Monday, June 29, 2009

St. Paul: Papist!

GetReligion chides the AP for referring to the erstwhile Saul of Tarsus as a "a Roman Catholic saint."

While not untrue, so far as it goes, it doesn't go very far. Pretty much everybody in the Christian world regards Paul as a saint. No matter what they think about saints, and no matter who else they may argue is or isn't a saint, there's no real argument about St. Paul. (Come on -- the guy wrote most of the New Testament. And "Amazing Grace" is, basically, the story of his life. )

What's just as interesting to us is the story in which this little goof occurred. Apparently, they have dug up Paul's bones. At St. Paul's Outside the Walls, in Rome. The Pope said so at Vespers the other night, so it must be true. Or at any rate, they have dug up the bones of some other guy who lived during the first two Christian centuries -- which, it seems to us, is a reasonably wide margin of error.


Brian Visaggio said...

While the results are, it seems, hardly conclusive, the truth of the matter is that there's a pretty good record when it comes this. It's worth noting that there's no other place in Christendom that purports to have these remains, when there would be every reason to fake it; it's also worth noting that the burial place came first, and the shrine second. While yes, the Church might have an interest in faking it, there must have already been a reasonably long tradition of this being Paul's burial place. Considering the original St. Paul Outside the Walls was built by Constantine, replacing an already-existing memorial to him erected, it's told, fairly soon after the Apostle was martyred, there's a pretty consistent tradition going back in written records to the early fourth century orally, it seems, much longer.

Father said...

Oh, I agree with everything you've just said. I just think it fails to appreciate the humor of the story.

I mean, where else would you *expect* to find St. Paul's remains, apart from the place where people have been saying they were all along? It's a bit like saying, "Holy cow! You know who turns out to be buried in Grant's Tomb? Grant!"

The funny part (okay, not funny so much as mildly droll) comes in when we start carbon-dating the bones and saying "A-ha!" Which isn't to say that it isn't worth doing anyway -- one of the marks of good religion is its interest in science; one of the marks of bad religion is its hostility to same.

But the really funny part is when a major press organization so fails to grasp the basic structure of Christianity that it assigns Paul a denominational identity. I mean, Aloysius Gonzaga is a Roman Catholic saint, in any reasonable sense of those words. Nobody else venerates him, or would care to. Paul is in a different category altogether.

Brian Visaggio said...

Oh, I appreciate the humor, but your closer implied you, at best, doubt the veracity of the claim, so I wanted to bolster it a bit.