imageI have been reading Charles Foster’s The Jesus Inquest: The Case For and Against the Resurrection of the Christ (Publisher Thomas Nelson, January 11, 2011). So far, I am enjoying it learning a lot. It is excellent.

The list of chapters and appendices should give you a fairly good idea of what is covered in the book:

1) Does all this matter?

2) The sources

3) The death

4) The burial

5) The Empty Tomb

6) The Post-Resurrection Appearances

7) Did the Early Church Believe in the Bodily Resurrection of Jesus?

8) Where Did the Christians Get Their Idea of Resurrection?

Appendix 1) The Cause of Death

Appendix 2) The Turin Shroud

Appendix 3) The Jesus Family Tomb Statistics

Appendix 4) The Gospel of Peter

Here is some material about the carbon dating of the Shroud of Turin in 1988 that, at the time, seemed to prove that the Shroud was medieval:

The 1988 results have now been comprehensively discredited. There are five main lines of criticism. The fifth is the most potent and carries most weight with modern critics.

First: linen, for some unknown reason, generally gives a much more recent carbon-date than other substances of identical age. If you carbon-date the linen wrappings from a mummified Pharaonic cat, the cat will appear much older than the linen. This effect was not taken into account in the 1988 testing.

Second: many substances, including linen, acquire over the years a patina of bacterial contamination. Over centuries that patina can amount to a significant proportion of the mass of the total sample tested Obviously the patina will have, on average, a lower age than the base on which it lies. To obtain a meaningful carbon-dating result the patina needs to be washed off before testing starts. It seems unlikely that this was done properly in 1988.

Third: the shroud was almost destroyed by fire in 1532. The fire left dramatic burn marks on the shroud. How this would have affected carbon-14 dating is anyone’s guess. There also remains the possibility that whatever process produced the image skewed the dating.

Fourth: the samples tested in 1988 came from an area of the shroud that is likely to have been heavily contaminated. The shroud has been an object of adoration and study for at least many centuries. Every adorer and student who has touched it has left some of his DNA, some of his sweat, and some of his cells on it. Medieval illustrations show the shroud being held up for display. They make it clear that over centuries the part of the shroud held in ungloved hands was precisely that part analyzed in 1988. One could hardly select a more predictably unreliable sample than that used. The sampling method was plainly defective. Instead of taking several samples from different parts of the shroud, dividing up those samples, and sending them to the three different labs for analysis, a sample was taken from only one area before being divided. It was this methodological error that made possible a wrong dating based on the fifth point.

Fifth: It seems likely that the sampled area had been mended by a technique known as “invisible reweaving”—a technique that leaves no visible trace on the back of the cloth. This is the hypothesis of Raymond Rogers. who published his conclusions in 2005. He noted that:

(a) Directly next to the sampled area there was a spliced thread No such spliced threads were found elsewhere in the Shroud. Elsewhere, whenever a new piece of thread was put into the loom the weaver had laid it alongside the previous length without splicing it.

b) In the area next to that sampled, there were cotton fibers. Such fibers have not been found elsewhere in the shroud. Cotton and linen fibers were sometimes woven together in the Middle Ages. but not earlier. Cotton fibers in the 1988 sample were confirmed in a 2008 study at the Los Alamos National Laboratory by Robert Villarreal.

(c) The linen fibers in the area next to that sampled contained less lignin than those in the rest of the shroud. This suggested that the first set of fibers had been bleached more efficiently than the second set. Bleaching techniques in the Middle Ages were much more efficient than those used in antiquity.

(d) There was detectable vanillin in the linen fibers in the area next to the sampled patch. There was none in the fibers from the rest of the shroud. The vanillin component of linen diminishes with time. The earliest date suggested by the carbon dating was 1260. Cloth manufactured then should have retained about 37 percent of its vanillin. Vanillin-free linen was consistent with an age of 2,000 years.

(e) UV and X-ray photographs taken in 1978 had suggested chemical differences between the sample area and the rest of (he shroud.

(f) Heller and Adler. in 1981, had found that there were significant levels of aluminum in the general area of the sample. It is not found elsewhere on the shroud. Alum (which contains aluminum) is used with madder dye.

(g) Some of the material taken for the carbon dating had to be discarded because of the presence of fibers that were clearly different from those of the main body of the shroud. Some such different fibers were apparently present in some of the material sent for analysis, according to the head of the Oxford laboratory. Another laboratory commented that the ectopic fibers were cotton, of “a fine, dark yellow strand,” which “may have been used for repairs at some time in the past.”

There is widespread agreement that the carbon- 14 dating needs to be repeated. In the meantime there are some very strange things about the shroud that are at least interesting to look at. . . .