Thursday, July 30, 2015

Book Review: The Shroud of Turin

Title: The Shroud of Turin

Author: John H. Heller

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Date: 1983

Illustrations: photos, some in color

Length: 225 pages

Quote: “This book is a report on the research performed on the Shroud of Turin by a team of forty scientists.”

The dust jacket flap really says it all: the scientists concluded that the material is ancient, stained with human blood, in a pattern that “conforms to that of a man who had been crucified in the Roman manner.”

What's inside this book are the details. Historians and archaeologists will be interested in this book. Some people will find it disgusting, although no attempt is made to sensationalize the details. Devout Catholics have taken it as evidence that the Shroud of Turin is the shroud in which Jesus was wrapped—which, of course, science could not prove.

From time to time church artists take potshots at each other's conception of what Jesus might have looked like. He must have been handsome, some say. Not if Isaiah's prophecy that “there is no beauty that we should desire him” was true of Jesus, others say, while the first group contend that a man who was handsome while living would still have looked horrific when crucified...Jesus was Semitic, therefore short, with dark shaggy hair, some say. Actually most men in the Roman Empire seem to have had reasonably short haircuts, others say, and if a prophecy that mentions hair like lamb's wool refers to Jesus, He might have had curly hair and an African-type face. Others chime in that in the whole Mediterranean region red or blond hair is unusual but not unknown; artists who want to portray a tall, blond, “Nordic” model can argue that Jesus might have looked like that. For what it's worth, the image so faintly perceptible on the Shroud of Turin suggests a craggy Nordic face and a tall, thin, even gaunt body.

But, even if the image is the genuine result of the Shroud having been used to wrap the body of a man who died at some time during the reign of Augustus Caesar, was that man Jesus? Well, of course, he could have been Jesus, or he might have been Judas; we'll ever really know. The market for relics, in the early Christian church and among other groups, was enormous. Skeptics will always remind people that although “the finger bone of St. John” and “a splinter of the Cross” and similar icky-sounding relics are undoubtedly a finger bone and a splinter, whose bone, or what splinter, or who was wrapped in the Shroud of Turin, will never be scientifically known. These relics could be what they're said to be. Maybe.

For those who want more than this summary of The Shroud of Turin, it's not a Fair Trade Book, but we still have to charge our regular online price of $5 per book + $5 per package, payable to either address at the very bottom of the screen. At least one other book, probably three and possibly more depending on size, could fit into the package beside this one for one $5 shipping charge.