Jason Engwer, one of many bloggers at Triablogue, wonders, Is It Sinful To Produce Or Want Evidence Like The Shroud Of Turin?
Thomas did see Jesus, and he believed as a result. How does it follow that Jesus wouldn’t give us anything like the Shroud of Turin to see or that we shouldn’t believe or be strengthened in our faith as a result of such things? Thomas was given something to see. That wasn’t the problem. Nor was Thomas’ desire for evidence. Rather, the problem was his irrational rejection of the evidence he already had, which was more than sufficient (fulfilled prophecy, Jesus’ other miracles, his prediction of his resurrection, etc.). John 20 isn’t opposing a desire for evidence. It’s not opposing Jesus’ visibility in the world, whether through the body Thomas saw or something like the Shroud. Rather, John 20 is opposing the sort of irrationality that mishandles evidence that’s already been provided. Thomas’ problem wasn’t that he was too rational or too concerned about evidence. His problem was that he was irrational and mishandling the evidence he already had.
The people John was writing to wouldn’t see the risen Jesus the way Thomas did. But they would have a lot of evidence, such as the document John was writing to them. That’s why John is so careful to cite evidence along the way, such as prophecies Jesus fulfilled and the eyewitness nature of his (John’s) testimony. John incorporates some of the historiographical standards of his day in his gospel – he writes in the genre of Greco-Roman biography, he appeals to eyewitness testimony, he appeals to witnesses who were present "from the beginning" (a significant phrase in ancient historiography), etc. – because he was concerned about evidence and wanted his readers to be.
There is a fascinating collection of thoughtful and interesting comments with the posting that warrant two cups of coffee and a pondering-walk in the woods. Here is a response by Jason that went into my clippings file:
Whether the Shroud is referenced in sources prior to the fourteenth century is one of the issues that’s disputed. You’re assuming something that’s in dispute. Besides, artifacts often turn up in some way or another after having been buried or otherwise concealed for a long time, even centuries or millennia. Even if we assumed that every alleged reference to the Shroud between the first and fourteenth centuries is actually referring to something else, that fact alone wouldn’t justify a rejection of the Shroud. It would weaken the case for the Shroud, but wouldn’t overturn it.
You asked what effect the Shroud has on me. I view it as I would other extra-Biblical sources, like an archeological artifact that gives me additional information about how the Romans crucified people or an extra-Biblical document that gives me further information about how to interpret a word that’s used in the Bible. All of us are influenced by extra-Biblical sources in many ways. An extra-Biblical hymn moves us to appreciate and love God more. An extra-Biblical answer to prayer increases our faith and gratitude. A passage in Tacitus gives us more of an understanding of the historical context of scripture. Etc.
The image, of course, is a Photo Shop take on . . .