Friday, April 16, 2004

The Shroud of Turin

Both Letters from Babylon and the Captain's Quarters have thoughts about the new evidence concerning the Shroud of Turin. The Shroud is supposed to be evidence for the resurrection, but very few Christians consider it important evidence for their beliefs. The Catholic Church has maintained careful neutrality. It is supposed to be the cloth in which Jesus was wrapped when he was buried, and it has the image of a face that is particularly visible in photonegatives. It turns out that this image is actually visible on both sides of the shroud, thus making the possibility of forgery less likely.

I first heard the details about the shroud when I went to a lecture on it at the Virginia Junior Classical League Convention when I was in High School (the VJCL Convention is a get-together for Latin students, with contests and lectures and all sorts of fun stuff). This lecture was actually the first place I heard about the gruesome details of crucifixion. Oh, I knew about Jesus's death from the Bible, but oddly no one had ever explained to me how crucifixion actually killed someone. I had never understood how nailing someone to a piece of wood could kill them in just three hours. (It does so by asphyxiation. The arms are drawn out to expand the ribcage and make breathing difficult and painful. You can ease the difficulty by supporting yourself on your legs, but this also becomes very painful when there's a nail driven through them. Usually, though, it took days to die. They broke the thieves' legs to speed it up for them, but Jesus had already given up the ghost, apparently not fighting to survive.) The impression I got from the lecture was that the shroud had most likely been wrapped around someone who had been crucified, although no one really knew whether that person was Jesus. (The speaker was pretty neutral on this point, preferring naturalistic explanations for the image.) As for myself, I don't really consider it evidence for the Resurrection.

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