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The Problem of Physical Evidence

By Wertbag ~ 

Firstly, it must be said that Ron Wyatt is a scam artist who lies to make money. Any of his many claims should be considered false until such a time as more reputable sources can double check his work, as every time this has happened Ron has been shown to be wrong or lying. Ron was the one who claimed to have found the remains of Noah's Ark, which when checked by experts was found to be nothing more than an oval rock formation. He claimed to have found chariot wheels at the bottom of the Red Sea, but when checked it turned out they were train wheels (the metal train wheels survived the time under the sea, while wooden chariot wheels would have long rotted away). He also claimed to have found the Ark of the Covenant under the Temple Mount, but mysteriously his camera failed and others checking the same tunnels failed to find any trace of it.

The Ark of the Covenant was said to be the golden casket in which the ten commandments were kept. The bible talks of this relic being carried by the Israelite army and it made them more powerful warriors. However, the Ark quickly vanishes from history, with some thoughts that it may have been either buried for safety or melted down by enemy armies. Either way we have no idea what became of it. Finding such a thing could prove or disprove the supernatural claims made of it, and if it could be opened then the original 10 commandments could be viewed and whether they were hand tooled or magically created could be confirmed. While it is plausible such a box did exist, sadly it seems unlikely we will ever get to see it.

Noah's Ark was the massive boat built to survive the global flood. It came to rest upon a mountain and after that no further mention is made. Some say those early survivors would have stripped the boat of its wood to build housing, others that such a wooden vessel would not survive the centuries (although it is claimed the wood survived 120 years while being built). We have no idea where it was meant to be and no sign of any such thing. There are those who believe it was only a regional flood, in which case the size of the ship is exaggerated, and others who simply say the story is false or metaphor so there never was a ship to begin with.

We have no evidence of a global flood, in fact there is a lot of evidence against such a thing.

There was the Spear of Destiny, the spear which the Roman soldier stabbed Jesus in the side, and by some beliefs was the actual cause of his death. For the Roman soldier his spear would have just been a weapon, nothing worthy of being elevated above any other tool, but there are some who say the earthquake at the time of Jesus's death had the soldiers throw their weapons down and flee, which could have resulted in the bloody spear been taken with the body. The spear doesn't appear in the bible after that single thrust, and that is where the story may have ended, were it not for a claim by a crusader army who took Jerusalem. The story goes that they were besieged, and their leader needed to rally the troops for a suicide charge. He went to pray in the catacombs, and returned with what he claimed was the spear, saying it had been divinely revealed as what they needed to win. Rallying behind the relic the crusaders charged the surprised Persians, and broke their lines, sending them fleeing. While this sounds like a ploy by the crusader leader to inspire his troops, later claims were that the spear was returned to Europe and locked away for safe keeping. Whether that is true is impossible to know, but if it was locked away a thousand years ago that is where it has stayed, as it has never been seen since.

One relic that has captured the attention of Hollywood is the Holy Grail. Commonly thought to be the cup that Jesus drank from at the last supper (although other theorists claim it may have referred to Jesus's body or perhaps as a cup Joseph used to collect Jesus's blood at the crucifixion). This is another relic that the bible doesn't mention and disappears from history for the thousand years after Jesus's death, starting to appear in plays and poems in the 12th and 13th century and at some point, around this time it was written into the story of King Arthur and his knights questing for the grail. While there were claims of grails being found and some of which were donated to churches, they mostly have modern materials or designs, lack of history and carbon dating have not found any that could be authenticated. It doesn't seem to have been a relic of any note in the bible, so it seems unlikely that anyone at the last supper would have considered it an item worthy of being kept.

Regarding the bible, we have no original copies of any of the works, being mostly on paper these are works which are very hard to keep intact through the centuries. Of the 12 disciples it is believed only 3 (Matthew, John and Peter) wrote books of the bible, with the other 9 potentially being illiterate or if they did put pen to paper those works are lost to time. We have no writings from Jesus himself, and there are references within the bible pointing to other works that we have no copies of. Sadly, we have no idea how many works were created and lost to time. We have the terrible loss of knowledge from the destruction of the Library of Alexandria, in which some ancient writers claimed as many as 200,000 scrolls were kept. Historians are unsure who destroyed the library, but having been burnt to the ground all of those unique works were lost forever. You would hope an all-powerful God would have protected His holy works, but we seem to have many gaps caused by time.

Perhaps the most famous Christian relic is the Shroud of Turin, a burial cloth with an image of a man showing the wounds attributed to Jesus. The shroud has been on display for decades, with several different groups been given access to test it in various ways. Unfortunately, the best that can be said is the results are heavily debated. Originally there were 3 independent tests done to carbon date the cloth. All 3 results came back saying it was a medieval cloth, so that should have been an end to it, but believers claimed the spot selected for testing had been patched from repairs done in the past. The experts disagreed, but with no ability to retest the controversial result could not be replicated. We have had numerous groups attempt to recreate the image with some close and plausible results, however the believers will point to some differences existing and say none have done it perfectly. Considering, if it is a fake then we don't know the pigments used, the processes it underwent and could not replicate 700 years of natural aging, it does feel like some believers are setting the bar incredibly high.

In addition, we have a letter from a 13th century bishop who says it was known to be fake, we have blood experts who say the blood on the image hasn't run as you would expect from a prone man and due to gravity, we have questions as to why there would be blood at all if the body had been properly cleaned and prepared for burial or why a body that was dead for hours would still be bleeding after the heart had stopped. Others have said the bodies proportions are wrong, pointing to the arms being held up against gravity and extended to cover the groin, potentially an artistic choice rather than what we would expect. Even just the history of the cloth is patchy, with no mention of it for a thousand years after Jesus died, then the first we hear is in the 13th century when it is donated to a church.

While we can say it is fascinating, there are a lot of experts falling on both sides of the fence on this one. A lot of people with strong bias one way or the other and a lot of people who will pick the evidence and apply confirmation bias to say it is what they want it to be. It seems unlikely this debate will ever be settled.

At the end of the day, we are left with no confirmed relics, gaps in the writings, considerable evidence against claims such as global floods or a young earth, and mostly stories from a thousand years after Jesus's death talking about things the bible didn't highlight as important. Nothing Jesus wrote or owned, no confirmed tomb, nothing written by 9 out of 12 disciples and scam artists pushing rubbish claims for their own financial benefit. There is nothing physical that can lead us to belief.

Originally posted in the Reasons for Disbelief thread on Ex-Christian.Net