no, it’s not a nail from the cross of christ

A nail. That’s it. A nail.

as my mother used to say to me, ‘i just got through warning you, and you did it anyway.’

the telegraph is the latest in the long line of irresponsible, ridiculous, and purely sensationalistic media outlets to prey on the hopes of some gullible christians around the world and make a claim (or ask a silly question) with absolutely no archaeological or factual basis. their latest offering asks if a nail found in an archaeological excavation could have been a nail used in the cross of christ. the headline reads:

Nail from Christ’s crucifixion found?

the subheading reads:

A nail dating from the time of Christ’s crucifixion has been found at a remote fort believed to have once been a stronghold of the Knights Templar.

antonio lombatti has already addressed this issue.

listen up: there is absolutely no evidence to support any claim that this was a nail from the cross of christ, as the headline asks.

btw, this is not ‘minimalism;’ it is just the facts of archaeology. allow me to explain.

the archaeologist says that the nail

dates from the first to second centuries

and that it appeared to have been

handed with extreme care, as if it was a relic.

but that’s all we know. someone ages ago may have thought it was a relic from the time of christ. all the archaeology shows us is that the nail dates to within a couple of hundred years of the time of jesus.

and what is the context of the find? the answer is a small fort on a tiny island just off the coast of the port of funchal, a city on another small island, madeira, off the southwest coast of portugal. according to its website, the location:

Fort of São José is the headquarters of the Principality of the Pontinha, a self-proclaimed country by Prince D. Renato Barros. The Fort of São José is located off the coast of the port of Funchal, capital of the Madeira Islands, an autonomous region of Portugal.

so the context of the nail is a fort claimed by some prince, who formally announced his island’s secession from portugal. you read that correctly, a nail that some claim might be from the cross was found in a fort off the coast of portugal. riiiiight.

the most one can say is that an archaeologist (bryn walters in this case) thinks that a nail discovered along with three skeletons and three swords in a fort on a small island off the coast of portugal, might possibly have been revered by the three deceased men, who could possibly may have been knights templar (since there is some old legend tying this city to the knights templar), who in turn may have believed that the nail they may have been toting along with them could possibly have been a relic that someone said was once a nail from the cross of christ.

and that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you sell newspapers: you find something, and interpret it as possibly something that perhaps someone believed to be something ages ago because someone else revered it.

of course, some representative (christopher macklin in this case) from some modern knights templar club (the knights templar of britannia) is going to say that the discovery was ‘momentous,’ but who cares. that is no more proof or credible support than some nutjob from some alien abduction organization saying that some purported sighting of a ufo is ‘monumental’ or ‘evidence of extra-terrestrial existence.’

and just so you know, i’ve found lots of nails excavating in roman era archaeological sites much closer to jerusalem than this nail. but i’d never make this claim, because it’s not only irresponsible and reckless, but is not supported by the evidence.

finding a nail in portugal is no more evidence of the cross of christ than finding wood on a mountain in turkey is evidence of noah’s ark.

now, please note, that the archaeologist never claimed it to be a nail from the cross of christ. all he said it was that it was a nail that appeared to have been revered or at least delicately handled, possibly by the three men buried nearby. those men, in turn, could have been knights templar. and those knights possibly could have been told that this was a nail from the cross of christ. an assumption of an assumption of an assumption. thus, this is not really the archaeologist’s fault, for he stated the truth. it is the unnamed author of the article that is responsible for the hype and misleading headline. and that, of course, falls at the feet of the telegraph.

because in the end, all you really have is a nail.


march 3 update: see the los angeles examiner article by chris cunnyngham.

10 Responses

  1. and sometimes a nail is just a nail.

  2. march 3 update: see the los angeles examiner article by chris cunnyngham.

  3. and as luther said:

    “What lies there are about relics! One claims to have a feather from the wing of the angel Gabriel, and the Bishop of Mainz has a twig from Moses’ burning bush. And how does it happen that eighteen apostles are buried in Germany when Christ had only twelve?”

  4. […] island community attempting to drum up tourism for their local Bulgarian Orthodox Church. This same gimmick was recently attempted by another small island community, who claimed to have found nails from the […]

  5. ” in a fort on a small island off the coast of portugal”

    Actually, it’s a small rock on the coast of a small Portuguese island off the coast of *Africa*.

  6. lol. yes, it’s off the coast of africa too. it’s technically off the coast of spain too. but as it is a portuguese holding, i chose portugal. lol.

  7. […] Nails of the Cross of Christ? Posted by Fr Stephen Smuts ⋅ April 12, 2011 ⋅ Leave a Comment Filed Under  Archaeology, Biblical, Biblical Archaeology, Cross, Easter, Jesus Christ, Nails, News, Pseudo-archaeology … a week before Easter? No! Writes Dr Robert Cargill: Tell me if you’ve heard this one before. […]

  8. […] come l’anno scorso (qui la storia, qui la spiegazione), anche quest’anno, prima di Pasqua, è saltata fuori la scoperta di uno o […]

  9. […] which Jesus was crucified. Each time, biblical scholars and archaeologists have rightly pointed out the assumptions and misinterpretations of evidence behind these claims. Curiously, this fixation on the nails […]

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