An image of a bearded man appears on the cloth millions have revealed as Christ’s burial shroud. (AP)
You know a major Christian holiday is coming up when researchers are presenting their evidence for or against a holy site/object/person/story.
This time, they’re a little off, though.
Here we’ve got The (U.K.) Telegraph reporting on Jesus burial cloths, called the Shroud of Turin, which Italian scientists have declared to be authentic and not a medieval-era forgery:
“The double image (front and back) of a scourged and crucified man, barely visible on the linen cloth of the Shroud of Turin, has many physical and chemical characteristics that are so particular that the staining … is impossible to obtain in a laboratory,” concluded experts from Italy’s National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Development.
Even though the report comes “just days before Christmas,” the shroud is more of an Easter thing. It was the dressing some believe Jesus left behind when he resurrected from the dead, a relic that’s been studied, examined, debated and written about for decades.
Where’s the story about wood chips from the baby Jesus’ authentic manger? About the astrological history of the Star of Bethlehem? The lack of record of a census being declared over Judea?
It’s Christmas, so we might as well get sensationalist religion stories that are related to the holiday at hand.
Even the History Channel, which used to be the go-to place for TV experts to declare or debunk the Christmas story, seems to have skipped on the religious origins this year. Now, they’re examining secular Christmas culture instead, with “North Pole: Deconstructed” and “The Evolution of Santa Claus.”
Especially during the Easter season, Jesus-y documentaries are specialty cable channel staples. The AP reported on the trend a few years ago, in the midst of the Dan Brown DaVinci Code mania:
Even scholarly works that examine the historical truth of the biblical story have the capacity to offend, particularly when they’re released at this time of year.
New Testament scholars and archeologists say that, the more outlandish the claims, the bigger the sales – which increases demand for ideas from the fringe. They are being presented to a public with little knowledge of early Christianity reading unfiltered information on the Internet, experts say.
“Now all you have to do is click on the computer screen,” said Jodi Magness, a specialist in early Judaism and archaeology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “That makes it easier for people to read up about things. The public is presented with information that they cannot really evaluate.”
With the Shroud of Turin study and other efforts to examine biblical artifacts, it seems like the media takes more interest in the findings than the believers or the doubters, who already have their minds made up on whether they think the Bible is true or not.
Though the Shroud of Turin is owned by the Vatican and on display there, even the church has not affirmed its authenticity. And Catholic news sites seem to say little if anything about the Italian researcher’s recent findings.