The Bede vs. the Shroud

Jason, a shroud of Turin advocate, wrote:

There’s a vast amount of material in the Shroud literature about references to objects resembling the Shroud and possible depictions of the Shroud in artwork prior to the fourteenth century.

In point of fact, as best we can tell from the scientific and historical evidence, the shroud is not an ancient hoax, but a medieval hoax, probably dating to the 14th century – possibly later than that. But what about these claims that there is older historical evidence?

Unfortunately for shroud advocates, these claims are not very reliable. I happened to be reading the Venerable Bede’s, “On Holy Places,” in “Bede: A Biblical Miscellany,” trans. Foley and Holder. In that work, chapter IV is titled: “Concerning the Lord’s head-cloth and Another Great Shroud made by St. Mary.” This naturally got my attention, given that I had recently seen Jason’s comment.

Is this a possible historical reference to the shroud of Turin? Alas for Jason, it is not. After describing the allegedly miraculous eight foot long head cloth, Bede reports:

Another somewhat bigger shroud is also venerated in a church. Said to have been woven by St. Mary, it contains images of the twelve apostles and the Lord. It is red on one side and green on the other.

(“On the Holy Places,” Chapter IV, Section 3, p. 11) The italics is material taken by Bede from Adamnan’s “Of Holy Places,” and the parts used here can be found at Adamnan De loc. sanc. 1, 10 (CCSL 175: 194, 1-9).

While this is a shroud, and one that allegedly comes from the 1st century, and even one very loosely associated with the burial of Christ, it is pretty clearly not the Shroud of Turin. The Shroud of Turin is not red on one side and green on the other, and does not have images of the twelve apostles on it.

Adamnan’s and Bede’s silence regarding the Shroud of Turin at this point is fully expected by those of us who recognize that the Shroud of Turin is a later creation. Had such a shroud been known to exist in Bede’s time, he could hardly be expected not to discuss it at this point in his work. So, while silence cannot prove the non-existence of the shroud, it certainly suggests that the most prominent historian of the age was not aware of it.

So, yes, strictly speaking there were references to objects resembling the Shroud before the 14th century (Bede and Adamnan are 7th-8th century writers). However, these references are not references to the Shroud of Turin. Moreover, the references that are clearly not to the shroud of Turin, but to other shrouds and supposed burial clothing, demonstrate that vague references to a shroud should not be assumed to be the shroud of Turin, but can instead be related to the objects that were actually known in the earlier ages.

-TurretinFan

N.B. In fairness to Jason, after he threw out this assertion about the historical evidence, he immediately followed it by: “It’s a subject I don’t know much about. I don’t affirm any of the theories circulating about the Shroud’s transmission prior to the fourteenth century, but I wouldn’t want to reject all of them either at this point.” In criticism, though, he really shouldn’t be throwing this out as an argument, unless he’s prepared to defend the argument.

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3 Responses to “The Bede vs. the Shroud”

  1. Coram Deo Says:
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