Shroud stories: Don’t stop believin’

Cosmic Log – Holy Shroud! Was resurrection story inspired by the cloth?.

The Shroud of Turin has been seen as many things over the past 620 years, ranging from true burial cloth of the risen Jesus to clever medieval fake, but Cambridge art historian Thomas de Wesselow puts together a 448-page-long case for one of the lesser-known theories in his new book, “The Sign”: that the shroud’s negative image of a naked, bloodied man was really produced by Jesus’ decomposition, and that the stories of his resurrection were inspired by the display of that cloth to his earliest disciples.

“The message really is that the Shroud of Turin is authentic,” de Wesselow told me. “This is the only rational way of understanding this image. It can be understood entirely naturalistically. There’s no reason to invoke a miracle to explain the image.”

“It’s breathtakingly astonishing,” said Joe Nickell, a senior research fellow at the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry who has written extensively about the shroud. “He’s clearly not a doubting Thomas. He’s come up with some rather silly ideas, and then as people often do, he’s fallen in love with them.”

Meanwhile, in a column about the shroud, the Catholic Herald’s Francis Phillips basically brushed off de Wesselow’s views, saying they were “too eccentric to reproduce here.”

Tip: @SkeptInquiry

It seems around Easter, this story comes around, complete with new claims by believers this is authentic.

We covered a similar story here: Shroud of Turin believers want science to look until it comes to the conclusion they like

De Wesselow picks up on the idea that the shroud is actually a “vaporograph,” colored by a chemical reaction between the gases exuded by a dead body and the carbohydrate deposits on the surface of Jesus’ burial cloth. Blood stains were left on the cloth as well. When the shroud was taken from the body, the ghostly image remained behind — and de Wesselow said Jesus’ disciples could have interpreted that image as the spiritual manifestation of their leader.

“The appearances of the risen Jesus were simply viewings of the shroud image,” he said.

That’s very sciencey! But, um, *confusion*. That image does not look like what would be produced from laying a cloth across a body since a body is 3 dimensional and the cloth is not. I don’t see how a vaporograph can occur from a human body. Where is the evidence of that? As the article notes, he is making a HUGE leap of faith. It’s not about science or evidence. No amount would be convincing. Instead, believers will seek out explanations that support only their view and reject that evidence which does not, like the dating of the shroud that says it was created about the 13th or early 14th century.

Believers will keep on believing. Don’t stop… ah, you know the rest…

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  2 comments for “Shroud stories: Don’t stop believin’

  1. Massachusetts
    April 5, 2012 at 10:00 PM

    Even if the vaporograph theory is deemed to be plausible, wouldn’t it be a vaporogrph created in the 13th century, which would match the carbon date? That would eliminate Jesus as the source.

  2. Terry Perusse
    April 10, 2012 at 12:25 PM

    As a former PhD student in medieval studies I know that the history of Christianity is full of fakes, forgeries and just plain weird. At least seven churches in the middle ages claimed to have Christ’s foreskin – it wouldn’t have ascended to heaven since it was already removed – and there were enough vials of Mary’s milk to stock a dairy. While the Roman Catholic church tried to erase some of the worst excesses of sillliness, such as bumping off historically unlikely saints, the recent admin seems to be reversing the trend. Bring back Wilgefortis the bearded lady saint!

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