Another Jesus relic goes down the drain


Fascinating article. I find the entire topic of Christian relics interesting for what they tells us about the history of Western civilization. And as my Church history professor used to say long ago, “If one piled all of the wood from cross-relics in one place, you could probably build several full-sized Noah’s arks.”

And during this COVID-19 crisis, it gets a tiny bit easier to understand why Europeans through many centuries of plagues and famines would look to a saint’s finger bone or an alleged fabric-shred from a Bible hero for a cure. In a world of pain and chaos, people cling to any possible hope.

The aforementioned article speaks of “Bible scholars” promoting the Shroud. Yes, this is certainly true for some. Yet, in my entire career of dealing with literally hundreds and hundreds of Biblical scholars, I can only recall a very very few who were “Shroud enthusiasts”— and those fellows seemed to be unusually focused on books and speaking engagements (as a revenue source?) rather than on convincing their academic colleagues of the Shroud’s “authenticity.”

Of course, I probably use the term “Bible scholar” very differently from non-academics, just as academics use the word “scientist” differently from the general public. For example, I often observe people calling physicians scientists even though most physicians aren’t involved in medical research and peer-reviewed publishing. The same kind of conflation often happens with the casual title “Bible scholar.” (Hint: Most TV evangelists and radio preachers are NOT Bible scholars.)

Anyway, I just want to make the point that in the evangelical academy I knew—and keep in mind that I’ve been retired for some twenty years—the Shroud of Turin was a non-issue. Even in informal conversations over dinner at academic conferences, I can’t recall a single mention of it. Almost nobody cared. Historically speaking the Shroud is certainly interesting but only as yet another relic and not any sort of “Jesus proof” or even as a first-century archaeological treasure from Palestine.


Wouldn’t this relic, if real, be a big problem for Christianity? If Jesus had a tomb in Nazareth, that would mean he hadn’t been resurrected.

I recall a story, though I don’t know if it’s true, that one church had two relics of John the Baptist: one his skull as an adult and the other his skull as a child. Now that would be a fine miracle!


I’m missing something here. Why would a shroud surviving in Europe today point to “a tomb in Nazareth”?

By the way, it is interesting that the shroud (or at least burial cloth of some sort) is mentioned in the Gospels.

I’ve not heard that story but here’s an interesting tracking of the alleged head of John the Baptist:

Sorry. The article mentions another relic, which is what I was referring to: this.

What’s interesting about that?

A relic linked to something specific in scripture, especially when actually mentioned per se in association with a key event, adds to its mystique and certainly its value among medieval powers-that-be. There was competition of a sort between leaders (both secular and clerical) for the most important relics. Tourist dollars, shrine-fees, etc. depended on it!

In other words, something like the Shroud of Turin was basically the top of the heap of all possible relics. It had all of the key superlative elements about it.


But there are thousands of such items. In this way the shroud is no different from a splinter of the true cross or the skull of John the Baptist. I suppose it beats the little finger of St. Dismas, or whatever.

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No, because he needed a tomb to be resurrected from. I wouldn’t describe that artifact as a “Jesus relic” in any case. Its connection to Nazareth was always tentative. Fascinating that they can now ID the marble as coming from Kos. I just finished reading about the Peloponnesian War this afternoon, so now I actually know where that is, whereas a few days ago I confess I wouldn’t have had a clue. Luckily I got some enormous books out of my local library before it went into shutdown.

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No. A splinter and a “complete” object are very different. And the skull of John the Baptist was not so closely associated with the central event of salvific history for medieval Christians.

But not in Nazareth, right?

Oh, right! Sorry, now I get it.

We could write the “missing chapter” from The Genesis Flood based on this. :slight_smile: