Did Anyone Like It?

A reader writes:

Did anyone like the CNN program on the Shroud of Turin? I got the sense from authenticists that it was too skeptical and from skeptics that is was too authenticist.

He may have a point. Compare, for instance, Barrie Schwortz on the CNN Shroud of Turin Program with Crocumentaries by Joe Nickell. (That wasn’t fair, was it?)’

Anyone else we haven’t considered? How about Antonio Lombatti (pictured); surely he has something to say? Yep: Bible Interpretation has just published an op-ed by him, The CNN Shroud of Turin. He writes:

Disappointing. This is, I believe, the most appropriate way to start my review of the recent CNN documentary on the Shroud of Turin. After 25 years of reading books, watching films and writing books and articles on this presumed relic of Christ, I am still surprised to listen to the very same popular quackery and pseudoscience passed off as rock solid scholarly researches….

[…]

However, the way CNN has cut interviews, structured short clips, advanced reconstructions of Jesus’ passion, crucifixion and resurrection, and how these were woven with some Turin Shroud images, simply strives to convey the message that the relic is the real deal. To be clearer: when the narrator talks about crucifixion, there is a short video with Jesus nailed to a cross and then the presumed marks of crucifixion on the Shroud are shown. Again, Joseph of Arimathea covers Jesus’ body with a linen cloth while we see the Turin Shroud. And this, of course, makes a deep impression on those who don’t have a precise opinion on the controversy, letting them believe it is the genuine burial shroud of Jesus.

The film begins by saying that “more than 1000 years after Jesus’ death, the cloth appeared in France”. Wouldn’t it be enough to understand that the relic is just one among the thousand forgeries of the Middle Ages? In that time, believers were not surprised to find 4 heads of John the Baptist (however, when the French monks of Amiens were told by pilgrims that they had already seen John’s head in another church, they replied they had the Baptist’s head as a child), six full bodies of Mary Magdalene and enough pieces of the True Cross to build a huge ship. The burial shrouds of Jesus number around 40. All of them were authentic, of course. The most famous shrouds were those of Aachen, Halberstadt, Hannover and Mainz (Germany), Arles, Besançon, Cadouin, Aix-en-Provence, Bayonne, Cahors, Paris, Reims, Annecy, Soissons, Carcassonne and Compiègne (France), Yohnannavank (Armenia), Constantinople, Enxobregas (Portugal), Saint John in Lateran (Rome), Einsiedeln (Switzerland).

Want more? Barrie provided a list of links at shroud.com:

Barrie Schwortz on the CNN Shroud of Turin Program

“My first impression was that the program’s content was more superficial
than the image on the Shroud!”  — Barrie Schwortz


imageBarrie has joined the ranks of many who are reacting unfavorably to the first episode of Finding Jesus on CNN. He has posted A Brief Review of the Recent CNN Documentary and Further Comments on the Medieval Photograph Theory on the shroud.com website:

I personally hate to write reviews of television programs and usually leave them for others to do, but after weeks of media hype and the controversy created after this program aired, I felt compelled to write a brief review of CNN’s latest “docudrama” on the Shroud of Turin, which premiered Sunday, March 1, 2015, as the first episode in their six part “Finding Jesus” series….

On the experts:

It was also interesting to see who the producers considered to be Shroud “experts.” It was good to see a few familiar faces, like Dr. John Jackson and Mark Guscin, who both appear in the program and who are well known as credible Shroud scholars. (Although Russ Breault was originally interviewed for the program, his comments were not included in the final edited version). However, most of the other “experts” were unfamiliar to me and I could find no evidence that any of them ever actually studied the Shroud themselves. Unfortunately, that happens frequently in Shroud documentaries.

On the carbon dating of the shrouud:

Even more frustrating, when discussing the radiocarbon dating, absolutely no mention was made by anyone of the credible scientific data that exists indicating the single sample chosen for dating was anomalous and not necessarily representative of the entire Shroud. Although that theory is controversial and not accepted by everyone, it was in fact the first research to challenge the radiocarbon dating in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. Simply ignoring it does a great disservice to those who dedicated themselves to doing credible scientific research on the Shroud and it certainly makes it more difficult for those who are not as well versed to understand what we truly know. Based on all the e-mails and calls I received, its absence was certainly obvious to most of the viewers of this website, since that was the question they asked me the most.

On the medieval photograph hypothesis:

But the most frustrating part of the program for me was the considerable time spent resurrecting the long ago discarded proto-photography theory presented by South African art historian Nicholas Allen, who claims the Shroud is a medieval photograph. In 2000, I presented a paper at the Sindone 2000 Shroud Conference in Orvieto, Italy, titled, “Is The Shroud of Turin a Medieval Photograph? A Critical Examination of the Theory” that addressed Allen’s conclusions directly and presented a side-by-side comparison of his results to the image on the Shroud (something Allen never did). I then pointed out the dramatic differences between the two images and you can see them for yourself at the above link.

In addition, Barrie has added a section to the Late Breaking News page for 2015. It reads:

Now that several days have passed and many people have had the opportunity to view the CNN documentary, it is time to look at some reviews of the program. In fact, I received so many letters and phone calls that rather than try and answer them all, I decided to write my own review of the documentary, which you will find linked below. In addition, I am providing a link to a relevant article that addresses certain issues raised in the program and links to other online sources with reviews you might find interesting. So let’s get started:

This is just a small sampling of the many comments posted on various blogs and websites. If you do a little searching, I’m sure you will find a lot more.

By the Numbers: The Shroud of Turin Episode of Finding Jesus

imageAccording to Michael O’Connell in The Hollywood Reporter, CNN’s Jesus Series Tops Cable News on Sunday

Christianity remains a hot topic on TV, even for cable news. As other networks (NBC, Nat Geo) ready scripted outings about Jesus Christ timed to the upcoming Easter holiday, CNN got a jump on the religious rush this Sunday night with the premiere of its new doc series, Finding Jesus.

The one-hour debut of the program topped all of cable news last night, per early Nielsen ratings, averaging 1.14 million viewers. That topped Fox News Channel (634,000) and MSNBC (275,000) combined and now ranks as CNN’s second-biggest original series opening behind 2014’s The Sixties….

Finding Jesus also made a solid showing among adults 25-54, averaging 371,000 over FNC and MSNBC’s shared 111,000 viewers.

Daily Beast Review of CNN’s Shroud of Turin Episode

imagePoet and scholar Jay Parini, author of Jesus: The Human Face of God, writing in The Daily Beast, reviews the CNN series and particularly last night’s episode on the Shroud of Turin:

The television version is typical, well, television. The music is overly dramatic. There are trite dramatized scenes of Jesus being arrested and tried, nailed to the cross, his body being wrapped in a shroud, and so forth. These scenes are not, in fact, so much dramatic as illustrative: we get visual representations of what people are talking about. The better moments are those where we get the actual history of the Shroud: its sudden appearance in the middle of the 14th century, its even more stunning acquisition of huge importance to the faithful when, in 1898, an amateur photographer took a picture of the Shroud and a positive image of a man appeared. Was this the actual face of Jesus?

Decades of scientific investigation of the Shroud ensued, with the conclusion by art historian Nicholas Allen in 1988 that the Shroud is a fake but an interesting one that pushes the history of photography back five hundred years. A further series of radiocarbon tests on the Shroud in 1988 suggested that it dated to the 13th or 14th century, although even this has come into question, as scientists go deeper, looking at pollen samples and so forth.

The mystery was really never solved. It was complicated by the Sudarium. A sudarium is simply a piece of cloth (like a handkerchief) put over the face of a recently deceased person, and one of these corresponding to the Shroud itself was found to have ancient origins dating to about 700 CE by radiocarbon testing. But there are many complications, and—to fully understand them—one really needs the companion book. The television version glosses over the details, as it must; yet the details are riveting. By way of conclusion, Fr. Martin says, “When we look at the authenticity of the Shroud, my gut tells me that it’s real.”

Real or fake, to me, seem the wrong categories. Useful or not as aids to faith and spiritual reflection might be better categories.

Open Discussion About Finding Jesus, Episode One: Examining the Shroud of Turin

Finding Jesus Premieres on CNN Sunday at 9pm ET/PT

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Respectful Discussion Only

So far, after a quick first reading, I like it

clip_image001BING:  My iPhone binged in the night to let me know an email I was waiting for had just arrived. Amazon was letting me know that the book I had pre-ordered, Finding Jesus: Faith. Fact. Forgery.: Six Holy Objects That Tell the Remarkable Story of the Gospels, had arrived on 1) my laptop, 2) my iPhone and 3) my Kindle reader at 12:13 am on the very day the book was released. This is the book that is a companion to the upcoming CNN special.

If you haven’t ordered it yet, you can do so now and be reading the book in a matter of minutes. Your laptop is all you need though I prefer an iPad.   In the U.S. the price is $12.99.*

I immediately turned to the last chapter of the book. It pertains to the Shroud of Turin and the Sudarium. There are three major parts to the chapter:

  • The Man of the Shroud,
  • The Shroud of History and
  • The Shroud of Science. 

After 3 cups of way-too-early-in-the-morning strong coffee, I’m happy with what I read. It dovetails nicely, though not in every detail, with what I think is true about the shroud.

The authors even discussed one of my favorite elements of history, a third-century bit of Gnostic poetry from the Gospel of Thomas known as the Hymn of the Pearl (or the Hymn of the Soul). I quote from the book:

… but suddenly, [when] I saw the garment made like unto me as it had been in a mirror. And I beheld upon it all myself (or saw it wholly in myself) and I knew and saw myself through it, that we were divided asunder, being of one; and again were one in one shape.”

The last paragraph of the last chapter of the book reads:

Both the scientist and the cleric come to the same conclusion about where the Shroud fits in the story of mankind. “Personally, from my involvement in research on the shroud for almost forty years,” says physicist John Jackson,

“and the wealth of scientific data that we did acquire, I do think that this is the historical burial cloth of Jesus.” Fr. James Martin says, “When we look at the authenticity of the shroud, my gut tells me that it’s real.” At the same time, he ventures that the story will continue: “It is a relic that produces more questions than answers … I don’t think we’ll ever get to the heart of the mystery of the Shroud of Turin.”

ANOTHER BING:  Another email. The audio version just arrived from Audible.com at 4:33 am. Perfect. I have a dental appointment later this morning and so I’ll put some ear buds in my ears and start listening to the book from the beginning.

* BTW: If you haven’t ordered John Klotz’ The Coming of the Quantum Christ: The Shroud of Turin and the Apocalypse of Selfishness, do that while ordering Finding Jesus.  It will only set you back another ten bucks. John will thank you and you will thank me for recommending it.

CNN Special Being Advertised Many Times Daily

I’m guessing now that this will be the singles most watched Shroud of Turin documentary piece ever shown. CNN is adverting the series everyday, day and night. More about the series in this blog (scroll Down after clicking).

CLICK HERE or on the image for a new longer trailer

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Two More Articles About Upcoming CNN Series on Finding Jesus

Has anyone noticed that two weeks out
CNN is advertising this series several times per day.
 

image1)  Another Beliefnet article, Is This The Actual Face of Jesus? , delves into the upcoming CNN series about Jesus, particularly the first show on March 1, 2015, about the Shroud of Turin. The lead reads:

In the upcoming original CNN series, Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery, The Shroud of Turin is a linen cloth that some Christians believe is the actual burial cloth of Christ, bearing His image. Others have their doubts.

It then begins with the rather bold sentence:

This March, the CNN series will delve into the archaeological findings surrounding The Shroud of Turin and travel as far as the Cathedral of San Salvador, in Spain, to answer this question once and for all.

And this:

“We believe based on our research the Shroud is the authentic burial cloth of Jesus,” says series expert and Director of the Turin Shroud Centre of Colorado Dr. John Jackson. A physicist and professor at heart, he was first introduced to The Shroud by his mother at the age of 13 and quickly became fascinated with the relic but asserts his position is not to convince others of his conclusion but lead them to draw one for themselves, "The Shroud has both religious and scientific dimensions. This ignites curiosity on both sides of the spectrum. So we try to put it back on the people who come to our lectures to think for themselves rather than regurgitating our data and reasoning. It’s much more effective that way." In 1978, Jackson led a team of scientists who spent five days intensely studying the Shroud for authenticity, before ultimately concluding it is genuine and not an artistic fake.

[ . . . ]

Jackson encourages fellow Christians to look at the series through the lens of both science and faith, "Maybe the Shroud has something to say about the primordial concern [of life and death] we have as human beings. Therefore, I think it’s incredibly important. Not that we base our faith on the Shroud, but that it can illuminate our faith in Christianity."

image2)  And The Blaze has an article, The Truth About Jesus? New TV Series Promises to Blend ‘Science and Archeology’ to Explore the Bible :

Set to premiere on March 1 at 9 p.m., “Finding Jesus” will include media personalities and experts who will discuss these matters in detail, including Pastor Erwin MacManus of MOSAIC Los Angeles, California, and Huffington Post religion editor Rev. Paul Raushenbush.

Reporter David Gibson will release a companion book later this month by the same name that will dive deeper into the contents of the documentary, claiming in a book description that the relics depicted “give us the most direct evidence about the life and world of Jesus.”

“The book and attendant CNN series provide a dramatic way to retell ‘the greatest story ever told’ while introducing a broad audience to the history, the latest controversies, and newest forensic science involved in sorting out facts from the fiction of would-be forgers and deceivers,” a book explanation reads. “The book and the show draw on experts from all over the world. Beyond the faithful, the book will also appeal to the skeptical and to curious readers of history and archaeology, while it takes viewers of the primetime TV series deeper into the story.”

Set Your DVR: An Unprecedented CNN Event on March 1

As being reported now on Beliefnet in story entitled CNN’s Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery First Look Trailer

Take a sneak peak at CNN’s new investigative series Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery, which explores the many mysteries of the Bible while scientifically proving what we already know spiritually: that Jesus lived, was crucified, arose and ascended back to heaven. The first investigation covers the Shroud of Turin –a centuries old linen cloth used as Jesus’ burial wrap, with an imprint believed to bear the face of Jesus. Is it really his face? Find out more in the first episode, which will air on CNN, March 1, 2015. This is one you don’t want to miss. See for yourself in the trailer . . . .

Six major artifacts, including the Shroud of Turin, the True Cross, and John the Baptist?

Just in time for Easter and the 2015 Shroud Exposition

John the Baptist is an artifact?

imageIf, like half the world, you have been watching CNN during the last couple of days, you may have seen a frequent ad for an upcoming series of shows starting in March.  The ad, in a quick succession of screens says:  Faith, Fact, Forgery and Finding Jesus March 2015.

Google produces little information except a nearly empty page from Carmel Communications saying:

Finding Jesus: Faith, FACTS, Forgery, a CNN relics series – coming to television on March 1, 2015; a 6- week series.

More information coming soon!

Amazon tells us about a soon to be released book called, Finding Jesus: Faith. Fact. Forgery.: Six Holy Objects That Tell the Remarkable Story of the Gospels by David Gibson (Author), Michael McKinley (Author). It will be available sometime around February 24th in Hardcover, Kindle, Audio CD and Downloadable Audio. The description reads:

As featured in the 6-part CNN SERIES "Finding Jesus"FINDING JESUS explores six major artifacts, including the Shroud of Turin, the True Cross, and John the Baptist, that give us the most direct evidence about the life and world of Jesus. The book and attendant CNN series provide a dramatic way to retell "the greatest story ever told" while introducing a broad audience to the history, the latest controversies, and newest forensic science involved in sorting out facts from the fiction of would-be forgers and deceivers. The book and the show draw on experts from all over the world. Beyond the faithful, the book will also appeal to the skeptical and to curious readers of history and archaeology, while it takes viewers of the primetime TV series deeper into the story.

I blogged about this last April writing then:

BREAKING: Jon Creamer of Televisual Media UK tells us about an upcoming six-part series on Jesus:

Nutopia is to make a ‘forensic’ drama doc about the life of Jesus in a six-part commission for CNN called Jesus Code.

Jesus Code will look at “forensics, biblical archaeology and forgery, exploring their connection to the real life of Jesus by questioning the authenticity of sacred relics.”

The show will use drama reconstruction and interviews with scholars to re-examine six objects connected to the Biblical Jesus.

Executive Producer, Ben Goold (The Story of US, Mankind, The British) said “These are compelling and astonishing stories of relics such as the Turin Shroud and the True Cross that not only capture the imagination, but also offer real revelations about one of the most important figures in human history.”

Jesus Code will be produced by Nutopia in association with Paperny Entertainment. Filming will start in October in Europe, the US, North Africa and Middle East.  Executive Producers are Ben Goold for Nutopia and Lynne Kirby for Paperny Entertainment and it will be distributed internationally by DRG.

Jesus Code forms part of CNN’s new documentary strand in the ET 9pm primetime line-up.

Rodney Ho of The Atlanta Journal Constitution gives the story a bit more punch with a bit less detail as part of a story on 9 p.m. time slot that Larry King occupied for a quarter century and Piers Morgan attempted to fill. The story is mostly about the big guns CNN is bringing into the hour:Mike Rowe (‘formerly of Discovery’s “Dirty Jobs’), Lisa Ling (formerly of “Our America with Lisa Ling”) and John Walsh (formerly of Fox’s ‘America’s Most Wanted”). And the icing on the cake:

Finally, how could the most famous man in history have left almost no trace behind? Bringing the most compelling artifacts together for the first time, The Jesus Code will take viewers on a thrilling high-stakes journey through forensics, biblical archeology and forgery in history, exploring the evidence of Jesus’ existence by questioning the authenticity of sacred relics.

Let’s see, six relics?  (1) Shroud of Turin, (2) True Cross, (3) Holy Grail ???, (4) Veronica’s Veil ???, (5) Seamless Garment ???, (6) ???.

Can you guess what the other three artifacts will be?

An Important New Book Coming in February

imageIt is called The Jesus Code: Six Relics That Tell the Remarkable True Story of the Gospels. Of course, one of those relic is the Shroud of Turin. It is due out in February 2015, and you can pre-order it now at Amazon. The hardcover will sell for $20.24 and the Kindle edition for $12.99. There will also be an audio version which is a sure sign that the book is expected to be popular with high sales.

Here is what we can read at Amazon:

As featured in the 6-part CNN SERIES "The Jesus Code"

THE JESUS CODE explores six major artifacts, including the Shroud of Turin, the True Cross, and the Holy Grail, that give us the most direct evidence about the life and world of Jesus. The book and attendant CNN series provide a dramatic way to retell "the greatest story ever told" while introducing a broad audience to the history, the latest controversies, and newest forensic science involved in sorting out facts from the fiction of would-be forgers and deceivers. The book and the show draw on experts from all over the world. Beyond the faithful, the book will appeal also to the skeptical and to curious readers of history and archaeology, while it takes viewers of the primetime TV series deeper into the story. With a fascinating, blockbuster subject, top-notch authors, and official CNN tie-in and support, we have tremendous opportunity to make THE JESUS CODE a bestseller and category classic.

As featured in the 6-part CNN SERIES "The Jesus Code"? What 6-part series? A bit of Googling and we find Entertainment Weekly informing us that:

Most provocatively, the network announced at its upfront presentation to advertisers in New York City, The Jesus Code, a series which promises to take viewers on a “forensic and archaeological journey through the Bible” (cue jokes about CNN looking for a ratings miracle). Religious-themed programming has been considered hot since History stunned the industry with its ratings-shattering The Bible miniseries last year. The Jesus Code “will take viewers on a thrilling high-stakes journey through forensics, biblical archeology and forgery in history, exploring the evidence of Jesus’ existence by questioning the authenticity of sacred relics.”

Back to Amazon. The authors are:

  • DAVID GIBSON is an award-winning religion journalist, author and filmmaker who specializes in covering the Catholic Church. He appears frequently on network and cable television as a commentator on religious affairs and is a frequent commentator on NPR. He has written and co-written three prior books and also writes for The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, New York Magazine, Boston Magazine, and Fortune among others.
  • MICHAEL MCKINLEY is an award-winning author, filmmaker, journalist and screenwriter. He has written several books, and wrote and co-produced the CBC TV documentary film "Sacred Ballot", as well as several documentaries for CNN Presents.

What else?  The hardcover will be 256 pages. The publisher is St. Martin’s Press (February 24, 2015). ISBN-10: 1250069106, ISBN-13: 978-1250069108