Medjugorje and the Shroud and What Mark Shea Wrote

The subject of Mark Shea’s most recent article in the National Catholic Register is not the Shroud. It is the reports of many visions of the Virgin Mary at Međugorje, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Mark is responding to a reader:

I believe Medj to be a fraud.  If you want to know my reasons for doing so, Te Deum Laudamus has amassed some good evidence for why I think it’s bunk.  At the same time, I also believe that the people with a devotion to it are honest and good people who are being deceived by the “visionaries” and sundry other shady frauds and hucksters in their orbit, but who themselves have real and frequently beautiful faith in Jesus and our Lady that is honored by God.   I am morally certain Rome will simply ratify the rejection voiced by the local ordinaries that there is nothing superatural happening there.  If some of the more fanatical adherents of Medj.make enough trouble, they might, for all I know, condemn the whole shooting works and forbid pilgrimages, but I doubt that.  Benedict, despite his false reputation as God’s Rottweiler, generally takes the gentle and conciliatory route.

Mark’s article elicited this comment:

I take Mark’s attitude on Medj. in studying the “Shroud of Turin”.  The Vatican has said it is an object that can be venerated.  It is mysterious, and the final tests are not in.  I hope it is the linen in the tomb of Christ, but what is the headcover set aside for the shroud?  Would it have been imaged as well?  Would it have interfered with the image on the shroud?  Also (see book “Life at the time of Jesus”) men of Palestine were about 5’0” in height, but of strong build and powerful bodies.  The body in the shroud is about 5’9” tall.  Also, having read of the Roman scourging (as opposed to a much less gruesome Jewish scouring, which St. Paul experienced) I would expect a much more disfigured body (see Is 56- 57).  Also the nails in the wrists:  doesn’t agree with stigmatists’ wounds which show wounds in the pit of the hand, not in the wrist.  St. Gemma Galgani, who, as I remember experienced the fullness of the wounds of Christ, after her Thursday – Friday “Passion” wounds closed, there were white scars.  But when they studied the pit of her hands, there was a depression about the size of several quarters where the nail wounds had closed in her hands.  Could the Romans simply have embedded Christ’s hands to the Cross (no bones broken, just a nail to bone to wood) using nailheads in the fullnest of the finger bones, so that the shroud is wrong and the stigmatists are right?  Note: the stigmatists can be neither right nor wrong; this is forensic evidence – not mysticism.

BUT:  this is actually what Mark Shea wrote earlier this year in Catholic and Enjoying It!

. . . There’s nothing like it in the world and the fact that nobody has been able to reproduce it at this late date, plus the fact that it reveals a knowledge of crucifixion utterly unavailable in the 14th Century, plus the fact that the pollen is traceable and dateable to 1st century Palestine screams “authentic”. Only an a priori commitment to materialism fuels the mulish insistence that it’s a fraud. If it’s a fraud, make another one.

Source: Navigating Medjugorje |Blogs |

8 thoughts on “Medjugorje and the Shroud and What Mark Shea Wrote”

  1. 1. Wrist nailing: The only scriptural source we have for Christ being nailed to the cross, as against having his arms tied to the cross-beam can be found in John ch 20. This is the post-resurrection story about Doubting Thomas. There appears to be no other gospel reference. Possibly other references might be found in prophetic utterances under Isaiah. Thomas’s statement and Jesus’ response are respectively: “Unless I can see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe. … ” “Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. … ” Jn 20:25-27.

    The Greek word (transliterated) used here for “hand(s)” is ‘kefir’s, lit hand. Ian Wilson makes the point that the word also includes the wrist. We see an example of this in Acts 12:7, when Peter escapes from prison. “and all the chains fell off his wrists”. The same word ‘kefir’s is used. The four major reputable English translations of John 20, all use the word hand. However at Acts 12:7, three of them use wrist, and only the New Revised American Bible use hand at Acts 12:7. The three that translate ‘kefir’s as wrists at Acts 12:7 are: NRSV, Revised English, New Jerusalem.
    Somebody may be able to check a copy of the Latin Vulgate, and I would speculate that Jerome translated the Greek as “manus” rather than “carpus”. Consequently generations of artists have shown portrayals of the crucifixion with nails through the palms of the hands rather than the wrists.

    2. Height of Jesus: Forensic pathologist Kelly Kearse has recently debunked the myth that 1st c Palestinian men were only 5’-0″ tall, she has an earlier posting on this site covering this matter.

    3: Stigmatists: It seems that stigmatists generally receive the marks of the crucifixion wounds, in those parts of the body where they personally believed they occurred at Christ’s crucifixion. Regardless of whether the stigmata are authentic or not, it seems that there are also some psychological elements at work. It cannot be assumed that Christ’s actual wounds are necessarily the same as those shown on stigmatists.

  2. David,

    What a lucid analysis of biblical exegesis on hands and wrists. I hope someone can answer the question about St. Jerome’s translation. That is a fascinating hypothesis. While I am clearly a Vatican II Catholic, I have my problems with modern translations. Two for example: “No room at the Inn” becoming “No room at the place where travelers lodge” and the “eleventh hour” becoming “late in the afternoon.”

  3. Okay, I couldn’t let it go. In about 10 seconds, I found a Douy Rheiems-King James- Latin Vulgate side by side exposition of the Bible.

    The key passage in John 20 in the Vulgate is:
    “deinde dicit Thomae infer digitum tuum huc et vide manus meas et adfer manum tuam et mitte in latus meum et noli esse incredulus sed fidelis”

    David’s hypothesis that is was all St. Jerome’s fault is on the money.

  4. The Koine Greek/ Hebrew word for hands (Sorry the word escapes me right now) could have implied hands, wrist or forearm. The Shroud shows only the back of the hand, wrist and forearm….I have argued on here before that we have absolutely no idea where the nail was implanted on the other side. So it may have been driven into the lower part of the palm, which to the early writers since they had no word for that specific part of the hand, they would use the generic word,…case still open.

    The whole height thing is a joke, people obviously do no studying before making remarks such as Jesus was 6 feet tall, lol. It has been shown by our scientists best efforts that the man on the Shroud was 175cm +/- 2cm, making him 5’8″ to 5′ 11″ tall…Normal height for a Semitic male of the first century. Romans on the other hand were on average 5’6″ tall. These figures also come from many, many archeological finds and studies.

    As for the stigmata, I’ll go with Dave’s #3 point.


  5. Thanks for that John, I’ve been wondering about this since last Easter, after I had chased up our local scholar priest who looked into the matter for me and provided the information I’ve shown above. I thought I might be able to track it down in an old Latin missal I had, but the closest I came was the Communion verse: “Mitte manum tuam, et cognosce loca clavorum …” ‘Place of the nails’ the Latin liturgist was hedging his bets.

    Ian Wilson in his 1978 book, cites one other known case of wrist nailing. They’re apparently hard to find as the Roman soldiers usually recovered the nails of crucifixion victims as they were highly prized as medical talismans, but in poor old Jehohonan’s case a nail.had bent and jammed in the bone.

  6. A knowledgable Roman soldier if he knew about the carpal bones, and knew he could get the correct placing on one side would surely strive to get the correct placing on the other arm. Wrist nailing experiments on cadavers and amputated arms cited by Wilson, result in thumb flexure. No thumbs are visible on the Shroud image for both arms! A fair bet that both arms were wrist nailed!

  7. Yes, I agree, bravo daveb!

    The Vulgate in e-Sword provides the following: Acts 12:7 is manibus & John’s passage is as follows:

    Joh 20:25 dixerunt ergo ei alii discipuli vidimus Dominum ille autem dixit eis nisi videro in manibus eius figuram clavorum et mittam digitum meum in locum clavorum et mittam manum meam in latus eius non credam
    Joh 20:26 et post dies octo iterum erant discipuli eius intus et Thomas cum eis venit Iesus ianuis clausis et stetit in medio et dixit pax vobis
    Joh 20:27 deinde dicit Thomae infer digitum tuum huc et vide manus meas et adfer manum tuam et mitte in latus meum et noli esse incredulus sed fidelis

    The nails in the wrists not agreeing with sigmatist’s wounds has nothing to do with the issue, unless of course you believe the stigmata is intended to be an exact representation of the wounds of Christ. I would reject that interpretation as nonsensical. Otherwise they would have wounds at the base of the palm into the wrist on the back. Yet the Greeks considered the entire thing the wrist. Where’s the difficulty understanding that?

  8. As far as Mr. Shea poo-pooing the Međugorje apparitions, is he aware the Communists were actually instrumental in spreading deceit and lies concerning this? This would speak volumes for me about the event.

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