Anticipating the Conference: Frederick Baltz proposes a new reference to the Shroud of Turin in Galatians

Frederick Baltz  |  11-Oct-2014  |  9:30-10:00 am


The pollen trail of the Shroud of Turin passes through the Anatolian Steppe region of Turkey. This was part of the region known as Galatia in New Testament times. Southern Galatia (at least) was visited by Paul on his First Missionary Journey. He established churches there. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians tells of subsequent missionaries who tried to invalidate Paul’s work by insisting that new Gentile Christians undergo circumcision. In view of Paul’s Greek terms and syntax in his letter, it is conceivable that we have a never-before-recognized reference to the Shroud in Galatians 3:1: “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.” This paper will explore the possibility that the Shroud of Turin was used by early missionaries in Galatia.

Note: Galaitia is the pink area in the middle of the map (roughly so because we can’t be sure and common usage may have referred to much of the surrounding area). It is sort of like saying the central plains in the U.S. and knowing where to draw the boundary.

Click on the title to read the full abstract. Click here for the conference home page.

8 thoughts on “Anticipating the Conference: Frederick Baltz proposes a new reference to the Shroud of Turin in Galatians”

  1. And if I may ask: will be my info about Kornelimünster relics, which are being displayed at this moment, published or not? Maybe it is not directly related to the Shroud of Turin, but anyway, it may be useful for some historical research.

  2. The paper’s abstract text of Gal 3:1 appears to be the USCCB version, which I suspect is fairly true to the Greek original. Jerome’s Latin Vulgate seems to use a fairly similar translation:
    “o insensati Galatae quis vos fascinavit ante quorum oculos Iesus Christus proscriptus est crucifixus” Note the word oculos, translated direct from the Greek original ophthalmos. The Jerusalem Bible English translation is not so direct, as its editors evidently believed they were closer to Paul’s meaning with the slightly more circumspect:
    “Are you people in Galatia mad? Has someone put a spell on you, in spite of the plain explanation you have had of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ?” This JB translation has no sense of the possible use of a visual aid! And “before your eyes” becomes “plain explanation”.

    The suggestion of Anatolian pollen on the TS has been known since before 1978, with Max Frei’s first set of samples. If one accepts that the TS arrived in Constantinople at sometime, probably 10th century, then any overland route from the Middle East, whether Jerusalem, Antioch or Edessa has to pass through Anatolia, and this journey might suffice as an adequate explanation for the pollen. For that matter, Constantinople is not so distant that pollen drift might be sufficient to account for the Anatolian dust.

    Correspondents will recall the recent discussion on II Timothy 4:13-14 where Paul urges Timothy to recover the cloak left with Carpus at Troas. This also provided grist for those who believed that Paul was toting the TS around as a visual aid for his mission. An unusual Greek word was used which early translators interpreted as “cloak” whereas it might equally be interpreted as a type of carry-bag for the parchments that Timothy was to bring.

    There are some problems seeing Paul being permitted to use the burial cloths in this fashion. The Jerusalem disciples had good reason for caution towards Paul, and it would have taken considerable time for them to trust him completely, even if they ever did attain this level of relationship. Paul seems to have been at least partly hellenised, whereas the disciples seemed to retain much of their Jewish identity, perhaps not entirely convinced of the worth of Paul’s mission to gentile peoples. This tension is reflected from time to time in various Pauline passages. Custody of the burial cloths would most likely seem to rest with Peter, and the obvious question has to be “Would Peter have sufficient confidence in Paul to entrust the cloths to him, particularly given the known hazardous nature of Paul’s journeys?”

    Markwardt has suggested that at a much later date in the second century, Bishop Avercius Marcellus of Hieropolis was entrusted with the cloths from Antioch for the purpose of converting the household of Abgar VIII the Great of Edessa, before returning them to Antioch. But the early church had reached a different stage of its development by then.

    The reading of the Acts and the Pauline letters convey the strong message that it was the quality of Paul’s preaching that won converts, and there are no hints there that the TS had any kind of role in this preaching. It is a mistake I think to take one or two singular verses to prop up such a speculation, pollen notwithstanding.

    1. Dave, I’m infatuated with your reasoning!… I think Paul’s MO had to have been an occasional borrowing of the Shroud to draw an audience and be convincing. (Any chance you could allow me to have your email address or FB me?)

  3. The interpretation is not convincing. Paul faced a lot of persecution and physical violence, he would not carry a burial cloth, unclean in Judaism, to prove what he was saying about the Resurrection. If he did indeed carry the burial cloth with him some clear mention would have been made.

  4. From the Life of St Nino (4th century woman who brought Christianity to Georgia, her life was written around 3-4 centuries later):

    ‘As they found the linen early in Christ’s tomb, whither Pilate and his wife came. When they found it, Pilate’s wife asked for the linen, and went away quickly to her house in Pontus and she became a believer in Christ. Some time afterwards, the linen came into the hands of Luke the Evangelist, who put it in a place known only to himself.’

    Luke was a companion of Paul…

  5. Yes, I’m aware of it and a few others. Lost 2nd century gospel to the Hebrews has Jesus giving it to the servant of the priest. Problem with St Nino is that she’s late, 4th century; a lot of legendary material can accumulate in 350 years. Markwardt continues the Luke custody story with “… and hidden until it was found by Peter”, citing Scavone’s work. Markwardt points out that several other known Passion relics were dispatched to Antioch, Peter was the one to discover the cloths, he was the first bishop of Antioch, he was the leader of the apostles, and consequently Markwardt has the shroud stored safely in Antioch. Apart from one or two stray verses, the hazardous nature of Paul’s journeys, riots and shipwreck, I don’t see him toting the shroud as a visual aid. Any hints you can find are just not strong enough.

  6. One has to be be extremely careful in citing apocryphal literature and derive interpretations from it. There were several groups among these “fringe communities” who tried to adapt the oral/written traditions to their worldviews.

  7. Please note: I did not say that Paul carried the burial cloth or used it at all. I said he may have been responding to others who did, the Judaizers for example.
    Frederick Baltz

Comments are closed.