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Christopher Howse: For important read stupid

November 23, 2012

clip_image001Many contributors help shape The Spectator’s ‘Books of the Year’ edition. One of them is The Telegraph’s Christopher Howse  who writes for that paper about Christianity and other faiths. It helps to read up to his comments about de Wesselow’s The Sign just to get a sense of his curmudgeonity:

. . . The most helpful piece of scholarship was Noel Malcolm’s translating the Latin version and appendix of Hobbes’s Leviathan in his monumental three-volume edition (Oxford, £195). I still haven’t got over the old devil insisting that God is corporeal. What could he have meant?

The best cover — to which the book lived up — this year used a wood engraving (reproduced below) of a shire horse by C.F. Tunnicliffe for the New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs, edited by Steve Roud and Julia Bishop (£25). Yet the same publisher also sent out a note this year saying that their volume on the Shroud of
Turin, Thomas de Wesselow’s The Sign (£20), was ‘one of the most important books we have published’. For important read stupid.

I’d like to know why Howse thinks it is stupid. Contrast this with what Barrie wrote on his site just a couple of days ago:

Speaking of the British Society for the Turin Shroud, the organization held its first public meeting in many years in Beaconsfield, England on Sunday, October 21, 2012. The highlight of the meeting was the presentation titled, "Why the Shroud of Turin Is Not a Medieval Hoax," made by featured speaker Dr. Thomas De Wesselow, acknowledged expert in medieval art and author of the recent book, "The Sign." Fortunately, the presentation was recorded on video by BSTS member David Rolfe and posted on his Shroud Enigma web page so you can watch it yourself. Of course, many readers already accept the scientific evidence that clearly demonstrates the Shroud is not any type of artwork, medieval or otherwise, but it is refreshing to hear it so clearly presented by a true expert in Medieval art history. This video is worth watching by every student of the Shroud and a "must see" for anyone who still believes the Shroud is a medieval hoax. I urge you to watch it and share it with your friends and family.

Categories: Books, News & Views, Video
  1. Hugh Farey
    November 23, 2012 at 9:12 am

    Reader, I was there…
    The video at shroud-enigma shows the lecture as advertised, which did not touch upon the reason why Howse finds the book ‘stupid.’ De Wesselow’s ideas come in three phases, the last of which is the bit which is either ‘important’ or ‘stupid,’ and is not covered in the video.
    The first part is his excellent and specific analysis, within his field of expertise, of why he thinks the shroud is not a medieval fake. The second part, which he derives from others’ expertise, is an account of possible non-miraculous ways in which the shroud may have been created in the first century. So far, so good.
    The third part, which was not part of the lecture, so is not on the video, but is in the book, consists of de Wesselow’s speculation that the shroud itself was the resurrection, and that the whole of Christianity is built upon it. I did not find de Wesselow stupid, and was impressed by his discussion of the semi-idolatry offered even today to icons, but I did feel that the premise was prae-posterous (in it’s strictly etymological sense), in that it requires the gospel narratives before the resurrection to have been based very much on what is supposed to have happened at it, leaving very little of Jesus’s original mission before it (if there was any) left.

  2. Matthias
    November 24, 2012 at 4:32 am

    Yes I thought his analysis was excellent – very logical, coherent, compelling.
    I do not agree with his theory however that the shroud was the basis for the belief in the resurrection and the basis of Christianity, although if the Shroud is authentic then it might have had a role in strengthening the base of Christianity

  3. November 24, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    Obviously Howse is not a Medieval art historian.

  4. daveb of wellington nz
    November 24, 2012 at 5:42 pm

    Howse’s comment is vague, maybe he’s just uncomfortable with the whole idea of the Shroud, the 1988 C14 tests have resulted in a welter of negative perceptions about it, which will take a long while to dispel. De Wesselow’s favourite theory.on animism being at the roots of Christianity is the stupid part. But his own expertise in art history cannot be categorised by such a comment.

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