(2 Kings 13:21) Does this passage support the Roman Catholic practice of venerating relics and the bones of dead saints?

CLAIM: In 2 Kings 13:20, the prophet Elisha died. In the following verse, a dead man was thrown into the grave of Elisha, and as soon as he touched Elisha, he sprung back to life! We read, “When the man touched the bones of Elisha he revived and stood up on his feet” (v.21). The Catholic Encyclopedia cites this passage in support of this practice. Should we interpret this passage in this way?

RESPONSE: The Moabites accidentally fell into this tomb; it wasn’t intentional. So this describes an accident—not a ritual. Moreover, the Moabites weren’t believers in God; they were Pagans.

While this event describes the use of Elisha’s bones being used for a supernatural purpose, this does not prescribe the ongoing use of this. In fact, those who through this man in the grave with Elisha were not trying to resuscitate him from the dead. This is very different from the modern use of relics in religious practice, where the relic is coveted and depended upon to channel God’s power. While God supernaturally worked through the bones of Elisha in this one instance, this doesn’t mean that he will work this way through these means in every instance.

A refutation of worshipping relics comes later in this same book. While God had previously worked supernaturally through the brazen serpent in Moses’ time (Num. 21), we see that people were worshipping this object and “burned incense to it”; thus King Hezekiah had this object “broke in pieces” (2 Kings 18:4).

It could be that God was using this event as an object lesson for the revival of the people in the next chapter. Hobbs writes, “The action, however, has a deeper significance. It is a foretaste of the revival of the nation recounted in the following chapter.”[1]

[1] Hobbs, T. R. (1998). 2 Kings (Vol. 13, p. 170). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.