Home > History, Other Blogs > Hymn of the Pearl: Description of the Shroud of Turin?

Hymn of the Pearl: Description of the Shroud of Turin?

April 26, 2012

imageSimon Peter Sutherland wonders:

[Some] historical text is from what is called “The Hymn of the pearl”. This text is said to have been written by the apostle Thomas himself and is somewhat mysterious and less direct, maybe even poetical, but nevertheless, a reference. This work is referred to in the third century Acts of Thomas and the work itself is generally agreed to date to the 2nd century AD.

The text reads as follows;

But, when suddenly I saw my garment reflected as in a mirror, I perceived in it my whole self as well and through it I knew and saw myself. For though we originated from the one and the same we were partially divided, then again we were one, with a single form. The treasurers too who had brought the garment I saw as two beings, but there existed a single form in both, One royal symbol consisting of two halves…And the image of the King of Kings was all over it

imageHere is something I wrote in this blog in September of 2008 when few people were reading this blog.

There is a wonderful early 3rd century text called the Acts of Thomas (not to be confused with the Gospel of Thomas). Many scholars argue it is Gnostic and the Catholic Church has called it heretical. But that does not diminish its significance for historians. It is the legendary story — true, partly true or false — of the apostle Thomas’ (Judas Thomas or Thomas Judas Didymus) mission to India and his martyrdom. Authorship is often attributed to the Gnostic poet Bardesane of Edessa, perhaps as early as 216 CE).

Within the Acts of Thomas is an extraordinary Syriac poem, The Hymn of the Pearl, (also known as the Hymn of the Robe of Gloryand the Hymn of the Soul). The poem is thought to be older than the Acts of Thomas. It is inserted in different places in different versions of the Acts found among early Greek and Syriac Christian traditions.

Within the Hymn of the Pearl there are a few lines of poetry that are intriguing. These lines, referred to as the “two images segment,” seem to have been inserted into the hymn. This is one common translation of those lines with optional interpretations (other translations appear after the fold):

Suddenly, I saw my image on my [burial] garment like in a mirror

Myself and myself through myself [or myself facing outward and inward]

As though divided, yet one likeness

Two images: but one likeness of the King [of kings]

pearl_26What could these lines possibly mean? The poem does not offer a clue.

If we infer from the context of the poem that the first-person speaker of these lines is Jesus (contextually justifiable in a stylistic sense and not a literal sense) then these words might be a wonderful description of the Shroud of Turin, Jesus’ purported burial shroud.

On the shroud, we find two images: one facing outward and one facing inward, though the modern interpretation is usually expressed as a front and back image.

eusebiusThis hypothesis is reinforced by the Legend of Abgar, as related by Eusebius of Caesarea in the early 4th century. According to Eusebius, a cloth bearing an image of Jesus was brought to Edessa by the apostle Thomas or the disciple Thadeus (of the biblical 70).

The words, “like in a mirror,” are puzzling. Several interpretations have been suggested: 1) The image is a collimated image as is, indeed, a mirror. 2) The image is reversed left to right, also an attribute of an image in a mirror. 3) The image is life size. 4) The image on the shroud is a negative and this is a primitive attempt to describe negativity.

There is little question that the Hymn of the Pearl, originated in the Mesopotamian city of Edessa. And it was in Edessa, in 544 AD, that the Edessa Cloth was discovered — the cloth that we now know, from solid historical records, was a full burial cloth in which . . .

You can see [not only] the figure of a face, but [also] the figure of the whole body.

-- The Codex Vossianus Latinus

The Rev. Albert Dreisbach, an Episcopal priest who studied the Shroud of Turin for many years asks us . . .

to ponder what these seemingly strange expressions might mean, if they do NOT have reference to the Turin Shroud . . .

Other Translations of the Hymn of the Pearl

Hans Jonas:

it seemed to me suddenly to become a mirror-image of myself: myself entire I saw in it, and it entire I saw in myself, that we were two in separateness, and yet again one in the sameness of our forms…And the image of the King of kings was depicted all over it.

M. R. James:

but suddenly, [when] I saw the garment made like unto me as it had been in a mirror.

And I beheld upon it all myself (or saw it wholly in myself) and I knew and saw myself through it,

that we were divided asunder, being of one; and again were one in one shape.

Yea, the treasurers also which brought me the garment

I beheld, that they were two, yet one shape was upon both, one royal sign was set upon both of them.

William Wright:

on a sudden, when I received it,
the garment seemed to me to become like a mirror of myself.

I saw it all in all,
and I to received all in it,

for we were two in distinction
and yet gain one in one likeness.

And the treasurers too,
who brought it to me, I saw in like manner

to be two (and yet) one likeness,
for one sign of the king was written on them (both),

Quaker scholar Hugh McGregor Ross:

But suddenly when I saw my garment reflected as in a mirror,

I perceived it was my whole Self as well,

and through it I recognized and saw myself.

For, though we derived from one and the same we were partially divided;

and then again we were One, with a single form.

Unknown Popular Translation:

But all in the moment I faced it
This robe seemed to me like a mirror,

And in it I saw my whole self
Moreover I faced myself facing into it.

For we were two together divided
Yet in one we stood in one likeness.

For more information see Hymn of the Pearl and the Shroud of Turin

Categories: History, Other Blogs
  1. April 26, 2012 at 8:28 am | #1

    The author’s conclusions are reasonable and lend a great deal of credence to Ian Wilson’s theory of the Edessa provenance of the Shroud that fills the first one of the two gaps in the Shroud history, the second one being Constantinople to Lirey, FR.

  2. latendre
    April 26, 2012 at 11:45 am | #2

    Good point Dan, you are adding another piece to support Ian Wilson’s theory of the image of Edessa being the Shroud. And, as you wrote, the Act of Thomas is dated well before the 5th century, most likely originating from the city of Edessa. That’s a clear support to Ian Wilson’s theory. What else is provided to support another theory regarding the early history of the Shroud?

    • Yannick Clément
      April 26, 2012 at 1:14 pm | #3

      Mario, you’re completely wrong sorry. Incredible. It’s not the Act of Thomas (known originally as the Act of Thaddeus) that was written at the beginning of the fifth century, but the Doctrin of Addaï ! Guscin state that this text was written between 609 and 726 (there’s no way actually to be more precise), while the Doctrin was written in syriac around 400 ! And what we found in the Doctrin ? A story about the artist of king Abgar who PAINTED a portrait of the living Christ. This text is the VERY FIRST to add an image of Christ in the legend of Abgar (a clear addition). So, if we start from the first report about an image, we have to believe that this was a PAINTING done by an artist. There was already 2 copies of the Mandylion in Edessa in 944 and the Byzantine had to make a serious check of the relic they were about the get to make sure that the Arabs didn’t fool them with one of the 2 copies. THIS IS A CLEAR INDICATION THAT THIS IMAGE REALLY LOOKED LIKE A PAINTING.

      But, like many person, I’m sure that every argument I can give you will fall into deaf ears… I repeat it again : Outside the Shroud world, I don’t know ONE SINGLE historian expert in Byzantine study that his a defender of Wilson’s hypothesis. That is a FACT. I must add : that doesn’t ring a bell to you ???

      And I repeat again that it’s not because there is no other valid hypothesis regarding the Shroud early history that we have to believe in Wilson’s whim !!! Finally, I want also to say again that it’s not because the Mandylion was probably linked in some way with the Shroud (I don’t call this into question) that we have to conclude that those 2 objects were one and the same.

    • Yannick Clément
      April 26, 2012 at 1:37 pm | #4

      I was fooled on one thing and want to correct myself : you’re right about the Acts of Thomas. This text was probably written in the 3rd century and served as one of the main source for Eusebius story of the legend of Abgar (written at the beginning of the 4th century). I was fooled by the title, since Thaddeus is another name for Thomas in some texts. Sorry. The act of Thaddeus is one of the first text that talk about a miraculous image but it is clearly a later modification of the story we found in the Doctrine of Addaï. And this Doctrine was itself a later modification of the texts that Eusebius saw in Edessa to write the story of Abgar.

      But my point is still true since Eusebius didn’t know the existence of any kind of image of Christ whatsoever. That’s a clear indication that there was no reference to an image in the Acts of Thomas. Eusebius was only aware of an exchange of letters between Abgar and Jesus and that’s all. No image. And later, a pilgrim named Egeria who visited Edessa at the end of the 4th century talked only about those letters, a clear confirmation that there was no image of Christ known in Edessa at that time. It’s only some years later (maybe 15 years or so) after the visit of Egeria, that the Doctrine of Addaï was written, first in Syriac and then a bit later in Greek, and in both case, it is clearly stated that the image of Christ was a portrait painted by the artist of Abgar. Since this text is the first to mention an image in the story of Abgar, while there was no such thing in Eusebius and Egeria’s writing, this is a clear indication that the image of Christ (painted portrait made by an artist) was a later addition to the legend of Abgar that wasn’t there at first (and we can be sure then that it wasn’t there in the Acts of Thomas). If there was a clear indication of an image of Christ in the Acts of Thomas in link with Edessa, you can bet that Eusebius and Egeria would have talked about it.

      I repeat it : the first clear mention of an image related to the story of Abgar is found in the Doctrine of Addaï and it is clearly state that it was a portrait painted by the artist of the king. Not great for Wilson’s hypothesis…

  3. daveb of wellington nz
    April 26, 2012 at 5:22 pm | #5

    The quoted verses certainly appear to relate to a Shroud-like image, not merely a facial image as shown on the Mandylion. It follows that the Shroud image was very likely known by a select few in Edessa, as the Hymn of the Pearl is asserted to have been written in Edessa. In my opinion, Scavone makes a strong alternative case for the Shroud to have been kept at Antioch, where the first Jewish Christians became strongly established after 68 AD. Prior to the destruction of Antioch he says it was taken to Edessa, and there are strong literary parallels between the Shroud being kept hidden at the gates of the Cherubim at Antioch and the story connecting the discovery of the Edessa image in the gate at Edessa.

    Following the death of Abgar, his heirs returned to paganism, although the earliest Christian church in Edessa was ~200 AD. Scavone’s hypothesis is that with this return to paganism, the Shroud was temporarily returned to Antioch, which explains why there is no recollection of the image in Edessa during the visit of Egeria.

    Frankly I don’t give a fig for any dogmatic assertions about whether the Mandyion and Shroud were one and the same object or not, regardless of who makes them. There is too much conjecture supporting both sides of the argument. It is simply not known. My personal preference is for Wilson’s hypothesis, but that is simply my subjective judgement, and I don’t think anyone else can assert any stronger case for a contrary view, which may or may not be true.

    • Jack Markwardt
      April 27, 2012 at 4:33 pm | #6

      I originated and presented this hypothesis to an international conference convened at Ohio State University in 2008 for the simple reason that the early history of the Turin Shroud cannot be credibly linked to the ancient city of Edessa through a literal application of the Abgar legend. The preeminent historian of Edessa, J.B. Segal, after years of arduous study and investigation, concluded that the Abgar legend constitutes “one of the most successful pious frauds of antiquity”. It should not be surprising, therefore, that a number of highly-respected modern historians have summarily rejected this pious fraud as evidential of the Turin Shroud’s whereabouts during the first Christian millennium, particularly because real historical evidence provides not the slightest indication that pagan Edessa was even partially converted to Christianity prior to the late second-century reign of King Abgar the Great. The preeminent historian of Antioch, Glanville Downey, ascribed that development to a two-phase evangelization mission, one which initially resulted in the baptism of Abgar the Great and ultimately concluded with the consecration of Edessa’s first bishop, Palut, in 200 CE, by Serapion, the bishop of Antioch. Relatively recent attribution of an image of Christ to the city of Edessa during the first half-millennium of Christianity arises exclusively from a substantial permutation of the Abgar legend authored, in ca. 945, by a Byzantine Emperor who desired to bestow an apostolic provenance upon the Christ-icon which had recently been transferred to his capital from Edessa. In order to explain away, in one bold imperial stroke, the complete historical anonymity of this icon during the first five Christian centuries, Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus sponsored the publication and circulation of a tale which featured not only the cloth’s first-century concealment within a niche located above an Edessa city gate, but also its miraculous rediscovery there by a fictional Edessan bishop, Eulalius, during the Persian siege of 544 CE. It has been suggested, in lieu of this incredible miracle-discovery tale, that the icon was actually found in the wake of the great flood of 525 CE which damaged Edessa’s city walls; however, it is rather significant that such a truly notable event merited no mention whatsoever in the Edessan Chronicle, a Syriac work composed in ca. 540-544 CE, which not only described the great flood but also detailed the most commonplace of Edessan ecclesiastical matters. In my opinion, modern scholarship will continue to reject the identification of the acheiropoietos image of Christ which was brought from Edessa to Constantinople in 944 CE with the Turin Shroud unless and until the provenance of that icon, and the circumstances surrounding its arrival in Edessa, can be reasonably established on the basis of non-legendary evidence.

      • Yannick Clément
        April 28, 2012 at 5:52 pm | #7

        M. MARKWARDT, THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT I TRIED TO SAY HERE FOR WEEKS !!!

        If someone wants to do a real professional work of historian, I’m sorry but he cannot consider some legendary stuff on the same level of credibility than some lists of relics often written by pilgrims who visited a city, whether it’s Jerusalem, Edessa or Constantinople. Nevertheless, that’s exactly how people like Wilson, Scavone and others have acted in order to make believe that the Mandylion was the real Shroud of Turin folded in 8.

        In fact, I don’t even know if we can really call this kind of acting to be worthy of an historian. I seriously doubt that. When someone consider what is reported in the legendary kind of text named “The Narratio de Imagine Edessena” (the text you refer that was written by Constantine VII) has something of the same credibility and historic value as the lists of relics written by Nicolas Mesarites and Robert de Clari at the beginning of the 13th century (where both make a clear distinction between the Shroud of Christ, the Mandylion and the Keramion), … /// edited by Dan.

      • Jack Markwardt
        April 28, 2012 at 10:43 pm | #8

        It is axiomatic that a whole is only as strong as the sum of its parts and scholars have the responsibility to assess a hypothesis by examining each of its constituent components. A theory which is founded upon weak evidence or which proceeds along lines of faulty reasoning will not be convincing. Theorists employ evidence drawn from sources of varying kinds, and the relative value of such proof is entirely dependent upon the nature of the theory advanced. Thus, if the hypothesis concerned the religious views of Constantine VII, the Narratio would undoubtedly provide strong evidence on this topic; however, if it related to the putative history of the Turin Shroud during the first five Christian centuries, the Narratio would be deemed a very weak source by the discriminating scholar. Similarly, if the hypothesis concerned the development of Christian legends, the Doctrine of Addai would certainly provide critical proof on the subject; however, if, again, it related to the putative history of the Turin Shroud, a discriminating scholar would reject its literal application, while seeking, within the legend, a substratum of relevant facts. The tetradiplon reference which appears in the seventh-century Acts of Thaddeus does not provide any evidence that the tenth-century Mandylion was a folded cloth. It does, however, provide evidence which supports an identification of the Turin Shroud with the Mandylion, but only if the following series of additional postulations is entirely accepted as established fact: (1) when this passage was authored, a Christ-image linen was being maintained in Edessa (notably, there is no other historical proof of a seventh-century linen Edessan icon, as Evagrius does not relate that the 544 siege icon was made of cloth); (2) this passage was intended to reference that same linen Edessan icon (notably, the text refers only to an imaged facecloth presented to King Abgar in the first century); (3) that same linen icon remained in Edessa until 944 when it was transferred to Constantinople (notably, there were at least three distinct Christ-icons of unknown nature maintained in Edessa at that time, although it seems clear that a linen icon was brought to the capital); (4) that same linen icon later became known as the Mandylion (this appears to be a reasonable conclusion); and (5) the Turin Shroud may be folded four times (tetradiplon) and in a particular manner to produce a facial Christ-icon with certain characteristics that are similar to artistic portrayals of the Mandylion icon (notably, none of these portrayals depict Jesus as dead, beaten, or bloodied, but, at this point, art and its history is implicated). In my humble opinion, it cannot be accurately asserted either that this unique literary allusion to a tetradiplon is entirely irrelevant to the proposed identification of the Turin Shroud with the Mandylion or that it provides definitive proof of such identification. The probative value of this text has long been, and it will remain, a matter of personal opinion based largely upon the extent to which the validity of each of the above-enumerated factual postulations is accepted.

  4. daveb of wellington nz
    April 28, 2012 at 1:27 am | #9

    My apologies to Jack M for my senior memory lapse in attributing what I thought was his excellent paper to Daniel Scavone, who happened to write a paper on an alternative explanation to.Wilson’s Knights Templar theory, which occurred much later in the Shroud’s history. From a layman’s point of view I considered that the Markwardt paper made a lot of sense, had a lot going for it, and I’ve referred to it elsewhere, and have cited it in a few other postings. I felt that the storage in the Gates of the Cherubim at Antioch was particularly significant, a very close parallel to the alleged discovery in Edessa, and was very likely the basis of the story that those 10th c Byzantine priests set down. They were supposed to have had some corroboration from Syria, and possibly details of the story became confused at the time.

  5. Yannick Clément
    April 29, 2012 at 8:21 pm | #10

    Comment about the last comment of M. Markwardt. I agree mostly with you but, for the tetradiplon expression, I think that once someone has put the word in the context of the text, it is OBVIOUS that this cannot be applied to a burial shroud of 4.4 meters ! The context was during Jesus days of preaching, well before the Passion. How in the world someone would give him a burial shroud in order that he could wipe his face after having washed it ? For a jew, a burial shroud was considered totally impur ! How in the world Jesus would have dared to use a burial shroud in public to wipe his face with it ??? Thiking that this expression “sindon tetradiplon” could mean that the Shroud was folded “doubled in 4″ is completely off-track versus the context of that part of the text (found in the Acts of Thaddeus). And, as I said before, we must understand one important thing : the word “sindon” in greek can mean different thing depending of the literary CONTEXT ! In the case of the Acts of Thaddeus, it is almost 100% sure that this doesn’t mean a shroud at all, but just a cloth.

    And there’s one more thing I should add about this expression : In the Narratio de Imagine Edessena, that word “tetradiplon” is used again to describe the image of Edessa (it’s normal since the Acts of Thaddeus was one of the main source used for the Narratio). But this time, it was not “sindon” that was used before “tetradiplon” but “pakoç” instead ! And what’s the normal meaning of that greek word ? A rag or a dishtowel ! We’re VERY far from a burial Shroud of 4.4 meters, don’t you think ???

    This change from the word “sindon” to the word “pakoç” prove one important thing about the way the ancient writers were doing their job : they were not obsessed with precision like we are today (today it’s like a disease) ! It was natural that a writer from that time would change a word or an expression from one manuscript to another, even if he was refeering to the same event or story. Examples of changes like that are incalculable. And this was also true inside one manuscript ! In the Narratio for example, there’s about 10 different expressions to describe the Image of Edessa ! No kidding. And I want to clarify that there is absolutely no expression that may suggest a burial shroud or an object of that nature… All the expression used really seem to refer to a small cloth and that fits perfectly with the story, since it is clearly state that Christ washed and wiped only his FACE, not his body.

    The historical fact that ancient writters used often different words or expressions to describe one single object or one single situation mean one important thing : We cannot take anything for granted when we analyse one expression (in this case : Sindon tetradiplon) found in just one manuscript (in this case : the Acts of Thaddeus) and think this expression represent a clear and definitive physical description of an object, especially when this expression come from a legendary kind of text and especially also when there’s parallel texts that used a different expression (in this case : Pakoç tetradiplon) !!! In the analysis of an expression “sindon tetradiplon”, we also have to consider the fact that this expression was not used again in any other manuscript that refer to the same Image of Edessa and the Abgar legend (those manuscript used a vast variety of expressions to describe the cloth but they never use “sindon tetradiplon”). This fact too seem to discard any idea that the Image of Edessa could have been described as something like a burial shroud…

    • Jack Markwardt
      April 30, 2012 at 12:07 am | #11

      I was simply expressing the concept that an advocate of the theory that the Turin Shroud was the Image of Edessa/Mandylion would seek to interpret this passage in a manner which supported that position, while a skeptic of that theory would do the opposite. A person having no pre-conceived notions would merely note that the anonymous seventh-century author of the Acts of Thaddeus revised the Abgar legend by (1) defining the Abgar portrait as appearing upon a linen wash cloth—a novel change to the Doctrine of Addai’s “painting” version; (2) describing the image as the face of Jesus—no change from the DA version; (3) attributing the image formation to the process of Jesus washing and drying his face—another novel change to the DA version; and (4) calling the washcloth both a tetradiplon and sindon—another novel change to the DA. So what does this passage tell an open-minded person? The simplest explanation would seem to be that this writer knew of the existence of a linen cloth which bore the image of Christ’s face which bore no signs of Christ’s passion or death, and that it had been folded four times. The passage does not state or imply that the cloth was a burial shroud, or that it was so large that it had to be folded for proper handling or storage, or that within its folds lay a full-body image of Jesus. I would expect an advocate of the theory that the Turin Shroud was the seventh–century Image of Edessa to argue that this unknown writer was aware of an extant four-folded linen cloth bearing an image of Jesus’ face which was then being maintained in Edessa, but that he did not know that a full-body image lay hidden within its folds (pressing the sindon reference too hard would tend to prove the author’s knowledge of an entire body image). Conversely, I would expect a skeptic of that theory to argue that this writer was aware of an extant four-folded linen cloth bearing the image of Jesus’ face—period. He did not know that this cloth was then being maintained in Edessa, or that the folded cloth was quite large when opened, that it had been used as a shroud, or that it had a full-body image hidden within its folds. In my opinion, this passage is perfectly reflective of the author’s knowledge of a face-image icon, perhaps but not necessarily the Image of Edessa/Mandylion, which had been folded in four for convenient storage. Therefore, as historical evidence of the theory that the Turin Shroud was the Image of Edessa/Mandylion, I believe it to be relevant but not particularly persuasive.

      • Yannick Clément
        April 30, 2012 at 11:47 am | #12

        Look at all the other true historians (I’m not talking about Wilson who his NOT an historian) who are expert in the field of Byzantine study and name one who is in agreement with Wilson’s hypothesis or even yours… In fact, I’ve never read an historian who pretend with a real hypothesis that the Shroud could have been kept in Antioch. Never. You’re the first as I know. And I don’t know one name and I’ve seen plenty of those historians who clearly reject any direct link between the Shroud and the Mandylion. That’s speak to me much more than Wilson’s claims.

  6. Yannick Clément
    April 30, 2012 at 11:49 am | #13

    One more thing : If you’re impartial on this debate, how in the world can you put more faith in some legendary or theological or poetic stuff than on eye-witness accounts like the one of Nicolas Mesarites and the one of Robert de Clari ? Those 2 testimonies, when you put them together, are well enough to completely reject the hypothesis of Wilson.

  7. Yannick Clément
    April 30, 2012 at 12:53 pm | #14

    I would like to ask a very important question to M. Markwardt about his own hypothesis : You state in your paper that the Shroud was taken to Edessa in 540 from Antioch when that city fall to the Persian army. If this was true, then can you explain to me the fact that we don’t have nothing about this arrival of the relic in Edessa in ancient historical chronicles (like the one of Procopius of Cesarea who wrote his text around 550, just 10 years after that) ??? Procopius, a real historian of his time, talk about a number of things related to Edessa (like the great flood of 525 and the Persian attack of 544) but he never mention the presence or the arrival of any image of Christ in that city !!! How in the world can you explain logically and honestly this total absence of reference to any image of Christ in link with Edessa in the work of Procopius ???

    And another question would be : How in the world people of Antioch (and writers) could have mistaken the burial Shroud of Christ with a “sacred icon of Christ” ??? If you’re hypothesis was true, why in the world there’s no ancient document that makes a clear link between this icon present in Antioch and a burial shroud of Jesus ???

    I must say that I’m very perplexed about your hypothesis, simply because, undeniably, it rely mainly, like the one of Wilson, on speculations, extrapolations and special assumptions and, more important than that, it seems to be contradict by the absence of clear references to the presence of a shroud of Christ (I’m not talking about an “icon” here, I talk about a shroud) in Antioch and the absence of clear references to the arrival of such a relic of Christ’s Passion in Edessa around 540… There’s absolutely no doubt that, if your hypothesis was correct, there will be clear references to the presence of a burial shroud of Christ (again, I don’t talk about an “icon”, which is something completely different than a shroud), first in Antioch, then in Edessa. The FACT is this : In ancient records, before the arrival of the Shroud in France, we just have some references of the presence of a shroud of Christ (I’m not talking about an “icon” or just an “image” of Christ), considered as the true relic of Jesus taken from the empty tomb, in Jerusalem, Constantinople and Athens. I’ve never seen any other reference to the relic of the Shroud of Christ being present anywhere else during that time, not even in Rome !

    Last question : Why you, M. Wilson and others in the Shroud world always seem to think that if an ancient source talk about an image of Christ (nevermind that it was manmade or not made by human hands), that means it talks “secretly” about the Shroud of Turin ! The eye-witness testimonies like the one of Nicolas Mesarites and Robert de Clari mention a shroud or burial cloths in the plural. Why that would not have been the same for the people present in Edessa and Antioch when the shroud was there (if your idea is correct) ??? Why those people would have changed the name of the relic to start from “The Burial Shroud of Christ” to “The Christ-icon of the kerateion” that you refer in Antioch or to “The Image of Edessa” (if Wilson was right) ??? I just don’t understand why those people would have wanted to make believe that the Shroud of Christ was something else than the Shroud of Christ (to change the nature of the cloth if you want) ! What would they gained to do this ? Do you know another relic of Christ that his real nature was changed like that in ancient time ? I don’t know any ! That just don’t make any sense to me… A burial shroud is a burial shroud and it is never an icon, even if a body image is on it ! That’s 2 things completely different and there’s absolutely no ancient source that make a specific and direct link between the Shroud of Christ and an icon of Christ. For example, Robert de Clari talk about the fact that the Shroud of Constantinople was bearing a body image on it, but he still mention the word “shroud” and never said that this shroud was considered as some kind of a sacred icon of Christ ! The Pantocrator was a sacred icon of Christ, not his Shroud !!!!

    I think my questions, interrogations and arguments deserve some explanations from M. Markwardt… Thank you in advance !

    • Jack Markwardt
      April 30, 2012 at 6:02 pm | #15

      Yannick: This will be my final message, as I am not a blogger, and lack the time to discuss this subject to the extent which it truly merits. I have tried to make it clear that I am no longer persuaded that the Image of Edessa/Mandylion was the Turin Shroud, as information published only in the past three years has raised significant questions regarding that identification. It has always been puzzling as to why Procopius made no mention of an Edessan siege icon when, a half century later, Evagrius did so. Scholars dispute whether Evagrius actually reported this event or whether the passage is an eighth-century iconophile interpolation. Chosroes is known to have been determined to prove that Edessa was not impregnable due to its reputed special protection by the Christian god, and the Byzantine war with Persia was apparently still underway when Procopius wrote his siege account. Thus, Procopius may have omitted reference to the icon in an attempt to protect the city, and the icon itself, from the further attacks of Chosroes; however, the Persian threat had substantially subsided some forty years later when Evagrius wrote his Church history. The reasons why a bloodied Jewish burial cloth presenting a naked image of a man claimed by Christians to be divine would not be specifically referenced as such over the centuries vary with the times, situations, and places in which that cloth would have been found. An imaged burial cloth would surely have been treated quite differently from other Passion relics that were not potentially violative of ritual laws, iconoclastic policies, modesty concepts, and the like. Thus, unless and until someone discovers a literary, archaeological, or artistic reference to an imaged shroud of Jesus, prior to that of Clari, literary allusions to an “eikon”, or image, of Christ would appear to be evidential of its existence, as that term does not necessarily connote the now all too familiar painted or carved Byzantine icon. I extend my very best wishes to you and look forward to reading the historical hypothesis which you will surely develop to account for the still-missing history of the Turin Shroud.

  8. Yannick Clément
    May 2, 2012 at 8:27 am | #16

    Reply to the last message of M. Markwardt :

    First, I want to say that your message is interesting but I have to disagree with your hypothesis concerning Procopius. Effectively, in his account of the defense of Edessa in 544, he does mention the fact that the letter of Christ to Abgar (considered as a real palladium for the city) played a miraculous role in the defense of Edessa ! In this context, how in the world would he had choosen to avoid mentionning the presence of a miraculous image of Christ during this event ? It make no sense to me. The fact that he had no problem to mention the letter of Christ to Abgar and even wrote that it played a miraculous role in the defense of the city is the very best proof that if he had known the presence of an image of Christ not made by human hands, he would have mentionned it, along with the letter of Christ. So, from this basic logic, I think it is highly speculative (and even imprudent) to think that there was a miraculous image of Christ present in that city before 550 (when Procopius wrote his manuscript). And for Evagrius, I know that there is a debate right now about the possibility that his mention of a miraculous image was just a later addition made by the Church at the end of the 8th century. I think there’s no way to be sure, whether or not he really wrote that himself, but nevertheless, I’m sure that this information is not accurate at all, simply because of the account of Procopius who just mentionned the letter of Christ withtout talking one second about an image of Christ. If he didn’t mentionned the role of a palludium played by the letter, then, maybe, I would be more open to the possibility that he would not have wanted to mention precious relics of Christ… But the reality is different than this !

    You also wrote : “…literary allusions to an “eikon”, or image, of Christ would appear to be evidential of its existence (existence of the Shroud)…” Here, again, I must disagree with you a bit, simply because of some ancient references that clearly state a shroud of Christ (or burial cloths of Christ in the plural). To be convinced, we just have to think of the testimony of Antoninus of Piacenza (often confused with Antoninus Martyr) in 570, the manuscript of Braulio, bishop of Saragossa in the middle of the 7th century, the testimony of Arculf, bishop of Perigeux, in 670, and the manuscript of John Damascus in 726 or 730. All of them clearly talked about some kind of burial cloth and never of any kind of icon or image. I have a great difficulty to believe that some writers would have describe the shroud as simply an “icon” or an “image” without making any kind of link with the Passion of the Christ, the empty tomb, the burial of Chist or the burial aspect of the cloth. So, in thist context, I don’t see any good reason to speculate that much about a reported “icon” or “image” of Christ, even in the case this object is describe as “not made by human hands”. It’s not because an icon or an image of Christ is describe that way that we must think it was the shroud of Turin ! As I say, unless we can found a clear indication that can link an icon or an image like that with the Passion of the Christ, the empty tomb, the burial of Chist or the burial aspect of the cloth, I think it is highly speculative to think those ancient texts were really refeering to the Shroud of Turin. I’m not an historian (even if I’m passionate about history) but nevertheless, I’m intelligent (and prudent) enough to know that it is like walking on a very thin ice to make speculative links like that and, for one, I would never dare to published an hypothesis that would be based on things like that.

    As I said in another comment, all we are sure, regarding all the ancient sources, is that a shroud of Christ (or burial cloths of Christ in the plural) were report to have been in Jerusalem (or some place in Palestine), Constantinople and Athens, before being showed in France during the middle of the 14th century. That’s all we can state without any doubt ! Sorry but there’s absolutely no clear mention of his presence in Edessa or Antioch. And even worse than that, beside the testimonies of Nicolas Mesarites (implicit) and Robert de Clari (explicit), there’s absolutely no other reliable and clear testimony of a Shroud of Christ with an image on it before the 14th century in France.

    Beside that, all we’re left with is speculations, extrapolations and special assumptions. As I said, on that fragile base, I would never dare to publish an hypothesis regarding the ancient history of the Shroud, simply because I could not defend it with any kind of success. Wilson think he can do that but, in fact, he can’t. And, sorry, but regarding your own hypothesis, I don’t think you can either. So, I think you can forget me publishing a serious hypothesis regarding the ancient history of the Shroud of Turin, unless there would be some dramatic discovery regarding an ancient source or an ancient artwork. Conclusion : I have some ideas that I think deserves some thoughts about the possible ancient history of the Shroud but since I cannot defend them properly, I don’t think I ever published any hypothesis at all on this subject. But nevertheless, I want to add that it’s not something that will convinced me one bit that the Shroud of Turin is not authentic… It’s just that we cannot write his ancient history properly. That’s all. That doesn’t mean for a second that this relic didn’t exist during those days.
    I also want to say this : I don’t have a proper hypothesis to explain the dead silence of the ancient sources versus a Shroud of Christ with an image on it, but there’s one thing I’m sure : The hypothesis of Ian Wilson is NOT the answer to the problem. We have to look elsewhere. It seem that you tried to do that (bravo for your effort) but, unfortunatelly, your hypothesis, like the one of Wilson, seem to rely mainly on speculation, extrapolations and special assumptions and, at the same time, seem to have an important lack of clear and solid references to a burial Shroud (or burial cloths) of Christ, that would be needed in order to support properly the history you propose. In that regard, I seriously doubt that an hypothesis like yours will receive much credits from most experts in Byzantine study… That’s what I think. Of course, because Antioch and Edessa were two cities were christian communities rises pretty early (more true for Antioch than Edessa), someone is free to think the Shroud was brought there at one point in his history. But the bottomline is this : It’s absolutely impossible to prove that claim !!! So, where do we go from here ???

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