What I read in Bynum about asceticism and relics in Christian thought in the times of Origen and Augustine touched on a concern of mine. They drew on the Bible to justify these practices.
As to asceticism, the main passage was Jesus’ reference to the resurrection resulting in a state where we don’t marry and are like the angels ( Mark 12:25, Matthew 22:30 and Luke 20:35-36). The Sadducees have asked Jesus a question that they intended to reduce the idea of resurrection to absurdity. If a woman had been widowed seven times in this life, who would be her husband in the next?
Jesus responds that the Sadducees have too crude an understanding of the resurrection. He agrees with the Pharisees (surprising, since we usually think of Jesus as over against the Pharisees). Paul, the Pharisee, shows in 1 Corinthians 15 that he has no rigidly materialistic view of the resurrection either. Jesus says that the Sadducees do not understand the power of God. I understand that as his central point. God has the power to raise us to a different kind of life, a life that transcends marriage as we know it.
Some ascetics took this to mean that a state of being asexual and like the angels was ideal, and that we must strive for that in this life.
However, that involves reading something into what Jesus reportedly said. The passages leave open all kinds of ways to imagine and speculate about the state of human relations in the age to come. Jesus does not challenge popular Pharisaic views about angels or that resurrected bodies do not marry, eat, or die. The emphasis that seems unique to Jesus in the text, though, concerns God, not the future state. God, Jesus says, has the power to bring about a very altered state of affairs.
Tomorrow, I want to say something about the use of 2 Kings 13:20-21 to support the use of relics.