The biggest mystery attending the shroud is how people lock onto an image theory that best fits their worldview. Then they swear by it as though it was proved. Facts and myths that support their theory are all that they will look at or mention. Facts that prove them wrong are conveniently ignored.
So it was when Chris Sullivan wrote, “Jacques di Costanzo and historian Paul-Eric Blanrue proved that such an image might easily have been achieved in the middle ages by simply rubbing an iron oxide mixed with gelatine onto cloth.” Conveniently, Sullivan fails to tell us that this was only the latest bas-relief attempt. Others had not worked out. Painted and proto-photographed and dry dusted and reverse bleached and scorched images had also failed. It was because Costanzo’s and Blanrue’s attempt had also failed that Luigi Garlaschelli tried another bas-relief technique in 2010. We now await the next something else while all the proponents of everything else continue to swear by their own something, facts be damned.
Of course one doesn’t find any better theories among the many theories of those who think it is a real image of Jesus.
But I know how the image was formed. In 1356, Merlin the Wizard touched a piece of homespun wool with his magic wand. The wool magically turned into linen. I know this is so because 3 over 1 herringbone cloth had never been seen before or since. The image is of King Arthur because it looks like him. And we know it was magic because science has failed to figure it out. And there is an image of a magic wand near the right shoulder.
From the preface of a 2011 edition of “Miracles at the Jesus Oak: Histories of the Supernatural in Reformation Europe,” by Craig Harline (Yale University Press). The previous 2003 book was published by Random House. How to study the miracles of this very limited period of history in a very limited place, essentially the Spanish Netherlands of the 17th century and surrounding countryside, the author wondered?
I soon discovered that there were already plenty of models from which to choose, beginning with the four most venerable approaches to miracles over the centuries: (I) accept that the stories happened as told and simply recount them, for inspirational or commercial purposes, or both (2) accept the stories as told but then explain away any supposedly miraculous causes as natural or "demonic,” based on scientific or theological concepts from my own world: (3) dispute the stories as told on grounds that they are unbelievable, either in the events themselves or because all-too- fallible witnesses and scribes, deliberately and otherwise, distort things: and (4) use the stories to help establish the latest absolutely foolproof definition of miracle, good for all times and places, forever and ever, amen. There were more recent models too: I might don a white lab coat and start organizing stories by time, place, or motif, then subject them to the most excruciating sorts of statistical manipulation. Or I could use the endless physical ailments reported in the stories to assess the age’s medical understanding and problems.
The categorization of the miracles is perhaps useful as we continue to wonder how to evaluate the image of the shroud. The shroud, by-the-way, is not forgotten in this author’s attempt to understand miracles. Here is another quote from the book but it is not the miracle (if it is a miracle) of the shroud that we usually think about:
There are still events whose only explanation seems otherworldly. Nuns of a convent in New Mexico report the building of a miraculous unsupported staircase in their convent by someone they believe was Saint Joseph himself, and modern engineers struggle to explain what holds it up Books and dramas called Miraculous World, It’s a Miracle, and Expect Miracles document thousands of rationally unexplainable incidents. A Pennsylvania girl diagnosed with incurable deafness begins to hear after praying for intercession from Katharine Drexel, who soon afterward is officially declared a saint of the Catholic Church. A newborn boy in Michigan, presumed dead, comes to life after his parents hold him close for three hours, and no one can explain why. The reliquary holding the shroud of Turin is trapped in a fire in the church of Turin, Italy (under four layers of bulletproof glass), but the linen itself remains intact: “It’s a miracle” says the archbishop.
Join us December 10th at 2 pm in the parish hall when Barrie Schwortz, recognized expert and official photographer for the Shroud of Turn Research Project will offer a lecture on Jesus’ Death by Crucifixion
If you have ever been curious about how people get selected to appear on Antiques Roadshow, Behind the Scenes: How people get on Antiques Roadshow at NewsWorks will tell you:
[A]dmittance is by means of a lottery. Winners get timed tickets good for one hour. When they enter the showroom their items get a preliminary look and they are directed to one of the groups of appraisers. “There are 60-80 appraisers at every event,” said Cresswell, and they are grouped according to subject matter – books, furniture, paintings and the like. . . .
Out of each show’s thousands of attendees, only 60 to 70 people are chosen to be filmed for the show. Three TV shows are put together out of the day’s clips in every city. . . .
Cresswell [one of the appraisers] had an odd experience once in Minneapolis where, he said, “Eight people came up to my table with a picture of the Shroud of Turin. There must have been a really great salesman there about 50 years ago.”
Did Chris Sullivan actually write, “the argument still rages as die hard believers drowning in their own ignorance refuse to accept the facts?” Talk about refusing to accept the facts.
As the Great Plague swept across Europe in the 14th Century the medieval world wallowed in a sea of religious hysteria and while some took to self flagellation the infinitely more clued up took to faking religious body parts such as the brain of St Peter, the foreskin of St. Gregory and the milk of the Virgin Mary. The most persistent of all these fakes has been the famed Shroud of Turin. Supposedly the burial shroud of Jesus, it was acquired, possibly from Constantinople, by the French knight, Geoffroy de Charny, who built a church to house it in 1355 only for it to be judged to be a fake by Pope Clement VII in 1390. Of course many a saintly dick and digit were regarded with suspicion but the validity of the shroud was reassessed when in 1898 Italian amateur photographer Secondo Pia discovered that the photographic negatives of the cloth exposed the image of a face that was otherwise invisible without such technology. Ipso facto a cult was born. In 1982 a group calling itself the Shroud of Turin Research Project declared it to be genuine, however in 1988 carbon dating placed the cloth to the mid 14th Century. More recently in 2005, Doctor Jacques di Costanzo and historian Paul-Eric Blanrue proved that such an image might easily have been achieved in the middle ages by simply rubbing an iron oxide mixed with gelatine onto cloth and yet the argument still rages as die hard believers drowning in their own ignorance refuse to accept the facts.
While warning about worldview bias this blogger (jlgragg) seems to displays it in PEOPLES, PLACES, AND PATTERNS: LIFTING THE VEIL OFF THE PATRIARCHAL PERIOD:
In addition, everyone has a worldview—everyone. We are all bias toward whatever viewpoint we hold and have to constantly fight against it if we truly want to follow where the evidence leads. . . .
Furthermore, another reason I think we don’t have more evidence, or that God hasn’t given us more, is that we would probably worship it! Just look at what we have done with the Shroud of Turin. Some folks within Christendom actually worship this piece of cloth that possibly was used to wrap Jesus up after the crucifixion. As valuable as I believe it is, and interesting, we should never prop up a material item…we should always worship the real thing.
Leah Garchik writes in the San Francisco Chronicle:
"Berkeley city officials adopted a resolution this week honoring the Native American leader Geronimo, but decided against asking President Obama to apologize for using his name in the May mission to kill Osama bin Laden. Instead, the city council asked the President to retroactively change the code name of the operation from ‘Operation Geronimo’ to ‘Operation bin Laden’ and pledge not to use Native American names in future military actions."
And now, on to the comments, which are pretty much the stuffing that overshadows the turkey:
The leadoff writer thought this an embarrassment for Berkeley; another wrote, "How do you think people would feel if we were using Anglo helicopters to launch Shroud of Turin missiles for Operation John the Baptist? Or perhaps an even better analogy would be: How would people feel if the German starting naming military operations for famous Jews?" (A few comments down, of course, someone wrote, "As an on-line discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches.")
"Aren’t there potholes to fix?" asks a correspondent, while another, after some discussion, writes, "I think I’d rather ‘stand for racism’ than endorse any more of this Terminal Nincompoopery."