For centuries, the faithful have believed the bones of St. Paul, who helped spread the Christian faith after the death of Christ, were in a tomb under the Basilica of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls in Rome. Though the belief has seldom been questioned, Vatican archaeologists recently carbon-dated the remains for the first time and found that they date from the first or second century.
“This seems to confirm the unanimous and uncontested tradition that they are the mortal remains of Apostle Paul,” Pope Benedict XVI said as he announced the findings. In addition to the bone fragments, archaeologists found grains of incense, a piece of purple linen with gold sequins, and a blue fabric with linen filaments.
Why do they believe this is St. Paul? This could be the best archaeological evidence ever. I’d like to see an independent confirmation of this result. By the way, if Vatican archaeologists accept carbon dating, then they should admit that the Earth is half a million times older than Creationists claim.
Related article from 2009:
Dresden, Germany – Responding to the claim by Pope Benedict XVI that the bones of St Paul have been found in Rome, a Dutch expert, Rengert Elburg, said Monday this can never be proven.
Elburg, an expert on archaeological study of old bones and organic remains for the government of the German state of Saxony, told the German Press Agency dpa in an interview, ‘It’s impossible to establish that it’s him.’
Even a genetic analysis of the bones in a sarcophagus marked as Paul’s would reveal nothing, because there were no proven descendants whose DNA could be compared.
‘But the bones could tell you the sex and age of death of the person,’ he said. A face could be reconstructed if a skull were in the grave. ‘But we don’t know how Paul looked, so that doesn’t help identify the body,’ he said.
Elburg said scientists were likely to check for links to the historical account of the beheading of St Paul, the author of copious letters and first interpreter of Christianity.
‘Traces of beheading can be identified with absolute certainty,’ he said.
The cut was usually found between the third and fourth vertebrae.
Elburg counselled maximum precision in opening the sarcophagus, saying, ‘It will be comparable to opening the tomb of an Egyptian pharaoh.’ Fabric in a coffin could fall apart at a touch.
He said dry, outside air would not damage fabric or the bones. The presence of any clothing was likely to depend on whether the sarcophagus had been hermetically sealed for 20 centuries.
‘Roman fabrics in the time of St Paul were of very high quality. They had wool, linen and even silk,’ he said.
The pagan Romans embalmed their bodies, but Christians did not, he added. ‘Doubtless nothing like that was done with this early Christian person,’ he said.
The Pope said Sunday that a probe through a tiny hole in the sarcophagus at the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Wall proved they contained remains from the time of Christ.