“The one thing that convinces me most that it is authentic has nothing to do with science or history, it has to do with theology,” [Russ] Breault told The Florida Catholic. “Every miracle of Jesus had eyewitnesses and yet the greatest of all miracles had no eye witnesses — but yet there was a kind of witness and that is the linen shroud itself. It becomes a witness for all generations.”
The Silent Witness? We hear this in various ways from many people. I think it is an idea that needs more discussion.
Yannick Clément, in an open letter to scientists, quotes French Catholic theologian Odile Celier from Qui a peur du Saint Suaire? (Who’s Afraid of the Holy Shroud?) by Brice Perrier (2011). I have taken the liberty of tweaking Yannick’s English (by guessing) but only in these quoted paragraphs and not in the full open letter, which follows:
Since science became involved (note: it is even truer since the failure of STURP to totally explain the image on the cloth, which doesn’t mean however that this image will never be naturally explained in the future), the devotion to the Shroud underwent a real mutation because it is no more [longer[ the memorial of the Lord’s Passion and death than [but] the material witness of his Resurrection and, by doing so, the providential object called to healed this modern decease which is the decline of the Christian faith.
Yannick goes on to say:
There’s no doubt that such a mutation is not seen with a good eye by the Vatican, because, as Jean-Michel Maldamé (a Dominican monk who’s also a member of the Pontifical Academy of Science) states in Perrier’s book, the idea that the Shroud can really show a physical trace of the Resurrection of Christ is absurd from a theological point of view. And Maldamé continue by saying this (personal translation):
The word “Resurrection” would lost [lose] his sense and would be deformed. This would be a materialization of the Resurrection and that’s contrary to the theology teaches [taught] by the Church. The only trace of the Resurrection that exist[s] can only been found in the Gospels and in the testimonies of the Apostles.
Yannick’s complete open letter is contained below. You may need to click on “Read more” to uncover it:
AN OPEN LETTER
TO ALL OF THE SCIENTISTS
WHO ARE HONEST AND SINCERE
IN THEIR QUEST FOR TRUTH CONCERNING THE SHROUD
After having read carefully the translation of M. Barberis comments provided by Dan (link: http://shroudstory.com/2012/12/13/barberis-fantis-conclusions-are-not-scientific/), I just want to say that I am VERY PLEASED by it! Some of you will remember that I was one of the first to elevate my voice against M. Fanti’s unscientific antics at the moment he published his “special edition” issue about the Shroud. At that time, I wrote an open letter that you can find here on the blog at this adress: http://shroudstory.com/2012/08/07/and-yannick-responds-to-giulios-comments/. I said roughly the same thing as M. Barberis but in a much longer and exhaustive way. What I love the most about M. Barberis comment is the fact that here, unlike myself, you got someone well-established and well-respected in the Shroud world who finally dare to critic M. Fanti’s way to do Shroud science (which is, in fact, unscientific to say the least). Such professional comment should have come much sooner but at least, it is there for anyone to read now!
I was thinking about the Shroud and wanted to share this with you in case an expert or two might be able to address. My thoughts were these:
If the Shroud is the burial cloth of Jesus, he was conceived and born of a virgin apart from union with a man. Presuming only one human genetic code/biological material, what would be expected physical evidence found on the Shroud, if any, by an expert in Biology, Genetics, Blood Chemistry or any other specialties that might bring something of substance to bear on this line of thought?
I do realize that there could be two genetic codes, only one provided by the human Mother. Once one considers a virgin birth, one has to admit a possibility of two genetic codes is not far fetched."
James D. Tabor, Professor and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, writes in his blog, What Have They Done with Jesus? When History and Theology Collide:
I presented the results of my take on Jesus in my 2006 book, The Jesus Dynasty. It is a book written for a non-specialist audience, not for my academic colleagues, though I am happy that any number of them have offered their reviews. This includes Jim Strange, Craig Evans, Darrel Bock, Jack Porier, and Ben Witherington–all of whom are academics with a decidedly conservative approach to matters of Christian Origins. Craig Evans and Ben Witherington have written entire books on the more general issues involved in historical Jesus research. Evans titles his book, Fabricating Jesus: How Modern Scholars Distort the Gospels, with a chapter endearingly titled “Hokum History and Bogus Findings,” in which he treats my own take on Jesus. Still, Ben Witherington’s title surely has to be my favorite: What Have They Done With Jesus? The book is a rather typical liberal vs. conservative treatment of recent historical studies written by well known academics on Jesus and early Christianity that have made it into the mass market trade publishing world. Witherington is bound and determined to save Jesus from the critical scholars but at the same time to be cute and engaging with chapter titles such as: Gullible’s Travels,” “Naughty Gnostic Gospels,” “For Pete’s Sake,” “Simon Says,” “O Brother, Where Art Thou,” and “Hey Jude, Don’t Make It Bad.” In an appendix to the book, hastily added as it was going to press, is Witherington’s critique of The Jesus Dynasty, previously published on his blog in several parts. Gary Burge, in Christianity Today, characterized Witherington’s treatment of my work as “a stinging dismantling of James Tabor’s primary theses in his speculative book, The Jesus Dynasty.”
I find it interesting that Prof. Burge considers Witherington’s treatment a “stinging dismantling” of my primary theses, though I suppose I should not at all find it surprising that Burge would characterize my work as “speculative.” After all, I do indeed “speculate” that Jesus had a human father, or that dead bodies don’t rise and walk around and eat and drink, talk to folks, and then rise up into the heavens. Therefore I assume that Jesus must have had the normal DNA that comes from a human mother and father, and that if the tomb into which he was temporarily and hastily place after his execution was empty someone must have removed Jesus’ corpse. It is that simple. Since I know neither the father nor what happened to the body I suggest a few possible speculative scenarios that you can take a look here and here. So in that regard I guess I have to plead guilty of “speculation.” But is there really any serious alternative? Seriously? See my essay here on “Sense and Nonsense in the Academic Study of Religions.”
There are of course many things we don’t know with certainty about the historical Jesus, and when I can I try to fill in what one might reasonably suppose, and that could well be labeled speculation as well, but I think it is the “Jesus had a father” and “dead messiahs don’t come to life” assumptions that most hackle folk who take such things literally. As for the charge that Witherington has offered a “stinging dismantling” of my primary theses I must confess I find myself at a loss here. Somehow I can not imagine that anyone familiar with the areas I cover in my book would evaluate Witherington’s critique in that way. I guess it just goes to show how Evangelicals love champions, those few of their number who go out and somehow “meet the lions” on their own terms (and I am surely not even one of the lions compared to the likes of Crossan, Ehrman, or Funk).
I have not chosen to “answer” Witherington’s critique of my book in an explicit and direct way. I think our basic presuppositions are so very different on many issues there is, unfortunately, simply no room for dialogue. Ben is doing theology and I am trying my best to stick with history. Witherington wrote me in the course of his questioning my discussion about Jesus having a father that he believed the blood samples tested on the Shroud of Turin had strangely showed neither X nor Y chromosomes, indicating that Jesus was somehow human, but without normal human blood like the rest of us with two human parents. I must admit, it took me aback more than a bit. But it also helped me to realize that in such circles the normal rules of scholarly engagement and critical discussion are suspended. On the other hand, I have responded to most of the critiques of Witherington, Evans, and others in the many posts on this Blog, particularly the matters relating to the Talpiot tombs, the ossuaries and their inscriptions, and the matter of Jesus having a father. It is all there for those who want to go back and read a bit, beginning with the links above as well as here, here, and here. (bold emphasis mine)
What do we really know or think we know about this subject?
Don’t just read the following. Read Davor Aslanovski’s full posting The nature of the beast – part one on his blog, Deum Videre: I am an art historian, therefore I believe:
And as far as I am concerned, the one hidden truth here has nothing to do with either the history or the nature of this relic. The one hidden truth, that has been escaping everyone, in the midst of falsehoods and appearances (and psychological issues and quests for a meaningful calling and wishful thinking and fetishism and quotation battles and blown-up egos and copyright problems (??!!) and ad hominem attacks), is that ‘sindonology’ is a heresy.
The Shroud of Turin may bear an authentic image of Our Lord Jesus Christ, or it may bear a 14th-century scorch. But, whatever the case may be, ‘sindonology’ is unmistakably a heresy.
Insofar as ‘sindonologists’ disregard (and despise) the opinions of reputable academics, publish their works outside the academic world, in most cases possess no training whatsoever in the relevant disciplines, and aren’t in the slightest troubled by the phrase ‘NO EVIDENCE’, their efforts constitute a scientific heresy most akin to the case of Velikovskyanism. (see also here)
But much more importantly, insofar as they believe that Christians really did engage in such mystery-making as Dan Brown’s books would lead us to believe, they are painting an image of Christianity that is so inaccurate as to present a veritable Christian heresy.
Think about this for a moment. Your average ‘sindonologist’, or even someone who simply believes that there are some good chances that the Shroud and the image on it are authentic, must subscribe to the following idea: first Christians thought so very little of this cloth that bore not only the image of their Lord but His most sacred BLOOD that they let it slip out of memory.
his is something so mind-blowing to me that I will end this post here and let this ring in your ears for a while.
We, Christians, have once FORGOTTEN that there was a cloth, in some niche above some city gate, that bore Christ’s BLOOD.
Well, I never liked the term, anyway. Really, is study of the cloth that is in Turin and the historical evidence about the Image of Edessa and other claims as well as attempts to arrive at the truth a heresy? I guess I also don’t like the term heresy used in this way.
Good, thought provoking post. Thanks Davor.
Then, he suggest[s to] me to add a footnote to explain what I mean by “dematerialization” of the body at the time of the Resurrection. Here’s what he told me : “Perhaps no single word is adequate to avoid possible misinterpretations. When I write on this subject I feel more comfortable saying that “the entire human reality -soul and body- begins to exist outside the space-time frame where physical activity takes place”, as described by science. This is the way the Catechism of the Catholic Church expresses it (nos. 996-1000 especially). Since the spirit is independent -by its very nature- from space-time constraints, we can say that the body exists in a similar way as the spirit does.”
And here’s what I wrote in the footnote that I add in my paper (based mainly on what M. Carreira told me) : “This expression should be understood in the sense of a “vanishing of the body”. And it’s important to note that, on a religious level, words like “dematerialization” or “vanishing” doesn’t mean that the body of Christ would have been “destroyed” in favor of a surviving of his soul only (like the idea we can have of a ghost, for example). Effectively, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (particularly #996–1000) indicates that, at the time of Jesus’ Resurrection, his entire human reality (body, spirit and soul) begin to exist outside the space-time frame where physical activity takes place, as described by science.”
And this made me think about Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica, and how (in borrowing from Wikipedia):
spiritual beings that have been restored to glorified bodies will have the following basic qualities:
- Impassibility (immortal / painless) — immunity from death and pain
- Subtility (permeability) — freedom from restraint by matter
- Agility — obedience to spirit with relation to movement and space (the ability to move through space and time with the speed of thought)
- Clarity — resplendent beauty of the soul manifested in the body (as when Jesus was transfigured on Mount Tabor)
And as many of you know, I’m not Catholic. And this accords well with pretty much most conservative Anglican theology. As an Episcopalian (a U.S. Branch of Anglican Communion) this is close to how I look at it. However don’t forget the hullabaloo that erupted in 2002 when a survey of Church of England’s clergy revealed that a third of the of them doubted or did not believe in the physical Resurrection of Christ. Here is a story from The Telegraph.