December 19, 2014

April 9, 2012


The Resurrection “Shrouded”

For a Christian blogger, getting back to work after Easter typically involves cleaning up the detritus that accumulated during Holy Week. Let’s start off this year’s garbage collection with the CBS Morning News assault on Christians’ faith in the resurrection:

It’s possibly the greatest “What if ...” in the world. What if the Shroud of Turin really is the burial cloth Jesus was wrapped in . . . and the faint imprint on it, the image of a man who has been tortured and crucified, really is Christ himself?

The last time the Shroud was on view, for six weeks in 2010, more than two million people saw it, even though in 1988, after a carbon dating test, it was declared a medieval fake - dating from between 1260 and 1390.

The story was supposed to be over. But tell that to the throngs who waited hours for the chance to spend seconds before it in reverent silence.

And tell that to scholars who think the carbon dating results were just plain wrong, among them art historian Thomas de Wesselow.

De Wesselow - an agnostic, originally a skeptic about the Shroud - has just published a provocative new book about in which he concludes it’s genuine.

Normally, stories upholding the authenticity of the Shroud will, in some measure, also uphold Christian belief. In this case, what’s upheld stops at the tomb:

He compared it to artwork depicting the Crucifixion created since the Middle Ages, referring to the Station of the Cross at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola in New York City: “If you look at the hands on the cross, the nails go through the center of the palms,” he showed Teichner. “That part of the hand is not strong enough to bear the weight of the body.”

Meanwhile, the image on the Shroud shows the nail wounds going through the wrists. “That’s how they would have done it in Roman times,” said De Wesselow, supporting the idea that the Shroud is much older than the middle ages.

But now here’s the provocative part: De Wesselow’s take on the resurrection - what he says happened on Easter Day when Mary Magdalene and two other women went to Jesus’ tomb:

“They go to the body, they lift off the cloth, and they notice this strange shadowy form on the cloth itself,” he said. “Immediately, they would have had this perception of it as a living presence in the tomb with Jesus.”

“They didn’t see Jesus come alive again?”

“No, I think what they saw was the Shroud,” De Wesselow said. “Once they saw the Shroud they understood that he’d not been resurrected in the flesh, he’d been resurrected in the spirit.”

Oh, for Pete’s sake. Where was the body, you twit? Every single piece of actual testimony recorded in the Gospels about the events of that day are clear that the body was gone. So they saw the Shroud? What difference would that make if they also saw the body of Jesus, still as dead as Jacob Marley’s proverbial doornail? And if the body was gone, why would they have concluded that He was raised “in the spirit,” rather than in the flesh? And why would so many of them say they actually spoke with Him, walked with Him, ate with Him? It gets worse:

According to de Wesselow, each supposed sighting of the risen Christ was actually a sighting of the Shroud. He’s convinced it was what sparked the rapid spread of Christianity, as it was taken from Jerusalem to Galilee, then to Damascus, where he believes Paul saw it and became a Christian.

Right. So Paul was transformed from a murderous persecutor of Christians into a Christian himself, because Christians showed him Jesus’s burial cloth. He shouted “hosanna!”, and cried, “Jesus is alive in the spirit!”, and started a history’s greatest missionary movement based on that.

Of course, this is just the word of an art historian, and what do they know? So CBS brings in the big gun:

“It could well be the burial cloth of Jesus - I wouldn’t discount that possibility,” said Harold Attridge, dean of Yale Divinity School and an eminent New Testament scholar, said of de Wesselow’s book: “That’s part of the case that he makes; the other part is trying to see how the discovery of this cloth might have functioned in generating belief about the resurrection, and that’s much more, in my mind, conjectural.

“However this image was formed, it was formed in a way that’s compatible with the ancient practice of Crucifixion,” said Attridge.

Attridge said, “For many, many mainstream Protestants and Catholics, certainly evangelical Protestants, you have a notion that you need the resurrected body in the way that it’s described in Luke and John. That was not Paul’s belief. Paul did not have a belief in the physical resurrection of Jesus. And I tend to agree with Paul. But it remains something of a mystery.”

Can we say it all together? There is no contradiction between Luke, John, and Paul regarding the resurrection! Yes, Paul speaks of a “spiritual body,” but that is not—NOT—NOT!—the same thing as “disembodied spirit.” Of course Paul believed in physical resurrection. If there was no physical resurrection, how could Jesus’s physical body be “sown” as a “spiritual body”? NOte that in 1 Corinthians 15:44, Paul doesn’t contrast the spiritual body with the physical body; he contrasts it with the “natural body,” the body that has been overtaken by sin and is subject to death. What Attridge is essentially saying is that Paul was a Gnostic, at least with regard to his view of Christ’s resurrection, and given the utter rejection by the other New Testament authors of anything that smacked of Gnosticism, that is completely absurd.

So this is what CBS thinks of Christian faith: on the holiest day of the church year, the network trots out a pair of “experts” to tell millions of believers, “you got it wrong.”

(Hat tip: Benjamin Glazer on Facebook.)


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17 comments

Here on Easter Monday, with a shot of espresso added to my big ol’ coffee, I am thinking (if you can call my spotty brain activity that) that there are practical reasons that Jesus tells his disciples to wait a bit between Easter and Pentecost:

- to recover from the roller coaster of unbelievable experiences and emotions that wring out the hardiest constitution

- to let the deceivers have their say, cackling about a stolen body, or “an emotional experience of the Jesus ethic,” or whatever, rather than get caught up in a noisy “yes he did/no he didn’t” debate (you know, like ignoring an out of control blog thread)

- to simply take in the face-to-face reality in preparation for testifying to it.  That is, to let the rest run after shrouds and bone boxes while the dead one they seek is showing up alive to greet his own.

I could go on, I’m sure, but the espresso hasn’t kicked in yet.  Alleluia!  Christ is (really, spiritually AND bodily, eternally) risen!  Therefore let us keep the feast!  Alleluia!

[1] Posted by Timothy Fountain on 4-9-2012 at 10:49 AM · [top]

There were a lot of strange Easter programs. National Geographic had a show about how the Jesus story came from the story of a prior revolutionary. The show was based on the reading of one word in a text which was ilegiable.

[2] Posted by Pb on 4-9-2012 at 10:52 AM · [top]

“No, I think what they saw was the Shroud…”

Some dude trying to sell his book.

Holy Scripture bends over backwards to make the point (with the utmost clarity) that the Resurrection was in body, not a ghost or vision, or whatever. Flesh, blood, bones, and the stigmata. The resurrected Jesus ate.

Scripture also reminds us that our faith will always be challenged.

Some good opening sermon material for Thomas Sunday.

[3] Posted by Ralph on 4-9-2012 at 10:58 AM · [top]

[1] Fr Timothy Fountain, do go on! Just when we think we have it made, there is yet another period of Christian preparation, this time for the Ascension and Pentecost and for the rejecters, confusers, diminishers, and disparagers of our faith.

[4] Posted by Don+ on 4-9-2012 at 11:55 AM · [top]

There are some stories that make you stupider for having read them, and this is one.

“each supposed sighting of the risen Christ was actually a sighting of the Shroud”

Place: the Upper Room
Time: shortly after Peter and John have come back from the empty tomb
Speaker: Thomas

Thomas: “I go away for a short visit home, and you guys go nuts!  What the heck is all this about the Lord is alive again now?”

Peter: “Tommy boy, it’s true, I’m telling ya!  Me and Johnny saw it!”

Thomas: “John, I know Peter got hit on the head maybe one too many times by the boom of the boat, but I thought you at least were sensible.  Kid, what is going on here?”

John: “Thomas, I didn’t believe it either at first, but we have proof.”

Thomas: *snorts loudly* “Proof.  Yeah, right.  You want to show me proof?  Show me Him up and walking around again right in front of me so I can touch His wounds for myself.  That’s the kind of proof that would convince me.”

Peter: *produces shroud from chest, unrolls it, holds it up*  “This good enough for ya, Tommy-boy?”

Thomas: *falls to his knees in belief*  “What the - it is Him!  It really is!  My Lord and my God!”


Yeah - no, I don’t think so, somehow.  What is it about Easter and Christmas that brings out the crazies?

[5] Posted by Martha on 4-9-2012 at 12:29 PM · [top]

Well done, Martha.

[6] Posted by David Fischler on 4-9-2012 at 12:45 PM · [top]

That is one really threadbare shroud story.

[7] Posted by Undergroundpewster on 4-9-2012 at 01:02 PM · [top]

OK, I’ll ask the question everyone else is thinking - which Episcopal bishop was interviewed for this story? There has to be at least one. Not even CBS could not write this so badly by themselves.

[8] Posted by Festivus on 4-9-2012 at 01:31 PM · [top]

On the other hand, here we have non-believers now saying that the shroud is properly dated to the 1st century.  It just could in fact be the burial shroud of Jesus.

The claim that the original witnesses could have mistaken a piece of cloth for the resurrected Jesus is absurd.

[9] Posted by Br. Michael on 4-9-2012 at 01:45 PM · [top]

I had an interesting revelation during the easter sermon this Sunday, particularly memorable because I’d just noticed it myself in the text, and about a minute later the preacher himself drew attention to it:

The stone is not rolled away so Jesus can be raised. It is rolled away so the women, and later the disciples, can see that Jesus is raised.

Read carefully, Matthew’s account is particularly clear on this: the stone gets rolled away, and Jesus body is already not there.  And yet the tomb has been sealed and guarded the entire time.

The remarkable thing is not what is there - which might or might not have been the shroud of Turin - but what is not, namely, any sign of Jesus body.

[10] Posted by Andrew W on 4-9-2012 at 08:09 PM · [top]

Exactly, Andrew.

[11] Posted by David Fischler on 4-9-2012 at 08:14 PM · [top]

This is all I have to say....

[12] Posted by David Ould on 4-9-2012 at 10:39 PM · [top]

Say what, David? (not getting anything from the link)

[13] Posted by yohanelejos on 4-10-2012 at 05:23 AM · [top]

We had to put up with De Wesselow on morning TV over easter.  Some half-educated TV show host was pushing him.  He claimed to have read the bible and said it supported his view, but he clearly didn’t bother with the bits that said Jesus after his resurrection touched people, spoke to them and ate food.  What complete dills (the TV host and De Wesselow)!

[14] Posted by MichaelA on 4-10-2012 at 06:31 AM · [top]

Sorry, that’s morning TV in Sydney. David Ould probably saw it too.

BTW, Dave Fischler, I love the Godzilla poster.

[15] Posted by MichaelA on 4-10-2012 at 06:32 AM · [top]

Thanks, Michael. I’m sure everyone’s seen the Star Trek versions, so I thought I’d try out something a bit different.  smile

[16] Posted by David Fischler on 4-10-2012 at 07:34 AM · [top]

#10 Andrew - It’s the original “locked room mystery”!  Chris Johnson could branch out, and write the adventures of the Roman Investigator.  “And the room was hermetically sealed, with no windows and a big rock over the door!  I’ve interviewed the guards, and they swear that no one came in or went out during the night.  They also insist they had no more than the standard ration of wine at 10:00 PM”

[17] Posted by Dr. Mabuse on 4-10-2012 at 06:29 PM · [top]

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