Archaeologists working at an ancient church in Turkey think they've unearthed a piece of the world's most famous cross -- the one used to crucify Jesus, according to USA Today.
A stone chest was found during excavation at a 1,350-year-old church. The chest had multiple relics inside believed to be associated with the crucifixion, a historian at Turkey's Mimar Sinan University of Fine Arts told the Hurriyet Daily News, the leading source of news for Turkey and the region.
The artifacts were unearthed during a dig at Balatlar Church in Turkey's Sinop Province. They were recently displayed by excavation team leader Gülgün Köroğlu.
“We have found a holy thing in a chest,” the Hurriyet Daily News quoted Köroğlu as saying. “It is a piece of a cross."
She showed reporters at the site a stone with crosses carved into it.
“This stone chest is very important to us,” NBC News reported. “It has a history and is the most important artifact we have unearthed so far.”
The excavation team believes the chest could have been a symbolic coffin for the relics of a holy person, NBC reported. The chest has been moved from the site and will be examined in a laboratory.
The team has been working at the church, built in the year 660, since 2009.
The entire chest is now undergoing lab tests, reports NBC News. Researchers aren't sure who owned the chest, but it was probably a religious person of some importance. That person apparently believed the cross relic was the real deal.
Best case scenario, say researchers: It could be traced to the year of the crucifixion, but we would not know if the wood is from the cross of Jesus, according to The Gospel Coalition.
Researchers could carbon date it to 33 A.D., but couldn’t be certain it was part of the cross on which Jesus was crucified. They say it certainly could be, but couldn’t categorically say it is.
Many of the faithful believe they’re above “magical thinking,” but the issue of holy relics tends to betray our true feelings, wrote Joe Carter of The Gospel Coalition. Most people, of course, would be skeptical that the piece of cross recently found in Turkey is the cross. But what if it were? Would we feel that touching the object would bring us closer to Jesus?
Aside from the natural curiosity we would have about such an object, would anyone be warranted into treating it with veneration?
Why would we feel there is more “essence” of Christ left behind on a piece of his cross? We should be equally awed by a single piece of wood that God has touched than we are by the millions of trees he created.
Christians don't need dead relics, because we have a living Savior, Carter wrote. Christians don't need to touch holy relics, because we have the indwelling of his Holy Spirit. Christians don't need mementos to bring us in contact with God, because he has never left us.