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De Wesselow stepped on the cat’s tail

imageThe last paragraph leaps out like the screech of a sleeping cat when someone steps on his tail. I get the feeling that John Cornwell just had his tail stepped on. Read his review of de Wesselow’s book, A debate resurrected  in the Financial Times:

The shroud image, according to de Wesselow, now became for the disciples the revered, living icon of the resurrected Christ, and it was on this blood-stained sheet that Christianity would be founded, with a lot of help from St Paul. There are some obvious narrative problems with de Wesselow’s theory, not least the fact that Jesus of the gospels had a fish breakfast with his disciples within days of his resurrection, and doubting Thomas stuck his finger into the hole in Jesus’s side. De Wesselow swiftly sweeps such objections under the relentless, single-minded stair-carpet of this 400-page book with its 80 pages of erudite, bordering on the pedantic, source notes.

Meanwhile he refuses to entertain the least doubt about the authenticity of the shroud revered by the disciples, which he asserts to be none other than the shroud now kept in Turin. . . .

[ . . . ]

Finally, in 1988, scientists in Arizona, Zurich and Oxford were allowed to carbon date a small portion of material snipped from the shroud. They concluded unanimously that it originated from the mid-14th century. Shroud believers struck back: perhaps the water used to douse a fire that nearly destroyed the shroud in 1532 altered the date. Perhaps that speculative release of ionising radiation from Jesus’s body at his resurrection affected the carbon test. But de Wesselow argues more plausibly, perhaps, that the postage-stamp-sized specimen tested by the carbon daters was taken from a repaired section of later date than the original.

If the 1988 test was bungled, the true provenance will remain uncertain until a new test is allowed by the Vatican; which at present seems unlikely. And yet, if the shroud is medieval, then it is probably a barbarous relic of anti-Semitism, perpetrated out of hatred and for commerce. If that is true, how right was the Bishop of Troyes to plead with the pope to condemn it!

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