the cross, religious dances, the rosary, medals,[Cf. Council of Nicaea II: DS 601; 603; Council of Trent: DS 1822.] etc. - - Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed., © 1994/1997 United States Catholic Conference, Inc.

The Bible teaches:

Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry -- 1 Corinthians 10:14.

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