The Shroud’s Earlier History Part 1: To Edessa -- By: John Long

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 20:2 (Spring 2007)
Article: The Shroud’s Earlier History Part 1: To Edessa
Author: John Long

The Shroud’s Earlier History
Part 1: To Edessa

John Long

Michael Luddeni


If Biblical Archaeology is defined loosely as “the study of ancient things related to the Bible,” then surely the sindon, the linen used to wrap Jesus’ body in death, has to be of interest. Most informed Christians now know that there is a serious candidate for that burial wrapping—the Shroud of Turin. Practically unknown outside of European Catholic circles at the end of the 19th century, in the last 100 years modern scientific studies repeatedly have produced evidence consistent with the view that it is an old burial cloth and not an example of human artistry. (For a brief summary of the main conclusions see http://www.shroud. com/78conclu.htm; for how these influenced a professional archaeologist, see A 1988 radiocarbon dating of 1260 to 1390, subsequently shown to be defective (see “Recent Developments on the Shroud of Turin: Part II” at article35.html), is the only major scientific contradiction. However, there still remains the question of the Shroud’s earlier history. Critics complain that its known history only goes back to mid-14th century France, a time infamous for fabricating relics, suspiciously consistent with the 1988 C-14 result, and a long way from Jerusalem. A highly respected but nevertheless minor French nobleman, Geoffrey de Charny, was the Shroud’s first certain owner around 1355. Unfortunately, before he could leave any testimony as to how he came by the cloth, he was killed the next year in a battle of the Hundred Years’ War. Writing 34 years later, an angry French bishop claimed that an investigation in Geoffrey’s time had proven the image “was made by human hand and not miraculously made or given” (Bonnet-Eymard 1991: 251). Although a consensus of modern scientific scrutiny disproves any known human artistry, many thoughtful Christians are not going to be comfortable unless the Shroud’s first 1300 years are better understood. There is now adequate reason to believe that research in the last century has produced that history, albeit slender at times and, of course, controversial. In Part 1 we will trace traditions of an obscure picture of Jesus thought to have been made in first century Jerusalem to its sixth century emergence as an historical object in Edessa, Northwest Mesopotamia.

The modern consideration of the Shroud of Turin can be said to have begun with Ian Wilson. Ian Wilson was a 14-year-old English teenager in 1955 when he saw a picture of the Shroud’s photographic negative. Although strongly agnostic and disinterested in religious matters, his int...

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