Monday, January 13, 2014

St. Peter's Bones (Image Books)

Relics play an important role among people in the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. While they are by no means necessary for salvation, they do aid some people in attaining salvation. How? Christianity was founded 2,000 years ago. Some can accept all the teachings of Sacred Scripture and Tradition on faith alone. Others need some tangible form of proof to help them believe. Relics can provide just such tangible proof for some people.  The relics of Jesus, like His cross or manger, are held in highest regard, followed in importance by relics of His Mother Mary. Beyond that, St. Peter's relics are held in high esteem, especially his bones. The legend of St. Peter's bones has fascinated me for some time, so I was thrilled to receive a copy of  St. Peter's Bones to review.

St. Peter's Bones is a brief book in which Thomas J. Craughwell leads the reader on a journey to find the bones of St. Peter. The book begins with Pope Pius XII's authorization of a thorough excavation of the area under St. Peter's Basilica know as the Vatican Grottoes. From there, the book rushes the reader off on a whirlwind adventure which details Biblical descriptions of Peter the man, historical accounts of St. Peter's bones being lost due to invasion, the dig that occurred in the Grottoes, and the analysis of the results.

Even though we ultimately know that St. Peter's bones were discovered since Pope Francis recently had them on display, parts of the book still had you on the edge of your seat. The passages that most captured my attention dealt with the excavations. As a kid, I grew up wanting to be Indiana Jones and discover Biblical artifacts. Reading this book and the descriptions of the tombs they uncovered was fascinating. For example, one of the tombs had an inscription that read, "Peter, pray to Christ Jesus for the holy Christian men buried near your body." I can't imagine the feeling of exhilaration from discovering this inscription, or the heartbreak when it faded away due to damp atmospheric conditions.

Overall, I have mixed feelings about this book. The content was top notch, but the style of writing was a little scattered to me. Mr. Craughwell's storyline jumps back and forth between the Bible to ancient history to the explorations and excavations that occurred in the 1940s, all seemingly within the same breath. I would have preferred a more orderly approach. For me, the book would have been easier to read had Craughwell talked about Scriptural Peter first and covered that topic thoroughly before moving on to Constantine building St. Peter's Basilica, other historically relevant events, etc. That personal preference aside, this book is still a worthwhile read for anyone with an interest in St. Peter, archaeology, or relics.

I received this book for free from Image Books in exchange for an honest review. Also, for a limited time (until January 31st), if you buy a copy of this book from a retailer, Image Books will send you another copy for free. Click here for more details. As always, if you found this review helpful, please click the link, and hit Yes!