The Resurrection “Shrouded”
For a Christian blogger, getting back to work after Easter typically involves cleaning up the detritus that accumulated during Holy Week. Let’s start off this year’s garbage collection with the CBS Morning News assault on Christians’ faith in the resurrection:
It’s possibly the greatest “What if ...” in the world. What if the Shroud of Turin really is the burial cloth Jesus was wrapped in . . . and the faint imprint on it, the image of a man who has been tortured and crucified, really is Christ himself?
The last time the Shroud was on view, for six weeks in 2010, more than two million people saw it, even though in 1988, after a carbon dating test, it was declared a medieval fake - dating from between 1260 and 1390.
The story was supposed to be over. But tell that to the throngs who waited hours for the chance to spend seconds before it in reverent silence.
And tell that to scholars who think the carbon dating results were just plain wrong, among them art historian Thomas de Wesselow.
De Wesselow - an agnostic, originally a skeptic about the Shroud - has just published a provocative new book about in which he concludes it’s genuine.
Normally, stories upholding the authenticity of the Shroud will, in some measure, also uphold Christian belief. In this case, what’s upheld stops at the tomb:
He compared it to artwork depicting the Crucifixion created since the Middle Ages, referring to the Station of the Cross at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola in New York City: “If you look at the hands on the cross, the nails go through the center of the palms,” he showed Teichner. “That part of the hand is not strong enough to bear the weight of the body.”
Meanwhile, the image on the Shroud shows the nail wounds going through the wrists. “That’s how they would have done it in Roman times,” said De Wesselow, supporting the idea that the Shroud is much older than the middle ages.
But now here’s the provocative part: De Wesselow’s take on the resurrection - what he says happened on Easter Day when Mary Magdalene and two other women went to Jesus’ tomb:
“They go to the body, they lift off the cloth, and they notice this strange shadowy form on the cloth itself,” he said. “Immediately, they would have had this perception of it as a living presence in the tomb with Jesus.”
“They didn’t see Jesus come alive again?”
“No, I think what they saw was the Shroud,” De Wesselow said. “Once they saw the Shroud they understood that he’d not been resurrected in the flesh, he’d been resurrected in the spirit.”
Oh, for Pete’s sake. Where was the body, you twit? Every single piece of actual testimony recorded in the Gospels about the events of that day are clear that the body was gone. So they saw the Shroud? What difference would that make if they also saw the body of Jesus, still as dead as Jacob Marley’s proverbial doornail? And if the body was gone, why would they have concluded that He was raised “in the spirit,” rather than in the flesh? And why would so many of them say they actually spoke with Him, walked with Him, ate with Him? It gets worse:
According to de Wesselow, each supposed sighting of the risen Christ was actually a sighting of the Shroud. He’s convinced it was what sparked the rapid spread of Christianity, as it was taken from Jerusalem to Galilee, then to Damascus, where he believes Paul saw it and became a Christian.
Right. So Paul was transformed from a murderous persecutor of Christians into a Christian himself, because Christians showed him Jesus’s burial cloth. He shouted “hosanna!”, and cried, “Jesus is alive in the spirit!”, and started a history’s greatest missionary movement based on that.
Of course, this is just the word of an art historian, and what do they know? So CBS brings in the big gun:
“It could well be the burial cloth of Jesus - I wouldn’t discount that possibility,” said Harold Attridge, dean of Yale Divinity School and an eminent New Testament scholar, said of de Wesselow’s book: “That’s part of the case that he makes; the other part is trying to see how the discovery of this cloth might have functioned in generating belief about the resurrection, and that’s much more, in my mind, conjectural.
“However this image was formed, it was formed in a way that’s compatible with the ancient practice of Crucifixion,” said Attridge.
Attridge said, “For many, many mainstream Protestants and Catholics, certainly evangelical Protestants, you have a notion that you need the resurrected body in the way that it’s described in Luke and John. That was not Paul’s belief. Paul did not have a belief in the physical resurrection of Jesus. And I tend to agree with Paul. But it remains something of a mystery.”
Can we say it all together? There is no contradiction between Luke, John, and Paul regarding the resurrection! Yes, Paul speaks of a “spiritual body,” but that is not—NOT—NOT!—the same thing as “disembodied spirit.” Of course Paul believed in physical resurrection. If there was no physical resurrection, how could Jesus’s physical body be “sown” as a “spiritual body”? NOte that in 1 Corinthians 15:44, Paul doesn’t contrast the spiritual body with the physical body; he contrasts it with the “natural body,” the body that has been overtaken by sin and is subject to death. What Attridge is essentially saying is that Paul was a Gnostic, at least with regard to his view of Christ’s resurrection, and given the utter rejection by the other New Testament authors of anything that smacked of Gnosticism, that is completely absurd.
So this is what CBS thinks of Christian faith: on the holiest day of the church year, the network trots out a pair of “experts” to tell millions of believers, “you got it wrong.”
(Hat tip: Benjamin Glazer on Facebook.)
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