I meant to post about this a couple of weeks ago but forgot. Now I see that Australian breakfast television is doing a story on it for Easter Sunday morning. How odd.
Anyhow, short version: Cambridge art historian believes the Shroud of Turin is authentically the shroud in which Jesus was buried, but:
It was, suggests de Wesselow, seeing the Shroud in the days immediately after the crucifixion, rather than any encounter with a flesh and blood, risen Christ, that convinced the apostles that Jesus had come back from the dead.As The Telegraph link above further explains:
What the apostles were seeing was the image of Jesus on the Shroud, which they then mistook for the real thing. It sounds, I can’t help suggesting, as absurd as a scene from a Monty Python film.
“I quite understand why you say that,” he replies, meeting me half way this time, “but you have to think your way into the mindset of 2,000 years ago. The apostles did see something out of the ordinary, the image on the cloth.
“And at that time – this is something that art historians and anthropologists know about – people were much less used to seeing images. They were rare and regarded as much more special than they are now.
“There was something Animist in their way of looking at images in the first century. Where they saw shadows and reflections, they also saw life. They saw the image on the cloth as the living double of Jesus.
“Back then images had a psychological presence, they were seen as part of a separate plane of existence, as having a life of their own.”How does this rank with other "out there" theories for what inspired the establishment of Christianity? I would say: better than "The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross", the very 1960's inspired idea that the whole Christ thing was (more or less) one big hallucinatory story spread by "magic mushroom" folk of the middle east. As Wikipedia notes about the author (and his book, which was pretty big in its day):
The reaction to The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross ruined Allegro's career. His detractors considered his somewhat sensationalist approach deplorable and his arguments somewhere between unconvincing and ludicrous.The "Shroud of Turin is the resurrection" theory I would also rank above Barbara Thiering's so-called "pesher technique" reinterpretation of the New Testament, which caught the imagination of a certain type of ABC religious types in Australia in the early 1990's. (I seem to recall her getting quite a run on shows hosted by Geraldine Doogue.) I have just found this handy summary of the deficiencies of the professor's theory from the New York Review of Books:
Professor Barbara Thiering’s reinterpretation of the New Testament, in which the married, divorced, and remarried Jesus, father of four, becomes the “Wicked Priest” of the Dead Sea Scrolls, has made no impact on learned opinion. Scroll scholars and New Testament experts alike have found the basis of the new theory, Thiering’s use of the so-called “pesher technique,” without substance. The Qumran pesher—the word itself means “interpretation”—is a form of Bible exegesis which seeks to determine the significance of an already existing prophetic text by pointing to its fulfillment in persons and events belonging to the age of the interpreter. Professor Thiering, by contrast, turns the sequence upside down, and claims that the authors of the New Testament composed the Gospel story so that pesher technique could subsequently be fastened to it.So, it's a bit of a step up from those theories: at least it acknowledges Jesus existed, and doesn't rely on the Apostles being off their face on magic mushrooms every second day. But still, it ranks quite highly on the implausibility stakes.