Home > History > Jack Markwardt’s Antioch Theory

Jack Markwardt’s Antioch Theory

August 15, 2014

clip_image001Jack. pictured here, will be presenting two papers at
the St. Louis Conference

1)  Modern Scholarship And The History Of The Turin Shroud

2) The Full-Length History Of The Turin Shroud


Daveb brought up the Antioch theory in response to Charles Freeman’s call for looking beyond the Edessa-Constantinople route. Daveb wrote:

I have previously mentioned Markwardt’s theory that the Shroud was taken to Antioch and kept there. It makes a lot of sense to me, more than taking it to Alexandria as Charles would seem to have it. We know that Peter was first bishop of Antioch, and there is good indicative evidence that he held the burial cloths. Markwardt [pictured here] suggests that the hiding of the Shroud in a wall in Antioch for safe-keeping when other relics were being pillaged or destroyed there, may be the true basis of the similar story from Edessa, Antioch, although often prone to earthquakes, and on the Orontes, could more likely have had a more conducive climate for the cloth’s survival in a wall than Edessa. He suggests that it was taken to Edessa only when Antioch was under threat from the Persian Chosroes. Arriving in Edessa, it was of course not stored in a wall but in the Hagia Sophia cathedral there.

I posted something on this topic back in April of 2012. I think it warrants another look. And the linked-to PDF is definitely worth reading. As posted then:


Jack Markwardt explains:

imageI originated and presented this hypothesis to an international conference convened at Ohio State University in 2008 for the simple reason that the early history of the Turin Shroud cannot be credibly linked to the ancient city of Edessa through a literal application of the Abgar legend. The preeminent historian of Edessa, J.B. Segal, after years of arduous study and investigation, concluded that the Abgar legend constitutes “one of the most successful pious frauds of antiquity”. It should not be surprising, therefore, that a number of highly-respected modern historians have summarily rejected this pious fraud as evidential of the Turin Shroud’s whereabouts during the first Christian millennium, particularly because real historical evidence provides not the slightest indication that pagan Edessa was even partially converted to Christianity prior to the late second-century reign of King Abgar the Great. The preeminent historian of Antioch, Glanville Downey, ascribed that development to a two-phase evangelization mission, one which initially resulted in the baptism of Abgar the Great and ultimately concluded with the consecration of Edessa’s first bishop, Palut, in 200 CE, by Serapion, the bishop of Antioch. Relatively recent attribution of an image of Christ to the city of Edessa during the first half-millennium of Christianity arises exclusively from a substantial permutation of the Abgar legend authored, in ca. 945, by a Byzantine Emperor who desired to bestow an apostolic provenance upon the Christ-icon which had recently been transferred to his capital from Edessa. In order to explain away, in one bold imperial stroke, the complete historical anonymity of this icon during the first five Christian centuries, Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus sponsored the publication and circulation of a tale which featured not only the cloth’s first-century concealment within a niche located above an Edessa city gate, but also its miraculous rediscovery there by a fictional Edessan bishop, Eulalius, during the Persian siege of 544 CE. It has been suggested, in lieu of this incredible miracle-discovery tale, that the icon was actually found in the wake of the great flood of 525 CE which damaged Edessa’s city walls; however, it is rather significant that such a truly notable event merited no mention whatsoever in the Edessan Chronicle, a Syriac work composed in ca. 540-544 CE, which not only described the great flood but also detailed the most commonplace of Edessan ecclesiastical matters. In my opinion, modern scholarship will continue to reject the identification of the acheiropoietos image of Christ which was brought from Edessa to Constantinople in 944 CE with the Turin Shroud unless and until the provenance of that icon, and the circumstances surrounding its arrival in Edessa, can be reasonably established on the basis of non-legendary evidence.

I was there at Ohio in 2008 and remember the presentation, Ancient Edessa and the Shroud: History Concealed by the Discipline of the Secret. It was excellent. Read it.

  1. Charles Freeman
    August 15, 2014 at 1:14 pm

    Real problem in assuming that the ‘icon’ is the Shroud but let’s see if he presents anything stronger in St. Louis. I hope he does not just repeat what he said in 2008- too many unexplained gaps.

  2. daveb of wellington nz
    August 16, 2014 at 5:13 pm

    Markwardt was able to make a case for the Shroud being taken to Antioch before the Jewish War. The sources he quotes and uses are necessarily sparse. It is pointless to demand further evidence which no longer exists, and one must make the best of whatever sources are in fact available, even if sometimes questionable, or open to other interpretations. The track is further compromised by the early Christians need for secrecy, and their systematic use of obscurity for protection against persecution, particularly of such items they deemed important or valuable.

    He gives a credible explanation for the concoction of the Abgar legend, believing it to be an allegory to record the conversion of the court of Abgar VIII the Great, but so written to conceal the true facts from imperial authority. He suggests that Bishop Avercius Marcellus was given temporary custody of the Shroud to assist in this conversion, and that the contemporaneous Bardesanic Hymn of the Pearl composed in Edessa, together with the epitaph inscription of Avercius reflect this occasion. Other evidence is also mustered to support his argument. When Antioch was about to be destroyed by Chosroes’ Persian invasion ~540 AD, the relics were taken to Edessa, which had by then become a major centre of Syriac Christianity of diverse beliefs and practices. The contemporary legend of the image’s discovery in a wall at Edessa would seem to be an adaptation of an event that actually occurred in Antioch, merely to explain its emergence in Edessa.

    Whether or not the hypothesis that the Mandylion and the Shroud were one and the same object, can be sustained or not, is a matter that needs further exploration. There are clearly difficulties in sustaining such a hypothesis.

  3. August 17, 2014 at 2:49 am

    One can do an enormous amount of research in six years- two PhDs if you work at it, so one would hope for much more to support his theory if it has legs on it.
    As ‘icon, can mean any likeness, from paintIng on a catacomb wall, to a wooden panel to a statue, then I just hope he does not go on assuming that a mention of an icon of Christ means the Shroud! It is just worth remembering how many icons of Christ still exist in the catacombs.

  4. daveb of wellington nz
    August 17, 2014 at 5:57 am

    Charles, I note your repeated reference to “icon” in Markwardt’s 2008 paper. I am surmising that this may refer to an early quote in the paper, where he quotes Athanasius of Alexandria, ca 328-373, who affirmed that a sacred Christ-icon, traceable to Jerusalem and the year 68, was then present in Syria. His source for the Athanasius quote is the original Latin as given in Dobschutz.

    “…but two years before Titus and Vespasian sacked the city, the faithful and disciples of Christ were warned by the Holy Spirit to depart from the city and go to the kingdom of King Agrippa, because at that time Agrippa was a Roman ally. Leaving the city, they went to his regions and carried everything relating to our faith. At that time even the icon with certain other ecclesiastical objects were moved and they today still remain in Syria. I possess this information as handed down to me from my migrating parents and by hereditary right. It is plain and certain why the icon of our holy Lord and Savior came from Judaea to Syria.”

    The Latin referring to the icon as given by Dobschutz is:
    “Quo tempore etiam icona com ceteris rebus ecclesiasticis deportata usque hodie in Syria permansit.” and “haec certa et manifesta ratio est de icona sancta domini salvatoris, qualiter de Judea in Syria partes devenit.”

    Allowing that there is no definite article in Latin, and that the cult of icons had yet to develop to any great extent, and that Old Testament prohibition on images was probably still influential in that region in 68 AD, I am wondering what specific object you might suppose was in Athanasius’ mind as the references to “etiam icona” and “icona sancta domini salvatoris” ? It might also suggest that Athanasius being in Alexandria was not aware of any other object in Egypt having an image that might be any more significant!

  5. August 17, 2014 at 6:07 am

    I have no idea what icon he might have been referring to, the evidence is simply not there.I see absolutely no reason why it should be the Shroud when the Greco- roman world was awash with images of all sorts. Athanasius was writing in an age when there is a myriad of legends about early Christianity. Many cities created an early Christian past to gain status. So don’t take any of this too seriously- no professional historian does.

  6. daveb of wellington nz
    August 17, 2014 at 7:09 am

    I find that remarkable. Athanasius was born and died in Alexandria (293-373). It would seem perhaps from his quote that his parents had migrated there. He succeeded Bishop Alexander in 328. He is not making the case for some significant icon in Alexandria, or even elsewhere in Egypt. He is referring to an icon taken by the apostles to Syria from Jerusalem in the year 68, to the kingdom of Agrippa II. It is apparently a very special icon considering that it is described as “etiam icona” and “icona sancta domini salvatoris”. Why would he want to make a special case for just any old icon in Syria? Perhaps then it is not so surprising that “professional historians” seem to have made little headway in penetrating these matters if they do not take such sources seriously. Or is it the case that “professional historians” do not examine the “why” and “how” but only the “when” and “what”?

    • Charles Freeman
      August 17, 2014 at 12:57 pm

      The reason why professional Christian historians don’t take these stories of the first century seriously is that they are reports from three hundred years later (as here) and it is clear that many of them emerged as legends in the fourth century to give status to Christian cities when Christianity was able to operate openly. Virtually every Christian city from the later Roman empire that i take tours to has a back story of its first bishop and legends surrounding him but no one can find any independent evidence,except in a few case, to back them.
      If the icon existed I agree that it might not be’ just any old icon’. It would be an icon venerated for some reason but I cannot understand why it should be the Shroud. The mass of early icons we have are of Christ alive or after the Resurrection. The earliest one we have of him shown actually dead is eighth century ( from St, Catherine’s Sinai), so we would normally say that an early icon is of Christ alive or after the Resurrection as the catacomb icons ) wall paintings ) show.. You need to scour the works of Athanasius to see if he he held a Shroud in any veneration so far as I know he did not (but there is a lot to read!).
      What we can’t say is that the mention of an icon from the first century means the Shroud and if Markwardt rests his case on that he is going nowhere fast.

      • daveb of wellington nz
        August 17, 2014 at 3:49 pm

        Thank you Charles for your more considered reply.

      • August 17, 2014 at 8:13 pm

        I rather doubt the early Christian community used the Shroud as an icon of worship, or even evangelization – for the very reason you point out. The Shroud depicts Jesus defeated, not victorious. I would think that the burial linens must have been a source of confusion for the apostles as in what to do with them. They had seen the risen Christ, so what need of ‘unclean’ burial linens. But neither could they destroy the linens for they were marked with the Lord’s blood and image. The Shroud, for those that had seen a resurrected Jesus, would have been more like a memento or a keepsake. Too precious to lose, but not significant (to them) to promote or venerate. But as the first witnesses eventually die off, the Shroud and other relics become critical in proving the corporality of Jesus. At that point these relics become pearls of great price, venerated and priceless. Now they must be kept secret and shown only to the select.

        It may seem an odd comparison but I recall watching an episode of Hanna Montana with my daughter (when Miley was still a likeable young celeb). In the episode, Miley’s best friend finally discovers the truth that Miley is Hanna. The friend, who had until then obsessed over a scarf she had received from the pop star, gives the item to another girl (also a Hannah fan but oblivious that it’s Miley). The friend had no use for the Hanna relic for she had something better, her friend is a pop star and she now shares this great secret with her.

        I imagine Peter and Mary M felt much the same.

  7. August 17, 2014 at 7:48 pm

    This sounds very interesting. I’ll have to download and read the paper when I have a couple hours (ha! – been very busy).

  8. piero
    August 18, 2014 at 9:30 am

    It occurred to me that you have not considered Phil Dayvault.
    We have already seen that he is a “good player”.
    I have not forgotten this name because I saw him in Argenteuil,
    France (several years ago …) …
    — —
    I remember that Diana Fullbright (= “Were sixth-century natural catastrophes
    factors in the transfer of relics from Palestine ?” IWSAI 2010) agreed
    about the lack of historical truth about the legend of Abgar.
    But, there is another argument to consider…
    Here the question :
    What is your opinion about the Tile/Keramion indicated by Phil Dayvault ?
    Is that repert (= a mosaic depicting the Face of Christ) compatible with
    the Antioch’s scenario indicated us by Jack Markwardt ?
    — —
    The Shroud scholar Phil Dayvault and the Face on a strange mosaic
    were already discussed in this blog.
    See :
    – Heaven is for Real, the Akiane Prince of Peace, the ISA Mosaic and
    the Shroud of Turin, April 21, 2014
    – More on the ISA Tile and the “Prince of Peace”, April 22, 2014

    and there is also to take into account what
    daveb (April 23, 2014 at 4:31 am) wrote :
    > … the evidence is circumstantial and must be considered.
    It was unearthed in Edessa, the centre of the cult of the mandylion
    and its home from 540AD to 944AD. Syriac monks carried copies
    of the mandylion throughout the Christian Middle East. I would have
    to agree with Louis, that it has quite a striking resemblance to
    the icon now at Kiev formerly at St Cathenine’s, Sinai. Both Wilson
    and Guscin are expert art critics and have extensive experience in
    surveying very many representations of the mandylion. They assign
    the mosaic to 550-650AD; as such it would have been among some
    of the earliest copies.

    Have your the time to look (another time) into the paper by Phil (the
    former FBI Special Agent) ?
    Look at the “ancient blackborad” (= the tile) …
    Perhaps both patways are compatible : Antioch and Edessa…
    — —
    I would be grateful if you would send an early reply.

  9. piero
    August 18, 2014 at 10:47 am

    Errata corrige:
    “both pathways are compatible”
    instead of
    “both patways are compatible”
    I beg your pardon…
    — — —
    H i s t o r y .
    >Peter (“Rocky”) operated out of Antioch from AD 47-54 and was the first bishop of that city, and it was there that the disciples were first called “Christians.”
    >The gentile Christians took refuge there until things cooled down in Jerusalem. (And there were disputes between them and the Jewish Christians who had remained in Jerusalem.) Things never did cool down, and Jerusalem was destroyed by Titus in AD 70 and the Jewish Christians were scattered.
    >Titus took some figures of cherubim from the Temple and mounted them on the South Gate of Antioch. The gate therefore became known as the Gate of the Cherubim, and the adjoining district, called “the Cherubim,” encompassing the old Jewish Quarter (the Kerateion), was likely the place where the refugees from Jerusalem had settled. …

    link:
    http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/chat/3054879/posts
    — —
    Here another link:
    http://antioch-on-the-orontes.blogspot.it/2012/09/the-cherubim-gate-and-carob-trees.htm

    Antioch – The Queen of the East …
    http://libaniusredux.blogspot.it/2008/12/cherubim-gate.html

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