Let the Debates Begin

William, I was glad to receive your response to my comment. You are most gracious. A debate, as you suggest on your blog, may indeed be fun and profound.

I think we need to clarify stances before beginning. And we should mention something about the notion of the burden of proof. Conceptually it cuts both ways and proof, if that is a goal, may be beyond reach. To not be convinced that the cloth is the authentic burial cloth of the historical Jesus of the New Testament requires no evidence or argument or proof whatsoever. It is a perfectly valid position. You, however, specifically say that you are convinced that it is a medieval hoax. I should therefore expect convincing evidence. Moreover, you wrote as part of your conviction, “that the stains on this medieval cloth have nothing whatsoever to do with the alleged crucifixion of an individual named Jesus, some two millennia ago.” That is a given if it is a medieval hoax. But I must ask for clarification on two points:

  1. It has not yet been established between us what constitutes a stain. Perhaps it isn’t necessary to do so though I feel compelled to comment. A bloodstain, if that is what you mean and if it is in fact formed by blood, is indeed a stain. But what about the image? To think that the image is a stain, as some people do, implies some knowledge of how the image is formed: paint, photographic process, reverse bleaching, oxidation, singed fibers from heat, an amino/carbonyl induced color change or a non-reactive chemical stain. We might explore some of these possibilities if it becomes germane. It depends on what directions this debate might take. The chemistry of the Shroud is fairly well understood and documented in peer-reviewed, secular scientific journals.
  2. You referred to the “alleged” crucifixion. That surprised me. If you are not convinced that Jesus was crucified then I wonder why. There are scholars, such as John Dominic Crossan, Professor Emeritus of Comparative Religion at DePaul University, America’s largest Catholic University, and Anglicans Marcus Borg and Bishop John Shelby Spong who argue that Jesus was not buried in a tomb. I think it is fair to say, however, that most scholars, among those who think that Jesus is a historical person, think that Jesus was crucified. Am I wrong? I was surprised, too, because it is often said, quite reasonably by skeptics as well as many who think the Shroud is authentic, that the image has nothing to do with an “alleged” resurrection.

You asked me to tell you what makes me feel that the Turin Shroud is in fact the cloth that wrapped Jesus of Nazareth. I can’t say “in fact.” I can only say that I think it is probably the burial cloth of Jesus. I am very much convinced that it is not medieval and not a hoax. I think there is ample scientific and historical evidence that the cloth dates back to before the beginning of the early medieval, an era that begins with the reign of Justinian in Constantinople. How much older it might be is currently hard to ascertain. I think it is reasonable to think that it is the burial cloth of a victim of Roman style crucifixion with visual parallels to Gospel accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion. Moreover, it is almost certainly a burial cloth of the sort used by wealthy Jews in the environs of Jerusalem in the late-Second Temple era. If so, it has been removed from a tomb-grave (for whatever reason) and carefully preserved. From that I think it can be inferred that it the burial cloth of Jesus.

Indeed, let’s debate. I propose that we carry on this debate at the posting level rather than the comment level and that we do so in your blog as well as mine. (I have posted this in my blog).

Before beginning, let me introduce myself. I am 68 years old. My Shroud of Turin blog may be found at https://shroudofturin.wordpress.com/. I am a theologically liberal Anglo-Catholic leaning Episcopalian. My faith did not prepare me to believe that the Shroud was real. In fact, it was the opposite. It took five years of study for me to change my mind. I am not sympathetic to many claims about the Shroud such as the appearance of coins on the eyes. Nor am I comfortable with extra-scientific claims about how the images were formed. I have no idea, whatsoever, how the images arrived on the cloth.

Dan Porter

3 thoughts on “Let the Debates Begin”

  1. These days, there are multifarious ways of reacting to wonderful manifestations (of which there are many) in the world around us. Because of my scientific and technological background, I’m inspired primarily by scientific and technological manifestations. But the antiquated manifestations of religion concern and interest me greatly, too, because they’re synonymous with what might be termed our humanity.

    In the region of France where I live, not far away from Chambéry, people are aware of the early days of the alleged shroud of Jesus. It so happens that the ecclesiastic historian Ulysse Chevalier wrote about this strange object in several interesting French-language articles (which can be downloaded today from the Gallica database). Chevalier’s articles constitute, to my mind, a splendid presentation of the legendary background of the discovery and context of this object. Today, personally, I would not wish to waste too much time talking emptily with anybody who has not examined closely these comments of the great regional historian Ulysse Chevalier, who happens to be my constant reference in everything that concerns the ancient history of my adoptive home in the Dauphiné.

    As for more recent analyses of this cloth, I have nothing to add to what has already been exposed abundantly.

    For everything concerning allegedly “miraculous” manifestations of certain facets of Humanity (as interesting as they are), I recommend strongly the reading of books by Richard Dawkins, who is a brilliant and serious dispeller of bullshit.

    As for me, I must state “graciously” that I have nothing more to add to any eventual debate about the so-called Shroud of Turin… which bores me infinitely. Read some Dawkins!

    PS I don’t “call myself” a journalist. I don’t call myself anything, for that matter. So, please do likewise. Simply answer me objectively instead of trying out silly naming tricks.

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