Proof Of The Resurrection?

The Shroud of Turin: The Burial Cloth of Jesus Christ?, by Ian Wilson (Doubleday, 1978, 272 pp., $10), and Shroud, by Robert K. Wilcox (Macmillan and Bantam, 1977, 182 pp., $8.95 and $2.25 pb), are reviewed by Gary Habermas, professor of apologetics and philosophy of religion, Montana Institute of the Bible, Lewistown, Montana.

Is the shroud kept at Turin, Italy (on rare public display this fall) the actual burial garment of Jesus? Interest in this subject has grown, as evidenced by the publication of an increasing number of articles, a revised book on the shroud, and two new books on the subject.

Known to exist since at least 1354, the shroud measures 14′ 3″ x 3′ 7″. On the linen itself is imprinted the “double image” of a man, revealing the entire length of both the front and back of the body. The double image, head-to-head, is apparently because the cloth was wrapped lengthwise around a dead man.

An interesting feature of the shroud is that the man was obviously beaten, whipped, cut in the scalp, stabbed in the side, and pierced through both wrists and feet. To investigators, the wounds are similar to those that would have been inflicted by crucifixion.

An equally interesting point is that photographs of the shroud’s image do not reveal the normal positive print; rather they appear in the negative. This has intrigued observers, since photographic negatives were unknown until the last century.

The major issue concerns the authenticity of the shroud. Was it faked and made to appear like Jesus’ burial clothes? If actual, do we know whether Jesus was wrapped in it after death? And what caused the mysterious imprint?

Both Ian Wilson and Robert Wilcox address themselves to such questions in their new books on the shroud. For instance, both authors deal with the problem of the existence of the shroud before 1354. Wilson, an Oxford graduate in history, does a more exhaustive job, with more than 100 pages devoted to this question.

The evidence indicates that the shroud may have been kept in ancient Edessa, a small kingdom in what is now Turkey, during the early Christian centuries. It was most likely moved to Constantinople in the tenth century and then to France, where it was brought to light in 1354.

This theory is supported by an ancient legend, which teaches that a veil or shroud-like cloth with Jesus’ image on it was held by Christians in Edessa. In addition, there are various historical references before 1354 to its existence. Even several works of art before this date bear likenesses of Christ’s face, which resemble the image on the shroud, seemingly indicating its acceptance in years past.

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Further corroboration came from Max Frei, a Swiss botanist and well-known criminologist, who recently found traces of pollens on the shroud that come from Palestine and Turkey (both Istanbul and the area around Edessa). Thus, while questions still remain concerning the history of the shroud, it appears that bits and pieces can be traced.

Both Wilson and Wilcox deal with the authenticity of the shroud, which is certainly the key issue. They point out that, in light of modern scientific research, it is quite unlikely that the object was faked. An examination of some of the threads of the fabric under an electron microscope revealed that there was no paint or dye present. In fact, not only had the image not soaked through the fibers, but even the initial threads that contain the image were only affected on the surface. Experts concluded that the image had not been painted or otherwise caused by the addition of substances to the shroud. Such substances would have soaked through at least the first layer of threads.

Some people theorized that the image was caused by body vapors, such as those found in human sweat. But such vapors do not rise in straight lines, but diffuse in the air. Experiments in body vapors achieved blurred images.

Those who have studied the shroud, including a number of scientists, generally are convinced that the object is not a fraud. Because of the obvious marks on the image people have concluded that Jesus actually was buried in this cloth.

As to the source of the image, both authors explain that an increasing number of scientists, such as some at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory in New Mexico, have preferred the view that a burst of energy and light caused the imprint. This conclusion was based on studies of the image with modern technological equipment and data.

An example of such scientific research is the recently published proceedings of the Conference of Research on the Shroud of Turin, which met March 1977, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. (The 243-page volume is edited by Kenneth Stevenson, Jr., and is available for $10 from the Holy Shroud Guild, 294 East 150th St., Bronx, NY 10451.) Many of the essays are technical and describe various experimental data concerning the shroud. These vary from medical views on the death of Christ and related topics to the information provided for shroud studies by X-rays, infrared theomography, computer technology, and chemistry. For instance, an essay presents the views of John A. T. Robinson, author of Honest to God. Another presents the conclusions of scientist Eric Jumper on possible causes for the image on the shroud. He rejects the “vaporagraph” thesis for a variety of reasons and presents the possibility of radiation from Jesus’ body. The various authors, most of whom are scientists, present a variety of material from their own studies, most of which supports the shroud at least as an authentic archaeological relic.

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A popular recent conclusion, even supported by several scientists, is that Jesus’ resurrection caused the images by the burst of energy that accompanied it. Both Wilson and Wilcox share this conclusion, even referring to the shroud as a sort of photograph of Jesus’ resurrection. They painstakingly analyze the available data. Of the two, Wilson’s work is by far the more technical, including a number of valuable appendices that contain the results of several scientific studies. This work is further enhanced by the long section on the history of the shroud noted above. Wilcox’s book reads more like a diary, giving the results of his trips to Western Europe and across the U.S. in search of information. Because of this format, the presentation of Wilcox’s research is less systematic.

It is possible that the shroud will yet be proven fraudulent. Even if it is shown to be a genuine burial shroud of a man crucified in first-century Palestine, the victim was not necessarily Jesus.

The evidence so far does appear to indicate that the shroud is ancient, that the image on it is not a fake, that it may well be the one in which Jesus was buried, and that the image on it resulted from his resurrection. Further studies on the shroud that began in October, after the public display ended, will certainly yield additional evidence.

Recent Books On Meditation

This evaluation of five books is by Cecil Murphey, pastor, Riverdale Presbyterian Church, Riverdale, Georgia.

I had two immediate negative reactions to Avery Brooke’s Hidden in Plain Sight (Seabury, 1978, 143 pp., $5.95 pb). The awkward size and large print make it difficult to read and the amateur artwork distracts the reader.

Ignoring those things, you’ll discover a simple, helpful book subtitled, “The Practice of Christian Meditation.” Brooke believes that God speaks in “whispers flashing through our minds as we meditate.”

The excellent chapter on “Christian Mantras” not only defines them but offers a list of words and phrases for meditation. I recommend this book for anyone who wants to learn about meditation.

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In Meditation: Escape to Reality (Westminster, 1977, 120 pp., $4.95 pb), Thomas H. Troeger says that people want practical instruction, not vague generalities. That’s what he tries to offer. He says that people still yearn to glimpse some vision beyond themselves. We have a deeper hunger and a greater thirst than can be satisfied by a thick shake and a Big Mac. Troeger offers something to satisfy the hunger that remains in us.

Troeger makes a good case for Christians disciplining the body as well as the mind, using yoga to do so. If Christians really believe that the body is the Holy Spirit’s temple, we can learn from Troeger even though he overstates the compatibility between yoga and Christianity.

M. Basil Pennington in Daily We Touch Him (Doubleday, 1977, 115 pp., $5.95) urges people to approach God directly rather than through words or formulas. His book is based on exercises he teaches at the Religious Experience Workshop. It has a heavy Roman Catholic emphasis.

Pennington compares “centering prayer” (a term from Thomas Merton) with TM. He does not oppose TM, but thinks it is too rigid. Contrary to many writers, such as the author of the next book I mention, Pennington feels TM isn’t a form of religious exercise, but a “simple, natural technique.” The book is almost an apologetic for TM.

H. Wayne Pipkin’s Introduction to Christian Meditation—Its Art and Practice (Hawthorn, 1977, 176 pp., $6.95) is an introduction “to the varieties of meditation practiced by Christians.” I enjoyed the book, though it requires an alert mind to read it. He compares Christian meditation with both TM and Relaxation Response—and shows their shortcomings.

Early in the book Pipkin suggests a form of Christian meditation and gives specific steps on how to do it—both for individuals and for groups. If the contemplative life is what you’re aiming for, this is a book to read. It is thoughtful and balanced. Pipkin wrestles with questions of whether “answers and guidance” during meditation come from God. He warns people who become involved in meditation not to lose sight of the world.

Cashing in on the meditation craze, David Ray writes a popular book on how it is done in The Art of Christian Meditation (Tyndale, 1977, 132 pp., $3.95 pb). He lists “secondary, but important benefits” of meditation and it almost has the taste of a spiritual elixir that cures all, clarifies all.

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Despite that, Ray provides a simple, step-by-step approach on meditation, particularly meditating on the Bible. He includes 124 verses (from The Living Bible) in card form, which can be cut out. Ray then tells you how to begin meditating with these cards. Ray delivers what his title promises.

Lutheran Distinctives

Getting Into the Story of Concord, by David P. Scaer (Concordia, 1977, 100 pp., $1.95 pb), and Getting Into the Theology of Concord, by Robert D. Preus (Concordia, 1977, 94 pp., $1.95 pb), are reviewed by Harold Lindsell, editor emeritus, CHRISTIANITY TODAY, Carol Stream, Illinois.

Lutherans and non-Lutherans should read these two volumes. The first one tells the story of the origins of the Book of Concord, which is the Lutheran standard. It was published in 1580, not quite 400 years ago. David Scaer provides the thrilling story of the confessional development of Lutheranism during and following the death of its founder. The product is biblical, apostolic, catholic, reformed, confessional, catechetical, and even pastoral.

The Book of Concord contains a quite divergent assortment of creeds and formal confessions, including Luther’s Small and Large Catechisms, the Augsburg Confession, the Apology of the Augsburg Confession (by Melanchthon), the Smalcald Articles (by Luther), the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope (by Melanchthon), and the Formula of Concord. It constitutes a formidable array of church material, which provides the foundation for Lutheran churches today.

Robert Preus, president of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana, in the second work, briefly summarizes the theology of the Book of Concord. He tells how the documents in it approach the Bible, the Gospel (and their relationships), and the doctrines of God, creation, the fall, and redemption. He emphasizes justification by faith and also speaks to such issues as the work of the Holy Spirit, the Church, the sacraments, and the Christian life.

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