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Loose Ends. Too ‘Chasing Rabbits’

I vividly recall that we were seated in a circle on battered, rickety old folding chairs, without a table. It’s hard to remember exactly who attended our weekly Bible study class that day—were there six, eight, or even ten of us? Bibles, reference books, notebooks, and highlighters were strewn about the floor near our feet. It had been snowing, so some of us could have been wearing boots; or was that another time. I can’t be sure; it was so many years ago. One detail I do remember distinctly is that we were engrossed in a passage from the Gospel of John, a book written sixty or more years after the Resurrection. It was the passage in which Mary Magdalene mistakes Jesus for the gardener. That’s when the question suddenly struck me. I had heard it many years ago, but I had never heard an answer.

“Where did Jesus get the clothes he was wearing?” I blurted this out to the whole group of us.

There was one comment that day. It came from someone who wrote for the New Yorker. Or was it The Atlantic? “This story would have never made it past our editor,” he said. “Loose ends, too ‘chasing rabbits’.”

“Let’s move on,” said the class leader. “We’ll return to that question.” We never did.

I posed the question again on this blog last summer. The most on-point and thought-provoking response came from Hugh Farey who wrote, “While we’re on the subject, what happened to all the dead people who came out of their graves and walked around the city?”

Loose ends, too ‘chasing rabbits’. Point well made.

I thought about this question yesterday while reading a paper by Robert Rucker, “Holistic Solution to the Mysteries of the Shroud of Turin.” While I applaud Robert Rucker’s ingenious one-stop-shopping approach to unraveling the enigmas of the Shroud’s images, as well as the redness of the bloodstains, all while tackling the carbon-14 conundrum and remaining within the confines of a Christian believer’s cognitive framework, I cannot think his hypothesis is holistic as he suggests in the title. This is how he put it:

In following the evidence where it leads, we are led to the hypothesis that there was an extremely rapid intense burst of radiation from the body that caused the image. Neutrons that were evidently in this burst of radiation shifted the carbon date in the forward direction consistent with the 1988 carbon dating of the Shroud. Radiation in this burst could have also thrust the dried blood off the body onto the cloth, caused the blood to retain a reddish color without discoloring fibers below the blood, and might have even elevated the upper cloth above the body.

Rucker, R. A. (2019, December 30). Holistic Solution to the Mysteries of the Shroud of Turin. Shroud Research Network (Robert R. Rucker personal website) retrieved from

“Holistic” refers to an approach or perspective that considers the whole, rather than focusing on individual parts. In other words, it involves looking at something in its entirety, not only in a conclusion but also in supporting facts, and in understanding how everything works together as a whole.

By following the evidence where it leads, Rucker tells us, we are led to his hypothesis. However, some of the critical evidence he relies upon is not without significant controversy. Many observations and conclusions about the Shroud’s images and bloodstains remain disputed forcing Rucker to pick and choose among competing facts. This situation is no different, of course, than what John Jackson, et al. have faced with another radiation hypothesis. If Rucker is incorrect on some of his more critical assumptions, then his hypothesis collapses.

More problematic is Rucker’s blending of science and miracles in ways that test the limits of plausibility. However, if Rucker were to really embrace a true holistic approach and propose that the radiation, while doing all those other things, could also, simultaneously weave a robe for Jesus to wear, I might for want of an answer reconsider.

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