Is “Jesus Archaeology” Becoming Like Professional Wrestling?

That was the thought that hit me after reading “Scientists say Turin Shroud is Supernatural.” Now, you all know that I’m interested in the Shroud of Turin. (How could I not be when I write a blog like this?) Despite my ambivalence toward the object (I lean toward the skeptical end of the spectrum), occasionally something turns up that makes me think the Shroud warrants more study. This isn’t one of those occasions. The timing makes the motive seem pretty obvious.

If you’ll pardon my cynicism, this seems to be merely the “good guy Jesus archaeologist-wrestler” getting off the mat to drop-kick the Talpiot “villain” in a preliminary skirmish that will no doubt lead to a cage match, a lumberjack match, a scaffold match, or the ever-popular no-disqualification match. Yep, a good ol’ fashioned donnybrook is brewing. The soap opera script is getting some plot development just in time for Good Friday and Easter — in response of course to the Discovery Channel’s airing of Jacobovici’s latest “Christianity’s face goes into the turnbuckle” documentary. Are there any breath-taking barely-clad “managers” waiting in the wings to get involved? I did hear this week that Megan Fox wanted to do some archaeology, so give her a call, $imcha, it’s your turn to add to the drama.  I can hardly wait for the pay-per-view (until next time) finale! Spade-o-Mania time! (I guess you can all tell what I was watching during my junior high years by now).

Actually, none of this should be a surprise. One side will say this sort of archaeological chair-throwing is merited as a response to Jacobivici’s P. T. Barnum approach to archaeology. But is Vince McMahon the answer?



Dueling Turin Shroud Studies

Yesterday on Dec 19, an Italian scientific team published the results of a study that they believe demonstrates the authenticity of the Turin Shroud.The UK Telegraph reports that the team “conducted a series of advanced experiments which, they claim, show that the marks on the shroud – purportedly left by the imprint of Christ’s body – could not possibly have been faked with technology that was available in the medieval period.” Here’s a link to the article.

And wouldn’t you know it, today the UK Telegraph published this article (“The Turin Shroud is Fake, Get Over It“) disputing the one that appeared the day before.

One cannot help but notice the timing of both these pieces. The first for sure is not aimed at undermining faith in  birth of Christ, celebrated of course at Christmas. But neither is the second. After chiding those who believe the shroud is an authentic burial relic of Christ, the author notes (correctly): “It’s a fascinating and mysterious object, but it says nothing about the questions of whether Christ was a historical figure, whether He was the Son of God, or whether He rose from the dead.”

Personally, I’m skeptical of the shroud, but would need one thing done to really kill it for good in my mind. I’d like to see a new series of dating tests. Specifically, I’d like to see tests performed that would lay to rest (or affirm) the suspicions concerning the C-14 testing voiced by physical chemist Raymond Rogers, and that would do the same in regard to the DNA research of Dr. Leoncio Garza-Valdes. Dr. Garza-Valdes is an expert in forensic DNA analysis who developed a method for detecting the presence of an organic bacterial coating that sometimes forms over time on ancient textiles, which could in turn have distorted the dating of the shroud. He detailed his discovery and his wish to have the shroud retested in his 2001 book, The DNA of God?

I’m not holding my breath on any new testing, nor can I say I care that much, as I don’t see the authenticity of the shroud as integral to whether a person ought to embrace or reject Christianity. It would just be nice to know with greater certainty, one way or the other.

New Evidence for a 14th Century Shroud of Turin Date

Before you say, “well that’s obvious,” you should be aware that there is serious science behind the idea that the C-14 dating for the shroud is suspect due to contamination (see The DNA of God?: Newly Discovered Secrets of the Shroud of Turin; the author is a scientist who pioneered new techniques for detecting an organic bacterial coating that forms over time on ancient textiles — which would contaminate C-14 tests).

Here’s the new evidence. An art historian (Luciano Buso) claims to have found tell-tale signature clues that point to the Italian master Giotto as the creator of the image on the shroud. Giotto’s lifetime occurs well within the period in which the current C-14 dating places the shroud.

New Carbon Dating Method and the Shroud of Turin

It would be wonderful if this new method is eventually applied to the shroud.  I have my doubts that it will be, though.  But if it is, let me offer a prediction: “mixed results.”  If it’s the case that the shroud actually contains mixed material from different eras (such as repairs), then we should be ready for this.  Hopefully results will be clear if it happens.