Bill Tammeus, a Presbyterian elder and award-winning former faith columnist for The Kansas City Star, writes the daily "Faith Matters" blog for the Star‘s website and a monthly column for The Presbyterian Outlook. He calls himself a small catholic and his work appears in the National Catholic Reporter, this time with a column entitled, Relics mean something, but they don’t mean everything:
What the whole of Christianity depends on is not whether the Shroud of Turin is the real burial cloth of Jesus but whether Jesus, in fact, was resurrected.
And yet there’s something about the human condition that makes it easier for us if we can hold onto something solid, something verifiably original and authentic.
So our hearts long for the Shroud of Turin eventually to be validated as the true burial cloth of Jesus. And we want to know that this or that particular cup is the one Jesus used at the Last Supper. And that someone saved the ax George Washington used to chop down the cherry tree and, while they were at it, also preserved his wooden teeth. (Good luck with both of those myths.)
I’m happy for Pope Francis to visit the Shroud of Turin just as I’m happy for Protestant tourists to stop at the front doors of the Wittenberg Cathedral. (The original wooden doors were destroyed in a fire and have been replaced with bronze doors.)
I just hope the pontiff’s trip won’t lead people to imagine that it ultimately matters whether what he sees there is Jesus’ burial cloth. That would focus on a dead man. By stark contrast, Christianity is about the living Christ and our commitment to follow where his Spirit leads.
In his serialized attempt to convince us that Jesus took his burial shroud with him following his resurrection and gave it to John the Apostle who was the servant of the priest mentioned in a fragment of text from St. Jerome that quotes the Gospel of the Hebrews, Stephen Jones explains that Jesus and John were first cousins and that the Apostle John was also a priest.
I know that, didn’t I? Did I? If so, I didn’t know why. Very ingenious analysis by Stephen:
Mark and Mathew evidently record the three prominent women disciples standing by the Cross after Mary, the mother of Jesus, had been taken by the Apostle John (Jn 19:26-27), her nephew (see below), to his home. That the remaining three women mentioned are the same group in each account is shown by Mark listing "Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome" as the women who went to the tomb in the early morning after the sabbath to anoint Jesus’ body (Mk 16:1).
That means that Jesus and Apostle John were first cousins:
[ . . . ]
Mary was also a "kinswoman" of Elisabeth, the mother of John the Baptist (Lk 1:36 YLT). The Greek word for "kinswoman," sungenis, is simply the female of sungenes "a kinsman" (Mk 6:4; Lk 1:58; 2:44; 14:12; 21:16; Jn 18:26; Ac 10:24) including "of tribal kinship" (Rom 9:3; 16:7,11,21). Elizabeth was one of the "daughters of Aaron" (Lk 1:5), that is, she was of priestly descent and the daughter of a priest. Therefore Mary, and Salome her sister, were descended from David (Lk 1:32) and so were of the tribe of Judah (Mt 1:1-6; Lk 3:30-31) and also they were descended from Aaron, and so were of the tribe of Levi (Ex 6:16-20). There is no contradiction in this, as while a priest had to be a descendent of Aaron, he was not required to take a wife from the descendants of Aaron but the only requirement was that she was an Israelite virgin (Lev 21:1,7,14). The conditions of Jesus’ descent from David (Mt 1:1; Rom 1:3; 2Tim 2:8; Rev 22:16) are satisfied if at least one of Mary’s parents were of Davidic decent.
Therefore, for the Apostle John, the son of Salome, to be a priest, it was only necessary that his father, Zebedee (Mt 4:21; 10:2; Mk 1:19; 3:17; 10:35; Lk 5:10), was of Aaronic descent and therefore was a priest. And that would have been so if Mary (and Salome’s) father, Heli (Lk 3:23), i.e. "Eli" – a priestly name (1Sam 1:9; 2:11; 14:3), was a descendant of Aaron and therefore a priest. And that would have been the case, if the father of Elisabeth, who was Mary’s and Salome’s kinswoman, was a brother of Zebedee, John’s father. Further Biblical confirmation that John was a priest is found in Jn 20:4-8, where John reached the empty tomb first but did not enter it until after Peter went in and confirmed that Jesus’ body was not there. It was forbidden for a priest to enter a tomb where he might make contact with a dead body and so become "unclean" (Lev 21:1-3).
Just in case you were wondering about the Machy mould being discussed in The Conspiracy of the Faux-Sweat Imprint, here is some more information. These images,above, are from Colin Berry’s blog (in fact we are looking at them there through something of a wormhole in the way you can structure things on the web).
Tell me: do you see the image on the left? Are HIS eyes open? Compare the face on the left to the image of a face elsewhere on the mold of someone holding the shroud.
- For more information about the Machy mold see Discovery of a Mold to produce Medallions at Lirey on Mario Latendresse’s wonderful website.
- Also see, The Machy Version of the Lirey Pilgrim’s Badge: A Revised Reconstruction by Ian Wilson in the BSTS newsletter.
- And there is the The Two Lirey Badges: Unmistakable Differences, a posting on this blog with 90 comments.
It helps to see the size of this thing. Here is a picture of Alain Hourseau, the owner of the mold, holding it in his hands.
And finally here, below, is a good picture of the whole mold. Is that face from one of the Veronicas? Again, I ask: are the eyes open? Is this a case of I think I see too much?
Me thinks so! And does it really matter?
BTW: It was Colin back in February who wrote this healthy swipe:
That was in the mid-1350s, accompanied by at least two promotional pilgrims’ badges’ The first and better known lead/tin one in the Cluny museum, dredged up from the Seine in 1855, without any obvious Christ-like figure, and the (later?) revisionist version (see Ian Wilson’s pdf in the BSTS Newsletter on the Machy mould) that has the added Veronica- style in vivo motif of Christ’s face as an additional inset image above the word SUAIRE ( signalling a “sweat-imprinted face cloth” and no doubt attempting to suggest, even subliminally, that the entire Shroud image was likewise a sweat imprint, albeit post-mortem).
The surplus-to-requirements and source or confusion face and label on the Machy mould above “SUAIRE” (left) and just one several similar images that could have chosen to represent the Veil of Veronica, the one shown here described as a 14th century “copy” , entitled the ‘Holy Face of Jaen’.
What better way than piggybacking, seen with the addition of a motif of the famed pilgrim-attracting Veil of Veronica (Fr. Le voile de Véronique) with its alleged imprint of the face of Jesus en route to Calvary, imprinted we are told in sweat. Contrary view (or a prioriassumption): Mario Latendresse describes it as “the face of the man on the Shroud”.
Angelo Paratico has a nice quick synopsis of the modern day study of the shroud in Beyond Thirty-Nine, a blog he co-authors from Hong Kong. The posting is called The Turin’s Shroud – a Mystery hidden into a Riddle.
In Hong Kong we have one of the world’s great experts in the science of Sindonology, which is the study of the Shroud of Turin, known as Sindone in Italian. A Hong Kong resident since 1970, William Meacham, is an archeologist and a professor at HKU. He has many books published under his name and in particular there is one which is often cited by sindonologists: The Rape of the Shroud published in 2005.
In 1978 a special commission received permission to investigate scientifically this mysterious fabric, which appeared out of nowhere in Lirey, France, in the year 1353. This commission was called STURP (Shroud of Turin Research Project). It started well, but soon descended into a factional war between bickering scientists and reluctant cardinals. Being these the basis, it is not surprising that the results, instead of clearing the waters, made them even murkier.
The book of Prof. Meacham is an highly scientific and well researched work, as he was one of the experts summoned to Italy and involved in the dating project of the Shroud, but was later sidelined by a group of people with a narrow view of what they were examining and, perhaps, lacking the necessary expertise. . . .
[ . . . ]
The validity of the C14 radiocarbon dating was put in doubt from the very beginning, and for a number of good reasons. We’ll limit ourselves to the most basic ones, noting only that it is hard to believe how scientists could act so clumsily. . . .
They found that where the image appeared there were no traces of pigments or colors, and it was certainly not obtained by heating or printing. . . .
Did anyone tell Charles and Colin?
Here is some show off trivia:
This relict had remained a property of the royal house of Italy, the Savoy, until 1983 when it was finally bequeathed to the Vatican by the last king of Italy, Umberto II, in his testament. Curiously this donation had been challenged, because what did belong to the last king should have been taken over by the republican government of Italy in 1946 but this matter is still taking dust in the Italian Parliament, as more pressing matters concerning the economy are at hand.
Colin Berry: I have set out a possible scenario that led to the TS being
fabricated as a rival attraction to the Veil of Veronica, indeed one that built
on the established credentials of the Veronica . . . as perceived by those at the time,
and which later . . . came to supplant the Veronica as the Church’s new “central icon”
(to borrow Neil McGregor’s words re the 14th century Veronica).
Colin’s old blog site, Shroud of Turin Without All The Hype (or something like that) has sprung back to life after several months, reincarnated as The Shroud of Turin: medieval scorch? The blog that separates the science from the pseudo-science…. The first posting since March is The Shroud of Turin: probably not miraculous, just a simulated sweat imprint – a triumph of medieval joined-up thinking.
(the 3D, negative scorch image, right, resides
on Colin’s blog, click on the image to see
a larger version)
There must have been at least some who, viewing, or even hearing of the Veil, [ca. 1350] must have asked themselves: how can plain old perspiration (“sweat” in common parlance) imprint an image on cloth? What would it look like initially? What would it look like a day later, a week later, a century or millennium later? And among those people, might there be just one individual who then asked themselves an audacious question: could or might the process be simulated, or to put it baldly, faked? Could one pass off an entirely and audaciously man-made image as that of a divine sweat image? And if that were the case, what would be the most profitable way of doing that? Content oneself with producing a face imprint that was superior to that on the Veil, and claim that one had the “real” version, and that the one in Rome was the fake? Or avoid any such controversy and unpleasantness. Instead, marshall one’s technology to make an even more audacious claim, namely that one had not only an image that captured the face of Jesus, but that of his entire body! How could that be done? Was there a scenario from the New Testament gospels that might be adduced to back one’s claim?
Certainly there was, and it’s one that occurred just a day or two AFTER the crucifixion. It was the initial placement by Joseph of Arimathea of Jesus on a costly sheet of linen, conveniently with no reference at this stage to the body being cleaned of blood and other bodily secretions, notably sweat.
Already a plan for developing that germ of an idea was taking shape. What were the criteria that could be adopted first to produce a whole body imprint of the crucified Jesus that would pass muster, yet importantly pose no threat to the status of the Veil?
Just a sampling here to give you an idea of what Colin is talking about and to encourage you to read . . . just a simulated sweat imprint . . . :
1. The image must NOT be mistaken for anything but a burial shroud. A single image of the frontal side might be mistaken for some kind of painted portrait. Solution: imprint BOTH sides of the body, align them head to head making it seems as though . . .
[ . . . ]
5. Choose a weave that is receptive to one’s imprinting process. A twill weave (e.g. herringbone 3/1 weave) has more flat areas than a simple 1/1 criss-cross one.
[ . . . ]
13. Feet are a problem. Does one terminate the dorsal imprint at the heel, as would be expected, thereby leaving an image lacking feet? Or does one image-imprint off a template as if the linen had been pulled up around the heels and pulled tight against the soles to capture those surfaces as well (creating an option for adding blood imprints too on soles of feet issuing from crucifixion nail holes)? Go for that latter option, since human intervention with enveloping a shroud around the feet is not inconsistent with the the 1st century rock tomb scenario and indeed serves to enhance it.
14. The chin and neck are also problematical. Cloth laid loosely over the frontal surface would tend to bridge from chin to chest, creating a detached floating head with no neck. But cloth that imaged the neck, as if it had followed all the contours would risk imaging the underside of the chin too, making the neck look too long. Some compromise is needed, to get some neck and not too much underside of chin. Maybe simulate a crease at the chin to suggest there had been pressure applied to the linen, manual, or maybe from having a ‘neck tie’ of some kind that would not itself be imaged.
15. Loin cloth? . . . Finer sensibilities must take a back seat. . . .
16. Frontal nudity? Use crossed hands to cover the genital area. Take liberties with human anatomy if necessary (slightly overlong arms and fingers).
Is it fair to call this a conspiracy theory? No! That is why I didn’t use the word theory in the title. It sounds like a conspiracy theory but it is clear that Colin intends to support his conjecture, indeed subsume the conjecture under science.
I was reading Colin Berry’s recent posting which makes an important claim, namely that it is impossible for the image to have been formed without heat. He reasons that the mechanical weakness of image fibers is evidence of this.
The posting, for those who would like to refer to it, is Checklist of reasons for thinking the Turin Shroud image represents a dried-on sweat imprint. Real 1st century or simulated 14th century? The following paragraph is certainly what the reader is referring to:
It’s entirely impossible for the image to have been formed with no application of heat. I have a permanently-stained shirt from the time I helped clear an overgrown garden. There are plant saps that leave yellow stains that are absolutely permanent – which will not wash out, even with hot water and detergent. But my money’s on a thermal component. Why? Because of a little-remarked upon property of TS image fibres, namely their mechanical weakness. Why should that be, given the core of each linen fibre is predominantly tough old cellulose? That’s a possible lead I’m chasing up right at this moment.
The reader continues:
When I Googled <weakened image fibers on the Shroud of Turin> I discovered a paper by Robert Villarreal called THE ALPHA- PARTICLE IRRADIATION HYPOTHESIS: SOLVING THE MYSTERY OF THE SHROUD. He speaks of weakened fibers caused by alpha-particle irradiation. That causes heat.
I think the reader is referring to the program for the St. Louis Conference (to the best of my knowledge, the actual paper has not been published yet). Therein we read Bob Villarreal saying:
In a personal communication with Ray, he related to me that the fibers from the body image areas of the shroud seemed to be removed more easily than those from non-image areas. It was as if whatever process created the body image had in some way slightly weakened the shroud fibers at that point they became more friable. Ray was a physical and thermal chemist and not an analytical or radio chemist. If he had been the latter, he might have recognized that he had stumbled on to what caused the images on the Shroud. . . .
Okay! But I don’t think Colin Berry and Bob Villarreal are going down the same path with this.
It’s a reminder that God, under carefully controlled laboratory conditions,
can do whatever he likes
Never heard it expressed quite like that before. Mark Shea, over in his Catholic and Enjoying It blog is answering a reader.
A reader writes:
. . . Merely because there is no biblical reference to something does not make it a fake. The Bible is not intended to be the Big Book of Everything. John himself attests that there are plenty of things Jesus said and did that don’t make it into the biblical record (Jn 21:25). So lack of mention in Scripture does not necessarily make something a fake.
Likewise, the Shroud’s emergence into the documentary record in the 14th century doesn’t necessarily mean it was created at that time. Indeed, one of the problems of the Shroud is that nobody, even today, can make another one, which argues for its genuineness.
. . . It’s a reminder that God, under carefully controlled laboratory conditions, can do whatever he likes . . .