imageThis month sees the release of the second edition of the Encyclopedia of Sacred Places by Norbert Brockman. It is published as a two volume hardcover set and runs to some 680 pages, total. Two pages are devoted to the Shroud of Turin, where we read this explanation:

It is probable that the shroud was created, not as a fraudulent relic, but as an icon (sacred image of Jesus) for use during Holy week ceremonies. Mystery plays were often woven into the ceremonies in the Middle Ages. and the shroud would have provided a dramatic element.

Contrast that with what he writes a few paragraphs later:

Questions remain unanswered, however. How does one explain that the shroud anticipates photographic technique by 500 years? It is not a painting; there were no pigments used. The shroud involves gravity effects on blood stains that were only discovered in modern times by forensic medicine. How does one explain the presence in the cloth of plant pollen from first-century Palestine? Or the image of coins, including the “widow’s mite” minted under Pontius Pilate, covering the eyes of the body? These could not he faked, because they were only revealed by a twentieth-century image analyzer developed by the United States National Air and Space Administration (NASA). The shroud raises as many questions as science has been able to lay to rest, and it is this mystery about its origins and purpose that continues to feed popular devotion.

Forgetting the ridiculous, like plant pollen from first-century Palestine; perhaps some pollen is from Palestine but how does Brockman know it is first-century? The sources he lists certainly don’t make such an unfounded, indeterminable claim. But the mystery and physical qualities he attaches to the cloth fully challenges his claim that it is a medieval icon for use in mystery plays. It boggles the mind and challenges the credibility of the entire book.

It sells for only $173.00 at Amazon. I think I’ll pass on it.