by John Long

EXCERPT Part 1 of this survey began an admittedly sympathetic summary of Ian Wilson’s theory (updated) that Jesus’ NT burial shroud was quietly preserved from antiquity, but only gradually introduced into Christian traditions as The Holy Image of Edessa. This was a famous cloth on which Jesus supposedly imprinted his face and sent to 1st century King shroud imageAbgar V in Edessa (modern Urfa in Turkey.

The Shroud of Turin is an old piece of linen about 14’ 3” long and 3’ 7” wide. Believed by many to be the actual sindon used to wrap Jesus in the tomb, its authenticity suffered from having no historical documentation before the mid-14th cen. Researcher Ian Wilson’s historical reconstruction has the Shroud folded, prior to the 6th century, so only the face was visible. It was hidden by its guardians’ in Edessa (modern Urfa, Turkey) so that its true nature leaked out only slowly.  Wilson postulates that sometime after its transfer to Constantinople in the 10th century the Byzantines quietly accepted it as the NT shroud, and this was reflected in new art motifs beginning in the 11th century.  An almost nude Christ laid on a long cloth with hands folded over his loins and missing thumbs were some of the unusual features in this art, features not depicted this way before the arrival of the Edessa Image. Occasionally some of this artwork displays a zigzag pattern resembling the Shroud’s herringbone weave. Additionally, the white arrow above points to three holes with an fourth offset hole in an “L” shaped pattern that is repeated in one 12th century picture, and helping to convince many observers that the SOT must have been the model for this new post-10th century art. If true, then the Shroud does date at least two hundred years before the 1988 C14 results of 1260-1390. Wikimedia Commons

Before Wilson proposed this surprising reconstruction in the 1970’s no modern historian made the connection, and for good reasons.  As Wilson observed, the Edessa Icon is remembered as only the face of Christ on a small cloth, whereas the Shroud of Turin is large linen depicting all of Jesus’ body. The former’s recognized history occurred before the 14th century (then disappeared), the latter after that date.  But Wilson noticed a number of coincidences linking the two, and since the ‘70’s that number has grown.  From the 6th century the Icon usually was regarded as “not made with hands,” not a painting but an imprint.  Most scientists performing the 1970’s and ‘80’s investigations could not find any way human artistry could make the Shroud’s images (Heller 1983: 214 –15); it was determined not to be a painting, but remarkably like an imprint from a crucified, battered body.  And a legion of medical specialists were confident a beaten, bloodied body had been wrapped in it (Antonacci 2000: 14-16). The Icon was described as a linen, folded tetradiplon – in four doubled layers; three simple widthwise foldings will convert the Shroud, also a linen, into four doubled layers looking very similar to the earliest depictions of the Edessa Icon.  The Edessa Image was described as faint, moist-like, and sweaty in appearance, again similar to the indistinct, blurry texture on the Shroud.  While a superficial view of the literature might suggest the Image was a “mandylion,” a small handkerchief, there were other descriptions such as himation (outer garment) and peplos (robe), approximating the Turin Shroud’s large size.  Almost all casual references to the Image mention only a face, but while still in Edessa one text reported a full-body image and vaguely hinted at a connection with Christ’s Passion. Eyewitness examinations in the 10th century recognized blood and possibly a bleeding side wound on the Image, also to be seen on the Shroud.  And if the Icon were not publicized as Christ’s burial sindon earlier, new examinations by the Byzantine authorities in the 10th century may well account for a shroud soon documented in their relic treasury.  These coincidences in the historical texts are supported by a new artistic representation of Jesus’ face, very similar to the Shroud’s face, and beginning no later than the 6th century at the very time and place, the East, where the Edessa Icon was growing in fame.  Even crease lines seen on the Shroud during the 1978 scientific investigations suggest a relationship to the Holy Image of Edessa.  So, how has modern academia received this theory?….

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