Or perhaps not…

For in his male he hadde a pilwe-beer,
Which that he seyde was Oure Lady veyl:
He seyde he hadde a gobet of the seyl
That Seint Peter hadde, whan that he wente
Upon the see, til Jesu Crist hym hente.
He hadde a croys of latoun ful of stones,
And in a glas he hadde pigges bones.

-Chaucer, General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales

There’s nothing new about selling relics. Charlatans discovered long ago that people will pay far more than is seemly to touch something that was once worn by or part of a hero. While today’s consumers might prefer to buy an air guitar once played by JFK, the saints’ knuckle-bones market has long been considered an investor’s safe bet.

These saint-oil salesmen have embraced new technological developments. Where the pardoner could only sell his pillowcase once, modern peddlers can use TV to sell the same relic to millions of viewers at the same time. This is precisely what Simcha Jacobovici is doing with the conspicuously timed announcement of his new movie, The Nails of the Cross (via Skepchick).

This isn’t a surprising move from Jacobovici, who hosts a TV show called The Naked Archeologist – a show that, according to its Wikipedia page, “reviews Biblical stories, then tries to find proof for them” (which, by the way, is the most precisely backwards way of doing archeology). In his new movie, he claims that some nails that were actually and truly used to crucify Jesus have been found in what may be (but likely isn’t) the tomb of Caiaphas.

[Caiaphas is the Jewish priest who, according to Matthew and John, organized the plot to kill Jesus. According to Jacobovici, he was also a Dexter-like collector of tokens from his victims.]

The find is bunk, of course, and XKV8R does a fairly good job explaining why. But isn’t it interesting that the scams Chaucer complained about over 600 years ago are still with us and going strong?

John Calvin once complained that there were enough pieces of the True Cross in churches across Christendom to fill a ship – and now we have the nails to go with them!


Reposted from the CFI-Ottawa blog.