Archive for the ‘Shroud of Turin’ Category

Antonio Lombatti – the Shroud is fake and Not Unique

June 12, 2012

The Daily Mail (caution – typical racy stories in the sidebars) has posted a story mentioning that Antonio Lombatti views the Shroud of Turin as a fake, and notes that it is not unique.

He said the Turin Shroud itself – showing an image of a bearded man and venerated for centuries as Christ’s burial cloth – appears to have originated in Turkey some 1,300 years after the Crucifixion.

Lombatti, of the Università Popolare in Parma, Italy, cited work by a 19th century French historian who had studied surviving medieval documents. ‘The Turin Shroud is only one of the many burial cloths which were circulating in the Christian world during the Middle Ages. There were at least 40,’ said Lombatti.

‘Most of them were destroyed during the French Revolution. Some had images, others had blood-like stains, and others were completely white.’

The article itself is nothing amazing, but check out Lombatti’s own website which combats what he calls the problem of “fantarchaeology”.

Perhaps the most interesting part of that website is his bibliography on the topic, including some interesting articles. In one of them, Lombatti seems to sum up the matter well:

The behavior of professional Bible scholars on this relic has been deplorable. It’s true, the Turin Shroud may be seen as a ridiculous topic to deal with. So, apart from Joe Zias, James Tabor, Rachel Hachlili, Shimon Gibson, and Levy Rahmani – experts on Second Temple Jewish burials and Early Christianity – scholars have rarely tackled the fancy claims made by the Shroud authenticity supporters. And this has left room for popular quackery both on library shelves and, above all, on the web. Lurid falsehoods and distorted reasoning have been repeated so many times that the common people and some scholars too may think they are facing the real burial cloth of Jesus. The method used by these “shroudologists” bends the mind the wrong way, an insidious and real corruption, and it has nothing to share with scholarly analysis and philological tools.

The Gospels don’t mention this double full-length image of Jesus left on his burial cloth. The Second Temple Jews used to bury their dead in a completely different way. There’s no historical record on the relic until 1355. When it was first displayed in France, the owner, the diocese bishop and even the pope called it a «representation» of Jesus’ burial shroud. Finally, when the linen of cloth was carbon 14 dated in 1988 it turned out to be from 1325 circa. So, despite the fact that the historical and scientific data do match, the Turin Shroud enthusiasts, usually pushed by their faith, couldn’t stop and admit that the relic was a medieval forgery. They kept on finding all sorts of causes responsible for a wrong radiocarbon date: fire, smoke, fungi, bacteria, and even Jesus’ miraculous radiation emitted during his resurrection. As you can imagine, no scientist who performs carbon dating as a profession has ever imagined questioning the validity of the medieval date of the Turin Shroud.

Despite the fact that the Vatican has never officially affirmed that the Turin Shroud is the real burial cloth of Jesus, the way it has been used and displayed inside the city cathedral has given the people just the opposite view. The Epistle to the Hebrews says that «faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen»: however, the contemporary faithful, like the illiterate folk of the middle ages, are still looking for material and visible evidence of Jesus’ earthly life. And they don’t seem to care if the relics are evident forgeries. Above all, they don’t seem to understand that the Bible, a sacred book and divinely inspired text – as it is considered by Christians – shouldn’t need to be proven historically accurate and reliable. Even if archaeologists will find the real burial cloth of Jesus, there would be no way to determine that he was the son of Yahweh or that he was raised from the dead. This is why the Turin Shroud should be placed in a museum and not inside a church.



The Bede vs. the Shroud

May 19, 2012

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.


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.

Is Long Hair Shameful?

April 17, 2012

Steve Hays took issue with my objection that the Shroud depicts a man with long hair, which is consistent with medieval iconography but inconsistent with Paul’s teaching regarding hair length.

1 Corinthians 11:14-15
Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.

Steve asserts “i) It’s ironic that TFan contradicts Calvin’s interpretation of 1 Cor 11:14:”  but then Steve provides a selection from Calvin that in no way contradicts my position that Paul taught that nature itself teaches that it is a shame to a man to have long hair.

Steven next argues, with support from a recent commentary, that “On that interpretation, Paul is simply referring to the social customs or social mores of that time and place, not what’s intrinsically right or wrong. A matter of social decorum.”  Again, even if this is fully correct, it merely limits Paul’s claim to the 1st century era, which is the same era when Christ walked the earth, died, was buried, and rose again.

Indeed, ancient descriptions of the Jews describe them as having short hair styles:

For in his enumeration of all those nations, he last of all inserts ours among the rest, when he says, “At the last there passed over a people, wonderful to be beheld; for they spake the Phoenician tongue with their mouths; they dwelt in the Solymean mountains, near a broad lake: their heads were sooty; they had round rasures on them; their heads and faces were like nasty horse-heads also, that had been hardened in the smoke.

 (Josephus, Against Apion, Book I, Section 22)

This same account quoted as a description of the Jews in Eusebius’ Gospel Preparations, Book 9, Chapter 9:

“Next passed a nation wondrous to behold,
Whose lips pronounced the strange Phoenician tongue;
Upon the hills of Solyma they dwelt
By the broad inland sea. Rough and unkempt
Their close-cropped hair, and on their heads they wore
The smoke-dried skin flayed from a horse’s face.”

Moreover, one way that the Romans distinguished themselves from the barbarians (the Greeks were not viewed as barbarians, I should point out) was by having closely cut hair:

In general, Greeks and Romans considered long hair to be typical of barbarians; thus, the new Gallic provinces subdued by Julius Caesar came to be called Gallia comata. Romans, on the other hand, were supposed to cut their hair short.

From Roman Provinces to Medieval Kingdoms (ed. Thomas F.X. Noble), “Telling the Difference: Signs of Ethnic Identity,” by Walter Pohl, p. 117.

But after the introduction of barbers into Italy about B.C. 300 it became the practice to wear their hair short.

Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, Sir William Smith, under coma p. 330.

The social decorum issue alluded to by Steve’s source is one of looking like a homosexual. 

While there are statues from Corinth with males wearing long hair, Gill points out that these are usually male deities. It should also be noted that the only others depicted wearing long curly hair were from the Facade of the Captives in the forum in Roman Corinth. To portray these men wearing their hair thus was the way the Roman conquerors indicated that all the men in the facade were ‘weak’, i.e., captives of the mighty Roman army. It implies that they were ‘soft’ or ‘effeminate’.

After Paul Left Corinth: The Influence of Secular Ethics and Social Change, by Bruce W. Winter, p. 132.

In other words, long hair suggested passive homosexuality in the cultural milieu. That was a shameful thing as taught by “nature itself,” whether Paul is equating traditional custom with “nature” here is not really the issue.

Steve goes on: “I think it highly unlikely that Paul would make Roman hair style an absolute standard for Jews. After all, Romans were pagans who subjugated the Jews. They were the enemy. The oppressor. The idolater. Hardly a model of morality or piety.

Steve is working from the assumption that short hair was only a Roman custom.  The evidence from Josephus suggests it was also a pre-Roman Jewish custom.  Moreover, the customs of Corinth were Roman-influenced, no doubt, but the people of Corinth were Greeks.

It’s not totally surprising the Paul might think that Roman customs represented the outworking of natural law.  After all, Paul was a Roman citizen.  Paul does not treat Rome as the enemy, the oppressor, or inherently as idolatrous.

Moreover, short hair in the Roman world could only very loosely be associated with idolatry (some sources refer to a practice of cutting off a teens pigtail/ponytail and offering it as a sacrifice to a river god upon coming of age).

Instead, short hair is sexual identifier – something highly consistent with God’s law, which requires sexual distinction in appearance:

Deuteronomy 22:5 The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.

So, it is fully consistent that Paul would admonish the Corinthians not to have men with women’s hair length.

Steve continues: “iii) A more serious problem with TFan’s position is that if men with long hair is inherently shameful, then that contradicts the Nazirite vocation in Num 6:5:

Steve’s argument conflates the issue of absolute moral impropriety and shamefulness.  For example, Adam and Eve were naked in the garden and were not ashamed.  Moreover, we have the example of prophets who prophesied in the nude:

1 Samuel 19:24
And he stripped off his clothes also, and prophesied before Samuel in like manner, and lay down naked all that day and all that night. Wherefore they say, Is Saul also among the prophets?

None of this suggests that nakedness is or should be normal behavior.  Likewise, nothing suggests that a perpetual Nazirite vow is or should be normal behavior.

Steve doesn’t suggest that Jesus had a Nazirite vow, but considering that he took the cup at the Last Supper, and Nazarites did not drink from the fruit of the vine, we can be sure Jesus was not under a Nazarite vow.

Steve continued: “Moreover, TFan implicitly makes Paul a hypocrite, for Paul himself took a Nazirite vow (Acts 18:18). In that event, his statement in 1 Cor 11:14 is self-incriminating–if we accept TFan’s interpretation.

Actually, Acts 18:18 does not say that Paul had a Nazirite vow, just that Paul had a vow.  Moreover, it does not say that Paul let his hair grow excessively long, but rather that he shaved his head.  One might conclude that Paul’s hair had become long by reason of the vow, but the text does not actually say that.

Moreover, the length of hair after taking a vow does show a measure of shame on the person who is slow in performing his vow.  In other words, if one vows to do “X” and promises not to shave his head until it is performed, then one’s hair length begins to be a testimony against one.

We likewise have no reason to suppose that Jesus was under any particular vow that would have dictated that he wear his hair long in view of non-performance of the vow to date.

Steve concludes: “At this rate, TFan may need several gallons of turpentine to escape from the corner he’s painted himself into (vis-à-vis long hair).” But actually, it seems that the only problems arose from Steve interpreting Paul’s rule regarding hair as an absolute moral imperative, as opposed to what Paul actually said, which was that long hair on men is shameful, according to nature itself.


Two Examples of the Guilt by Association Fallacy

April 16, 2012

The first comes from Mark Shea (trying to defend Cardinal Pell), who tries to associate a literal understanding of Scripture with Atheistic and Fundamentalist advocates (and them with each other).  The second comes from my dear friend Steve Hays (trying to respond to something I wrote) who tries to associate a particular argument with naturalism in the form of the non-overlapping magesteria of Stephen Jay Gould and philsophical naturalism with the example of Bart Ehrman. Ultimately, both posts serve a similar rhetorical purpose.  “You say X, but that sounds just like the bad guys.”

The exceptionally bright reader has already noticed that this post does the same thing, by associating Steve Hays with Mark Shea (or vice versa, if you are in a mirror universe where Mark Shea is a good guy).  Of course, I’m employing that device while calling attention to it, for the deliberate purpose of making the point that this sort of rhetoric is really a fallacious appeal.

As for Steve’s points, Steve states:

I’m not clear on what TFan means by this. On the face of it, it bears a startling similarity to methodological naturalism or Gould’s nonoverlapping magisteria. Unbelievers frequently tell us that “by definition,” supernatural events can’t be historically or scientifically confirmed.

It’s surprising that Steve does not know what I mean by what I wrote (in this earlier post).  I mean just what I said.  I didn’t say that by definition supernatural events cannot be historically or scientifically confirmed.  I said that “The shroud could be the artifact of a supernatural process, and there is no way that this hypothesis could be completely ruled out, because it is not as though supernatural activity would leave any tell-tale marks.”

Steve then states:

Moreover, it’s common for Christian philosophers to infer supernatural causes from natural effects. Consider the many versions of the cosmological and teleological arguments. Or the argument from religious experience. Or intelligent design theory. Or the argument from miracles. Or the argument from prophecy.

Is it TFan’s position that we can never infer supernatural agency from experience? What about answers to prayer? Can we never infer that God answered our prayer?

It seems that Steve’s questions are mostly about positions I haven’t taken.  For example, my post does not take a position regarding whether we can ever infer supernatural agency from experience – my post does not deal with answers to prayers, or whether we can infer that God answered our prayer (whether by supernatural or natural agency).

Likewise, my post does not deal with the cosmological or telelogical arguments or the argument from religious experience, or intelligent design theory, or the argument from miracles or the argument from prophecy.

In fact, my post doesn’t address those things at all.  I may have opinions about all those things, but I don’t express my opinion about them in the post.

In short, there is little relationship between Steve’s comments and what I actually wrote.  This is explained by Steve’s point that he did not understand what I meant.  Nevertheless, it does not lead to me providing much by way of rebuttal, except to say that no – I don’t agree with Bart Ehrman, even though I would agree with some of his criticisms (the good, valid ones – even rascals can make good criticisms sometimes) of Craig’s evidentialism.

But to clarify, since I should do my best to help my good friend Steve understand what I wrote, methodological naturalism has limits as to what it can establish.  Methodological naturalism, also referred to as science, can only provide or eliminate natural explanations of phenomena.  Methodological naturalism can (and did) prove that Jesus was dead, and it can (and did) prove that Jesus was alive at a later time.   It cannot explain the resurrection itself – the way Jesus got alive, because the resurrection was supernatural.  Thus, methodological naturalism could (and does) provide premises that lead one to infer a supernatural resurrection.

If the Shroud had existed in the 1st century (which it definitely didn’t), if it had been used to cover Jesus’ body (which it definitely wasn’t), and if the resurrection had produced the image (which we can be sure it did not) it would have been hypothetically possible for an observer to use methodological naturalism to examine an ordinary shroud beforehand and a shroud with an image on it afterwards.  These premises might lead to an inference that the resurrection produced the image.  But methodological naturalism cannot explain how such an image was produced, if it was not produced naturally.

Likewise, methodological naturalism could have demonstrated that the linen of the shroud was very ancient linen (in fact, it demonstrated that it was medieval linen), but it could not have demonstrated that the image on the shroud was supernaturally produced.  Such would simply have been an inference that people might draw.

All that scientific investigation of the shroud can do is tell us what the shroud is, and how it became what it is through natural processes, if it came to be through natural processes.   Much like science could only determine that the risen Jesus was first really dead and then really alive and well, not that he was supernaturally resurrected.

What’s missing from Shroud advocates is a credible inferential argument from historical or scientific evidence.  The death and resurrection of Christ has multiple contemporary eyewitnesses.  There was scientific examination of the body after death (spear to the side) and after resurrection (demonstration of food consumption).  The shroud doesn’t have any eyewitnesses.  No one can testify who made it or when it was made.


The Shroud – Supernatural Hypothesis and Natural Hypothesis

April 16, 2012

There are, in general, two hypotheses about how the Shroud came to be. The first is that the shroud represents the work of human ingenuity. The second is that the shroud represents an artifact of supernatural activity.

We’ll explore the supernatural hypothesis first. In very general terms, if something is the artifact of a supernatural process, we have no particular expectations about what sort of physical evidence we should expect to accompany it. In other words, there is no scientific way to test a supernatural hypothesis. The shroud could be the artifact of a supernatural process, and there is no way that this hypothesis could be completely ruled out, because it is not as though supernatural activity would leave any tell-tale marks.

So, there is really no scientific way to test the supernatural hypothesis.

Let’s assume for a second that the shroud is an artifact of supernatural activity. If it is, we still need to keep in mind that there are at least two sources of supernatural activity. On the one hand, there is divine supernatural activity (including the various angels and wonderworking prophets). On the other hand, there is demonic supernatural activity.

There is, again, no way to discern “scientifically” the difference between the two kinds. Moreover, in this case there is no alleged witness to the shroud’s creation. So, the difference cannot be discerned from the historical context.

So, again there is really no scientific way to test the hypothesis that the supernatural activity is divine.

Even if the shroud is an artifact of supernatural activity, and even if it is the result of divine activity, that still leaves the question: of what activity? Of course, Shroud lovers think that the activity has something to do with the person of Christ. Yet there is nothing on the Shroud that say, “Christ was here.” There have been lots of people crucified. The apostle Peter is one example of other people that we know had supernatural power from God and who were crucified.

Yet again there is really no scientific way to test the hypothesis that the divine supernatural activity was Jesus as opposed to Peter as opposed to anyone else.

In short, even if the supernatural hypothesis is true, there is really no way to prove it scientifically, no way scientifically to distinguish divine from demonic supernatural activity, and no scientific way to discriminate between Peter and Jesus.

What about a natural hypothesis? If it is merely a natural artifact, then various hypotheses can be tested. However, of course, while the shroud is still interesting as an example, perhaps, of the earliest known pair of photographs. If that is what the shroud is, the technological evidence argues for a relatively late date.

Mixed Hypotheses

No one that I know of has suggested that the shroud was created by supernatural power ex nihilo. Thus, a lot of the hypotheses are really mixed hypotheses: partly natural, partly supernatural. The natural parts of these can be tested. For example, the linen of the shroud can be tested by radioactive testing. It has been tested, and it came back as 13-14th century linen.

This has led shroud defenders to claim that the portion tested was a part of the shroud that was a repair to the original shroud. Thus, on this theory the shroud is only partly fake. To test this theory, it would be necessary to do radioactive testing on other parts of the shroud.

But ultimately, why bother? There is no real reason to suppose that the shroud is of supernatural origin. There is no possible scientific evidence that it is of supernatural origin, that it is of divine origin, or that it relates to Jesus Christ as opposed to someone else. At present, the most reliable dating technique has dated the linen to the 13-14th century. Shroud defenders will doubtless point to various criticisms of the testing, but at most those suggest that it would be nice to confirm the original results with more testing.

– TurretinFan

P.S. Jason Engwer has a post up on the question, “Is the Shroud of Turin Demonic?” Jason states that “we use probability judgments” about these things. But, of course, these are not probabilities in any rigor sense of the term. They are just speculation, and the “probability” ends up being fully determined by how much the evaluator wants a particular conclusion to be true.

There is one item of interest in his post, however: “The burden of proof is on the shoulders of those who would want us to think the Shroud is something other than what it seems to be.” What it seems to be is a photo negative of a man, with blood applied to it, on medieval linen. The burden is on folks like Engwer to establish that it is more than it seems to be.

But, of course, he cannot meet that burden. It’s not his fault – there is just no Scriptural or other historical support for the Shroud.

The most that scientific evidence could ever do for the shroud (in the best case for someone like Engwer) is to show that it was made in the 1st century in Palestine and has the blood of someone Jewish on it. In which case, we would still not actually know which of the myriad of crucified 1st century Jews the shroud pertained to.

In short, the shroud would be (by such tests) elevated to the status of the “Jesus tomb” ossuaries. But like the Jesus tomb ossuaries, there would still be nothing to positively connect the shroud to Jesus. It would just be wishful thinking on the part of shroud admirers – just as it is wishful thinking for the ossuary advocates.

Nevertheless, shroud advocates are much worse off than ossuary advocates. The shroud has already been proven to be from the 13-14th century at the earliest – the ossuary may well be from the 1st century.


Dishonoring the Truth about the Shroud

April 14, 2012

Jason Engwer is great guy and has produced lots of useful and helpful material. I really appreciate his on-line work, and I hope that no one will be so foolish as to think that the criticism I’m about to offer is supposed to reflect badly on him personally. My problem is with his statement, not him.

In particular, his comment asserting:

The large majority of the evidence suggests that the Shroud of Turin predates the medieval era. The 1988 carbon dating of the Shroud is an exception that’s often cited. However, there are a lot of problems with that carbon testing. Dan Porter has gathered together some of the relevant evidence here.

is misleading at best and more generally speaking, out and out false.

The statement is misleading because “evidence” isn’t like people. It’s not like there are five personified evidences, named James, Bob, and Sparky, and only Sparky says X, while James and Bob say Y.

Moreover, even within categories of evidence, how we pick our categories ends up determining the majority. There are three main categories of evidence: Scriptural, historical inquiry, and scientific examination.

On Scriptural inquiry, there is virtually nothing to support the shroud. The Scriptures specifically relate that Jesus’ body was wrapped in multiple linen sheets (not a single shroud), that his body was covered with about 75 pounds (American weight) of spices, and that his head was separately wrapped. Moreover, the long-haired person depicted in the shroud does not correspond well with Paul’s comment about nature teaching that is a shame for men to have long hair, though it accords well with medieval European iconography. Moreover, there is absolutely nothing in Scripture suggesting that Jesus ever left a miraculous image of himself on anything. Furthermore, the burial wrappings of Jesus are specifically described in Scripture, and there is no mention of a shroud. At best, one could hope to find a way to work a shroud into and around the Scriptural evidence, but the Scriptural evidence is uniformly against the Shroud’s authenticity.

Historical evidence. The currently prevalent view is that the shroud we see today is the same shroud described for the first time in the 14th century. If this is the case, then the farthest back that the shroud can be documented is the fourteenth century. It’s difficult to be sure whether this shroud is the same as that one, but let’s concede that for the sake of argument. The absence of any prior history of the shroud (especially given the iconomania of the preceding centuries) is a bit like the dog that didn’t bark. Be that as it may, at most the historical evidence can establish a 14th century date for the shroud.

Scientific evidence. The most reliable dating method that has been applied to the shroud is C-14 dating. Like every scientific test, there limits on that reliability. Nevertheless, three tests were performed, and the conclusion was that the material of the shroud dates to the 13th or 14th century with about 95% certainty.

People have proposed other dating techniques, ranging from the absurd to the trivial.

An example of an absurd dating technique is the technique of comparing the shroud to medieval iconography in terms of realism and/or technique. This is an absurd dating technique because it merely demonstrates that the shroud represents a unique artifact, regardless of its date. In other words, it’s not as though the shroud represents 1st century Palestinian techniques, but not 14th century European techniques.

An example of a trivial dating technique is the “vanillin dating” approach. There are a number of obvious problems with this technique, the chief one of which is that it lacks any substantial body of scientific research that can authenticate it. A secondary problem with this technique is that the process involved is temperature dependent, and it is already known that the shroud was exposed to fire. A third problem is, if you actually bother to go and read the place where the “study” was offered up, the scientist who provided it himself acknowledged its shortcomings.

Looking at the “scientific” evidence in the light most favorable to those who imagine that the shroud is more ancient than History, Scripture, and Science all suggest, the most that can be said is that there is some kind of remote possibility that the sampled pieces of linen may have come from a part of shroud that was repaired by someone who deliberately attempted to deceive the viewer of the shroud by hiding the repair.

So, the best case scenario for shroud advocates is that part of the shroud is a hoax.

In point of fact, while there are mountains of evidence so-called, there is no reliable evidence that suggests that the shroud is any older than 13th century. The shroud may still be interesting, however, as the earliest known photographic negative.

The reason Mr. Engwer’s comment is misleading at best is that dating techniques are not all equal. That said, I still love and appreciate Mr. Engwer, and I want that to be totally clear. I willingly accept his assertion that he honestly believes that he is simply convinced by what he thinks is the evidence.


The Little Problem for the Shroud of Turin

April 5, 2012

John 20:4-8

So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre. And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in. Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, and the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed.

Steve Ray is promoting yet another attempt to bolster the Shroud of Turin as well as a poem in its honor. I’m sure that the Shroud is good for Steve Ray’s pilgrimage business, but the inconvenient truth is that the shroud cannot possibly be real. Christ’s head was wrapped separately from the rest of his body.

It was a little disappointing to see that Greg Koukl and Gary Habermas were promoting the Shroud as well (link to mp3 courtesy of Jason Engwer). I note that Jason seems to think that Haberbmas addressed John 20, but if you listen to the podcast, I think you won’t find it addressed.

There are plenty of other objections. C-14 dating places the shroud in the middle ages. Jesus was wrapped with spices.

John 19:39-42

And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews’ preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.

The shroud is about 14 ft long. The way it appears to have been arranged around a body is by being placed one full body length under and then over the feet and back up to the head. This is a very odd way of wrapping a body, particularly if the body is being bound together with a significant amount of spices. One would expect a wrapping more like that of a mummy, rather than a simple sandwich. Indeed, ὀθονίοις is plural, suggesting that multiple sheets of linen were used for wrapping the body, rather than a single sheet.

So, we can be sure that the shroud is a hoax, whether that hoax is a medieval forgery or something else.


Shroud News

December 16, 2009

An ancient shroud has been found (link to story). One passage of the article was especially interesting:

Gibson said the remains of the man covered in the cloth consisted of different wrappings for the body and the head, which was consistent with burial practices of the era. He also said research had shown that the weave of the cloth was a simple one, much different from the more complex Shroud of Turin’s.

The reason I thought this was interesting was that we know for a fact that Jesus was wrapped as in the article, not as the shroud depicts things:

John 20:6-7

Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, and the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.

It should be pointed out that the shroud of Turin is one of those fringe areas of Roman Catholicism where “the Church” makes not guarantees about the authenticity but accepts devotion to the shroud as pious:

The Shroud is a challenge to our intelligence. It first of all requires of every person, particularly the researcher, that he humbly grasp the profound message it sends to his reason and his life. The mysterious fascination of the Shroud forces questions to be raised about the sacred Linen and the historical life of Jesus. Since it is not a matter of faith, the Church has no specific competence to pronounce on these questions. She entrusts to scientists the task of continuing to investigate, so that satisfactory answers may be found to the questions connected with this Sheet, which, according to tradition, wrapped the body of our Redeemer after he had been taken down from the cross. The Church urges that the Shroud be studied without pre-established positions that take for granted results that are not such; she invites them to act with interior freedom and attentive respect for both scientific methodology and the sensibilities of believers.

– John Paul II, 24 May 1998 address at Turin
And again, the same day, in another address:

I am pleased once again to greet everyone present, starting with the Archbishop of Turin, dear Cardinal Giovanni Saldarini, together with the Bishops of Piedmont and the civil authorities present, including the representative of the Italian Government, to whom I extend a special greeting. I greet the clergy, the religious, the committed laypeople and all those present, especially the pilgrims who have come with devotion to pay homage to the Shroud.

– John Paul II, 24 May 1998 address at Turin


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