“My Body,” Their Souls

Father Dwight (who seems to write more than Tim Keller) is back with a biblical justification for placing relics under the altar in Roman Catholic churches.

In Revelation 6:9 it is written: And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held.

What does it mean “under the altar were the souls of them that were slain for the Word of God and the testimony they held.”?

In the early church, the remains of the martyrs were placed in above ground table tombs. Similar to the one shown here. During the times of persecution the church would gather in the catacombs for worship and the table tombs were used as the altar for Mass. Thus the remains of the martyrs were under the altar.

When they no longer had to worship in secret, the early Christians still wanted the presence of their martyrs to be near them so they opened the tombs, removed the bones and put them into jars which they then placed beneath the altar.

If you visit churches in Rome today you will often seen the jars with relics on display beneath the altar. More than that, you will often see the whole body of the saint on display beneath the altar. Here, for example is the altar beneath which is the relic of Pope St John XXIII.

Call me a literalist, but Rev 6:9 does not say “bodies.” It also says that the author was able to “see” something that is not visible. How do you see a soul?

So notice that when it comes to the body of Christ in the Mass, the bread becomes the very (true) body of Christ. After all, Christ said, “this is my body.” But when it comes to relics, the bones are memorials to the souls under the altar.

I’m confused. Maybe Zwingli can sort it out.

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One thought on ““My Body,” Their Souls

  1. On this question, Zwingli did not have to hide in caves from the magistrates. Zwingli aligned himself with the tradition of the church in which he was watered.

    https://books.google.com/books?id=wAKjBQAAQBAJ&pg=PA200&lpg=PA200&dq=zwingli+on+souls+immortality+resurrection&source=bl&ots=4vPDyaBCEQ&sig=ua6UcahtqBKjzcYhVhbZvRr3OhU&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjttOGd8vbXAhUE5yYKHSTHC5wQ6AEIKTAA#v=onepage&q

    William Tyndale, 1530—- “Nay, Paul, thou art unlearned; go to Master More, and learn a new way. We be not most miserable, though we rise not again; for our souls go to heaven as soon as we be dead, and are there in as great joy as Christ that is risen again. And I marvel that Paul had not comforted the Thessalonians with that doctrine, if he had known it.” An Answer to Sir Thomas More’s Dialogue , book. 4, ch. 4

    Genesis 2: 7 Then the Lord God formed the man out of the DUST from the ground and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils, and the man became a living soul.

    Genesis 4: 9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper” 10 Then the Lord said, “What have you done? Your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground!

    Hebrews 9: 26 now Christ has appeared one time, at the end of the ages, for the removal of sin by the sacrifice of Himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for people to die once—and after this, the judgment— 28 so also the Messiah, HAVING BEEN offered ONCE to bear the sins of many, will APPEAR A SECOND TIME, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.

    Hebrews 11: Some were tortured, not accepting release… others experienced mockings and scourgings, as well as bonds and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawed in two, they died by the sword, they wandered about in sheepskins, in goatskins, destitute, afflicted, and mistreated. 38 The world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and on mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground. 39 All these were approved through their faith, but they did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for US, so that THEY would not be made perfect without US.

    John 5: 24 “I assure you: Anyone who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has the life of the age to come and will not come under judgment but has passed from death to life…28 a time is coming when all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come out

    John 6: 39 This is the will of Him who sent Me: that I would lose none of those He has given Me but would raise them up on the last day.

    Revelation 3: 5 they will walk with Me in white and I will never erase their names from the book of life

    Revelation 6: Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed.”

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