Sunday, October 11, 2009

Shrouded in Mystery

Well, its not even anywhere near Easter time and the press is already coming out with yet another "debunking Christianity" story. This time about the Shroud of Turin.

An Italian scientist, funded by a group of unbelievers, was able to reproduce the shroud using entirely natural means, available in the middle ages (there is no earlier record of the shroud than, if I remember correctly, the late medieval period).

A few thoughts on this development:

1. Why is this news? I remember seeing an article in "Skeptical Inquirer" years ago which claimed anyone could easily make their own Shroud replica.
2. Even if the replica is sufficiently similar to the original, that, in-and-of-itself, does not mean the original was a fake.
3. Besides, I've heard that there were enough "slivers of the cross" sold by snake-oil peddlers to rebuild Noah's Ark. I mean back during the hey day of relics. Finding a sliver of wood was much easier than going to all the trouble of creating a fake resurrection cloth which baffled scientists, as to how the image arose thereon for over hundreds of years. Why go to all the trouble to create such an elaborate fraud?
4. Whomever allegedly faked the original would have to know details about the crucifixion of Jesus which, one could argue, were implausible for him to know. For example, if the nails were driven through the hands of Jesus (as they are traditionally portrayed) the weight of His body would have been to heavy so the body would have fallen off the cross. Instead, the nails went through the wrists as accurately portrayed on the Shroud.
5. Classically speaking, the case for the Resurrection never even appeals to the Shroud. So even if the Shroud is a fake that says absolutely nothing about the historicity of the Resurrection. If authentic, the Shroud is interesting and important but, at the end of the day, of secondary significance. If we have good independent evidence for the Resurrection-and we do-then the Shroud becomes apologetically superfluous. It is, if authentic, just more evidence on top of already sufficient evidence.
6. As mentioned above, the Shroud was unknown for centuries, so far as we can tell. During those centuries, Christians had no trouble believing in the risen Savior without a Shroud.
7. Authentic or not, it is hard to believe there would be a Shroud without there having first been a historical Jesus. What is more, it is hard to accept that there would be a Shroud of Turin at all, even supposing it is a demonstrable hoax, if the historical Jesus did not, in fact, rise from the dead.

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