(RNS) Sophisticated DNA testing on relics believed to belong to St. Luke indicate the remains may have actually belonged to the second century apostle, although scientists will probably never know for sure.

An Italian scientist, Guido Barbujani, examined the relics of St. Luke, which were interred in the Basilica of Santa Giustina in the Italian city of Padua. His findings were documented in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States.

St. Luke, according to ancient sources, was a physician and author of one of the four gospels. He is believed to have died in about 150 A.D. in the Greek city of Thebes at the age of 84. His body was first moved to Constantinople in 338 A.D., and then taken to Padua sometime around 1177.

In 1992, the Orthodox Metropolitan of Thebes asked the Roman Catholic bishop of Padua for a relic of St. Luke to be included in Luke's tomb in Thebes. The bishop of Padua, Antonio Mattiazzo, agreed, but wanted the relics tested for identification, according to The New York Times.

Even though the Padua coffin fit exactly into its former resting place in Constantinople, some theorized that Luke's body was replaced with that of another male around 300 A.D. Scientists tested a tooth in the coffin for DNA, and identified it as belonging to a Syrian male, sometime around 300 A.D. Luke is believed to have been born in Antioch, in Syria.

In order to test further, scientists examined the head of St. Luke, which was removed by Emperor Charles IV in 1354 and taken to Prague. The skull fit the other remains almost exactly, and the tooth taken from the coffin fit into the right socket of the jawbone.

While the testing can not say definitively that the remains belong to the apostle, there is good reason to believe that they could, experts said. "I think we should accept that there is no way to tell if it was the Evangelist Luke, but the genetic evidence does not contradict the idea," Barbujani told The Times.

more from beliefnet and our partners
Close Ad