Paper Chase: distinctive features of the Shroud that have yet to be explained and their correlation with Historical Jesus research.

imageThis is a quote to whet your appetite.

"The Shroud of Turin is virtually ignored in “Historical Jesus” research. Why? In this paper, I will seek to provide an explanation for this curious lack of interest and examine ways in which “Historical Jesus” research and Sindonology might complement each other. Since the 1988 radiocarbon dating test, there has been a general assumption, particularly within the scientific community, that the Shroud is of medieval origin. The 1988 test results have largely been regarded as “decisive proof that the Turin Shroud is a forgery.” Recent studies, however, indicate that those results are in need of reevaluation. This paper will identify a number of distinctive features of the Shroud that have yet to be explained and will correlate these features with Historical Jesus research."

The quote is from a paper, The Shroud and the "Historical Jesus": Challenging the Disciplinary Divide by Simon Joseph, Ph.D.  Simon Joseph is an Adjunct Professor of Religion at California Lutheran University (more on the author: Simon Joseph’s CV) . This paper recently appeared on Barrie’s site.

13 thoughts on “Paper Chase: distinctive features of the Shroud that have yet to be explained and their correlation with Historical Jesus research.”

  1. This is a superb paper that summarizes much of the forensic evidence that supports the Shroud’s authenticity. Particularly impressive is Prof. Joseph’s challenge to the revisionist school of Christian theology that would deny anything miraculous and divine about Christ and reinterpret him as an interesting personalty who had some good (and bad) ideas.

    Personally, I believe that some day we shall meet the story at the quantum level where the primordial self-conscious from which our existence sprang has left its fingerprints. Isn’t therre an old hymn: Lets Gather at the River?

    David Rolfe has challenged Richard Dawkins and by extension the militant atheist cult. But, Prof. Joseph as done in a much needed explanation of how the Shroud also challenges theologians.

    The Shroud is here. it’s real. it’s not going away.

  2. There is already extensive comment on this paper on this site’s posting of August 26 “Barrie Schwortz Announces (etc)”, beginning with my own comments at #5. Issues raised include reasons why the Shroud would not be used by historians as a source document, with our present lack of consensus and understanding on the nature of the Shroud. Other comments relate to technical aspects in the paper concerning assertions of aragonite limestone, and questions relating to XY or XX chromosones said to have been found. With these reservations, I would agree with the John Klotz comment that it is otherwise a superb paper.

    1. Concerning the aragonite evidence Dave, I don’t think you should have so much reservations… I don’t see any good reason to doubt the good match that was found between the sample taken on the Shroud and the sample taken inside a tomb in Jerusalem, really.

    2. What you or I think about the aragonite issue is irrelevant. Personally, I think it’s highly likely. But it doesn’t seem to have been adequately written up or corroborated. There are differing points of view about it. And, as you must well know, a historian can’t use a debatable document as a primary source, until it’s been adequately proven in the crucible. That’s why the Shroud can’t be used in the movement searching for the “Historical Jesus”. I’m sure Professor Joseph must realise that, if he’s involved in that movement. I think he might have been “testing the water” to gauge reactions.

  3. I hadn’t hardly started reading this paper when I came upon this comment in the paper, “Crossan also proposes that Jesus’ crucified body was not buried, but thrown in a common grave and eaten by dogs,” which reflects gross ignorance on Crossan’s part. The Scriptures are themselves historical records, so to ignore the eyewitness accounts of the writers is to ignore history itself. This sounds similar to the Jesus Movement, an extension which ignores the evidence to propose outlandish theories based in nothing but the imagination.

    1. On that topic, I think Crossan only focus on the common practice that was done in most parts of the Roman empire. I think the footnote #23 of my recent paper (the one Andy helped me to translate in English by the way !) could help to understand the particular context of Jesus burial versus the normal Roman procedure that was applied in most parts of the Roman empire at the time. Here it is : “In his article Crucifixion in Antiquity – The anthropological evidence, renowned archaeologist Joe Zias states: “Giving the victim a proper burial following death on the cross, during the Roman period was rare and in most cases simply not permitted in order to continue the humiliation. Thus the victim was in many cases simply thrown on the garbage dump of the city…” (http://www.joezias.com/CrucifixionAntiquity.html). It’s interesting to note that the same conclusion can also be found in the excellent article Medical theories on the cause of death in crucifixion, written by Matthew W. Maslen and Piers D. Mitchell. On the other hand, we have to understand that the description given by Zias and taken by Maslen and Mitchell concerning the Roman practice in general, and it is truly possible that the procedure could have been different in Palestine at the time of Jesus. In the documentary The Wonder of the Shroud, Fr. Martin Haigh, quoting the book The New Testament and Rabinnic Judaism, written by the distinguished Jewish writer David Daube, states that the normal procedure in Palestine during the first century A.D. was to throw the body of crucified victims into a common grave and only after a year, the family was hallowed to collect the bones (in order to place them in an ossuary and bury them in a family tomb). We can also a very similar description in the book La Passion de Jésus : De Gethsémani au Sépulcre, written by Jean-Maurice Clercq, a French doctor, but with an interesting precision, i.e. that this very particular procedure came from a description that is found in the Talmud, which is a text written after the time of Jesus. Personal note: no matter if the correct procedure at the time of Jesus was the one described by Zias, Maslen and Mitchell or the one described by Daube and Clercq, we must always assume that, under Roman law, it wasn’t a normal procedure to allow a condemned person (Jew or other) to be buried in a clean burial shroud after his execution by crucifixion. That can explain why the Gospels emphasised the fact that Joseph of Arimathea had to ask permission to Pilate to take the corpse of Jesus in order to give him a decent burial. That can also explain the presence of a post-mortem wound in the side of the man of the Shroud… Effectively, this type of post-mortem injury to the chest was surely done by one of those who were in charge of the crucifixion to make sure the victim was really dead. This kind of post-mortem procedure is logical only in the case a “special” permission was given to take the body, in order to give him a decent burial.”

      1. There is very little historical evidence pertaining to crucifixion, so most historical comments are based from writings and speculations…The reason Jesus was lanced in the side was because they found he was already dead, otherwise they would have broken his legs (This is clearly stated in John20 ). They took Jesus and the thiefs down because it was against Jewish religious doctrin to leave one hanging overnight and especially since the Sabbath was dawning. Most all crucifixion victims (excluding Jews)were actually left on their crosses to rot or be devoured by wild dogs, birds of prey etc; Maybe in circumstances of multiple crucifixions would victims be taken down and dumped in grave pits. It would seem in Jesus’s case a special concession was offered, due possibly Nicodemus’s standing.

        R

      2. Ron you wrote : “Most all crucifixion victims (excluding Jews)were actually left on their crosses to rot or be devoured by wild dogs, birds of prey etc.” In most parts of the Roman empire this is correct. But you should not forget the particularities of the Jewish tradition and the fact that they could not stand that a criminal could stay on the cross after the night had began. That’s probably why Jesus and the 2 other criminals didn’t stayed on the cross more than one day. And it’s a fact that is confirmed by most scholars that giving a criminal a normal burial in a family tomb was NOT at all common, even in Palestine.

    2. Not so! Remember the thieves had their legs broken. The reason why they all had to be dead was so that their bodies could be taken down because the next day was a special sabbath. If it was going to be an ordinary sabbath, then very likely the bodies might have been allowed to stay. I’m sure I’ve read somewhere that some crucified bodies were left on their crosses for weeks, even longer; even in Palestine, and definitely elsewhere. .

      1. I think the Romans were very good not to offend the population they conquered. Since it was against Jewish law to let a criminal hang up over night, I think it’s very probable that the Romans respected this presciption when they crucified Jews. Here’s the right prescription : The dead body of an executed criminal shall not remain hanging on the tree over night (Deut. 21:23). I really doubt that most crucifixions done in Palestine at the time of Christ last more than one day… Sabbath or not !!!

  4. Yannick Clément :Ron you wrote : “Most all crucifixion victims (excluding Jews)were actually left on their crosses to rot or be devoured by wild dogs, birds of prey etc.” In most parts of the Roman empire this is correct. But you should not forget the particularities of the Jewish tradition and the fact that they could not stand that a criminal could stay on the cross after the night had began. That’s probably why Jesus and the 2 other criminals didn’t stayed on the cross more than one day. And it’s a fact that is confirmed by most scholars that giving a criminal a normal burial in a family tomb was NOT at all common, even in Palestine.

    But it was for a Jew NOT to hang overnight, the Jewish religious authorities would care little, if it was a gentile or slave, or what have you. Also, it is not ‘probably’ why Jesus and the thiefs were taken down, it was EXACTLY why they were taken down! In the case of the thiefs though, (assuming they were not Jews), it was because it was the Sabbath moreso then anyother reason. If it was not the Sabbath a non-Jew criminal would stay hanging. Most scholars and the ‘fact’ you mention is not confirmed and actually refutted by the only crucifixion victim’s bones ever found…A Jewish man’s bones found in a ossuary with a crucifixion nail still thru his heel! It may have well been common for crucified Jews to be entombed properly according to Jewish law. No one can say for sure one way or the other, even your scholars.

    R

    1. Gabriel, this looks really exciting depending on how user-friendly it is. Have you tried working with it yet? I see they’re calling for papers for their October conference. I wonder if there’s much to learn; Is it for the ordinary desk-top user, or will it only be used by graphics specialists?

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