I came across this news item last week regarding the Shroud of Turin. As we were sitting in Sunday School class yesterday with the youth at our church, we talked about it for a few minutes. Of course, I realized that they had no idea what the Shroud of Turin even is, but that was pretty easy to explain.
The debate is still going as to the authenticity of the Shroud. I am not firmly in either camp. If it is genuine, that is certainly interesting and amazing, but it won’t make my faith any more firm than it already is. I am completely convinced that Jesus Christ rose from the dead on the strength of evidence that has nothing to do with the Shroud. If it is shown to be fake or fabricated long after the fact, it will have no effect on me for the same reason. But I did see this cockamamie new theory from an academic who is convinced that the Shroud is genuine, but who has taken that conclusion to a bizarre place.
Art historian Thomas de Wesselow is convinced the Shroud is real and did touch Christ’s body.
But the Cambridge academic insists that the image on the cloth fooled the Apostles into believing Christ had come back to life, and the Resurrection was in fact an optical illusion.
Please note that we are talking about an “art historian” so I am left to conclude that his biblical knowledge and scholarship is likely to be lacking. The idea that the early disciples would be so amazed by an image on a cloth that they would treat it as if the man they had walked with was “living in the image” or whatever he wants to call it, is insulting to the intelligence of first century believers for one thing and insulting to the testimony of Scripture for another.
His theory is based on the worst kind of Bible “scholarship” and I put it in quotes because it isn’t very scholarly at all. He takes one verse (ONE) as proof for his theory and apparently ignores the rest of the story. He tries to assert that Paul claimed that the resurrection is “not about flesh and blood” in 1 Corinthians 15(verse 50 according to the article). I am not sure what translation he is working from but he draws completely the wrong conclusion about what Paul is saying. At the beginning of that very chapter, Paul asserts that the risen Jesus was seen by Cephas (Peter) and then the rest of the disciples, and then at least 500 others, and then James and the rest of the apostles (1 Corinthians 15:4-7). These appearances are the parading of an image on a sheet. These are appearances in person and in the flesh. A different kind of flesh to be sure (he walked into locked and shut rooms), but flesh that ate and could be touched. Read the Gospel accounts and picture a pair of disciples walking down the road when a giant bedsheet with a picture suddenly appears next to them and starts talking and you will see just how silly and ill read this “art historian” has to be.
Is the Shroud of Turin legitimate? Maybe. Is it possible that the disciples and the first century witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection were all looking at it and thinking that this was Jesus raised from the dead? Not a chance. Just picture one of them trying to give a piece of fish to a cloth and being fooled into thinking the sheet ate it.