The True Cross and the Spear of Destiny


Book Details

Author  Charles River Editors
Publisher  Charles River Editors
Publication Date   April 8, 2017
Pages  77


*Includes pictures
*Includes Gospel accounts and contemporary accounts of the relics
*Includes online resources and a bibliography for further reading
*Includes a table of contents

That Jesus of Nazareth (ca. 4 BC-30 CE) was crucified is the closest to a historical fact anyone can say about him. Biblical scholars have spent centuries debating the details of what Jesus did and said, but this crude fact‒that Jesus suffered capital punishment at the hands of the Roman authority by crucifixion‒is accepted by the overwhelming majority of scholars. That there once was a cross where Jesus suffered and died is, therefore, the sequential logical affirmation.

Jesus’s destiny was not uncommon. Indeed, many other Jews perished were nailed to a wooden cross on the outskirts of Jerusalem (thousands, according to the historian Josephus, who was an eyewitness to the great Jewish revolt against Rome). The cross, a symbol of failure and shame for those who died on it and their families, was considered, from the dawn of Christianity, as the climactic moment in the career of its Messiah: His crucifixion and the ascension to His throne as the true king of the Jews. Hence, once the persecution against Christianity was over, and after enough time had passed, those who were interested, began to search for the truth in the evidence. To be able to look at, contemplate, kiss, or preferably take home a piece of the True Cross of Jesus, became the obsession of believers, kings, and emperors alike.

According to Gospel narrative, along with the cross and the Holy Grail, another object has maintained an enigmatic and disturbing presence throughout history: the Spear of Longinus, that of the Roman soldier who pierced Jesus’s side. The True Cross was a relic for healing and protection, but the spear, according to legend, was predestined for war and conquest. “Whomsoever claims this spear and solves its secrets holds the destiny of the world in his hands, for good or evil." This is what the ancient emperors of the Holy Roman Empire, Napoleon, and even Adolf Hitler believed. It is no coincidence this coveted relic has been known since time immemorial as the Spear of Destiny.

Legends aside, the real problem arises when historians eliminate the mythical elements and try to identify how and when these relics appeared for the first time in history, and from there, follow them from generation to generation and from church to church, through the hands of kings and popes. It is a long and complicated history, from believers of Christianity to its enemies, and historians have to try to determine how the relics were lost and recovered, how they were scattered all over the world (and only sometimes reunited again), how they were stolen by invading armies and used as impressive forms of propaganda; and even how they were lost, recovered, and deposited in the places where they are venerated today.

Is it possible the cross of Jesus was unburied 300 years after his death and that its fragments can still be seen in several churches of the world? It is known that in the middle of the 4th century (ca. 350 CE), an ancient cross was venerated in Jerusalem and used in the liturgy during the Holy Week. The Spear appeared in the next century in the Basilica of Mount Zion of Jerusalem.

Of course, the three centuries that separate them from the event of the crucifixion (ca. 30 CE) makes it problematic to defend its authenticity. There are opinions for and against the legitimacy of the cross that has been venerated in Palestine since the times of the emperor, Constantine, and the spear Charlemagne held at his coronation. But in some cases, the history of an object, and the tumult it gives rise to, are more exciting than the question of whether it’s genuine.

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